Navigating Webpages and Netflix With Narrator’s Scan Mode

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 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.

Remembering Armed Forces Day

67 years ago today, President Truman celebrated the first Armed Forces Day. This stems from the unification of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marine Corps under the Department of Defense. Today, each of the uniformed Services celebrates Armed Forces Day alongside their own birthdays. This instills the one team mentality, since all of the branches support and defend our country. Before going further into Armed Forces Day, let us pay tribute to them through their slogans:
Air Forces Aim High, fly, fight, and win. 
 Army’s Army Strong. 
The Coast Guards, Semper Paratus English: Always ready. 
Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis or always faithful. 
Navy’s is Semper Fortis or Ever Strong. 
Today Armed Forces Day resides in a very fitting timeframe. First, May is military Appreciation Month. May’s chances to admire the beautiful flowers and plant new crops, is similar to Armed Forces Day chance to admire our military prowess and culture, while planting the seeds for the next generation to serve. Fittingly, Armed Forces Day resides between two extremely important day of remembrance. Last week, we celebrated Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Every individual who raised their hand and swore an oath to serve and protect the Constitution of the United States did not do this alone. They were not only surrounded by their fellow Service Members, but their families and friends. We cannot preform our mission without our loved ones, for they provide us with strength, courage, and hope. Next week, we will come together for the most important of all of the military and Veteran days of remembrance, Memorial Day. There is nothing more important than remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and those who have passed on. Its by remembering, we live up to the Warrior Ethos, to never leave a fallen comrade behind.
This placement truly allows the three main goals for Armed Forces Day to be achieved. First Armed Forces Day informs our civilian counterparts about the duties, responsibilities, equipment, and sacrifices of our fellow Service Members and their families. Secondly, it bridged the gap between civilians and the military by jointly exploring the role of the military in civilian life. Finally, Armed Forces Day honors all of those who served, as we prepare ourselves for Memorial Day. 
Achieving these three objectives is more important today than ever before. Our current military composition of all volunteers means serving is a choice. Many of you remember a time when we had the draft. Today our new recruits, Cadets and midshipmen decided to join, with a large majority doing so because their fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and/or teachers showed them the impact of service. Unfortunately this means the number of families and communities who have a direct connection to current service members decreases each day.
Its more important than ever we take the time to explain to our communities about how the modular force structure and deployment cycles work. NO one knows this lesson more than our Guardsmen and Reservists who do not have the liberty of being around a military installation where everyone knows and feels the impact of a deployment. Instead our Guardsmen and Reservists have to explain to their places of employment that they will be gone for a set period of time. Their families have to teach their children’s teachers that their child is acting up because their family structure has been disruptive. Finally, when our Guardsmen and Reservists reunite with their families, they do not have the number of post-deployment resources which encompasses military installations.
Without us taking the time today to execute the mission of Armed Forces Day, how do we expect to ensure our fellow Service Members, Veterans, and their families possess the chance to enjoy the freedoms paid for by their service?
How else do we establish the framework to stress the importance for the Department of Veterans affairs and all of our programs and non-profits who care for those who bore the cost of service?
How else do we create an environment where our fellow Service Members, Veterans, and families understand they are not alone?
Take a moment today and reflect how the military impacts your life and communities. Even if you live far away from a military installation, I bet you are, know, or walk by a Service Member, Veteran, or family member. As you look around your house, garage, or neighborhoods, I bet you will find products developed for the military. Finally, if you look around medical institutions and interventions, you will find many life saving treatments and therapies designed to save or prolong the lives of our brave Service Members. The US Armed Forces are here to support and defend us all.

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.

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 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

Send and Share Your Location Through iOS Messages

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 and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate how to send or share your location through the iOS Messages app. The Messages app possesses a feature enabling you to share your location with others, so you never need to guess your precise location again. This may be accomplished by preforming the following steps:

  • Open the Messages App.
  • Either compose a new conversation and send a message or open an existing conversation.
  • Find the More Info button in the upper right corner of the conversation screen.
  • Select Send My Location to immediately send your location at that moment.
  • Select Share My Location to allow the recipient(s) to track your location for an hour, day, or indefinitely through Find My Friends.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to send your location through Messages on iOS.

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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Trekking Through the Bataan Memorial Death March

The 26.2 mile Bataan Memorial Death March challenges your humility, endurance, and perseverance. The trial originates from the high desert trails consisting of sand, gravel, and paved roads admits the Organ Mountains on White Sands Missile Range. The 3,970ft average elevation of Las Cruces adds an extra bonus for those participating from lower altitudes.

The Bataan Memorial Death March commemorates the forced march of Filipino and American civilian and service members captured on April 9th, 1942. Approximately 10,000 individuals died along the roughly 62-mile route to the Japanese camps. The original participants consisted of the survivors from the battle for the Philippines, which started in December 1941. Reflecting upon the casualties from the original death march and what the survivors endured leaves me speechless. The stroll we do today keeps these brave souls alive. Listening to those around you and assisting your fellow marchers provides a glimpse into this tragic event.

Even more inspiring is the chance to meet and walk with the Veterans of the Bataan Death March. COL Ben Skardon was 24 years old when captured by the Japanese. This year marked the tenth time the 99-year-old walked 8.5 miles of the route, surrounded by family and friends. Along the route, I had the pleasure to meet a daughter of one of the Bataan survivors. Her story about her Dad carrying his brother, who later died on the route, left me absolutely speechless. When she thanked me for my service, tears came to my eyes as I attempted to convey my gratitude for the sacrifices made by her and her family.

Steve, Marshall, Nate, and Kevin talking during breakfast the day before the Bataan Memorial Death March.
My participation stems from efforts by Operation Peer Support of the BVA and Blind Endeavors. Nate Gorham, Steve Baskis, Lonnie Bedwell, Dan Standage, and I comprised of the first five man blinded Veteran Team. Nancy Fairbanks, Kevin Baskis, and Victor Henderson served as our guides and supports along the route. Terry and Maryellen Kebbel, hosted our group with the assistance from their friends Jim and Nina Schaeffer, Marie and Al Hughey, and Eileen and Harry Monahan. We also had the distinct pleasure to meet fellow blinded Veterans and hero, Marshall Lynch, who charged across an island with 75 Marines during island hopping operations but only 18 survived.
Jim and Tim discussing plans for the Bataan Death March the day prior over breakfast.
If you are wondering how five blinded Veterans navigate a 26.2-mile trek through the desert, let us say it required some trial and error. First, we used a combination of trekking poles, white canes, iTunes Music, and other vocal commands. Our formation possessed a center point consisting of Kevin and Steve Baskis walking in single file connected with a cane. Steve carried a Bluetooth speaker which pumped out a series of playlists from iTunes Music from his iPhone 7 throughout the entire time. The music allowed everyone else to orientate off the audio cues. Lonnie with his tremendous hearing followed behind Steve with a trekking pole and white cane. I floated either behind Lonnie or to Kevin’s front guided by Victor. I relied on either two trekking poles or a trekking pole with a white cane. Nate and Dan relied on their residual sight and canes with guided assistance as needed. Nancy, a VA bind rehab center instructor, ensured we stayed on point and not go wondering off through the desert. Amazingly many of our fellow participants did not fully realize we were blind, especially when Lonnie starts dancing mid trail.
Nate, Steve, Terry, Tim, and Guide Dog Black Jack sharing stories about being a blind Veteran over the generations.

Both the two trekking poles methods and a trekking pole and a white cane permitted me to independently navigate. The two trekking poles method requires each pole is extended so your hands and arms rest comfortably about chest level. Each time you swing your arm, place the tip of the pole in front and outside your foot by a foot. This aids in your balance and awareness of the trail. The trekking pole with a white cane preforms a bit differently. The pole reinforces balance with limited trail feedback, while using the white cane as normal. A pencil, ball, or hook tip will work, but keep a loose grip.

The The various types of sand, gravel, and roads presented different challenges. Two to three foot sand berms acted like bumpers but the loose sand and gravel made walking straight very difficult. The paved road was easy to navigate with the white cane, but very difficult with the two trekking poles. Finally the course contained many congestion points forcing us to rely on walking in tandem. . So just as we developed a groove, environmental factors prevented complacency. If anything, the variations frustrated my sense of independence by forcing reliance on guides.

The Bataan Memorial Death March is a huge highlight in my life for two reasons. The adventure permitted me to complete my first marathon, accompanied by my friends and fellow Veterans. Hopefully this will not be my last time storming through the White Sands Missile Range, learning about the sacrifices of so many and connecting with nature.

Self-Driving Bicycle? Yes Please!!!

The movement towards self-driving vehicles represents a promising future for the blind. The hope originates from our desire to independently travel to and from different locations. Right now, we must rely on transit services, family and friends, and companies like Uber. The most common barrier involves acquiring a ride when its needed. Yes, forward planning resolves many issues, but how many times do you leave the house in a rush due to life?

While the blindness community believes the self-driving car will eliminate transportation barriers for those who can afford it, our society must first establish various driving regulations and policies at local to federal levels. This only complicates the situation and why I predict the blind will not legally operate a self-driving car for daily situations until late 2020’s at the earliest. However, an alternative exists.

How about a self-driving bicycle? The University of Washington through an Amazon and other private funding opportunities through CoMotion Labs attempts to design one. The prototype consists of a tricycle and a two-seated model, 15-mile range, and max speed of 30MPH. The best part comes from the targeted price point of $10,000 and elimination of regulatory barriers for driver’s licenses and insurance.

Out of all of the self-driving concepts, the self-driving bicycle captures my full attention and pocket book. After all, the self-driving bicycle will provide an eco-friendly and affordable transportation solution for the blindness community. Most of us reside in residential and urban areas for proximity purposes, so the mileage factor is not an issue. $10,000 is much less than the $30,000+ for even the cheapest proposed self-driving cars. Finally the chance to exercise independently will empower healthier lifestyles in general.

iOS Control Center

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 and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate the iOS Control Center. The Control Center provides one with quick access to controls for airplane mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, screen brightness, media controls, and many more. Control Center may be activated by:

  • Do a one finger swipe up from the bottom of the screen, with Voice Over off
  • Place the Voice Over focus in the menu bar and do a three finger flick upwards
  • Tap the Control Center button if Assistive Touch is activated

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on the iOS Control Center.

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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Reflecting Upon Dr. David Shulkin’s Selection as Secretary of Veterans Affairs

The testimony of Dr. David Shulkin should relax Veterans. His hearings and unanimous approval by the Senate transpired with little positive or negative excitement from anyone. In the short history of the new administration and 115th Congress, this is a sigh of relief. However, the lack of responsiveness may leave many not knowing much about our new Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. David Shulkin comes to the Secretary position after spending the last 18 months as the Under Secretary of Health for the VA. This experience enables him to start off with inside knowledge about the VA and its current beneficial programs and controversies. His years as a medical doctor, leadership roles in other healthcare settings, growing up in a military family, and practice experiences at VA medical centers outweigh the fact he never personally served in the military. The combination of these items affords him the knowledge to continue Secretary Robert McDonald’s initiatives, while establishing his own priorities.

The VA’s scandals allured Dr. Shulkin into the Undersecretary position. He stated in his Congressional testimony, “I view my service at V.A. as a duty to give back to the men and women who secured the uniquely American freedoms and opportunities we all enjoy,” due to the barriers to timely service Veterans face. This sense of both urgency and duty stems from his Grandfathers service in WWI, father’s service as a Psychiatrist and Captain, and his own residency experiences in a VA medical center.

Dr. Shulkin’s 18 months as President’s Obama’s appointee to the Undersecretary position enabled him to understand, “it was years of ineffective systems and deficiencies in workplace culture,” that lead to many VA problems. Numerous VA employees from healthcare providers and counsellors to departmental chief echo similar comments. Additionally, break down in communications between the various VA layers restrict the flow of information and knowledge throughout the entire system.

Dr. Shulkin informed Congress it will require years to resolve the numerous concerns and barriers impacting VA’s service to Veterans, so his first act increased urgent care clinics and same day appointments for those in crisis. Just like anyone us, us Veterans sometimes just need these types of crisis based services to resolve many of our healthcare needs.

By attending many of the Veteran Service Organization’s annual conventions and conducting town hall forums throughout the country, Dr. Shulkin obtained direct input from individuals to major stakeholders in the VA. He realized Veterans receive the VA as “one V.A., and not as three separate administrations.”

After all the VA consists of the Veterans Healthcare Administration (BHA), Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and the National Cemetery Administration. Supporting the thousands of VA employees, Dr. Shulkin informed Congress, “that V.A. has many dedicated employees across the country, and our veterans tell us just that every day.” I completely agree with this statement.

Many of the frontline VA employees care deeply about Veterans services and will figure out workarounds when barriers exist. For example, Blind Rehab Services acknowledge the barriers Veterans with visual impairments face, and often become our advocates when requesting prosthetics. Many Social Workers in case management roles will synchronize appointments to reduce travel barriers and fight for us to receive appointments in specialty clinics. Primary care managers will take advantage of the Choice Program upon request and justification.

Dr. Shulkin’s most impressive statement pertained to VA reform. “It is unfortunate that a few employees who have deviated from the values we hold so dear, have been able to tarnish the reputation of so many who have dedicated their lives to serving those who have served, but there should be no doubt that if confirmed as secretary, I will seek major reform and transformation of V.A. There will be far greater accountability, dramatically improved access, responsiveness and expanded care options, but the department of veteran affairs will not be privatized under my watch.”

This answers many of the questions about Dr. Shulkin’s positions addressing VA issues. First, this statement coincides with legislative efforts over the last several years to eliminate loopholes used by VA employees facing putative actions. Secondly, he will continue efforts impacting Veterans’ abilities accessing everything from healthcare services to backlogs I benefits processes. Finally, Dr. Shulkin will not standby as legislators attempt to destroy the Department of Veterans Affairs by privatizing it. These stances mirrors the resolutions adopted by Veteran Service Organizations, like the Military Officers Association of America, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Veterans groups and Dr. Shulkin do not oppose the Choice plan, but we do oppose privatization. Dr. Shulkin seeks to “strengthen system within V.A that are essential for veteran well-being, and use services in the community that can serve veterans with better outcomes and value to the taxpayerk.” Dr. Shulkin cited about 5,000 Veterans solely rely on the Choice plan for all of their care, but the majority of the 31% of Veterans who use the Choice plan prefers a combination of both VA and private care. The VA remains the best provider for many specialty care services and therapeutic interventions predominately found in Veterans populations, like Post Traumatic Stress, Agent Orange and other environmental exposures, and many other conditions.

When addressing Veteran suicides, Dr. Shulkin stated, “we have made significant progress in suicide prevention, including hiring more mental health professionals, implementing a predictive tool to identify those at greatest risk and fixing the crisis line to better serve our veterans.” By impacting access to urgent care and mental health services, Dr. Shulkin suggestions mirrors findings from a national Veterans suicide study from 2016. The study reported failure to access VA services on a regular basis, along with age are key lethality factors. The predictive tool and increase in mental health providers aims to resolve these concerns.

Based on Dr. David Shulkin’s Congressional testimony and supportive actions, I feel he will continue to positively impact the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, I say this with some apprehension. Dr. Shulkin is one individual, and many systems impact the daily to longitudinal operations of the VA. We still will have employees enhancing and diminishing VA services. We will still have legislative priorities assisting and hindering VA progress. We still have a Veteran population steadily dwindling, removing the percentage of the public who directly and intimately knows a Veteran. Therefore it is our job as Veterans to make sure decision makers and stakeholders know our thoughts about the Department of Veterans Affairs. We need to speak up at civic events, writing editorials to news outlets, and contact the offices of our elected officials.

Cloud Services and You

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 and Tutorials podcast, we discuss the role of cloud services when syncing across multiple devices. Apple’s iCloud Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Google Drive, and Dropbox represent the most popular cloud services. Each service possesses it own positive and negatives. The range of options and prices enables the individual to either select a single service or mixture of services to meet their needs. Each service, storage amounts, and personal thoughts may be found below.

iCloud Drive
Storage options includes 5GB for free, 50GB for $0.99, 200GB for

  • $2.99, and 1TB for $9.99
  • iCloud Drive comes with all iTunes accounts and is the primary method one may backup their iOS devices. The Storage is used for iCloud email, file storage, Photos, contacts, calendars, and apps using iCloud storage for syncing information. Individuals living in the Apple ecosystem with iOS devices and Apple computers will greatly benefit from the numerous features and integration options from iCloud Drive embedded in iOS and MacOS. However, iCloud Drive is less important if you utilize Windows or Android devices for primary computing or mobile needs.

Microsoft One Drive

  • Storage options includes 5GB for free, 50GB for $1.99, and 1TB for $6.99 to $9.99
  • Microsoft One Drive comes with any Outlook account or subscription to Microsoft 365. Budgetary speaking, one obtains the best savings by subscribing to Microsoft 365, since it bundles 1TB of storage along with Microsoft Office’s Word, Excel, Power Point, Outlook, and One Note. Each of these apps are fully accessible on Windows, MacOS, and iOS with most screen readers and magnification programs. Even if you solely use Apple products, you can easily ignore iCloud Drive if you live through Microsoft Office 365 on all of your devices. Microsoft is even packaging some additional accessibility tools into One Drive to create descriptions for pictures in Office Lens to Power Point.

Google Drive

  • Storage options includes 15GB for free, 100GB for $1.99, 1TB for $9.99, 10TB for $99.99
  • Google Drive offers the largest amount of free storage4 at 15GB with every Google account. However, you basically need this amount if you rely on a Gmail account for regular emailing tasks. Google Drive is a natural fit if you rely on Gmail to sync your email, contacts, calendars, Chrome bookmarks, photos, and Google Docs across your computers and mobile devices. Google Drive is a natural fit for Android and Chromebook users, but users of a mixture of Apple, Android, and Windows devices may find Google drive suitable for their needs.

Dropbox

  • Storage options includes 2GB for free and 1TB for $9.99
  • Dropbox differs from the previous cloud services by restricting usage to file storage and synchronization across all of your devices. However, Dropbox remains the leader in cloud storage for individual to business power users alike. This stems from its ease of use and ability to share, collaborate, and host documents and files through a very simple and accessible interface. Many individuals find themselves relying on iCloud, Outlook, and Gmail to sync mail, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks, but turn towards Dropbox for file storage.

Each of the cloud services found a way into my regular workflow. My office centers around a late 2016 MacBook Pro and an iPhone 6, while my family utilizes a pair of 2012 MacBook Pro’s and other iPhones. We rely on iCloud Drive for our primary file storage, calendar, Safari bookmarks, and Photos storage across all of these devices. However my most used cloud service is Google Drive, as I rely on Gmail and Google Docs for various tasks. Dropbox hosts many different projects involving the need share and collaborate on various documents and files. Finally, Microsoft One Drive recently entered this picture after some significant accessibility improvements within Office 365. Switching between any of these, regardless if its on my MacBook Pro, iOS devices, or Windows computer is a breeze, thanks to usable apps, simple integration into Finder or IE, and synchronization reliability. It is up to you to determine whether one or a mixture of these options will suit your cloud storage goals.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on the different cloud storage options.

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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Responses to the #CriptTheVote Activism and Identity Questionnaire

Alice Wong recently posted the below series of questions related to disability identity and activities for the #CripTheVote movement. This movement aims to encourage individuals with disabilities to engage in the political process. #CripTheVote achieved its initial goal related to increasing the public awareness of topics and concerns shared by the disability community and increased the number of individuals with disabilities who voted. With the 2016 election cycle over, the next phase strives to increase the public awareness for disability concerns and ensure our voices remain heard as the new administrations and congressional representatives establish and pursue their own agendas.

The below questions comes from the #CripTheVote blog. While the post requests one to answer via twitter, 140 characters is not enough to answer these questions.

Q1 Community check-in: How are you feeling right now given the recent events after the Inauguration? How are you coping?
The events following the inauguration excites and concerns me. The editing part stems from the number of individuals who raise their voices in protest and celebration. I am excited by those who took to the marches to demonstrate opposition to policies and who cheer for these same actions. I am excited to witness so many individuals who finally escaped their silent cages and freed their voices and opinions. What makes freedom free is the ability to fight for your beliefs. We are not going to always get along, but we do need to acknowledge the existence of multiple perspectives, where the wrong views are those who wish to silence or repress others.

This is what concerns me. We have numerous elected officials to private individuals minimizing or ignoring these very demonstrations of our right to speak, assemble, and publish news. We see more finger pointing and entrenchment of political beliefs. We are becoming more polarized than ever before. The cause originates from both parties, and I do not see anyone in the current administration who may forge a compromise.

I cannot support anyone still in a state of shock or disbelief regarding the elections’ results across the country. This thought lasted about 5 milliseconds after reading the results the following morning. After that moment, I started to investigate the actual positions and policies the elected officials would put forwards and started to investigate which coincide or run in opposition to my own beliefs.

Q2 What does activism mean to you? What kinds of activism are you involved with?
Activism is any action one takes to express their thoughts related to a topic. This may be informal conversations with your friends to strategic educational advocacy campaigns targeting those who possess the power to change situations. Activism may be letters, conversations, marches, Facebook posts, inaction, and any other method to convey your thoughts.

Personally, I have written numerous emails and attempted to call the offices of my elected officials related to local to national concerns. In each correspondence, my goal involved stating the subject, how it impacts my life, and potential solutions. Leaving any of these out enables the recipient to either fill in the blanks or discard the message.

Q3 Do you think of yourself as an activist or advocate? Why or why not?
I am a advocate. This is part of the professional identity I cultivated since accepting my blindness and establishing my disability identity. We all need to be our own advocate, since only you know what it is you believe.

Q4 How did your disability identity develop in relation to other identities you inhabit?
My disability identity evolved during my Masters in Social Work education. Until this point, I fought my blindness diminished my value as a military officer, husband, friend, and human. After all, I needed the assistance of others just to arrive at meetings on time or to read paper handouts. Social Work education instructed me on the importance of the right of self-determination, empowerment perspectives, and being your own advocate. This allowed me to see myself as a person with many more gifts and strengths to offer the world than what I lost from going blind.

The development of the disability identity transformed fly identities associated with the military, Veteran status, husband, father, friend, family member, and every other identity I possess. No longer did I feel my disabilities conflicted with other aspects of my self. The result is a congruent set of identities, where each borrows from another but none over powers the other. I am proud to call myself disabled, blind, Disabled Veteran, father, husband, advocate, son, guide dog handler, and Army retiree.

Q5 When did you become politicized? How are you shaped by your culture, beliefs, and communities?
The shift from political bystander to active participant required several years. Prior to my blindness, I barely knew the names of our senior elected officials and how legislation impacts my daily life. Following my injury, I started to listen to AM talk radio, talk politics with the strongly Christian conservatives military and GS office mates, and participate in online discussion forums. Naturally my political leans swayed conservative, but I was not able to acquire alternative view points from non-biased sources.

My political leanings steadily moved towards liberal views during my Social Work education and subsequent years. This stems largely from diversifying my friends and social contacts, promoting a richer understanding about the different layers to each issue. Then I learned how local to federal to international policies and agendas impacts my rights for an accessible and equal world, and embraced liberal stances safeguarding disability rights.

Q6 Not everyone is on Twitter or interested in political participation. How can we encourage disabled people to get involved?
Diffusion of an idea requires a multi level approach. Individuals with disabilities not currently engaged with the #CripTheVote movement requires their trusted friends and families to talk about the concepts of the movement. These trusted individuals start to cast light on the #CripTheVote movement, establishing credibility. Next an individual will need to consume content from the movement, solidifying the movement to the individual. Finally, the individual must experience the movement, affixing an emotional reaction to the movement.

Q7 What are some barriers that get in the way of more disabled people from participating in any form of activism?
Knowledge. Knowledge about the issues. Knowledge about how policies impacts the individual. Knowledge about ones role in the process. Knowledge about who to contact for more information. Knowledge about how to interact with elected officials and community leaders. Knowledge that they have the freedom to engage in activism. Knowledge different activism venues and methods are accessible. Knowledge that one will not lose benefits, rights, or supports by becoming active. Finally, knowledge that their voices are important and equal to all other voices.

Q8 There’s the phrase ‘the personal is political.’ If that resonates with you, what issues are hitting you hardest right now?
The nomination for the Department of Justice. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires the Department of Justice’s interpretation for teeth. Should the Department of Justice loosen or eliminate consequences for ignoring the Americans with Disabilities Act, I will lose the only legislation permitting my guide dog in public establishments. I will lose trust in my elected officials and the department of Justice to support my rights as a disabled person. I fear accessibility will become voluntary, and digital interfaces will not have to comply to any web accessibility initiative guidelines.

Q9 As you look forward to the rest of this year, what do you need to sustain your activism? What will help?
Hope and trust. Hope the political pandering from both sides will subside and pragmatic evidence-based solutions will arise. Hope that activism will remain one of our freedoms, and the current administration and elected officials will not silence our voices through legislative actions. Trust in my fellow disabled friends and supporters will stand by my side even if we are persecuted for advocating for our rights. Trust in my own voice to remain consistent and responsive throughout the years.Hope

Tremendous Victory for Digital Accessibility Advocates

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Disability digital accessibility advocates rejoiced on January 18, 2017, when the US Access Board Updated rules for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act. March 20, 2017 might be the effective date of the update, but compliance is delayed until January 18, 2018 for Section 508 and the Federal Communications Committee must first adopt the new Section 255 rules. The change advances accessibility of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) employed by federal and other agencies abiding by these acts. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act pertains to computers, telephonic communications methods, copier printers, websites, published software, kiosks, transaction devices, and any electronic documents. 255 of the Communications Act covers telephones, mobile and smart phones, routers, set-top boxes, computers with modems, Voice Over IP (VOIP) software, and the underlying software for these items.

The update’s chief results empower individuals with disabilities to access digital, electronic, and telecommunications services and programs under Section 508 and Section 255. This occurs through easier to understand accessibility standards crafted by industry leaders. The most important aspects include:

For Veterans with visual impairments, the accessibility of digital content and interfaces will increase within the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, and Social Security. Most notably, the VA’s check-in kiosks lack sufficient accessibility options for low vision and blinded Veterans. The Section 508 Team at the VA diligently works to correct this problem; the new rules will decrease the chances for this to happen again. The WAI guidelines for web interfaces and media content will advance accessibility guidelines to usability requirements for individuals with disabilities, a chief complaint of many accessing VA websites to Social Security online forms. Finally, provisions acknowledge and usher guidelines for emerging technologies, like smart phones and mobile devices, by noting their roles in the lives of individuals with disabilities and focusing on the how we use these items in accessing digital materials. Section 4 of the overview contains a complete list of each change and outcomes.

The ICT refresh represents the first steps into a world consistent with universal design principals. While this we celebrate this long fought victory, we need to remain active in advocating for digital accessibility throughout our entire digital life. We still face an uphill climb ensuring those covered under Section 508 and Section 255 comply with these rules and guidelines. While we evaluate implementation of the ICT, we also need to continue to pressure the Depart of Justice to adopt similar requirements, like WAIG, for entities under Section 2 and Section 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, like online stores to streaming media platforms.

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.

Removing the Threatening Pop Up Stating Your Device Is Infected

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate how to resolve an potentially scary situation when a pop up informs you your device is infected. This pop up sounds extremely official and asks you to contact Apple Support with a toll free number. First, your device is not infected. Secondly, this is not the number for Apple support. Do not panic, and follow these steps:

  • Press the Home button to return to the home screen
  • Place the Voice Over focus on the menu bar and do a three finger swipe up to bring up the Control Panel
  • Turn Airplane mode on and press the Home button
  • Double tap the Home button to bring up the app switcher and close the app
  • Navigate to Settings and find the menu option for Safari
  • Navigate towards the bottom of Safari’s menu and double tap the Clear History and Website Data button
  • Press the Home Button, bring up the Control Panel, turn airplane mode off, and go back to navigating the web

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on removing the threatening pop up stating your device is infected.

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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Voice Over Rotor’s Text Selection and Editing Options

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate how to select and format text with a few swipes and gestures within Voice Over’s Rotor. It matters not if you are selecting text from a webpage and pasting it into a note, email, or text message, the Voice Over Rotor simplifies and expedites the process. If you are new to the Voice Over Rotor, listen to this podcast first. Below you will find the different options available in both the Text Selection and Edit rotor options as well as a basic list of steps to activate the rotor.

Text Selection

  • Character
  • Word
  • Line
  • Page
  • Select All

Edit

  • Copy
  • Cut
  • Paste
  • Look Up
  • Share
  • Make checklist item (Notes only)
  • Indent Right

Activating and Basic Rotor Gestures

  • Activate the Rotor by placing two fingers on the iOS device screen and pretend you are turning a dial
  • On a paired keyboard, activate Quick Nav by pressing the left and right arrows together and then pressing the Left/right arrow with the up arrow to cycle through options
  • Use a flick up/down or the up/down arrows to cycle through the selected Rotor’s options
  • Use the right/left arrow keys to navigate, select, or de select text
  • Double tap, press VO plus the Spacebar, or press both the up and down arrows to select the Rotor option you are on

this task is very simple for Voice Over users. Here is a list of steps you can use as a reference:

  • After opening up the Netflix app, double tap on the Browse button in the upper right corner of the screen.
  • Locate the My Downloads button to view any episode or Movie you downloaded.
  • Locate the Available for Download button to view content you can download.
  • When you find a video you wish to download, double tap on it, and swipe until you find the download button.

Please keep in mind that downloading movies and TV shows will require anywhere from 100MB of space to 3GB of storage. If you have limited space, keep track of what you download, as filling up your storage may result in your device slowing down. To delete videos, do the following:

  • Navigate to the My Downloads menu in Netflix
  • Click on the the Edit button in the upper right corner
  • Find a video you already watched and there is an unlabeled button immediately before the name of the episode or show name.
  • Double tap on this unlabeled button to delete the file.
  • Click done in the upper right corner when complete.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on selecting and editing text through the Voice Over Rotor.

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

Downloading Netflix Movies and TV Shows to your iOS Device

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate how to download Netflix movies and TV shows to your iPhone and iPad. Netflix consumers have been wishing for this feature for a number of years, especially after Amazon Prime released a similar feature for its video selection at release. Completing this task is very simple for Voice Over users. Here is a list of steps you can use as a reference:

  • After opening up the Netflix app, double tap on the Browse button in the upper right corner of the screen.
  • Locate the My Downloads button to view any episode or Movie you downloaded.
  • Locate the Available for Download button to view content you can download.
  • When you find a video you wish to download, double tap on it, and swipe until you find the download button.

Please keep in mind that downloading movies and TV shows will require anywhere from 100MB of space to 3GB of storage. If you have limited space, keep track of what you download, as filling up your storage may result in your device slowing down. To delete videos, do the following:

  • Navigate to the My Downloads menu in Netflix
  • Click on the the Edit button in the upper right corner
  • Find a video you already watched and there is an unlabeled button immediately before the name of the episode or show name.
  • Double tap on this unlabeled button to delete the file.
  • Click done in the upper right corner when complete.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on downloading movies and TV shows from Netflix onto your iPhone or iPad.

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

Siri and the iOS App Store

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate Siri’s commands associated with the iOS App Store. These commands are limited to searching for a specific app, apps by a developer, or apps within a genre. Below you will find example command phrases for Siri.

  • Siri, search for (insert app name here) in the App Store.
  • Siri, get (insert app name here) from the App Store.
  • Siri, search for apps by (insert name of developer here) in the App Store
  • Siri, search for (insert genre here)apps in the App Store.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on Siri’s commands for the App Store. 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

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Navigating the iOS App Store

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we explore the iOS App Store. The App Store is how we turn an iPhone or iPad into the best mobile accessibility tool in our arsenal of independent living tools. The phrase, “there is an app for that,” originated because of the App Store’s existence. It might be tricky to find those accessibility apps because a plethora of apps exists, however, the five tabs at the bottom of the App Store’s screen makes it a cinch to navigate. Those tabs include:

  • Featured – This lists those apps Apple wishes users to look at. These are generally based on a theme associated with the time of year, as the podcast demonstrated the strong focus on Thanksgiving and holiday traveling apps on the Featured page in November.
  • Categories – This lists the major genres of apps. Keep in mind that there is no accessibility category, and our blindness specific apps might be found in a host of different categories.
  • Top Charts – This identifies the top paid, free, and grossing apps. This is fun to look at to see current trends.
  • Search – This is where you will spend your time finding those accessibility related apps. You can specifically search for the name of an app or just type in blindness to see what comes up.
  • Updates – This is where you will update your apps and see a list of when different apps where updated. Double tapping on the name of the app will allow you to see when the update was published and a list of changes.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on navigating the iOS App Store. 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

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How to #CripTheVote and be a Voter with a Disability

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we discuss different options for voting with a disability and demonstrate how to use the Electoral Services and Software Express Vote. Your vote as a disabled voter counts the same as anyone else’s, but our fellow Americans with disabilities face voting participation barriers.

The Department of Justice describes the numerous pieces of legislation and regulations protects and encourages our participation in the voting process. These safeguards includes:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act,, through Title II, mandates all aspects of voting, from registration to sights to casting ballots, is completely accessible for everyone.
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965 permits disabled individuals to select who might assist while voting, including site staff to family members.
  • Voting Accessibility for the elderly and handicapped Act of 1984 requires accessible voting locations or alternative arrangements be made available, like curb side.
  • National Voters Registration Act of 1993 requires public offices and state services serving largely individuals with disabilities a chance to register to vote.
  • Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires every voting site possess at least one accessible voting system.

Click here to learn more about #CripTheVote and where the candidates stand on disability rights.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to vote and #CriptTheVote.

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Voting Blind through Accessible Voting Machines

Editor’s Note: This article comes from Terry of New Mexico. He describes a recent visually impaired support group of his where Veterans learned how to use the accessible voting machines. It is important we each exercise our voting rights. To remain silent on November 8th is to deny your opinions related to local to national issues.

By Presidential Proclamation, President Obama declared Blind Americans Equality day in October. “Each day, blind and visually impaired Americans contribute to our society, refusing to allow anything to hold them back. In order to ensure more Americans with disabilities can continue participating fully in our country, we must each do our part to promote equal opportunity for all. On Blind Americans Equality Day, we reaffirm the inherent dignity of every human being and recommit to forging a future in which all Americans, including those with visual impairments, can pursue their full measure of happiness. More than two decades ago, one of the most comprehensive civil rights bills in our history, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was signed into law. Ever since, the ADA has helped reduce discrimination and promote equal access to classrooms, workplaces, and transportation — and it is imperative that we build on the significant progress we have made for individuals living with disabilities.”

In celebration of the strides that people with vision disabilities have made, the Rio Grande BVA low vision support group reaffirmed the belief of our full participation in society. At our meeting on October 18, The Dona Ana County board of elections provided an accessible voting machine for our veterans to have a hands-on training in voting independently. The machine is available at all voting sites in our county and provides accessibility for people with physical and visual disabilities. Everyone at our meeting was amazed at how easy the voting machine is to use. The veterans learned that they can vote without assistance. The audio menu system is easy to navigate. Voting time can be reduced by downloading the ballot for your district in advance so that you can easily skim through the actual ballot.

Adding a Pause or Wait to a Phone Number in Contacts

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate how to add a pause (aka comma) or wait (aka semicolon) to a phone number in Contacts. Any smart phone may preform a similar trick where a comma or semicolon means pause or wait while dialing a number from your contacts list.
Here is how to insert a pause or wait in iOS with Voice Over if you are using the onscreen keyboard.

  • Open a contact where you are dialing a number requiring an access code or numerical prompt system
  • Press the Edit button in the upper right corner of the screen
  • Double tap on the field where you insert the phone number
  • After typing in the phone number, determine if you need to insert a pause (aka comma) or a wait (semicolon)
  • Press the shift button, visually it contains a few symbols like plus and number sign,
  • Find the pause (aka comma) where the 4 button previously was located
  • Find the wait (aka semicolon) where the 6 button previously was located
  • Note: The pause will insert a brief pause into the dialing sequence so multiple commas may be required. The wait inserts a break in the dialing, so you will have to press a button in the in call options screen to continue entering the numerical sequence.

    Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on inserting and using the pause and wait options while placing a call.

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Siri’s Settings and Basic Commands

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we explore Siri’s Settings and teach you some fun Siri commands for practicing speaking to Siri. Siri is one of the most powerful digital assistants, controlling anything from enabling Voice Over to starting a Skype call. In order to do this, you need to ensure Siri is set up to your liking. Here is how to find Siri’s Settings and some basic practice commands:

  • Manually opening Siri’s Settings
    • Navigate to your Settings App
    • Swipe until you find Siri on the main screen of the Settings menu
    • double tap on Siri
  • Opening Siri’s Settings with Siri
    • Say, “Open Siri’s Settings”
    • Say, “Open your settings”

Here are some fund Siri commands to practice:

  • Say, “What is infinity times infinity”
  • Say, “What is 10 divided (or other math function) by 10”
  • Say, “Spell amazing (or any other word)”
  • Say, “What is the synonym (or antonym) of huge”
  • Say, “Say a tongue twister”
  • Say, “Tell me a story”

There are many more of these types of fun commands to find, so start talking with Siri.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on Siri’s Settings and some fun practice Siri commands.

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To Update or Not to Update

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Over the last two months, Microsoft and Apple both released their annual operation systems updates. This leaves one to ponder about the updating choice. While this decision is relatively a simple one for our sighted family and friends, the blindness community must ask the following questions:

  • Is it compatible with my adaptive software?
  • Will my device or system support the update?
  • Will any of the new features or changes require assistance to learn?

This review will offer guidance based on these questions related to the Windows 10 Anniversary, iOS 10, and MacOS Sierra updates. Before venturing any further, keep in mind the choice is not an easy one to make even with the answers to these questions. I strongly encourage each of you to review the information here, ask questions during any of the Hines Blind Center Alumni and Blind Vet Tech teleconferences, and with the manufactures or developers of your selected platforms.

Windows 10 Anniversary

A year after releasing Windows 10, Microsoft released the Windows 10 Anniversary edition. The update packs new and tremendously powerful improvements into the release like a smarter Cortana, dark mode for those who like high contrast, the ability to sign in with just your face, and an overhaul to Narrator. The Narrator update turned the built-in screen reader from a nearly useless accessibility option into a wonderful robust screen reader. Narrator took some lessons from Voice Over, JAWS, and Window Eyes and became equally as powerful as these other screen readers. Also, Narrator is fully accessible with Edge and other parts of Windows. One common complaint involves the Rearrangement of the Start Menu. You will notice the Shut Off, Restart, and Log Off options are concealed in a dropdown menu.

Windows 10 Anniversary will work with those version of JAWS, nVDA, Zoom Text, and other adaptive software updated to work with Windows 10. If updating from Windows 8 or older, you will need to verify if your software version supports Windows 10. If you are a Narrator user, no worries, since you just received a functional screen reader. Microsoft stated the rollout of Windows 10 Anniversary will occur in phases, with newest computers receiving first dibs. If you wish to jump the line or verify if the update installed, look for “Feature Update to Windows 10, Version 1607” in software updates.

Overall, Windows 10 Anniversary will only slightly alter your computing experience. The This stems from the redesigned Start Menu and Narrator. The Start Menu’s main irksome change involves shutting down, restarting, or logging off your computer. Microsoft placed these items in menu with several other system controls. The Microsoft Accessibility Team will be more than happy to provide assistance in this matter. The second part requiring training is if you wish to rely on Narrator. While JAWS, NVDA, and Narrator possess many similarities, certain navigational methods differ enough between them that a 1 for 1 translation is not possible.

To update, navigate to Settings > Updates & Security > Windows Update and look for Feature update to Windows 10, version 1607. If you have any questions about Windows 10 and accessibility, contact the Microsoft Accessibility Team at:

iOS 10

Apple released iOS 10 alongside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The latest update requires 1.1gb to download, but brings with it a bunch of nice features and updates. Voice Over users will enjoy a couple of new voices, a new in-app Voice Over Rotor option, a quicker way to rearrange apps on your home screen, and an enhancement to Photos where background and objects are identified. Low Vision users will continue to enjoy Zoom and the new white point balance feature and a new option in Accessibility that turns your iOS device into a digital Magnifier by triple pressing the home button. All iOS users will enjoy the updated lock screen and notifications views, the ability for third party apps to integrate with Siri and Messages, and the ability to remove those stock apps freeing. This is only the tip of the iceberg of the updates, but are probably the ones most of you will quickly wish to test out.

Like all Apple products, building accessibility into the operating system removes most of the questions one possesses regarding updating, as Voice Over, Zoom, and the other accessibility options work flawlessly with iOS 10. However, that does not mean some bugs do not slip through the cracks. Most notably includes an issue where Voice Over and Zoom may cease to operate properly under certain circumstances when both are activated and some continued bugginess with Braille Screen Input. Outside of these, Apple removed many of the legacy bugs making updating fun.

If you are wondering if your iPhone or iPad will be able to support iOS 10, here is the official list of supported devices:

  • iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7Plus
  • iPad Pro 12.9”, iPad Pro 9.7”, iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3, and iPad mini 2
  • iPod Touch 6th Generation

Some additional words of caution come from those of you with the lower tier of storage (8 to 16gb) or whose devices are nearly maxed out. You may find your device running a bit slower when compared to iOS 9.3.6.

To update, navigate to Settings > General > Software Updates and look for the iOS 10 download and install button while connected to wifi and connected to power. If you have any questions about Apple Accessibility, contact Apple Accessibility Support at:

MacOS Siera

Apple changed more than the software behind its computers, but ditched Mac OS X to MacOS Sierra. Technically Sierra is OS 10.12 when you look in About This Mac, but don’t tell the presses. The Sierra update brought several very nice updates to Voice Over and Accessibility, how some of the core apps work, and finally introduced Siri.

Like all Apple products, building accessibility into the operating system removes most of the questions one possesses regarding updating, as Voice Over, Zoom, and the other accessibility options work flawlessly with Sierra. However, that does not mean some bugs do not slip through the cracks.

If you are wondering if your Mac supports Sierra, here is the official list of supported devices:

  • MacBook Pros 2010 or newer, MacBook 2009 or newer, and MacBook Air 2010 or newer
  • Mac Mini 2010 or newer
  • Mac Pro 2010 or newer
  • iMac 2009 or newer

however, I issue a word of caution that Macs with just 2GB of RAM or who have nearly full hard drives may experience a rather sluggish Mac, especially with Voice Over. This problem increases if using File Vault to encrypt your hard drive.

One possible catch with Sierra involves whether you might need some extra assistance to use Voice Over or Zoom with Sierra. How you answer this question depends on your current skill level and if you wish to use Siri. If you are a beginner Mac user, you might want to hold off updating until some sighted assistance is around. This recommendation stems not from any changes in the update, but rather your comfort level completing the updating process. Another group of individuals who might wish to hold off are those who are not comfortable with playing around in System Preferences. After each update, it’s worth the time to go through all of the System Preferences to see what changed. For Example, Siri maybe available in the Dock, but changing the keyboard shortcut requires a quick dive into System Preferences. Minus these items, the update will not require any additional Voice Over or Zoom skills to continue using your Mac.

To update, navigate to App Store > Updates and look for the MacOS Sierra update or select update all. If you have any questions about Apple Accessibility, contact Apple Accessibility Support at:

Yes, Voice Over Users Can Update to iOS 10

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Apple recently released iOS 10, and it is perfectly safe for Voice Over users to download and install it. This thought stems from participating on several discussion groups and running iOS 10 on my primary iOS device, an iPhone 6, since the public beta opened up. As all of these major updates go, Apple included some new features, modified 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 10, many of you might be wondering two things, is my device supported and how much space will iOS 10 require. iOS 10 supports:

  • iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7Plus
  • iPad Pro 12.9”, iPad Pro 9.7”, iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3, and iPad mini 2
  • iPod Touch 6th Generation

Next, some of you might be wondering how much space will iOS 10 consume. Generally, those with an 16GB device lack room, once you download some applications and take some photos, but you need not worry. iOS 10 received a significant amount of attention by Apple that not only decreased the amount of room you might need, but almost eliminated the need for this discussion. iOS 10 requires 1.7GB of free storage. If you do not need this amount, then your iPhone or iPad will temporarily upload your apps into the iCloud, install the iOS 10 update, and bring everything back. Additionally, Apple will allow you to remove those petty stock apps off your device.

Accessibility Updates

iOS 10 features some great accessibility updates like the new Magnifier (not to be confused with a screen magnifier), the new Voice Over Rotor in-app toggles, and Zoom’s new following option. Overall though, iOS 10 focused more on fine tuning all of our favorite accessibility options when compared to the number of new features introduced in iOS 9.

Voice Over

The two major update to Voice Over includes a new in-app Rotor toggle and new method to arrange apps on your home screen. Minor updates improved braille screen input, several new voices, and Voice Over’s voice routing.

Voice Over Rotor In-App Options

The best place to test out the new Rotor toggle resides in a threaded message view in Mail. After you click on the threaded message, you are brought to the most recent message. Preform the Rotor gesture until you hear Messages, and then swipe up or down. This allows you to switch between messages. Another area with this feature is within tables. When Voice Over enters a table, use the Rotor to find rows and columns and swipe up or down to quickly navigate by the selection.

Arranging Apps with Voice Over

Arranging apps has never been easier with Voice Over. No more must you guess if you finally landed on a folder to dump an app in. In iOS 10, just swipe up or down on an app or folder on your home screen until you hear arrange apps. This allows you to quickly sort your apps and folders with just swipes and double taps, and no more dragging around the screen. Do not believe me, then listen to our Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorial podcast covering this new feature.

Voice Over Settings Menu Update

A few minor menu changes will require you to familiarize yourself with the Voice Over menu. The main one is the audio setting located above the Rotor setting. Here you will find settings for:

  • Use sound effects
  • Audio ducking
  • Apple select speaker in call (automatic speaker phone option when pulling iPhones away from your head while in a call).

Other new additions to the Voice Over setting menu is the Phonetic Feedback above Typing Feedback, and Pronunciations located in the Speech menu.

Magnifier

For low vision and high partials out there, the new Magnifier under Accessibility truly turns your iOS device into a digital magnifier. You can now delete all of those magnifier apps you collected over the years. When you enable this option, triple clicking the home button, aka accessibility shortcut, your iOS device will become a full fledge digital magnifier. Note for Voice Over users, if you are in Magnifier with Voice Over on, triple clicking the home button again will turn off Voice Over. Instead, just tap on the home to leave the magnifier. Nabs; The Magnifier possesses all of the features you have come to love with devices like the Amigo, but it fits into your pocket. Your magnification options start at 0x and maxes out at 15x in increments of 0.5x. Below are the different color filters available:

  • None
  • White/blue
  • Yellow/blue
  • Greyscale filter
  • Yellow/black
  • Red/black
How to Use Magnifier

When you open up the Accessibility settings, under Zoom will be the new Magnifier feature. switching this to on will insert the Magnifier option as a dimmed item in the Accessibility Shortcut. This means when you preform the triple press of the home button, if you have any other accessibility shortcut options enabled, the prompt will include Magnifier in the list. If you have no other options enabled in the Accessibility Shortcut, the triple press will turn on the Magnifier. To switch Magnifier off, just press the home button. When on the Magnifier screen, the display uses the rear or back facing camera. On the screen you have the different options to increase or decrease zoom, enable one of the previously mentioned color filters, freeze the image, and change the white point. Since Magnifier is built into iOS, you will not run into any compatibility issues when Apple updates iOS.

Photos

Photos just received an awesome photo recognition tool, very similar to Facebook’s image recognition AI. When uploading photos into iCloud, Apple emplaced a wonderful analysis system labeling each photo for Voice Over. Each picture may receive a label indicating image quality, number of faces, and descriptions of objects and backgrounds. This might be as basic as the number of people in a picture to further information about the background. It will be enjoyable to witness how this evolves as learning continues.

Related to recognition involves identification of people. When you open Photos and after processing completes, a new section for People appears in Albums. Each folder initially is labeled unknown with the number of pictures tagged. Sighted assistance maybe necessary to name each folder. These recognition features will not automatically appear, since the processing transpires within iCloud. After installing iOS 10, Photos will require you to have your device connected to power and Wi-Fi, locked, and quite some time to complete, based on photo library size. MY 24k picture library required several days.

General iOS 10 updates

Lock Screen

The Lock screen received some major updates. This includes new widgets and display options, the removal of the slide to unlock feature, and how notifications appear. For this review, we will focus on the new unlocking methods and interacting with notifications with Voice Over.

On the lock screen, the slide bar is replaced with a line of text stating, “press home to unlock.” Voice Over users can still preform a one finger double tap on this line of text to unlock the iOS device, or a new option. The first is the rest Finger on the Home Button to Unlock the device. This option only requires you place your finger on the finger print sensor, if enabled. While only available on devices with the finger print sensor, like the iPhone 5S and newer, this is the fastest method to unlock your iOS device.

You might be asking what if you receive a call while your iOS device is locked? Rest assured, the normal methods to pick up that call have not changed. You still have the ability to perform a two finger double tap with Voice Over and the “Press home to unlock” is replaced with a line of text that you can preform a one finger double tap to answer.

Another option available is the raise to wake feature. This is only available on the iPhone 6sS, iPhone 6s Plus, or newer. When activated, you just need to lift up your device to wake it up.

Notification Center, Today View and Notifications

The best method to witness how Apple increased the functionality of 3D touch, introduced on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus and newer, is to clear away any notifications on the lock screen. Different pressure based presses on the screen will bring up different options on how to learn, acknowledge, and respond to a notification. For those of us without this feature and using Voice Over, we still have the Rotor Action option that allows us to either clear or see more options. This is rather annoying, since iOS 9 had options like accept, confirm, complete, and other options based on the notification when swiping up or down with one finger. These items are still there, but you will need to swipe and double tap on more, and then swipe left or right through the screen to find the desired response. This carries over to notifications when your device is unlocked. If you have a banner style notification, it appears at the top of the screen as before, but swiping up or down with Voice Over once again produces two options, clear and more.

The best way to handle notifications occurs through the Notifications Center, three finger swipe down when Voice Over’s focus is on the menu bar, or the Siri Spotlight view, three finger swipe right from either home and lock screens. Here you have the list of notifications based on a couple of items. It is much easier to clear out individual items here if you do not have 3D touch.

The best part of the Notification Center and Today views comes from an increase in widgets. Apple has bundled many more widgets into the today view, including Siri, Activity, a redesigned Weather view, and many more. Overall this change is very nice with more widgets coming to increase the usefulness of Notification Center.

Notes

The rather non-glamourous Notes app once again received a very nice update. The new addition allows you to collaborate with others on a Note in real-time. For example, if you have a checklist created for shopping, moving, or related to a task, you can share the note and allow others to check items off. Another example involves drafting documents. I actually used this feature to share the draft version of this update with other contributors to Blind Vet Tech. However, notes still lack advance formatting features to replace apps like Pages and Microsoft Word, but its steadily becoming a terrific writing platform.

Siri

Our favorite gender neutral digital assistant advanced itself in iOS 10. Taking a step out of the General menu under Settings, you now will find Siri on the main Setting screen. The major rationale stems from Apple opening up the Siri platform to app developers. At this point, not many apps integrated their services with Siri, but be on the lookout for future app updates highlighting Siri connectivity.

Messages

Moving away from a simple text and messaging tool, the new Messages features will change how your communicating with your friends and family. At launch, the first things you will notice involves something referring to apps, handwriting, and sketches. Like Siri, apps will be updating their products to allow you to send more than just texts and pictures to your friends and family, but also money, games, stickers, and who knows. The sketching and handwriting features resemble the Apple Watch messages. You can send a quick note or drawing instead of a traditional message. In the iPhone 7, this will expand to other types of items. Of note, Handwriting interferes with Voice Over’s Braille Screen Input in screen away mode.

Mail

Mail received two very nice updates, a new threaded message view and a filter option. The new threaded messages view removes the screen presenting each message in the thread. Now when you tap on a threaded message, you will be brought to the most recent message, and have options to advance to the next and previous messages. This is where the new in-app Voice Over Rotor comes into play. When in a threaded message, use the Rotor and find Messages. Swiping up or down allows you to quickly read the next item in the thread.

If you receive large amounts of new messages, the filter option will make sifting through them a snap. The filter presents options to see only new messages, read messages, and several other combinations.

Summary

This review barely touches upon the host of new features, updates, and changes in iOS 10. Having used the iOS Public Beta for over two months now on my primary iPhone 6, I am very comfortable recommending individuals update their iPhones and iPads to iOS 10. None of the bugs related to either Voice Over, Zoom, or the system in general pose a significant threat to functionality. The new method to rearrange apps on the home screen with Voice Over to the numerous widgets for your notifications view enhanced my overall enjoyment of my iPhone 6.

If you still do not wish to update to iOS 10 after reading this, by all means stick with iOS 9.3.6 and wait for more information. We place a lot of trust in our devices, and it’s based on this trust you should examine your beliefs about updating to iOS 10.

How to Update to the Latest iOS Updates

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 and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate how to update your iPhone or iPad to the latest software update. Periodically Apple publishes updates to address known software and security issues, new features, or behind the scenes updates to improve performance. Knowing when these arrive and how to install them is an important part of owning an iOS device. The updating and installation process is rather straight forwards, and listening to this podcast will alleviate any concerns about completing this on your own. FYI, this podcast uses an iPhone 6 installing iOS 10. Here are a few tips to expedite the process:

  • Have your iTunes or Apple ID and password available before starting.
  • If setting up a new device, the process will differ slightly from one who is updating or restoring their device.
  • Triple Click of the home button on the first screen will activate Voice Over.

Steps to Update:

  • Open your settings app.
  • Navigate to General. If there is an update, a notification will be next to General.
  • Navigate to Software Update. If an update is available a notification will appear.
  • Click on the download and install or the install button to start the process.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to update your iPhone or iPad.

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