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

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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Listening to Podcasts on a Victor Reader

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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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.

Blind Not Alone LLC Services

Blind Not Alone started life offering anyone resources and articles related to disabilities, Veterans issues, blindness, and technology. Overtime our network grew, along with what our consumers desired from us. Many organizations, like the Department of Veterans Affairs to the University of Kansas, requested more formal relationships with Blind Not Alone. This interested prompted us to establish Blind Not Alone, LLC.

Blind Not Alone, LLC, proudly offers organizations to individuals the following contractual to fee for service opportunities:

  • Training for visually impaired individuals on iPhones, iPads, MacOS based computers, and other assistive technologies for the blind
  • Assistive technology assessments for visually impaired individuals in school, employment, or home settings
  • Website and other information and communication technology accessibility and usability compliance testing for Section 508 and W3C Web Accessibility Initiative’s guidelines
  • Public or motivational speaking, guest lectures, and other public to private speaking engagements (see below for a list of past engagements)
  • Program management of projects to case management for individuals with disabilities
  • Drafting research articles to end user guides for various topics from resilience to assistive technology

Send us an email to learn more about how we may assist you and your organization achieve its goals.

CV Hornik July 2017.pdf

Presentations and Public Speaking Engagements

Below is a list of the various presentations and public speaking engagements for Tim. He is available upon request to serve you and your organization as a motivational speaker, guest lecturer, keynote speaker, or other types of public to private events for your organization or class. Simply send us an email by clicking here for more information.

  • Keynote Speaker, St. Joseph’s Vet 2 Vet Armed Forces Day Celebration, May 2017
    Discussed the roles of community and military relationships in supporting Service Members, families, and Veterans integrate into civilian life
  • Poster Presentation, University of Kansas Medical Center Student Research Forum, April 2017
    Presented the findings from a literature review describing beneficial components of adaptive sporting and recreational programs for disabled Veterans
  • Guest Lecturer, Strengths-based Assessments with Consumers with Disabilities, University of Kansas Medical Center Masters of Occupational Therapy, March 2017
    Described how social workers might employ Empowerment Theory principals when serving persons with disabilities at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels
  • Guest Lecturer, Transpersonal Theory and Resilience Following a Disability, University of Kansas Masters of Social Work, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, November 2016
    Described the key components of transpersonal theory and how it relates to resiliency following a traumatic disability
  • Keynote Speaker, Burns and McDonald Veterans Day Remembrance, November 2015
    Discussed the role family, community, and personal resilience impacted my ability to recover from combat injuries, remain on Active Duty for seven years, and pursue graduate education to over 200 Burns and McDonald employees
  • Guest Presenter, Kansas Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired Annual Convention, November 2015
    Described the impacts and resources for low vision and blinded Veterans in Kansas
  • Guest Lecturer, History of Visual Impairments Amongst US Veterans, University of Kansas American Studies, Disabled Veterans in History, October 2015
    Discussed the evolution of services and programs impacted the lives of visually impaired Veterans from the Civil War to present day, citing previous class assignments and personal narratives
  • Guest Lecturer, Empowerment Theory for Persons with Disabilities, University of Kansas Masters of Social Work, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, September 2015
    Described how social workers might employ Empowerment Theory principals when serving persons with disabilities at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels
  • Panel Presenter, Celebrating 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Independence Incorporated, July 2015
    Informed on the impacts of the Americans with Disabilities Act on disabled Veterans and the blind
  • Panel Presentation Coordinator on Veteran Medical and Transitioning Services for Representatives from the Czech Republic, April 2015
    Devised, coordinated, and orchestrated a panel of service providers from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and University of Kansas Graduate Military Programs presenting on Veteran services
  • Pledge of Allegiance Leader for President Obama’s visit to the University of Kansas,, January 2015
    Nominated and selected by the University of Kansas’ Chancellor’s Office
  • Panel Presenter, Effective Communications with People with Disabilities in the Healthcare Setting, University of Kansas Medical Center’s Student Life, October 2014
    Provided an overview of common barriers and stigma faced by blind consumers of medical services and within medical training
  • Session Presenter, BVA National Convention, August 2014
    Presentation on usage of a variety of applications and features within iOS devices for visually impaired Veterans
  • Public Speaker, Fort Leavenworth Rod and Gun Club, KAMO Adventures, DecemberJune 2014
    Conveyed how how higher education and outdoors sporting activities positively impacted my recovery following a traumatic injury
  • Panel Presenter, M-Enabling Summit Wounded Warrior Panel, TAVVI and BVA, June 2014
    Defined the impact mobile technologies possess on war blinded Veterans when integrating back ing civilian life
  • Panel Presenter, Road to Recovery, CSAH, December 2013
    Described personal experiences while recovering and transitioning into civilian life following a traumatic wartime injury, and answered an array of questions from the roughly 100 disabled Veterans and their support systems
  • Keynote Speaker, Heroes Amongst Us,Missouri Western University, November 2013
    Keynote speaker at awards ceremony for Veteran students and faculty, featuring the board of Governors, president, faculty, and students
  • Special Presenter, Blinded Veterans and Friends peer support group, November 2013
    Provided an overview of changes in iOS 7 as they relate to visually impaired users
  • Guest Presenter, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired Kansas State Convention, November 2013
    Described the impacts and resources for low vision and blinded Veterans in Kansas
  • Break-Out Session Presenter, BVA National Convention, August 2013
    Presentation on successful implementation strategies of Apple iOS devices within the lives of visually impaired and blind individuals
  • Army Warrior Transition Unit Command brief, Fort Riley, July 2013
    Provided an overview of community resources and partners assisting Wounded Warriors with recovery and transitioning into civilian life
  • Presenter, Visual Impairment Services Team Peer Support Group at the Kansas City VA, June 2013
    Described and demonstrated a variety of entertainment tools, techniques, and resources for the visually impaired
  • Presenter, Leavenworth VA In-Service, December 2012
    Conducted an overview of the visual impairment services in the VA and struggles visually impaired Veterans encounter
  • Guest Lecturer, U.S. Military in Global Context, University of Kansas American Studies, November 2012
    Historical overview and present day impacts of the U.S. military in global context
  • Guest Lecturer, University of Kansas Bachelors of Social Work, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, November 2011 and 2012
    General overview of social work with Veterans and the importance of resiliency during recovery from traumatic experiences
  • Guest Speaker, Leavenworth Veterans Day Celebration, November 2012
    Expressed the importance of community support during transitioning from military to civilian life
  • Co-presenter, Social Work Days at Fort Leavenworth, April 2012
    Described concepts and case studies of resiliency and spirituality as an intervention method and program models to mental health professionals
  • Guest Lecturer, University of Kansas Masters of Social Work, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, December 2010)
    Addressed practice concerns when assisting disabled Veterans and Service Members
  • Co-presenter, University of Kansas School of Social Welfare Practicum Liaison’s In-Service, September 2011
    Co-presented with Dr. Ed Canda on the importance of resiliency after sustaining a severe disability
  • Keynote Speaker, Department of Defense Vision Center of Excellence convention, August 2010
    Provided the opening marks and keynote presentation on the stages of loss in an annual multi-disciplinary medical conference examining pathways for care

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

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate 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.

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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.

@USABA Announces the Competitive and Recreational Community Sports Integration Project for Visually Impaired Veterans, a @VAAdaptiveSports Grant Funded Program

Military service, regardless of the era, emphasizes physical fitness and exercise. Remember all of those long ruck marches, unit fun runs, and PT tests? Yes, like many of you I try not to as well, but one cannot argue against the amount of research and information about the benefits of exercise to combat adverse health and mental health conditions. More importantly, organizations like USABA; Team Red, White, and Blue; Achilles, and your local sporting groups built tremendous communities with a vested interest in our wellbeing. Participation only requires your interest in trying it out.

USABA just rolled out a new program aiming to encourage visually impaired Veterans’ participation in local adaptive sporting and athletic events. The Community Sports Integration Project funds visually impaired Veterans registration and travel, so that they have the opportunity to participate in competitive and recreational sports in their local and regional community. Through a VA adaptive sporting grant, USABA will provide Veterans reimbursements for entry fees for the following events:

  • 5k to marathons
  • Cycling events
  • Triathlons, (Sprint and Olympic distance only
  • Powerlifting meets
  • Rowing regattas
  • Challenge events like Tuff Mudders and Warrior Dashes
  • Swim meets
  • Other competitions and tournaments for golfing, bowling, sailing, and other sporting and athletic events

Please note, multi-day events, camps, and ‘tours’ will not be considered. Likewise, events utilizing funds from the VA Adaptive Sports Grant will not be covered due to VA policies. Veterans will be provided t-shirts and other apparel to wear while competing when sport applicable.

Any visually impaired Veteran may apply, regardless of your age, whether you are recreationally participating or fighting to win, or location. Funding is available on a first come, first serve basis for any event starting July 1st until September 30th, 2017. If this interests you, here are the project’s guidelines:

  1. Contact the project coordinator with information about the event you wish to participate. The coordinator will provide initial approval, along with a packet containing USABA apparel to wear during the event.
  2. Participate in the event wearing the USABA apparel and share a photo of you on social media with the tags, @USABA and @VAAdaptiveSports/. If you do not have any social media accounts, send the project coordinator a photo of you so they might perform this step.
  3. Submit your official result to the project coordinator. This can be submitted as a link to race results or a printed result.
  4. Mileage stipends will be considered for events more than 50 miles away one way. Stipends will be capped at $75. Please seek approval before regional events from the project coordinator.
  5. Reimbursements must be submitted to the project coordinator by the 10th of each month to receive the same month. Reimbursements may cover the registration costs for both the Veteran and their sighted guide (if the activity requires one) and travel up to $75 (waivers are available).

If you have questions, please contact the project coordinator before your event. The project coordinators are:

Timothy Hornik
timothy.hornik@gmail.com
(785) 330-3503

Ryan Ortiz
Assistant Executive Director, USABA
rortiz@usaba.org
(719) 866-3025

Independence Through Dependence

Independence Day represents more than the United States’ declaration of independence, but its a day we all should reflect upon our freedoms and independence. A common misconception about independence and disabilities is the ability to be live independent while dependent upon others. What makes an independent lifestyle that requires assistance stems from the freedom to choose when, where, what, and how assistance is utilized.

For example, requesting sighted guidance to navigate an airport requires me to coordinate with the airport and accept assistance from the staff. My dependency upon the individual to go through the airport becomes a moment where I celebrate the ability to process through the ticketing counter, TSA, and then to the gate without incidence. If we happen to stop by a bar and grab a beer or snack, then the trip gained bonus freedom points. We see this notion of independence through dependency in many more aspects of our lives, like car pooling, using baby sitters, and just about any other part of our lives when we turn towards others for assistance.

Remember on this Independence Day that independence occurs from our ability to freely elect when to be independent or when to rely on others.

Five Alexa Commands All Echo Users Should Know

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 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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Mindfulness for the Blind? It is up to you

Anyone following the latest medical research for back pain to common interventional strategies for Post Traumatic Stress hears about mindfulness practices. Some may involve spending five minutes and focusing on your breath, through apps like 3 Minute Mindfulness, the VA’s PTSD Coach, or the Breathe function on an Apple Watch. More complex strategies integrate yoga practices, which are made accessible for the blind through Blind Alive’s Eyes Free Fitness programs. In its simplest form, mindfulness practice is nothing more than anything enabling you to ground yourself in the present moment. There is no right or wrong way to incorporate mindfulness into your life, just as there is no right or wrong practice methods.

On a personal level, I found it difficult to even contemplate a plan for a regular  mindfulness routine. The initial struggles stemmed largely from believing mindfulness is that thing zen masters do in the full lotus position while surrounded by a completely still environment where they reach into the inner depths of their being. Well, this mystical belief set me up for failure before even starting off. First off, I did not know what the full or even half lotus position looked like due to the lack of verbal descriptions in Youtube videos and books. Secondly, no part of my life or household remains silent or still for more than five minutes. Finally, what does it mean and how does one even reach deeply into their deepest aspects of their soul or consciousness.

After reviewing the below materials did I finally devise my own definition for mindfulness and how to achieve it. This should be everyone’s first goal, define mindfulness for your self, and what it will look like. Develop a place where you will practice and a regular time(s) during the day which you will attempt your version of mindfulness. Finally, accept that you may stumble at first or struggle to clear your mind, but this is perfectly normal and actually is part of the practice.

So what is mindfulness to me? Well its a period during the day when I attempt to be in the present and allow my mind to enjoy the moment. I sometimes do this under a window in my office on the bus or in the car, when waking up or trying to go to sleep, or while out for a walk or run. During this period, I generally focus on my breathing through a routine known as a square, where you breathe in for five seconds, hold the breath for five seconds, let the breath out for five seconds, and hold for five seconds. The time period is up to the individual, just as long as the ratio is even. While breathing I  focus on each breath and smile, allowing any thought to enter my mind and let it go. Imagery is not necessary, just the ability to focus on the simple act of breathing and your smile. Now there are other breathing patterns, but the ultimate thing to remember is focus on your breathing. Notice there is no mentioning of sitting position, since any comfortable position will work. Sitting upright in a chair, lying on your back, or even in the full lotus position, the key thing to remember is comfort. If you are not comfortable, then how can you turn your attention towards your breath?

When walking or running, breathing methods do not really work, so I focus on my stride, feeling the ground beneath my feet, sense what my guide dog is trying to tell me, and listen to the environment around me. Once again it is important to keep your mind on the present moment and what is around you. It can and will wander to something else, so let it go and then bring it back. Best part of practicing mindfulness while walking stems from all of our orientation and mobility training through blind rehab. Notice how the routine requires you to do nothing more than focus on your surroundings to ground yourself n the moment. We do this precise actions to orientate ourselves, so you already know one mindfulness method without a mystic guide.

Books

Mindfulness might be found throughout all bookstores and libraries, making it difficult to recommend a particular title. Since this is a blindness related review, I will focus on those items found in the National Library Service BARD program.

The miracle of mindfulness: a manual on meditation DB44957, by Thích Nhất Hạnh

Thich Nhat Hanh writes on meditation and mindfulness in one of the most straight forwards and realistic ways. His status as a venerated Buddhist monk provides a level of credibility unmatched by most of the other authors writing on the subject. He understands the everyday person may only possess a couple of moments to practice, so his insight targets how to introduce mindfulness into daily situations.

Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life DB64586, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Before stumbling upon Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon introduced me to the world of mindfulness in realistic ways. The title captures the fundamental purpose of mindfulness, focus on where you are now, not in the past or in the future, but in the present moment. 

Other Writings by Thich Nhat Hanh

  • How to relax DB84150,
  • Silence: the power of quiet in a world full of noise DB80777

Thich Nhat Hanh captures the wonderful essence of mindfulness in two quick reads. Like his other published works, he addresses how to incorporate mindfulness into daily life. There is no need for guided imagery audio or cliche meditation music here, since everything you need to practice mindfulness resides in you.

So you want to be a Jedi?: Star wars : the empire strikes back DB83214, by Adam Gidwitz

Surprisingly this remake of the Empires Strikes Back from Star Wars nicely portrays mindfulness in a simple easily understandable method. Each chapter starts with a brief method which Luke must practice to gain control over the force, and then uses it in the storyline.

iPhone or iPad Solutions

Just like Apple stated in their older iPhone ads, there is an app for that. With mindfulness, you definitely have a wide range to select from. Unfortunately its difficult to identify one that is fully accessible with Voice Over. In my searching, only two stand out from the pack.

3 Minute Mindfulness

This app targets breathing and developing a routine for mindfulness. It is completely accessible with Voice Over and utilizes both a real voice and chime to indicate what you should be doing. Though the title states 3 minutes, it can by customized for shorter or longer sessions.

Youtube

Youtube possesses many videos on mindfulness. I am including it here, since you can search and find the one that fits your style. Just make sue to favorite it or save it so you can jump back to it.

Apple Watch

Since Apple updated the Watch OS to 3.0, my favorite app is Breathe. Through the haptic feedback engine, the Apple Watch will tap you on your wrist to indicate time to breathe in or out. The downfall is you need to be rather still.

Final Thoughts

Take the time to personalize mindfulness to fit your life. We each venture down this path for our own reasons following our own paths. No Sage, Yogi, or Zen Master knows why or how mindfulness may be successful in your life. Only you can define the rationale and methods which mindfulness may benefit your life.

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.

Play

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.

Play

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.

Play

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.

Play

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.

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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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