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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessibility Updates

Voice Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zoom and iOS’ Visuals

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

Other Accessibility Features

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

iOS Updates

Siri 

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

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

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

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

Control Center

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

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

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

TV and TV Providers

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

Emergency SOS

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk for September

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

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

Participate on the call through Zoom by:

  • Thursday, July 20
  • 1900 Central Time

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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Join the House of Representatives Through the Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Service and Guide Dog Etiquette Recommendations

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

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

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

Google Announces Pilot Disabilities Support Team

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

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

Forwarded Email Message follows:

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

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

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

What is the Google disability support team?

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

Why is the Google accessibility team launching this?

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

How can I help test and provide feedback?

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

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

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

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

Why email only?

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

How long will the team be testing for?

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

What is Google trying to learn from this pilot?

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

What are the next steps after the pilot ends?

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

How to Listen to Podcast Via Amazon Echo

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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Optimize iPhone and iPad Battery Life

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

Play

Listening to Podcasts Via Hims Blaze

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

Play

Listening to Podcasts on a Victor Reader

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

Play

AIRA Enhancing Independence Through Human Interaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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

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

In this episode we will:

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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Amazon Echo: Setting Up The Alexa iOS App

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

In this episode we will:

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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