Reviewing EyeNote vs Money Reader vs SeeingAI to Recognize US Notes

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 review the three major iOS money reading apps for US bank notes, EyeNote, Money Reader, and SeeingAI. Wile many in the blindness community advocate for the US to adopt tactile bank notes, there is absolutely nothing stopping one from simply integrating one of these three amazing currency recognition apps into their lives. Here are the three and our general thoughts:

  • EyeNote by the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing
    • Version 3.0, December 2017
    • The official app from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing updated Eyenote to support the 64bit requirements for compatibility with iOS 11. The result is a very quick and smooth US currency recognition app that detects and announces the denomination and which side is facing up. The only draw back involves the lack of support for other currencies.
  • Nant Mobile Money Reader (aka Money Reader) by IPPLEX
    • Version 2.6, October 2017
    • Long touted by the blindness community as the best currency recognition app on the App Store despite numerous name and developer changes, Money Reader still preforms admirably. The identification occurs rapidly through your Voice Over’s voice. It also continuously announces the denomination of the note as long as you hold it under your iOS device’s camera. Additionally it identifies most every major bank note in the world.
  • SeeingAI by Microsoft
    • Version 2.0, December 2017
    • Microsoft continuously expands upon the sheer awesomeness of SeeingAI. The recent addition for currency recognition occurs flawlessly. Similar to Money Reader, it will continuously announce any currency you have under your device’s camera, relying on speech settings you selected within its settings under menu. At this point, SeeingAI requires you to select the type of currency you use under Menu, Settings, Currency, and is limited to US, UK, Canadian, and Euros.

… and the winner is… It depends.

SeeingAI will remain my main solution since its capable of recognizing more than just currencies. The multifunctional aspects of it promotes my willingness to integrate it into daily life. I do not do international travel, so being able to recognize multiple currencies is not a big deal. The ability to set currency recognition within the 3d Touch menu only makes it that much easier to access this feature.

The updated version of Eyenote is a very close second and would not dismiss it. If anything, its a great backup and its abilities to inform you which side is facing up aids those Type A folks who need things in a certain way.

If you require the ability to identify multiple currencies, then Money Reader will be the best app to rely on. I have used it during international travels and found it very accurate and simple to use.

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

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements through the Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews blog and podcasts.

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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February’s Tech News Update on Low Vision Awareness Month, Blind Vet Tech Monthly Teleconferences Announcements, VFO Becomes the One Ring, and AIRA’s #AIRABowl and Site Access Expansion

After the maelstrom of news and concerns we covered in January’s Blind Vet Tech News Update, we are happy to provide hope and optimism for February. First an administrative note. We will continue to post the Blind Vet Tech News update here on the main Blind Not Alone blog. Followers will now receive all of our content when they subscribe here at Blind Not Alone. Secondly this action enables us to evolve the Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast into the Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast channel. This enables us to advance our mission bringing you more relevant content to assist you in bridging the technological divide we each face when living with a visual impairment. Now time for the news.

February’s Low Vision Awareness Month

did you know February is Low Vision Awareness Month? Low Vision encapsulates a very broad set of visual impairments. The World Health Organization describes Low Vision as an individual with a visual impairment impacting normal functioning even after corrective lenses or medical treatment and is able to use, residual vision for the planning and execution of a task. The American Academy of Ophthalmology describes common low vision symptoms as blurriness, night blindness, restricted fields of view, hazy vision, glare, or blind spots. These are commonly noted in age related conditions like Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy, or Macular Degeneration; childhood and adult conditions like Retinitis Pigmentosa, or Stargardt Disease; or trauma to the lens, cornea, retina, optical nerve, Traumatic Brain Injuries, or strokes.

Low vision symptoms serve as the canary in the coal mine alert for blindness. Early diagnosis and treatment may stop and even reverse the progression of the disease. For this reason, we each need to be aware of what Low Vision is and trust in a hope for a brighter future.

If your vision is not correctable, talk with a low vision clinic, like state blind rehab services, Department of Veterans Affairs eye clinics, ophthalmology or optometry clinics, or Lighthouses for the blind. These entities may discuss with you some rather simple low tech solutions to innovated technological devices. If your field of view is restricted, as with central field loss or blind spots, prism lenses to the eSight glasses will aid in expanding your sight. If you struggle with reading things up close or seeing distant objects, magnifiers and telescopes offer simple ways to focus on newspapers or signs. Alternatively digital magnifiers, Cyber Eyez smart glasses, or the JORDY will enable you to watch your favorite team or read a wonderful book. IF you are tethered to a computer, integrated accessibility options will allow you to increase the size of the text, reduce glare, and improve contrast. If you require screen magnification, Windows users will wish to check out ZoomText, while Apple MacOS users rely on Zoom. Similar items may be found on any iOS or Android smart phones and tablets.

Blind Vet Tech February Teleconferences

If you have any questions with life with a visual impairment or methods to address barriers associated with low vision and blindness, join us on one of our Blind Vet Tech Monthly Talks. Our Monthly Talks provide visually impaired individuals the chance to learn and share information about their favorite devices. Below is a list of our calls for February and how to connect via your computers, smart phones, or landline phones. We rely on Zoom for our teleconferencing platform, which is very usable. More information may be located by clicking here.

VFO Becomes the One Ring

In relatively surprising news, VFO acquired Enhanced Vision. VFO already owns Freedom Scientific, ZoomText, and Optelec. This places the leading stand alone optical character recognition devices, digital magnifiers, and Windows screen reader and magnification software under one financial holding group. This concerns many within the visual impairment tech world, including myself, for concerns best classified as conspiracy theories.

AIRA’s Virtual Super Bowl Party and Site Access

Finally, AIRA executed the best virtual Super Bowl party with the #AIRABowl. AIRA quickly developed into my favorite assistive tech device/service, having relied on it for reading charts and graphs for research articles, following my daughter as she cycles and I run behind her, finding the front door for various establishments, and many more reasons. During the Super Bowl, they hosted the first ever Super Bowl party for the blind with full audio descriptions of the game, stands, commercials, and halftime show. As a long time Chicago Bears fan with a great love for the game, Al Michaels and every other telecast’s announcers simply provide horrendous descriptions during their broadcasts and no one ever provided audio descriptions of the commercials. AIRA’s agents resolved this issue with the tremendous #AIRABowl party.

Sticking with AIRA, they recently announced the site access program exists in the Louisville and Minneapolis airports. Site access enables an AIRA explorer to use the AIRA service at no cost to oneself, as the location picks up the tab. This service needs your assistance to roll. It out in other airports, universities, and metropolitan areas. Click here to learn more about how you can make this happen.

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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Make Your Super Bowl Party More Enjoyable with AIRA’s #AIRABowl Audio Description and Live Coverage

AIRA, a service providing realtime audio descriptions for the blind, is upping their game with live coverage of the Super Bowl. Far to long I have to rely on someone else to describe what is happening in a commercial, visual elements of the halftime shows, or even the time on the clock. Let us face it, the announcers simply fail at these tasks and the radio broadcasts lac commercial coverage.

AIRA through its #AIRABowl coverage will change this by going live at the Super Bowl. For the first time, us blind viewers will understand the punchline of a commercial, hear key pieces of information about the current game, and learn why I feel AIRA is a must have device service for the blind. If you wish to learn what AIRA is about and why I feel its amazing, click here to participate with the #AIRABowl.

AIRA is offering this experience for free to anyone interested in AIRA. You need not be and AIRA Explorer or even blind. Just navigate to http://go.aira.io/superbowl to join AIRA, many of its users and supporters, and I have a virtual Super Bowl party.

Getting Started with Narrator, Activating Narrator

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 embark upon our “getting Started with Narrator” series. This series enables one to learn how to use Microsoft Narrator by following along with the “Get Started with Narrator,” located on the Microsoft Support Pages. This series is our companion series to our Monthly Narrator Talk, which occurs on the second Tuesday of the month at 1300 CST. To learn how to connect, click here. To follow along, you will need Windows 10 Fall Creators Edition or later, since earlier versions of Windows 10 do not have many of the same key combos or functions as newer versions of Windows. Anyone with Windows 8 or older will not be able to follow along on their computers, since Narrator was very limited in these versions.

This first chapter focuses on how to activate Narrator. This may be accomplished by doing the following:

  • Press Windows Key plus Control, Enter while on any screen
  • Press Windows Key, Control, “N” to bring up Narrator’s settings and press Spacebar
  • Press Windows Key and “U” to bring up the Ease of Access Center, press tab, and then Enter

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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The #SuperBowl commercial #Veterans deserve and #Americans need to become united.

Recently the NFL decided against airing a commercial featuring a Veterans organization’s plea for everyone to stand for the National Anthem. Instead of debating the merits for the decision to produce the advertisement or the NFL’s decision, I wish to propose the following commercial. The underlying theme represents how different we all are, yet we choose to serve and support each other.

The commercial opens with a simple background of the American flag with a group of Service Members and Veterans in the center. Each is wearing a simple black shirt stating an aspect of themselves. The group would consist of:

  • I am Veteran
  • I am Military
  • I am Amputee
  • I am Blind
  • I am Deaf
  • I am Paralyzed
  • I am PTS
  • I am TBI
  • I am Suicide
  • I am Homeless
  • I am Gold Star
  • I am WWII
  • I am Korea
  • I am Vietnam
  • I am Gulf War
  • I am Post 9/11
  • I am Peacetime
  • I am Republican
  • I am Democrat
  • I am Independent
  • I am Christian
  • I am Muslim
  • I am Buddhist
  • I am Atheist
  • I am Jewish
  • I am Dreamer
  • I am Naturalized
  • I am Citizen
  • I am LGBTQ
  • I am Straight
  • I am Dependent
  • I am Caregiver
  • I am Stand
  • I am Sit

The camera would zoom in on each individual as they state what is on their shirt. The individual would first be glancing downwards and then raise their heads as they state their identifier. This admission represents how the public sees or the media portrays the wide variety of Veterans.

After going through each individual, the camera would pan out. The group would then state, “We are all Americans who believe in our service to the country and support and defend its ideals.”

Showcasing that it’s possible to be different yet unified, the camera will focus on individual groups of Veterans based on similarities of the identified aspects of themselves.

The group with service eras identified would say in unison, “we serve in different eras, we serve each other today.”

The group with disabilities identified would say in unison, “we face different challenges, we face them together.”

The group with political aspects identified would say in unison, “we may speak with different political voices, we support the right to express our differences.

The group with religious affiliations identified would say in unison, “we each walk different spiritual paths, we march together for religious freedom.”

The commercial would end with the group announcing, “we all serve this country despite our differences, and respect the positions we each take. We are all proud Americans.” The end will consist of a three second fade to black while the camera zooms out.

Our ability to be different yet unified needs to be the message the public receives. Far too long Veterans have been used as tools to cultivate public interest for a movement. The truth is Service Members, Veterans, and our families represent every aspect of what it means to be an American. We hail from all walks of life. Despite our differences, our service to America unifies us together. This commercial sends this message, and its what we need today.

Tech Resources for the Blind

Hines Alumni Association and Blind Not Alone, LLC offer and recommend the following list of teleconferences and resources to support your assistive technology goals. Please send any corrections or additions to TERRYKEBBEL@HINESALUMNI.ONMICROSOFT.COM or info@blindnotalone.com

Conference Calls

Blind Vet Tech’s Monthly Teleconference

The Blind Vet Tech team operates four monthly teleconferences. Below is the list with their times and how to connect. You can visit https://blindnotalone.com/zoom/ for more information.

  • Get Started with Narrator on Windows 10, meets the 2nd Tuesday at 1300 CST
  • Monthly MacOS Talk, meets the 2nd Thursday at 1300 CST
  • Monthly Tech Talk, meets the 3rd Thursday at 1300 CST
  • Open Mic Night, meets the 3rd Thursday at 1900 CST

To participate with any Blind Vet Tech teleconference:

  • Visit https://zoom.us/j/7854091838 to connect via your computer or iPhone/iPad app
  • Click this number with your iPhone: 6468769923,,7854091838#
  • Dial (646) 876-9923, Meeting ID is 7854091838#

Hines Alumni Association’s Monthly Teleconferences

The Hines Alumni Association conducts two monthly teleconferences. Below is the list with their times and how to connect. Learn more about the Hines Alumni by visiting http://hinesalumni.org/.

  • Kevin Jackson moderates the Hines computer conference call. It meets the first Thursday at 10 AM CST. For more info, kmjacksonsr@att.net.
  • Rick Olsen moderates the Hines iPhone and GPS Users conference call. It meets the first Tuesday at 10AM CST. For more info, rwoverna2@gmail.com.

To join either of the Hines Alumni conference calls:

  • Click this number with your iPhone, (800) 767-1750,44125#
  • Dial (800) 767-1750, Meeting ID is 44125#

Future Teleconferences

Hines Alumni Association and Blind Not Alone are interested in receiving your feedback and interest for future teleconferences. We believe in connecting virtually to share our thoughts and experiences in order to promote independence. Below is a list of teleconferences we wish to host via ZOOM. If you are interested, email Terry Kebbel at terrykebbel@hinesalumni.onmicrosoft.com

  • Hines Alumni’s Before and After
    The call will provide individuals with the chance to share their experiences and questions related to attending a Blind Rehab Center. The conference is open to anyone who has attended a Blind Rehab Center.
  • Hines Alumni Virtual Book Discussion Group
    Many of us are avid readers, so let’s come together to discuss our favorite books.
    Coaching Sessions on demand
    Hines Alumni Association and Blind Not Alone offer peer-based and professional coaching sessions. If you are interested in participating in a coaching session, send an email to terrykebbel@hinesalumni.onmicrosoft.com or info@blindnotalone.com.

Contractual and Peer Mentorship Services Services

If you represent the VA or a State Vocational Rehab program that requires an assessment or training of a consumer prior to issuing a device, services are available and are conducted by a Licensed Social Worker and ACVREP Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist. For more info contact info@blindnotalone.com

Websites to visit

Below is a list of websites we find the most beneficial. Please visit them and add them to your bookmarks.

Help Desks

Each of the major technology companies offers dedicated support for individuals with disabilities. Below is how to contact the accessibility support programs.

  • Microsoft Accessibility Desk personal – (800) 936-5900
  • Apple Accessibility – (877) 204-3930
  • Amazon Accessibility – (888) 283-1678
  • VFO Accessibility Desk (727) 803-8600

Podcasts

Podcasts offers a great method to listen to news and information on your own schedule. The below podcasts represent some of the best ways to learn more about the technologies and services you use. If you are using a Victor Reader, Hims Blaze, or any podcasting app, just search the name and add to your play list.

  • Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials
  • Blind Vet Tech News Update
  • Freedom Scientific (FS Cast)
  • Apple vis
  • Seminars at Hadley
  • Tech talk archive
  • Eyes on success

Government Shutdown Suspends NLS BARD

At Midnight on January 20, the failure of our partisan political system reared its ugly head. The current age of us versus them mentality prompted this action. The failure for two of the three branches of the US Government to reach a consensus causes different parts of the federal government to shutdown. For our readers, we will directly feel this through the closure of the NLS BARD, Social Security offices for processing new claims or adjustments, IRS, and different aspects of the departments of Health and Human Services and Education.

Below is the official statement from the NLS BARD:

“Due to a lapse in Federal funding, as of 11:59 p.m. on Friday, January 19, BARD is not being updated. Updates will resume when funding is restored. The status of Library of Congress operations can be found by visiting www.loc.gov.”

All major news outlets report that benefits and services, like Social Security benefits to VA hospitals, will continue regular operations. Last time, Medicare continued normal operations for participants, while providers faced delays in reimbursements. However programs like NLS BARD do not receive advance appropriations like the VA or reside in the special categories that allows for it to continue regular operations.

At this point we are in a wait and see mode. Predictions on how long the shutdown will last ranges from a couple of days to a week or so. With the shutdown starting on Saturday, Congress has the weekend before anyone starts to really notice any changes.

There is something we can learn from yet another Government shutdown. We must stop fighting amongst ourselves. Politicians and individuals of opposing factions once drafted mutually beneficial compromises.used to talk and agree upon mutually beneficial compromises. Today, Republicans and Democrats play the all or none game. We need to stop the beliefs that the other side is our enemy and come together and talk. The rise in political extremism over the last several years is counterproductive in the art of peace and compromise. Let us work together to end the radicalization of our nation’s political system and demand compromise and not victory.

Hey Siri, whats the latest news: How to use Apple’s stealth update to Siri

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 the latest news through a simple Siri command. Apple recently rolled out a stealth update to Siri that enables you to quickly listen to a current news podcast from sources like NPR, CNN, Washington Post, and Fox. This update occurs behind the scenes, so you do not need to update anything, outside of ensuring Siri is able to run and access Apple’s podcast app. To use this feature, try the following Siri Commands:

  • Hey Siri, play the latest news
  • Hey Siri, I want to listen to the latest news
  • Hey Siri, switch to the Washington Post

When using this, keep in mind that Hey Siri does not always work if something is already playing in the foreground.

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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Blind Vet Tech News Update on Intel’s devastating security exploit, Apple’s battery replacement program for older iPhones, and our teleconferences for January

Happy New Years to everyone. This year starts out with alarming news coverage of the Meltdown and Specter exploits impacting all Intel Processors, Apple’s $29.99 battery replacement plan after admitting to throttling older devices, and The return of our own Blind Vet Tech monthly teleconferences.

If you are wondering about the Meltdown and Specter exploits affecting all Intel processors, yes it impacts a vast majority of Microsoft, Dell, Asus, Acer, Apple, Android, and so many more manufacture’s devices. The best defense we each have is to update our operating systems and internet browsers. Apple and Microsoft recently released OS updates to patch vulnerabilities and more are on the way. If you are using Windows XP still, I advise upgrading to Windows 10 since you will be left out for the most part. Google and Mozilla will be releasing updates to Chrome and Firefox in the near future, and Apple will update Safari for legacy Mac’s and iMacs.

Shortly after Christmas, Apple admitted to throttling iOS devices based on battery health. Their reasoning is one I fully support, to promote the usability of older devices. This affects Voice Over by slowing down its responsiveness and may cause some glitchy behaviors. The solution is to take advantage of Apple’s $29.99 battery replacement for all of your older devices from the iPhone 6 and newer. The catch is the slots at your local Apple Store are filling up a week in advance, so you need to jump on any available time slots with the Genius Bar you see available. The best way to arrange an appointment is to
contact Apple Support or use the Apple Support iOS app.

Finally, January starts our new times and calls for the Blind Vet Tech Monthly Talks. Our Monthly Talks provide visually impaired individuals the chance to learn and share information about their favorite devices. Below is a list of the upcoming calls and how to connect. We have switched to the Zoom platform for our calls, which enables one to connect via their computers, iOS devices, or landline phones in a simple and accessible manner. More information may be located by clicking here.

  • January 9 – Blind Vet Tech Monthly Narrator Talk
  • January 11 – Blind Vet Tech Monthly MacOS Talk
  • January 18 – Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk
  • January 18 – Blind Vet Tech Open Mic Night

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.

How to use iOS 3D Touch 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 guide you through the basics of iOS’ 3D Touch. 3D Touch is a method to interact with iPhones and iPads by firmly pressing into the screen to bring up a contextual menu, preview of a linked item, and so much more. Voice Over users may require a couple of attempts to get the hang of it, since it requires you to first locate an item through explore by touch and then press into the screen. This is very different from the standard swiping, flicking, and other gestures commonly used with Voice Over, though its similar to the double tap and hold gesture.

iOS offers individuals a couple of settings to customize 3D Touch and a limited practice area. You may find these items by navigating into Settings > General > Accessibility > 3D Touch. Here are the three options in this menu:

  • 3D Touch on/off toggle
  • Sensitivity ticker with Light, Medium, and Firm settings
  • Practice mode button, which may be difficult for Voice Over users to activate as the podcast demostrates

3D Touch may be used on the Lock Screen, Home Screen, and in various locations within apps. Here are a few of the ways I use 3D Touch:

  • Clear away notifications on the Lock Screen
    • Find the notification by exploring the screen with a finger
    • 3D Touch on the notification
    • Swipe to the left or right to locate the desired button, like clear or complete buttons
  • Quickly interact with apps on the Home Screen to compose messages or make a call
    • Find the desired app by exploring the screen with one finger
    • 3D Touch on the app to bring up a contextual menu consisting of buttons for dismissing the menu, sharing the app, composing a new message, calling a favorite person, viewing recent activities, or starting a workout

3D Touch possesses many more exciting functions based on the app. To aid in learning how 3D Touch works, share your favorite ways to use 3D Touch below.

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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Happy Holidays and 2018’s Announcements

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 would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and good fortune in the New Year. This past year has been incredible for us at Blind Not Alone, LLC and our ever growing number of listeners to the Blind Vet Tech podcasts and teleconferences. Without the support from each of you, these services and chances to connect with other visually impaired individuals interested in technology would not be possible.

For 2018, our monthly teleconferences will expand to four different calls. These calls are open to everyone interested in sharing. Below is a list of the calls we will offer in 2018:

Teleconference Name Teleconference Date Teleconference Time Connect Via Computers or Zoom Mobile App Dial-In Phone Number Notes
Monthly Narrator Talk 2nd Tuesday of the month 1300 or 1:00 PM Central Time Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android by clicking here Dial – (646) 876-9923,,7854091838# This call focuses solely on learning Microsoft’s integrated screen reader, Narrator on Windows 10.
Monthly MacOS Talk 2nd Thursday of the month 1300 or 1:00 PM Central Time Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android by clicking here Dial – (646) 876-9923,,7854091838# This call focuses solely on learning Apple’s integrated screen reader, Voice Over and other accessibility options in MacOS.
Monthly Tech Talk 3rd Thursday of the month 1300 or 1:00 PM Central Time Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android by clicking here Dial – (646) 876-9923,,7854091838# This call focuses on the greater world of cross platform to stand alone devices and apps for blind and visually impaired individuals.
Open Mic Night 3rd Thursday of the month 1900 or 7:00 PM Central Time Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android by clicking here Dial – (646) 876-9923,,7854091838# The Blind Vet Tech is all about the community of individuals who come together to support each other. The Open Mic Night is open to anything from latest in Apple rumors to asking anything about blindness.

To connect to our monthly teleconferences, click here to view how to access our Zoom room.

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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Adaptive Sports is an integral part of disability rehabilitation, my Hawk Hopes Blog article

The University of Kansas School of Special Education’s Hawk Hopes Blog just posted my article on the role of adaptive sports on disability acceptance. If you have been wondering about what I am writing related to my PhD research, this is a small sample of what is to come.

My belief from personal and professional experiences are that hobbies and recreational programs, like adaptive sports, play a critical role in aiding disability acceptance. Before we get to the point where one believes they are independent, we need them to feel comfortable and integrate their tools and techniques that promote their independence. Rehab programs alone will not accomplish this, especially highly structured programs.

We need to promote activities that engages an individual’s interest areas first, and then build from there. If they like sports, then run with it. If they like technology, then plug them in. If they like cooking, then toss up some flavorful goals.

Ultimately we need to listen to the person living with the disability and learn what it is they desire. Its not about us as outsiders. Its all about what the individual wishes to learn. Sometimes this may be really difficult, especially if one does not see their own possibilities. Hobbies, recreational programs, and adaptive sports may serve as the catalyst to expand ones beliefs about disability’s possibilities.

To learn more about this, read my article at Hawk Hopes Blog by clicking here.

Thank for being You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narrator’s Five Best Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Features

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orcam being used to read a book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Informed

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

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

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

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

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.