Another potential source for Braille input and output for the Mac and iOS

Many probably know that I have a particular interest and strong opinion about the use of Braille by the blind. Braille literacy has become a hot topic, and there is an dangerously foolish attitude out there that because of the cost of Braille, teaching the blind to use Braille is not cost effective any longer. It’s, to me, like saying you will stop teaching sighted kids to handwrite because so many of them use keyboards and tablets these days.

Anyway, before I go on a rant about this, it has been brought to my attention that there is a developer who is both attempting to develop a low cost Braille input keyboard for iOS and the Mac, as well as a refreshable Braille display that could be ready for the market by March and at a lower cost than the other projects claiming to have this technology at an affordable amount.

There is a Kickstarter program out there that I wanted to pass along to any interested people. I please ask that this information gets spread around in as many places as possible and using social media to its greatest extent. This gentleman does not have the experience or the connections to get the word out there to the blind. The more who know, the better this project has a chance to become a reality and go into mass production.

Here is the Kickstarter page.

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Apple Event from September 7 and Some Additional News

I am a bit behind here, and it seemed that Apple decided to release a lot of products while I was on vacation. I summarized most of the announcements from their September 7 event
I did not buy
an Apple Watch Series 2,
but I did upgrade my iPhone 6S to
an iPhone 7.

I have to say that though I wouldn’t consider it a major step up from the 6S, there is a noticeable speed increase overall on the device. Additionally,
iOS 10
which was released on the 13th, runs like a champ on the new phone. I can definitely say that I’m really happy with it.

On the subject of iOS 10, I think the accessibility folks at Apple did a fine job. If you are on the fence about updating your device, I would honestly say it’s not the typical dicy proposition that some initial upgrades can be. To me, what bugs there are are far from a show stopper and in most cases, you can work around them. As usual,
the fine folks at Applevis did a very nice summary of the major and minor bugs they found in iOS 10.

For you Mac users, Mac OS Sierra
was released on September 20 as a free upgrade.
As I said with iOS 10, this is another solid upgrade by the accessibility team from Apple. It’s another upgrade I’d consider to be “safe” for those of you who are undecided about upgrading your current operating system. SIRI on the Mac makes it worth the upgrade alone, though there are really no major VoiceOver additions. In fact, I think the upgrade really took care of many of the preexisting bugs from El Capitan and earlier.
Here is a very nice summary of Sierra provided by the Applevis gang.

I didn’t mention it in the News page, but besides the Apple Watch Series 2 being released,
Watch OS 3 is also available,
and is another great upgrade if you own an Apple Watch, as I do.

So, overall, it was a busy few weeks while I was away.

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Mac for the Blind has a Youtube Channel!

After adding a
Facebook page,
Mac for the Blind now has a Youtube channel. It is a work in progress and I will slowly add some quick demonstration videos. These videos are for TVIs and other sighted people who might assist the blind user, but they will always include audio and will serve blind users just as well. The hope is that users will purchase the
audio tutorials
I have available. You can go
here for the Mac for the Blind Youtube channel.

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Another episode of iAccess VO

In the latest episode of iAccess VO, I was a guest on with Brian and Ed. It was a lot of fun, and we spoke about the upcoming releases of iOS and Mac OS.

You can find the episode


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The latest episode of iAccess VO

As a follow up to my previous post in regard to the National Federation of the Blind’s 2016-04 Resolution, I commented further on it in the latest episode of the iAccess VO podcast. I am a frequent guest to come on with Brian and Ed, and I verbally explain exactly my opinion about the resolution.

I am posting the link here because I have received a few comments via Twitter and privately through conversations. I want to stress again that my post was not directed in any way at criticizing the NFB or participating in “bashing” the organization. As I clearly state on the podcast, my “problem” is specifically with Resolution 2016-04 because of its language and the fact that other mainstream technology companies guilty of similar shortcomings were not included in it. As I said to an NFB person in Twitter to sum up my overall opinion, the resolution simply should not have been brought up at all or should have been written differently to reflect a broader spectrum of companies who might want to be taken to task for possibly dropping the ball when it comes to advances in accessibility of their products and operating systems.

In any event
the episode can be found here.

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NFB Resolution 2016-04, A Bit Troubling to me

Interestingly enough, I just came back from the National Federation of the Blind’s 2016 national convention in Orlando, Florida, where I was honored and privileged to have been asked to present for the Trainer’s Division. The NFB is an organization that has done a significant amount of good for the blindness community over the years, and its support of Braille literacy and education and employment of the blind are areas I truly am behind and appreciate. It is an organization that has been on the forefront of advocating for the blind for many years, and I’ve personally attended many national and state level conventions as a vendor in the past and now as an assistive technology trainer.

It is not uncommon for resolutions passed by the NFB to be controversial and sometimes debatable among the blind. I can recall more than a few over the last twenty-five years that had left me shrugging or not quite sure exactly how I felt about them, or what was the honest purpose behind them. However, like any active and successfully productive organization, such resolutions are important and in the area of improving the life of blind people, they have certainly addressed some critical topics. Many have been necessary, and I have certainly applauded several when they have come along.

I am, though, quite troubled and even embarrassed by one of the resolutions passed in the 2016 convention on July 4. This is Resolution 2016-04. Specifically, for the fourth time, the NFB has passed a resolution that has been specifically directed at Apple and has singled them out among the other major mainstream companies who provide hardware and software used by the blind.

I’m not going to sum up or present the resolution in its entirety. In fact, I direct my readers to an article written by Michael Hansen of
Who, I believe, has a very in depth perspective on the resolution and shares many of my own personal thoughts and reactions to it.

I do not seek any kind of political debate nor am I criticizing or attacking the NFB or its members with this post. Besides being a member of the Trainer’s Division of the NFB, I have many friends and business associates who are members or hold offices in the NFB at both the state and national level. Furthermore, my respect and admiration for the organization and its members is something that has grown and expanded over the years. This resolution does not change those feelings at all for me.

To be honest, I do stay out of the whole NFB verses ACB world, and I will always prefer to avoid walking that road. I also believe that the American Council of the Blind has done a lot of good for the blind as well, and, thus, as a blind person, I don’t find it productive or helpful to be involved in organizational battles. I know there are some blind folks who have loyalties to either organization and take those loyalties and affiliations quite seriously. I respect that kind of commitment, and I admire it as well. I’d just prefer not to take sides or fight anyone else’s fights.

However, I cannot help finding the overall essence of this resolution to be unnecessary and even hypocritical. It is interesting to me that such resolutions directed against Microsoft or Google, who happen to have been represented at the NFB convention in the exhibit hall, seem to be missing as far as accessibility shortcomings goes. The reality is from someone who has had over 25 years of experience in the assistive technology world and who has witnessed many trends, many advances and many battles for accessibility, Apple has come along and completely blown The Doors off of Google and Microsoft with its commitment to accessibility and its VoiceOver product that comes free as part of all of their computers and devices. I’d go as far as to say that in eleven years, Apple has basically raised and set the bar for accessibility quite beyond that offered by Google and Microsoft in their products.

The reality is, software has bugs. As Michael Hansen points out in his article, the bugs effect both the sighted and blindness world. Nevertheless, you need not look any further than Windows access for screen readers and access to Android devices to see how misplaced and awkward this resolution is to specifically target Apple alone. When I see such resolutions directed and worded towards Google and Microsoft, among the other companies we, the blind, know have accessibility issues that, in some cases, dwarf those of Apple, I would find myself feeling such a resolution would be more fair and in line to “reality”. In other words, as far as Apple as come in the area of accessibility in the last ten years and despite the accessibility that is offered in all Apple products off the shelf, they are still being singled out for many criticisms that can be leveled at their competitors.

I had the rare privilege and thrill of a life time to have been contracted by Apple to work as a Quality Assurance analyst for them for about ten months. Let me tell you, gentle reader and assure you that the commitment to accessibility in Apple permeates from its upper levels down to the engineers and quality assurance people. I take issue with some of the content of Resolution 2016-04 in regard to quality assurance and Beta testing. While I was there, I also had the pleasure of meeting some of the accessibility people who work for Apple, and these folks are committed to their jobs and take it seriously beyond any way many blind users seem to even appreciate. They simply get it, and they take deep pride in their work, as they know how many people benefit from it. It is not just a job to them, and the mantra of accessibility was something that was being almost preached when I spent time in Sunnyvale as a Q&A analyst.

Will we see bugs in future releases of iOS and Mac OS? Of course we will. That is the reality of software development. It’s going to happen, and some users will experience it more than others. It’s the nature of the beast of new software, and that will never change.

Still, again, I point you towards Google and Microsoft and anyone else who tries to provide accessibility in their products for the blind and it is pretty much a mirror as far as the experiences of dealing with new versions of software occurs for the user. Thus, you may go right ahead and cast stones at Apple, but save just as many for the other companies and write your resolutions to be inclusive of them as well if you want to be unbiased and truly address the blindness community as a whole and our overall accessibility to the software and devices we choose. Single out one company when there are others that would fit your list of criticisms just seems out of place and, unfortunately, is only going to foster the accusations of politics being at the root of the resolution that critics of the NFB will sling. This resolution simply leaves a bad taste in my mouth and, unfortunately, doesn’t reflect well on the NFB for actually passing it.

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WWDC 2016

Apple held it’s World Wide Developer Conference for 2016 on June 13. I am a bit late updating the
News page on the site
But I have a summary of the major releases Apple announced.

To me, though there was perhaps nothing earth shattering, I still am looking forward to all of the updates. SIRI on the Mac will be a really nice feature, and I think that iOS, Watch OS and TV OS are getting better and better. And yes, as much as I know we will see the usual speculation and debate, there will be accessibility included in all of these releases with VoiceOver improvements. We will have to wait until the fall to see what will be new, however,

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Updates, 4/17/16

Over the last month or month and a half, for those who visit this site and take an extensive look around, you might have noticed that I have been making an effort to update the various pages here with the latest information on the Mac and the iDevices.

This is no easy task for one person who is running a business and involved in other non-business projects. So, I apologize for anything that you do find that is out of date, but I am doing my best.

To start, since August of 2015, I have been adding audio tutorials for sale on both the Mac and iOS. I have, as indicated, kept the prices for these tutorials under $50 and they mainly average around the $35 area. At this point, I have nearly 30 of them now, and I will be adding more as time passes. You can take a look
here for what is currently available.

I have reorganized the
Documentation page of the site
This includes the additions of the VoiceOver Getting Started Guide for El Capitan, Mac OS X El Capitan Keyboard shortcuts and some updated iOS documentation. I also rearranged and subdivided the page to make it easier for the user to locate what he or she might be looking for more easily.

Note that I cannot currently locate an electronic version of the iOS 9 user guide or updated electronic versions of the Apple TV 4th generation or the Apple Watch guides as of yet.

In addition, the Getting started pages for both
the Mac
and iOS
have been updated and reorganized. I’ve also removed some of the older documentation and resources to make it less cluttered and easier to find the latest information.

Many of the other pages have also been updated or tweaked here and there. Please feel free to look around and provide me with any comments or reference material that I don’t currently have. Also, if you have your own resources or information that you would like to make available or have me promote for you, please also let me know.

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The first Laugh for Sight for Dogs event

I am posting this here. My good friend, Brian Fischler of Laugh for Sight is expanding their benefits to help dogs. Please refer to this press release below.

Greetings all,

After 10 years of Laugh For Sight Benefits in New York City an interesting opportunity presented itself for a second benefit. We are partnering with the city and the Mayors Alliance For NYC Animals and Maria Milito from Q104.3 for the Inaugural Laugh For Sight For Dogs to be held on Monday, April 25th at Gotham Comedy Club. Legendary Comedian Robert Klein is on board along with Paul Mecurio the audience warm up Comedian at The Late Show with Steven Colbert, Stacey Prussman, Rich Aaronovitch, Allie Klein, and of course Nash and me. The evening will be Hosted by animal lover Maria Milito from Q104.3. Additionally we will be having a few celebrity presenters who will take the stage with one of the disabled dogs up for adoption. Legendary Actor Danny Aiello will be there along with a few surprises to be announced soon.

So what is Laugh For Sight For Dogs? Well, it is a night that will be filled with tons of laugher and a night that will be supporting Two amazing causes! We will be raising money and awareness about retinal degenerative eye diseases as well as raising money, awareness, and adoption opportunities for NYC’s most ignored, disabled dogs! Whether it is a blind dog or a dog missing a limb, these are not bad animals, just animals that landed in a bad situation.

The evening will start at 7pm with a cocktail hour, silent auction, and meet and greet with some of the dogs up for adoption. There will be a adoption van outside Gotham Comedy Club so even if you are thinking about rescuing a dog there will be people on site to answer any questions you may have. The Comedy Show will start at 830pm. Tickets are $50 plus a two drink min. and VIP Reserved Seating with an Open Bar are $150. Additionally Corporate Sponsorship Tables are available. Contact me directly if interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities.

To buy tickets you can go to, call 212-367-9000, or click here for the direct ticket page

Please do share the attached ad on your social networks. To keep up with the latest updates about this unique event visit, and make sure to follow us on Twitter at @LaughForSight and the Mayors Alliance at @MayorsAlliance.

So come on out for a barrel of laughs and to support two great causes, and who knows you may even go home with a furry friend!
Brian Fischler
Founder/PresidentLFS Ad v1.jpg
Twitter: @LaughForSight

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More Info about the Cosmo and BERT

A short time back, I posted information on the Cosmo Brailler and the BERT software Braille solution produced by David Pillischer of Electronic Brailler LLC.

Apple posted a press release to their educator group in regard to the products a week or two ago. I wanted to post what was written and, again, ask that folks pass this around as a viable Braille solution for the Mac. This really has particularly important ramifications for educators and providing Braille to students, even if they are not located in the same facility as the Braille teacher. Below is the press release.

Electronic Brailler LLC developed a comprehensive teaching tool for an underserved population of disabled students designed for schools and government education agencies.
It is the only accessible communication technology of its kind made for blind and deaf/blind students that allows them to communicate with teachers at a remote location.
It has the potential to be a market leader for companies supplying eLearning solutions for students or the state agencies responsible for education of blind / deaf-blind individuals.
Benefits of BERT (Braille Education Remote Tool)
Safety for the itinerant teaching staff
Traffic delays to and from student locations.
Winter road hazards where driving may be postponed or delayed.
Anytime a teacher needs to travel to see students there is potential for auto accidents.
Saving Cost of time
We save teachers travel time resulting in more contact time or meeting with more students on a daily or weekly basis.
Saving Cost of travel
Travel related expense or automobile expenses such as: petroleum, highway tolls, eventual repairs for vehicles, mileage compensation paid to the teacher, or the cost of a driver.
True Accessibility
The teacher does not necessarily need to know Braille to communicate using braille when teaching a blind or deaf blind student.
A TVI experienced with braille can instruct a student using any braille format, teach a student proper braille formats, translation and fingering techniques.

visit here for more info

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