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
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
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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.
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 www.gothamcomedyclub.com, call 212-367-9000, or click here for the direct ticket page http://gothamcomedyclub.com/event.cfm?id=445447&cart
Please do share the attached ad on your social networks. To keep up with the latest updates about this unique event visit www.laughforsight.com, 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!
Founder/PresidentLFS Ad v1.jpg
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.
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.
On Monday, March 21, Apple held another event, “Let us loop you in”. In typical style, Tim Cook had some announcements involving the latest news from Apple, which included a few new products.
Now, without a doubt, I will not debate the fact that this event was not as exciting or entertaining for me personally. I know there has been some chatter on some of the lists about this, though I would not at all call it, “disappointing” as some have termed it. I think, as blind people, we often lose our perspective on what Apple is doing if it doesn’t directly impact our own personal worlds.
Obviously, iOS 9.3, Watch OS 2 and the new tvOS updates are things that do have some baring on the blind, and I was particularly interested in those items myself. I think that Apple continues to improve the software for their devices, and this also includes the area of accessibility. As an example of that,
Applevis has information on the improvements in accessibility in iOS 9.3 you can read about here.
Apple also spent time highlighting the new iPhone SE, which is a new 4 inch model of the iPhone, as well as the 9.7 inch iPad Pro, which joins the original 12.7 inch iPad Pro as a second alternative. These devices, which will be available for preorder on March 24 and then will be released March 31, though they might not set the world of blindness on fire, fit specific marketing targets for Apple, and, thus, were actually major announcements for them. I personally don’t need to update my iPad as of yet and I already have an iPhone 6S, but still, I think these are fantastic products, and I know of a few people who are particularly interested in the 4 inch iPhone model.
Some people were expecting a new Apple Watch model, as well as announcements for refreshers to some of the Mac product lines. I wasn’t personally expecting a new watch myself, and the Mac models will undoubtedly come over the passing months. In fact, there are already rumors that there will be new 13 and 15 inch Mac Book Pros coming in April. Additionally, the major news in regard to new iPhones, Mac operating systems and new iOS versions usually comes at WWDC, which is held in June.
In my previous post, I talked about Braille output on the Mac. In this post, I wanted to pass along information on a potential solution for Braille input for both iOS and Mac OS X.
Portset Systems Ltd, are an assistive technology company based in England, and have been making assistive devices for the blind and physically disabled for several years. In my “former life” as an assistive technology vendor, I was a reseller for Portset, which included the Portset Reader stand-alone reading machine.
Also, though, Portset developed the Braille KeyG and KeyG2, which are Braille input devices that were originally developed to provide Braille input for the PC and Windows. This was and is a solution that works extremely well. I still use my Braille KeyG2 for input when I am using my PC to this day.
Recently, Portset expanded the capability of the Braille KeyG products to support iOS devices and even the Mac. I have been testing and using my upgraded Braille KeyG2 to test its use with my iPad and iPhone, and on my iMac. I must say that it does a great job and definitely gives on an affordable alternative if one cannot afford the much more expensive Braille displays that offer six-key Braille input.
It may not be the perfect solution for all cases, as there are some limitations to certain functions, such as Quick Nav as it currently stands, but I am sure this is something Portset will address as time passes. Overall, though, for basic tasks, and for things like document writing and composing or responding to messages in iOS or the Mac, either version of the Braille KeyG will get the job done for you. For the Mac with the Braille KeyG2 model, there are two extra keys below the left side of the Braille keyboard that act like the VoiceOver Keys, which gives the keyboard even more functionality.
Even though this is a Youtube video link, there is certainly enough audio in this demonstration to get an idea of the use of the Braille KeyG2 with iOS.
You can click here to hear the video in its entirety.
For specific details about the BrailleKey keyboards,
Since Portset also focuses on physical disabilities with there products, I am going to add a couple of additional links.
To contact Portset directly, you can send an email to:
The topic of Braille translation and embossing by way of the Mac has come up frequently on the various email lists for blind Mac users. I have presented a few posts on this subject over the years, which has included information on the Index Braille Embossers and their Mac compatible software.
As someone who was fortunate enough to have grown up learning Braille and has used it throughout his life, this is a subject that has a lot of personal meaning to me. I am disturbed deeply by the attitude of some sighted teachers and educators who believe Braille is a dinosaur and that in the world of electronic information, it’s not necessary to teach blind children or adults Braille. That is like saying sighted kids shouldn’t have to learn to handwrite because they have keyboards. It’s a matter of simple literacy, in my opinion, so this is a major reason why I am presenting this information.
Let me also be clear here that I do not receive any compensation for sales or such by “promoting” these products. I believe them to be valuable tools that have gotten lost in the world of other Braille equipment producers who receive more attention because of popularity and in some cases, basic unfair politics. David Pillischer is a man who has been involved in the sales, repairs and production of Braille embossers for nearly 30 years, and I have been fortunate enough to have had the Cosmo Brailler demonstrated to me on two occasions. Note that these demonstrations were done by way of a Mac Book Pro laptop.
Recently, I had a conversation with David Pillischer, who I have known as far back as when I was an assistive technology vendor. As a result of this discussion about Braille on the Mac, he sent me a link to an article that I thought might be of interest to some folks. Please pass this information around, as there is definitely another potential Braille solution for blind Mac users out there, especially in the education area.
I would definitely check out the BERT software and the Cosmo Brailler. If you would like details about these products, please