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GTT notes for January, 2017: Blindsquare

+Ian White opened the meeting. He described some upcoming events. The CCB in conjunction with Accessible Media Inc., will, on February 4th, be hosting the WCW Experience expo. Exhibiters will be welcomed in to offer services, products etc. related to living with vision loss. Tech, recreation and other areas will be included. Examples of exhibiters are Human Ware, Blind Sailing association, dragon boating, and blind golfers. It will be at the CNIB centre from 10:00 a.m. till 4:00 p.m.. There will be a social afterward.

 

In terms of GTT, Ian invited Jason to talk about upcoming GTT meetings. Jason said that in February, the GTT speaker will be a high school student who has developed an ap called Identifi. It’s a smartphone ap that takes a picture, then gives you information such as object recognition, colour, text etc.. Jason is hopeful that March’s meeting will feature an Uber representative, and April’s meeting will feature two presenters on using Ciri. Meetings are always the third Thursday of every month. If you’re not on the GTT email list, you should be. Messages also go out on Torshout and the Visionaries list.

 

Jason introduced Rob Nevin from MISoft, who makes BlindSquare, which is a gps ap. He and Debby will speak about BlindSquare, and its iBeacon technology. Rob began with a short tour of what BlindSquare is doing. The goal is seamless travel from A to B. With BlindSquare, you can get feedback outdoors and indoors. Debby said that there are about 35 beacons in the CNIB building, and she invited people to roam around the building after the presentation to explore. They’re on the main, second, and basement floors. Clarification was given that BlindSquare is an iPhone ap, not usable on Android.

 

Rob described himself as working with adaptive tech for the last six years. He and his partner have worked together on BlindSquare. Why do we want indoor travel, and what is it? Outdoor navigation happens using GPS technology. An IBeacon is indoor technology, that looks a bit like an ant trap. Each beacon is battery operated, with a life of about five years. Each beacon sends out signals three times per second, which can be detected by a cloud-based database. The data base has information about the beacon, which is downloaded to your phone, and read to you. Rob played a video of a Finish woman using BlindSquare in a shopping mall. Types of information the user in the video gets include, approaching doors and which way they’ll open, information about stores she passes, the presence of escalators and which way they’re going, and what intersecting hallways contain. The information is being relayed to her via headphones.

 

Rob moved on to talk about bus stops. He discussed the types of information you might want, such as route numbers, the presence of a shelter, changes in service that might be indicated only by print signage, and hazards such as garbage cans. Rob introduced the concept of a QR code. They’re like barcodes. Sometimes bus stops have QR codes giving route information. BlindSquare can tell you exactly where to look on a sign to find the QR code, and read its information. QR codes are updatable in the database, making them dynamic as opposed to barcodes.

 

A member asked how to know if a building has IBeacons. Rob answered that, if you approach a building using BlindSquare, the ap will inform you. Another member asked about buildings that have a similar technology that isn’t BlindSquare. Rob replied that he’s very open to conversation, but is more reactive. It will depend on what the exact technology involved is. Hospitals, malls and airports often have some version of this technology in place. This means the information’s available, but not necessarily compatible at the moment.

 

Rob went on to describe a project in New Zealand, in which dynamic transit signage is accessible by BlindSquare. The changing information is read within about three or four metres of the sign. This allows the blind traveller to make choices.

 

The goal is to say as little as possible, while conveying as much information as necessary. He gave an example of entering a Tim Hortons. You would know firstly that you’re in the right place. You could be informed of the direction of the counter, the pickup area, the seating, or the bathrooms. Information is prioritized by level, so that something like specific information about the layout of the bathrooms is available as third level information. Also, information is offered not dictated. The language is chosen specifically. The intention is to engender autonomy rather than dependence. Always know where you are, and what your choices are.

 

Rob described simulation mode. This allows you to virtually go to any city, and explore. You can trace a route from beginning to end, so that you know what to expect in time, distance and complexity. This can be useful both for future travel to new places, or situations in which you want to go somewhere in your home city you’ve never been before. You could be at a bus stop, virtually explore the area around, and make spontaneous choices to change your plan.

 

A member asked how current the information that you’re getting is. Rob replied by explaining that 4Square is the data base they use. This is a crowd-sourced database, that operates on the principle 1,9 ,90, 1% of people will create data, 9% will maintain it, and 90% will use it. Google and Apple are being considered, but those two platforms sometimes want to place restrictions.

 

A member asked whether it’s possible for individuals to have their own IBeacons for private use. Rob answered that the technology supports that use, but BlindSquare currently does not, as they’re focused on large scale installations. Other organizations are taking on this idea.

 

Another member asked about crosswalks. Rob replied that it would be a great application of the technology, but it isn’t in place yet.

 

Rob moved on to talk about the idea of mobile beacons. The example he gave was beacons on electric cars, which are often dangerously quiet from the perspective of blind travellers. An IBeacon on an electric car would allow you to know one is coming, or that one is at the crosswalk where you want to cross. An IBeacon in an electric car will trigger a varying proximity indicator. The range of IBeacons generally is about 55m. Another application could be on golf carts moving around airports, which normally move very quietly.

 

Rob described an initiative in New Zealand involving the major blindness organization. They wanted to establish what can be done with a single IBeacon. Any commercial location can opt in. The advantage of selling an IBeacon to sighted people is that it looks small and simple. Work continues with the W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind, and the school for the blind in North Carolina, to make teaching BlindSquare part of the curriculum.

 

Jason asked what initiatives are going on in Canada. Rob answered that negotiations are ongoing with Calgary airport, a region of downtown Toronto, and part of the city of Brantford. The physical beacon cost varies by bulk, three for $88. The conversation with public transit organizations are on-going. In some cities there are live feeds available.

 

There are some voice commands in BlindSquare. If you say “Bus,” it gives you as much information as it has about busses nearby. The voice interface uses Google’s voice to text technology, which rob says is much better than Ciri voice to text technology. With voice commands, you can say, “add,” and then continue to make a note, which essentially creates a point of interest: a cue that will activate when you approach that place at any point in the future. If you’re curious about voice commands, say, “help.” Rob did a demo using voice commands. He did simulations of Wellington New Zealand, and London England.

 

A member asked how to get BlindSquare. Rob answered that you first need an iPhone, and that BlindSquare is an ap that you buy, and download onto your phone. You need cellular data unless you’re on YFi. In general, the usage is about one megabyte per hour. You can set restrictions as to what information is provided. It’s possible to be flooded with information. Data is prioritized so that, for example, restaurants are given with highest rated restaurants first. The data is somewhat filtered. Debby contributed that, if you look at a restaurant through BlindSquare and look for the menu, you’re more likely to get the accessible version.

 

A member asked if there’s an optimal number of beacons per square footage. Rob answered that it depends on how dense the location is, and how much information is useful. Second level hints might include floor texture change: tile to carpet. The cues might be environmental, you’ll feel a breeze, or smell coffee.

 

A member asked, what’s the barrier to getting IBeacons in malls? Rob answered, awareness building, stressing the importance of inclusivity and buying power. Sometimes BlindSquare and IBeacons can overlap effectively with way-finding technologies for sighted people. This can be especially true in malls and university campuses.

 

BlindSquare offers downloadable Maps that are made with blind users in mind, which are printable on a 3d printer. A contest is starting today, in which users are invited to give their experiences of using BlindSquare, best story will win $100. To submit your story, go to http://Bit.ly/bsqmystory.

 

Gtt.toronto@gmail.com is the email address to be signed up to the list. It’s the main place where meeting notes go out.

GTT Notes for November, 2016: Online Banking

 

Getting Together with Technology Group Meeting Minutes

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

Theme: Online Accessible Banking

 

Introductions and Technology update

Jason Fayre started the meeting.

Jason wanted to make people aware that the Roku devices, which are similar to the Apple TV, now have accessibility built-in as of software version 7.5. More information can be found at:

https://www.roku.com/accessibility

He then opened the floor to questions.

 

Yin Brown had questions about the new iOS 10 constantly asking for wireless networks on her iPhone

To correct this, go to Wifi settings on the iPhone. At the bottom of the screen, there is a setting called ‘ask to join networks.” Turn this off.

Ian White had questions regarding compatibility of NVDA with Office 2016 on his computer. Jason Fayre said there’s a difference between outright buying and subscribing. (You get updates with subscriptions)

 

Jason introduced Monica from Scotia Bank.

 

Scotia Bank Introductions

Monica, Ryland, Canna, Richard

 

Monica described different facets of Scotia’s Accessibility efforts including:

– the website having the customer service Accessibility policy posted

-HR related teams to ensure employees have accessible internal apps

-web accessibility team

Scotia offers several products including Braille statements, and is currently working on other formats like large print and accessible PDF’s.

 

Scotia is committed to Accessibility there are high level (executive) meetings on sharing accessibility knowledge. They’ve also made it very easy to provide feedback with their easy to remember email address listed below:

accessibility@scotiabank.com

 

 

Ryland Demonstrates Scotia’s Online Banking Experience

 

Logging in

-Website is setup so that when each page loads action messages are displayed and announced (with JAWS) first before anything else. For example if login fails because of a typo the system will announce the login was not successful when the page loads.

-Scotia’s interface contains several security features including if you are banking from public computers

 

Account Summary Page

Using “h” to browse” the headings you can tell there is a feature to close the tables, which means there’s tables.

Use “T” for table to view the various tables.

Use “control+alt+any arrow key” to navigate the table with the table headers reading.

There will be different tables on the page, depending on what types of accounts you hold.

The timeout is not changeable and is set to 10 minutes.

If the system times out and you log back in, the system will resume to the view you were viewing before the timeout.

 

Accounts Detail Page

 

transaction search option

Sortable ascending and descending table headers

 

Bill Payments

Filters for searching what you’ve paid

Show/hide options

 

“Insert F1” It is not exactly done yet but it gives you information as to where you are and what you’re looking at

Yin asking questions about CAPTCHA verification- Scotia does not use this and instead uses an “Access Code”

 

Debbie- how much time for reversing a bill pay-Monica answers (don’t quite recall)

 

Scotia has mobile apps with features including taking a picture of the check for deposits, however accessibility efforts are ongoing.

the iOS app has some buttons which are not labeled however the Android version is still being developed.

 

Scotia has a new generation of ATM’s coming which will have voice over and options for numeration of cash.

 

 

What happens if ATM out of money, message on screen is read out

Feature of online banking to have text messages sent to you for various reasons. (all transactions or thresholds for currency or locale)

 

Why not online banking?

Scotia asked the question, if people aren’t using online banking, why not?

-inherent fear of easy mistake leading to big problems (incorrect number of zeros for example)

-Have to go to the branch for other items, so no need for online banking

-concept of being and feeling more independent when online banking can view your own expenses, accounts etc.

 

 

Announcements

AEBC Meeting this Saturday

International Global Accessibility Day-December 3rd, join us at Metro Hall,

shane Davidson is selling the Speed Dots screen protectors for iPhone.

For information, email:

info@speeddots.shaned.net

GTT Notes for October, 2016: iOS 10

Here are the notes from tonight’s GTT meeting. Thanks as always to Chris Malec for preparing these!

Ian White opened the meeting with a welcome. He acknowledged all the people who regularly contribute to making the meetings happen. Contact one of us if you want to help out. He reminded everyone that you can get on the mailing list to receive updates and meeting reminders. You can email Jason at gtt.toronto@gmail.com. Email that address to say you want to get on the list. You can email directly to gtt-toronto-announce-request@lists.fayretech.com to be subscribed automatically.

 
 

Jason pointed out that we want these meetings to be interactive, so make sure to come to meetings with all your technology questions, even if they’re not related to the topic for the evening. In the second half of the meeting, people can split into groups according to interest. Also, if there are topics you’d like to know about, either one of the organizers can present on it, or find someone who knows about it and would be willing to present. You can also submit suggestions by email. Next month’s topic will be online banking, presented by someone from Scotia bank. The principles are similar across the board, so the presentation will be relevant.

 
 

Tonight’s adventure will be handled masterfully by Adam Struth, who is a technology trainer. He will help us understand the latest operating system for Apple.

 
 

Adam opened by saying he’s got a list of 10 things that are new, then he will talk about the Maps ap, then finish with some content about the Messaging ap.

  1. Voiceover gesture practice. Open Voiceover settings. About half way down the screen is a button for practicing gestures. This is useful if you need to jog your memory, or practice the gestures. There are General, hand-writing, and Braille options. If you swipe right, you can check out these choices. Adam demonstrated how you can perform a gesture, and Voiceover will tell you what you’ve done, and what result it will produce. The three modes are new. Each mode has its own series of gestures unique to it.

A member asked a question about deleting text. Another member described how shaking the phone prompts the phone to ask if you want to undo your dictation. When you agree, the text will be deleted.

  1. There is now a greater selection of voices. Adam has his set to Alex, which is a carry-over from the Mac. You can hear the new voices by opening Voiceover settings, go to speech, and you’ll find a long list of languages, voices and dialects you can choose from. There are voices of varying sizes if you’re concerned about how much space you have on your phone.

 
 

  1. There is now a pronunciation dictionary. Go into Voiceover settings, then under speech. There’s a button called pronunciation. This allows you to enter a text, then teach the phone how you would like to have that text pronounced. This functions exactly like the Jaws dictionary. Adam did a few demonstrations of how to do it. A member pointed out that, in the Jaws dictionary, if there’s repetitive text that you don’t want to hear, you can replace the text with blank spaces, and simply not hear the text. This function in Jaws and IOS10 is really useful for proper names.

 
 

  1. Automatic image description. If you’re taking pictures, Voiceover will tell you something about the image, how bright or dim it is, whether it shows people or scenery, and you can teach it to recognize particular people, and group pictures of them together in your library. A member asked whether this feature works on photos associated with Contacts in your Contacts list. No one could answer definitively. Adam showed examples in which Voiceover was able to identify a sailboat, a dog, and a pole. There was some discussion of whether this happens by default. It happens in the device not in the cloud, so it depends what phone you have also. Jason thought that you might need a 6 or better. It’s useful for telling you whether the picture is focused and well-lit. A member asked whether this will work for photos sent to you, and the general answer was probably yes. A member contributed that he thinks it works better than the Facebook equivalent.

 
 

  1. New sound aspects for Voiceover. In IOS10 when you lock the phone, you now get a distinctive sound affect but no words. You no longer hear either “screen dimmed,” or “screen locked.”

 
 

  1. There’s a new audio menu. If you open Voiceover settings, there’s a new “audio” menu. On request, Adam demonstrated doing this without Siri by finding settings, then general, then accessibility. The audio menu corrects one of Adam’s pet peeves. Before, when on a call, the speaker would switch between ear and speaker sometimes seemingly at random. Now, the “audio” menu allows you to choose never to allow the phone to go to speaker while on a call. While on a call, there’s a speaker option where the number 3 would be, and you can activate the speaker for that call without having to go into settings. It would still default to no speaker when the call is ended.

 
 

  1. Custom roter action. Now, individual aps can add features to the roter. Adam gave a brief description of the roter. You use a 2-finger twisting motion to choose what action you want up and down finger swipes to perform. The roter is strongly tied to the touchpad use on the Mac. For example, in the Mail ap, there’s a new roter setting called messages. Turning the roter to messages, allows you to use a swipe up or down to move between messages in a thread. A member had a question about how to locate specific messages in mail. He demonstrated going to the search field in the mail ap and entering a name, then you get a list of results. There’s also an imogy roter. He demonstrated dictating a text message. He switched to the imogy keyboard, then turned the roter to imogy, dictated the word glad, and then got a list of imogies corresponding to glad, then you can double tap on the one you want. Any ap may have new roter settings, so it’s always worth checking in aps you use regularly to see if there are new roter options. When using dictation, you can use key words which will trigger automatic inclusion of imogies to replace the words. This is unhelpful if you actually want to write out the word “smiley,” but there’s a setting you can turn on so that Voiceover will tell you when something is an imogy rather than a word. This feature, referred to as a suffix, is helpful especially when receiving messages, so that you know exactly what the message contains. You can enable the imogy suffix in Voiceover settings, verbosity. A member asked whether IOS10 is glitchie. Adam replied that he didn’t think so. He pointed out that IOS10 adoption rate in the first month was 50%, and the last Android operating system has a 20% adoption rate after a year and a half. Jason has an iPhone 7, and said he’s had little or no trouble. A member asked if it’s possible to go back to a previous version of IOS, and Jason replied that you can’t. You can usually go back for about a month after a new release; it’s hard, but you can. After that though, it’s simply not possible. A member asked if she has a 5C, does she need to upgrade. Jason replied that she doesn’t have to; it depends on what she’s using the phone for, and whether it’s working for her. That said, newer phones have a much greater processing speed.

 
 

  1. There’s a new and simpler way to rearrange your aps. Adam demonstrated by using the roter to select actions, then swiping up to “Arrange aps.” When you do this, the phone tells you in detail how to proceed. The process gives teuter messages as you go, instructing you how to move the ap to where you want it on your screen. It also allows you to delete aps. You can adjust the position of items on the roter to suit your preferences.

 
 

  1. Braille screen input. When you use this feature, your screen switches from the QWERTY keyboard to a 6-button Braille input screen. The configuration of the six buttons depends on the size of your screen. You can activate it by going to Voiceover settings, then roter. Here, you can add “Braille Screen input” to your roter. This allows you to choose to write in Braille for email, texts etc. There are built-in gestures for functions like “space” or “backspace.” www.applevis.com is a great site for blind people using iPhones. You can go there and put “Braille screen input” into the search field and get lots of information on how to use it.

 
 

  1. There’s now a magnifier feature. Go under settings, general, accessibility, magnifier. Activating this adds it to your options when you tap the home button three times. Adam said he’s been able to leave his hand-held magnifier at home since he discovered this. It offers color, invert, size, and contrast options. Newer phone cameras have better low-light sensitivity, which helps its accuracy. A member asked whether it can be turned on with Siri; Adam tried, but it didn’t work. It functions similarly to the camera screen.

 
 

A member said that under IOS10, he lost his email preview function. Jason replied that he thinks there’s a secret gesture. Use a 3-finger single tap on the message to read an email message preview screen.

 
 

Adam continued that: in the messages ap, there’s a difference between SMS, IMessage, and MMS. SMS and MMS are usually covered by your carrier, which makes it less important to use IMessage. IMessage now allows you to record audio messages. There are also new visual options for adding hand-writing or finger sketches. IMessage is definitely faster for sending images and video. The colour schemes are different too. IMessage only works if all the recipients have I devices. All these additions mean that the text box and send button are smaller, which may affect how you navigate the message screen.

 
 

Adam opened the maps ap and showed how you can choose what kind of directions you want. There are tabs along the bottom for various modes of travel. Uber is now included on the maps screen. It knows where you are, and shows Uber options based on your location. You must have the Uber ap installed already, and of course you have to have your GPS tracking turned on.

 
 

Jason said that an Uber representative might be coming to present at GTT in the New year. A member pointed out that Uber can be used with Siri now, but Jason pointed out that it might not have your correct location, so it’s necessary to check, and maybe text the driver.

 
 

Jason, Adam and Aamer were pointed out as focusses for groups in which members could come informally to ask technical questions.

GTT Notes for September, 2016: Grocery Gateway

Jason opened the meeting by welcoming everyone back from the summer break. Tonight we’ll be talking about Grocery Gateway/online shopping, along with tips and tricks. Also, we will be updating various technology related things that have come up over the summer. And we’d like to open the floor for potential topics for the future.

 

Ian spoke about the national GTT program. Our group is a small part of the national program. Kim Kilpatrick in Ottawa began the group as a way for visually impaired people to share information about technology; people of different abilities can help each other. There are 85 chapters across the country, and a couple of dozen groups that meet from Victoria to Halifax. They’re locally organized and run by volunteers. Our meeting structure follows the national structure: beginning with a presentation by an individual about something they are expert about, and can share with the group, ranging from cell phone aps to kitchen gadgets. In the second half of the meetings, there’s more of an open and informal time when people can talk to one another, or pose specific questions on a wider range of topics. One good thing about being part of the national group is access to resources. Kim keeps a blog covering varying aspects of assistive tech. You can communicate with Kim Kilpatrick 1-877-304-0968, or by email at gtt@ccbnational.net. She can connect you to the blog. The CCB national website also has a lot of GTT content.

 

Jason resumed by beginning to discuss Grocery Gateway. www.grocerygateway.com. There are a few services that offer online grocery delivery. Grocery Gateway is the biggest. They are owned by the Longos chain of stores. The minimum order is $50, plus a $10 delivery fee. Their website used to be really good, but they updated it for other reasons, which damaged some of its accessibility. Jason has been in contact with their manager and website development people. He had a long conversation with them in which he pointed out some major problems. They have made some changes, but not as many as they could.

 

He loaded the site. At the top of the page using Jaws, you get a notice saying they’re compliant with an accessibility standard, and that you have the option to order over the phone. Several people in the room sneered. He ran down the page demonstrating some of the links and features. There’s a search box with an edit field. The top navigation section included things like your cart, fresh foods, prepared foods, bakery, frozen etc.. He entered on the delly link to show what a page looks like. He remarked that the site has become quite slow to load because of the upgrade they’ve done. The upgrade now shows many more images than it used to. He demonstrated using the H key to move through the page by headings, which is a useful way to navigate a page. There is a list of filters you can employ, though the list doesn’t identify itself as links, but which you can enter on. He showed how you can use Jaws quick navigation keys to move between links. What ever element of a page you’re on, pressing the S key moves you to the next same element. If you’re on a link and press S, you’ll move to the next link on the page. Adding shift to the S key will move you to the previous link. This can be a quick way to move through results/products. This function should work in PDF documents as well. Arrowing down through an item’s entry offers you option. It gives you a weight or package size, price, an add to cart button, or an add to favourites button. Adding it to your cart doesn’t trigger an alert to tell you that the item’s been added, but a quantity edit box appears in the item, and you can adjust the quantity manually. There’s an add to list button that adds the item to a personalized list of favourites that you can go back to at any time.

 

He demonstrated doing a search. You get a list of results, and you can enter on any of the items for more information. When you enter on an item, you can get nutritional information, and sometimes cooking instructions. The checkout procedure is accessible. You get a list of days and delivery windows to choose from. There are a lot of steps; it’s important to make sure you’ve completed the process. If you don’t get a confirmation email, then your order hasn’t been submitted. A member asked if you can use it with Cortana, and the answer is no. The driver calls about 10 minutes before delivery. You can pay by debit or credit card. The drivers are pretty good, helpful etc. A member pointed out that if you’re having problems part way through your order, you can phone their help number and they’ll assist you in finishing your order. They’re good about crediting your account if they’ve made a mistake. They’ll take the empty boxes away if you ask them. It’s possible to add items to your order after you’ve placed it, as long as you do so by the evening before. They will charge a $25 fee if you’re not home to take your delivery. As a blind person, it can be liberating to brows 200 kinds of crackers.

 

There are other grocery delivery sites, Urbery for example. Urbery will give you same-day delivery. A member said the site staff will go to your local grocery store, or to a store of your choosing, so that you can be really specific about what products you can get, you’re not limited to one chain’s products.

 

Jason then talked about other tech related issues. GW Micro, and freedom Scientific merged, and are now all one company. We don’t know exactly what this will mean, but for example, they’re now selling two competing screen readers and 2 competing magnifiers. Some products will likely go away, Window Eyes for example, because it doesn’t have much market share. A member asked about the Window Eyes/Microsoft partnership, but no one knows what the future of that will be.

 

The topic of Narrator was raised. Narrator is the built in screen reader that comes with Windows. It hasn’t been very good, but in the most recent update, it’s improving. It’s not up to being used as a primary screen reader, but they’re trying to get it comparable with Voice Over on the Mac. Stay tuned.

 

A member raised a question about the availability of Windows10. Jason explained that when Microsoft released Windows10 last year, they said anyone with Windows can get it for free. This passed July, they then said you have to start paying. However, they’ve said that, since accessibility is still under development, anyone with a disability can still get it for free. Of course this policy is open to abuse. There were rumors the offer would be withdrawn, but as of now, it’s still free if you have a disability.

 

The topic of Microsoft Edge was introduced. There was general agreement that it’s “terrible.” Most adaptive technologies aren’t working well with it. You have an option not to use Edge as your browser.

 

In other news, Samsung has begun including accessibility on their TV’s. There are a range of TV’s that have speech, so that the menus and channel information are spoken. They’ve had some of these features for a year or so, but the models cost several thousand dollars. The newest model is under $500. The remote has a “learn remote” feature, which helps you learn the remote. The accessibility can be enabled without sighted assistance. The name of the feature is Voice Guide. One caveat is that, by plugging in a cable box, you switch control to the cable box, which isn’t accessible. If you simply get your channels over the air, your TV will be fully accessible. In the U.S., Comcast has fully accessible cable, but we don’t have that here. Roger’s does have a remote with some tactility, and a devoted button to turn on audio description.

 

And in yet more news, the i-Phone7 is out. Apple has removed the dedicated headphone jack. Motorola was the first to do this, and Apple has now done it as well. There’s an adapter in the box which lets you plug regular headphones into it. A limitation is that you can’t charge your phone and use headphones at the same time. There are two ways around this. Apple will sell you an attachment to solve the problem, and another company that sells an adapter that gives you two lightning ports, for charging and audio. Apple’s reasons for doing this are to make the phone more waterproof, and slimmer. They also call the dedicated headphone jack 30-year-old technology. Another way around the conflict is to use wireless, i.e. Bluetooth headphones. Apple’s version are two tiny buds, which many people feel will be highly prone to being lost. By the next meeting, Jason will have a full report on all its new features. The home button is no longer a moving part. There is a tactile ring with a vibration feedback to tell you it’s been touched, but it’s no longer a press button.

 

RE: IOS10. Jason has it. He says it’s generally good. One great thing is that the process of moving apse around to different parts on your screen has been vastly simplified. Jason demonstrated. Another new feature is that third party aps are now able to integrate with Ciri. Jason demonstrated by asking Ciri to order an Uber. It’s up to the third party to make Ciri integration happen. IOS10 also offers many new and excellent voices, including, Vocalizer Expressive voices. Your phone will eventually prompt you to download IOS10. It should work on 5 or 5S and up.

 

A member informed the group that there’s an advocacy movement to allow use of the radio functions on your phone without using data. The phone companies could open that up, but so far they haven’t. It’s up to the device as well. Android phones often have built in radio.

 

A member announced that the city of Toronto is revamping their website, and looking for unpaid help in testing it for accessibility.

Notes for June, 2016: accessible Entertainment

Jason opened the meeting by saying this will be our last meeting until fall. We don’t know September’s topic yet. Jason said we will present, then leave time for questions. Questions can be on any topic, not just tonight’s discussion. Today we’re going to talk about accessible entertainment options: getting books, audio description resources, and Kevin Shaw from Zagga entertainment will talk about his new service.

 

There are so many options these days for entertainment. First Jason talked about audio books. These are resources you can use outside of CNIB CELA. You can get books through there, but there are lots of other places as well. A book may come out and the CNIB may get it right away, but they may not. Sometimes it’s available earlier in other places. The simplest way is through your public library in the way sighted people get books. They come on CD, and the public library has a lot of commercial titles that CNIB doesn’t necessarily have. You can also get them through overdrive. This is an online service that you access using your library card, and download them. It’s a software program available for free from the public library site. You need to download the overdrive utility first. It’s fairly accessible, and has a large collection.

 

Another way to get audio books, Jason’s favourite, is Audible.com. They’ve been around since the mid 90’s. They’re owned by Amazon. You log on, and you can download audio books; it’s a paid service. They have a lot more titles than CNIB or CELA. You can sign up to pay a fixed amount per month for a certain number of titles per month. You own those books for ever once you’ve purchased them. It is a U.S. site, so the cost is in U.S. dollars. However, you can log in to audible.ca, which will present prices in Canadian dollars. Some daisy players will play them, such as the Victor Stream. BookSense and BookPort do also. The Audible site is not the most accessible site in the world, but it’s not unusable. The first time there will be a learning curve. Audio books are so much more mainstream now that more and more titles are available.

 

There are some sites where you can get free audio content. One is called librivox.org. Those are audio books that are older, classics, that the copyright has run out on. Ian added that the books are read by volunteers, and production can be choppy. For example, one book may be read by multiple readers. Project Gutenberg is another option for books that are in the public domain.

 

The Marrakech treaty is a treaty needing 20 countries to ratify. It will allow participating countries to share books, thus preventing duplication. Canada ratified it, we’re number 18. The treaty removes a lot of copyright restrictions that have been making duplication necessary. This means that more books can be produced because organizations aren’t duplicating each others’ efforts.

 

One more important service is bookshare.org. This is a site that allows you to download electronic text books. These are books you can load onto your computer or player, and read with synthetic speech. As a CNIB user you can get access to this site. Do so through the CNIB Library site. Canadian users have a smaller pool of books to choose from, but hopefully the Marrakech treaty will fix that.

 

Audio description is when a movie or TV show has an embedded audio track between the dialogue that gives description of visual aspects of the movie or TV show. The AMI site instructs you on how to activate audio description from your cable remote. The instructions can be found at the following link:

Accessing Described Video

Their site also posts a schedule of described programming across networks. This is a very useful resource because it gives you one place to go to find out what audio described programming is available on all channels. Jason went to the Accessible Media International site to demonstrate. The link is title DV guide. The first time you log on, it asks you for your postal code and cable provider so that it can filter your results. There’s a combo box that defaults to today, but that can look 5 days ahead. The site has a series of tables, each corresponding to a time slot. You can use T to jump between tables, and H to jump between headings.

One of the things that has happened in the past 6 months is that Netflicks is offering audio description. On their web page there’s a link titled audio description, that will give you a list of audio described programming. You can then watch it on your device of choice. The most accessible device to choose is Apple TV, because the interface is fully accessible.

ITunes also has audio description on some of its movies. If you do a search in the search box for AD, it will list all movies with audio description. They’re adding stuff all the time. This is a paid service; you’re paying just as everyone else does for content. It’s $5 or so to rent, and $15 or so to by. A member noted that sometimes Apple TV fails to identify a movie as having audio description, but if you know it’s described, you can rent it and play it with description. If you tell Netflicks you want audio description all the time, it will default to play it. In response to a member’s question, Jason said that you can watch Netflicks right from your computer. The player controls on the computer aren’t accessible during playback using Jaws, but they are with NVDA.

Jason introduced Kevin, who is here representing Zagga entertainment. Kevin told a “true story.” He was at home, and wanted to watch a DVD. All of his dvd’s were in shrink wrap. He realized he didn’t want to go through the frustrating procedure of going through inaccessible menus to enable audio description on them. This motivated him to build a site dedicated to audio description and accessibility. His site, zagga.tv, is designed to be used with screen readers and speech synthesis software. He loaded his site and did a demo. There are links for movies, TV, family, your account etc.. You can navigate using headings. The site is in beta, so input is appreciated. The video content is also displayed, so that you can watch with sighted companions. When you sign up for an account you get access to all content. He scanned through content which included movies, documentaries and TV shows. There are mobile aps in the works. While watching content there are hot keys for moving around or changing the volume. Kevin explained that if you sign up today, you’ll get one month free. It’s a monthly subscription fee of $6.99. Everything streams. Kevin said that he’s been working on this long before Netflicks and ITunes. He favour’s his service because it’s a flat fee, not pay as you go like the other services. The premium package will be coming for $9.99, and will include updated Hollywood content. He’s in negotiations with MGM, Fox, Paramount, and a couple of smaller organizations, including Synoflex a local company. A member asked how the deals work. Kevin explained that you licence the title for a defined term, 1 year, 3 years etc.. One advantage of his site is that you don’t have to set any special features to get audio description, it’s automatic. There’s negotiation in the works for childrens’ programming too. Older programs get described all the time. The site has the Dick Vandyke show for example. Apple and Android aps are coming, as well as one for Apple TV, and one for Rocu. A member asked about Airplay, Kevin answered that there’s an option to do that. Jason asked whether they’re considering asking AMI for some of their content. Kevin answered that they need permission from the original producer first, then from AMI. Until the mobile aps are ready, it’s possible to use it on a mobile device through the browser. CoolBlindTech.com is a popular podcast for teck in the blind community. Tomorrow there will be an interview with Kevin on their podcast.

 

Jason then introduced the idea of live audio description. This is something like a play for example, where you can get a head set and hear description of the live event. There was recently a Jane’s walk designed and led by a professional audio describer, and intended to give visually impaired people a unique view of the city. Ian added that Stratford and some Mirvish productions offer this.

 

Another member added that some movie theaters offer audio description for some movies. Another member added that theaters differ in how effective and functional the units are. Ian recommended that you should report any problems to customer service because they need to know if the system isn’t working. It’s worth while to say that you had a better experience at another theater. Lately, theater sites have gotten a lot better about making information available about which movies are described.