GTT Notes for October, 2017 ScripTalk with Shoppers Drugmart

Ian opened the meeting. Brian Mok is the evening’s guest, along with Natalie Ternamian. They are here to share information about the work Shoppers Drugmart is doing to make prescription labelling accessible.

Natalie took over. She’s a 4th year pharmacy student working with Shoppers Drugmart. She asked what kind of trouble members have had in filling prescriptions. Responses were about getting information. Natalie pointed out that an aging population will require more prescriptions, and identifying each bottle of pills is difficult. Their technology solution is hoping to remedy this problem. The first solution to discuss is called ScripTalk. Placing a vial of pills over the mechanism will cause the unit to read directions, medication name and dosage. The bottle has an RFID tag which is read by the machine. She demonstrated the unit. It read the patient’s name, the medication, the instructions, how many pills were in the bottle when it was new, prescription date, best before date, number of refills, doctor’s name, the prescription number, relevant warnings, and a phone number to call for more information. To sign up, you have to register at your local pharmacy. A member contributed that he asked at his location, and his pharmacist had never heard of it. Brian said that signage exists in all stores, and all pharmacists should know about it, but information may not have entirely defused yet. The member asked if something could be done to increase information dissemination. Brian didn’t have a direct answer as that’s not his department, but offered to try to create bridges so that Brian could connect one of us with the right people. Brian said he just saw a memo go out to everyone a few days ago, so hopefully the information is getting to where it needs to be. Brian said the most important step would be to speak to the owner of the store in question if the pharmacist on duty doesn’t know about it. If not the franchise owner, then the pharmacy manager.

A member asked Natalie and Brian to walk through the sign-up process. Brian said it does take some time. It’s managed by a third party company called Envision America, and agreements have to be signed. You have to agree for your medical information to be released to the third party who manages the technology. Even once you’re set up, there’s a two-day turn-around because the third party has to make up the RFID tag and send it to the store. In theory you should be able to phone in your prescription and come in two days later so that you only have to make one trip. You would have to advocate each time to make sure the RFID tag is made, and put in place. The set-up process should take no more than a few days.

The first step is a New Patient Enrolment form which the pharmacist will help you complete. The form is faxed to the third-party company. The store orders the reader unit which you receive at no charge. It takes a week to ten days to get the machine. A member raised the question of whether the pharmacist verifies that the RFID tag is correct. Brian answered that not every store has a machine they can use to verify. The third-party company does put a printed tag with the RFID tag. You can have tagged prescriptions delivered the same as standard prescriptions. The unit is rented from Envision America by the pharmacy then lent to the customer. It’s valued at around $300. A member asked if the forms could be made available electronically so that we can read the consents and liabilities ourselves.

The ScripTalk takes two double A batteries, and has a power supply and headphones. It also comes with a CD with the manual. It’s possible to adjust the reading speed.

Natalie then introduced Talking RX. It’s a device you snap onto the vial, on which a voice recording can be made giving the relevant information. Placing the vial with the attachment, onto the base unit, will cause the recording to be played. This solution solves the problem of a prescription you can’t wait two days to fill. These units must be ordered into the store. You might consider approaching your local store to let them know you’d like them to have one, so it’s in place if/when you need it. Another advantage of the Talking RX is that the information can be recorded in other languages. It takes small medical type batteries, and has a power supply also. It doesn’t have a headphone. A member asked whether the Talking RX could be used for over-the-counter meds as well, and Brian said he thought so. In general the Talking RX is for acute medications. The ScripTalk is better for the long-term.

A member asked whether prescriptions might ever have bar codes, but Brian answered that pharmacy is a notoriously slow-moving industry.

No proof of vision loss is required in order to receive the technology.

GTT Notes for September, 2017: fitness technology

Ian opened the meeting by introducing the new GTT Toronto website. It has announcements of up-coming meetings, notes from past meetings, and it’s growing. Offer any suggestions of things you’d like to see there. The original email address is still active for questions or suggestions. In the next couple of meetings, we’ve got a representative from Shoppers Drugmart coming in to talk about their accessible prescription solution, and a representative from Hims technology who makes braille note-takers among other things.

Jason took over and welcomed the group to the new space. He raised the topic of IOS11. Apple just released the latest version of their operating system, and Jason recommended not to upgrade unless you have a special reason to do so. There are several serious bugs relating to braille displays. There aren’t any other huge issues, but there are some. They always release upgrades with bugs in them, and they always fix them, but for now it’s not worth upgrading unless you’re adventurous. Some of the new voices can cause trouble.

Jason passed over to Chelsea and Rosie to talk about health and fitness. Chelsea clarified that living healthy doesn’t mean being a super-athlete. It can mean tracking your diet, your sleep, and your activity. Solutions suggested will include low-tech and high-tech stuff.

Chelsea began with the topic of shopping. Grocery Gateway is an online or over the phone grocery shopping solution to have groceries delivered, You need to sign up, and ensure that they deliver in your area. Chelsea described the Grocery Gateway ap for the iPhone. She demonstrated some of its features like past orders, favourites, shopping by category, making lists for later, and checking out using the same card to save time. The ap is more intuitive than the website. They offer healthy prepared foods if you’re not good at cooking. The delivery fee is around $10. It’s not the cheapest prices, but the quality is high.

If you like to cook but don’t have a lot of time, Chef’s Plate is a website where you can pick meals for the week, and have them delivered. They’re not cooked, but they’re portioned out and prepared for cooking. They send the recipe on a card, but if you contact them and ask them, they will email the recipe to you. It is a bit pricy, but it’s a good option.

Uber Eats, Just Eat, and Foodora are food delivery services that deliver from restaurants. Uber Eats is especially handy if you already have the Uber ap. It remembers your home address, and allows you to sort restaurants by type, or by time of delivery. You’ll get notifications telling you how far away they are, and warning you when they’re 2 minutes away.

Momma Earth is an organic food delivery service that delivers weekly or biweekly. You get a bin of seasonal organic vegetables.

Walmart now, in theory, delivers groceries. It’s very new, and Rosie recommended waiting a little while to try it so they can iron out some wrinkles. Some of the prices are much cheaper than Grocery Gateway.

Taking care of our health has a lot to do with tracking what we eat. All Recipes]is a recipe website that is reasonably accessible. Rosie demonstrated a recipe on her iPhone. Some parts don’t work, but the recipes themselves are accessible. You can start with ingredients you have, enter them into a Google search, and find relevant recipes.

If you want to track your food intake closely, My Fitness Pal is about the most popular calorie counting app out there, and it’s reasonably accessible. She demonstrated the ap, which has sections to input all meals and types of exercise from your day. If you enter vegetable soup for example, it offers you options about brand, home-made, and amount. You can change servings or serving size, then save.

Google is your best friend. You can look up things like, how healthy is my bread. There’s an app called flipp, which collects fliers for many grocery stores to show what’s on sale. It allows you to sort by what’s closest to you. You can also get individual stores to email you their fliers.

There are a lot of medication tracking aps which help you track if you’ve taken your meds, when you need to get prescriptions renewed etc. They’re free, and they’re usually accessible. You can just use your phone too, set a daily reminder or alarm to make sure you’ve taken meds at the right time. You can use these strategies for hydration tracking as well.

Chelsea began talking about fitness technology by introducing the Apple Watch. It’s an extension of the phone. The new watch allows you to make calls with your phone at a distance. The watch has different phases. In fitness mode, it will give you information about your activity. It can remind you every hour to get up and walk around. You can set goals, and it will let you know how you’re doing as the day progresses. It tells how many calories you’ve burned in a day, and how much you’ve moved. In its workout mode you have several options. They include outdoor biking, outdoor running, indoor running, outdoor and indoor walking, elliptical, and pool swim. All these track your stats and keep track of your goals. The watch locks while you’re swimming to prevent water damage, but it still has some functionality. In the pool swim, you can tell it what size pool you’re in. Much of this functionality works on the phone also.

She demonstrated the Health ap on the iPhone. It has options for tracking health, nutrition and sleep. The ap allows you to enter all your health information including allergies and medical conditions, as well as your emergency contact. Paramedics can access this in case of emergency if you’re unable to communicate with them.

Rosie passed around a Fitbit. It’s a wearable step counter that can communicate with your phone. Some models monitor heart rate and stair climbing. It has sleep functions as well, tracking when and how much you sleep, how restlessly you’ve slept, or allowing you to wake up by vibration instead of noise. It can be a good introduction for fitness beginners to help raise awareness. There’s a range of sophistication and price from $60 to $500.

There are talking scales, or scales which communicate with smart phones or a website.

Youtube can be a surprising resource for food and fitness. A cooking demonstration will often include written recipes.

For a beginner who might not want to go to the gym, Walk Away the Pounds is an ap with workouts that are based on four basic step patterns. If you can walk and you have 3 square feet, you can do it.

There are also many aps for mental health around meditation and mindfulness.

A chair workout is another option for beginners, or individuals with mobility issues. They’re slower paced and a bit more simple. They’re usually very descriptive. They can be good for someone with spacial challenges.

The CNIB is beginning to offer yoga and fitness classes. There are accessible podcasts about exercise and weight loss.

Blind Alive is a resource of fitness instruction for people with visual impairments. You pay for them. Rosie played samples of well-described exercise classes.

Know what you like. If you try to do stuff you don’t like, you won’t do it. Use technology to do your research. There’s a lot of trial and error, especially when you’re visually impaired. Try not to be daunted by apprehension. You can use technology to research and develop your own exercise plan. We’re sometimes given the impression that vision loss is equal to being physically inactive. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. If you approach a gym with suggestions about labelling machines or other adaptive strategies they’ll probably be receptive. Be patient. You don’t have to do fitness alone. There are groups for running, walking, sailing, dragon boating, and biking, focused on visually impaired participants.

GTT Notes for June, 2017: tips on traveling

Ian opened the meeting. Tonight’s meeting topic is travel: what are the challenges and how do we meet them. is the email address for the group. You can subscribe to receive notices and meeting notes, by sending an email there. Meeting postings do go up on the CCB Toronto Visionaries website calendar. This will be our last meeting until the third Thursday in September. The gtt organizing committee will be meeting over the summer to brainstorm topics, so if you have ideas, let someone know. Jason added that the meetings are for members, so please offer suggestions for topics or presenters: low-tech to high-tech. Also, discussions are underway to move meetings to the new hub location on St. Clair, which is right on the subway line, and much more convenient to get to. It’s at 1525 Yonge St.

In a go-around of introductions, a member brought the group’s attention to a device he ordered for colour identification called the Rainbow II. He demonstrated it and highly recommended it. Another member raised an issue of concern to him, which is the rates we pay for smart-phone technology, and wondered whether it’s possible to find or lobby for discounted rates for a data plan.

Aamer began the discussion on travel. It’s a large topic with lots of small detail. There are a lot of blogs around written by blind travellers. One way to break travel down, is into: within a city, and travelling more widely. It’s true that some blind and visually impaired people experience isolation in their daily lives. The first topic Aamer raised is the CNIB card. If you are legally blind, this card is available for a small fee. It entitles you to a CNIB transit pass, which is free, and gives you free access to the Toronto Transit system. You must be a Toronto resident to qualify. A member raised the point that access to Wheeltrans has opened up to blind and visually impaired riders. Members pointed out that the CNIB card will often be accepted on other transit systems throughout Canada. Ian added that the TTC has a program for a support person assistance card. This allows a disabled person to take a guide/assistance person to accompany them, and travel free. You must get medical certification of a disability, then you get an ID card that allows your assistance person to travel for free.

There are quite a few things that your CNIB card gets you free or discounted access to: museums, art galleries, and various tourist attractions. Policies change on these year-to-year, so it’s worthwhile to check ahead of time.

Easter Seals offers an Access to Entertainment card. There is a $20 and $30 option that you purchase. This requires a form, or a copy of your CNIB card. There’s an office at Yonge and Eglinton, if you need help filling it out. Aamer said he’s got a MS Word copy to fill out if you want one. This card gives you discounts for things like movies, or the CN Tower. Ian explained that many cinemas offer films with audio description. The Easter Seals card also gets you discounts for the Trampoline park.

Jason took over to talk about discounts available for getting out of the city. Via Rail has a buy-one-get-one-free program when you’re travelling with a sighted guide. When booking, the agent may ask for your CNIB card ID number. The CNIB can give this to you if you don’t know it. You can also get this level of discount for Air Canada domestic flights. You purchase your own ticket first in the usual way, then phone the Air Canada medical assistance desk to book the guide. The guide pays only the taxes, not the fair. You can also request particular seats, without being charged for your seat assignment. Greyhound and GO transit also offer this discount. GO trains have an accessibility car, which has a staff member to help you. GO prefers that you request assistance in advance, and several members said they’ve had good experiences getting help. A member volunteered that GO has a good ap for telling your train schedule, and which platform you need to be on.

Jason then moved on to talk about travelling long distances. The most accessible sites for booking trips are Expedia, and Travelocity. They both have active accessibility teams. They’re a little tricky to navigate, but doable with attention. You may have trouble if you’re using older technology however. The sites are starting to drop support for old web browsers. The iPhone ap for Expedia is also good. The Air Canada ap is good, and there’s another ap specific to smart phones called Kayak. Booking your trip independently is completely possible, but does require skills in navigating the internet. Aamer said that all-inclusive resorts can be a good option for blind or partially sighted travellers. Before booking, try sending an email to them asking for the kind of help you might need, and see how they respond. Look for a wheelchair accessible resort. Even if you don’t need one, this kind of resort will be responsive to other accessibility needs. The ideal plan is to go somewhere with a guide/sighted friend the first time, then you’ll be more confident returning on your own. You’ll find an odd mix of modern and sketchy when it comes to safety/accessibility.

Jason added that cruises are a great option for blind and visually impaired travellers. Cruise lines have an accessibility department, and if you let them know ahead of time, they’ll arrange for a private ship’s tour, and any help you might need onboard. All information the passengers get, can be made available electronically on a USB key, and updated daily, news letters, menus etc. Information may be offered in Braille, but the information changes so often that electronic versions are likely to be more up-to-date. Large scale travel as a blind person is possible, but it requires forethought and planning.

There’s an organization in the UK called Traveleyes. They set up group trips to an enormous variety of destinations around the world. You travel in a group of mixed blind and sighted travelers. It’s not cheap, but it’s an accessible option, that many people speak highly of.

Another useful resource when you’re traveling, is to connect with local blindness organizations at your destination. Through an organization like the World Blind Union, you may be able to connect with an organization in your destination, who might be able to find a volunteer to guide you in activities you’d like to do there.

A member raised the idea that, if you’re travelling within Canada, maybe you could plan ahead for an O&M instructor to have a lesson or two with you. If it’s doable, everyone agreed that you’d better try to arrange it as far ahead as possible.

Aamer gave some suggestions for packing as a blind person. He recommended January’s issue of CNIB’s Insight news letter, which had an article with tips and tricks for packing. He suggested dividing your luggage into compartments by types of clothes, and also insulating with plastic in case of spilled liquids, or spraying. When relying on others to identify and find your luggage, there are several strategies to employ. Take a photo of your suitcase, so you can show it to the assistance person in the airport. Buying luggage that’s distinctive is helpful. You can also buy a suitcase cover, which have distinctive patterns or motifs. Find a unique luggage tag at a dollar store. They’re 10-15 inches long, and made from durable plastic. Buy two so that you can keep one with you to show someone who is looking for your bag. There are websites that will make custom tags for you as well.

Jason described a more high-tech method for finding your luggage. There are several options, none of which are perfect. One such device is called a Tile. Jason pulled one out of his pocket to demonstrate. It connects with an Android or iPhone, within about 100 feet. Secure a Tile somewhere on your luggage. With your phone, you can trigger it to play a little song. They’re Bluetooth low-energy, so they’re legal on planes. The ap is quite accessible. The Tiles are about $25, an available from Amazon. You can also use it in reverse, for example pressing a button on the Tile can make your phone announce itself if you’ve misplaced it.

There’s another device called Tracker, but Jason hasn’t tested it.

Aamer raised the topic of low lighting in hotels for people who have some vision. He travels with a wind-up flashlight. It’s renewable, lightweight, and uses L.E.D. lights. Don’t hesitate to ask for help in your room: how do you operate the thermostat? Which bottle is the shampoo? Hotels are generally happy to help.

Ian suggested that if you’re given a key card for your room, ask someone at the front desk to mark it with a piece of tape to help you orient it properly. Aamer said he typically travels with a small role of tape for random identification purposes, marking the door of your room for example.

A member pointed out that many mobility aids can be transported on a plane for free.

A member asked about smart phones and traveling outside Canada. Jason described the Rogers Roam Like Home plan, which is a flat $10 per day for data. There are also GPS aps which don’t require you to have data. They download the data before-hand. Nearby Explorer is an accessible option, for about $100. Google Maps will also let you download maps before you travel.

Aamer suggested creating your own “Do Not Disturb” sign. The conventional signs are usually indistinguishable by touch, so making your own might work.

Today, June 15, 2017, the CRTC ruled that, after December 1 of this year, locked phones will no longer be allowed. This means that you can put any sim card you want in it, which might be useful when traveling outside the country.

A member asked about how accessible the passport application process is. Jason said that there is a downloadable PDF that is accessible, but you may need help signing it. At the passport office, the staff is legally forbidden from helping you fill out the form. The paperwork for replacing your passport after it’s expired is brutal and costly, so plan ahead. Replacing a damaged passport is the same process as getting your first passport. It’s useful to get yourself a provincial government ID card, $35, and as good as a passport within Canada.

A member added that, if you ask for it, your health card can have its number embossed in Braille on the card itself.

Aamer spoke about the value of getting a accessible parking permit. Friends or family who are picking you up or dropping you off, can use it to do so more safely. It exempts you from metered parking as well. Dr.s may differ in whether they will sign off on one for you. You may need to advocate for yourself about why one would help you.

Jason pointed out how useful Uber can be as a blind traveler. Because they’re so widely disbursed, once you know how to use the ap, you have access to cars in many or most cities you’ll travel to.

A member raised the subject of tipping assist staff in transportation hubs. He said that in some places, staff who are employed by the airport rather than the airline, might expect to be tipped.

A member raised the point that blind people are told to remain on the plane, to be escorted out last. Jason replied that, if you feel like you are capable of exiting the plane with everybody else, then explain this to the flight crew, and leave on your own, to find the gate agent inside. Waiting inside the aircraft, you take the small but real risk of being forgotten. It’s not too difficult to follow the crowd, or even engage a seat-mate to guide you to baggage claim.



GTT Notes for April, 2017: Siri

Jason opened the meeting with a welcome. Tonight, Chelsea Mohler and Adam Strooth are here to talk about all the things you can do with Siri, using an iPad, Apple TV, and the iPhone. Next month, the topic will be podcasts. If there are topics you want covered, raise them, and we’ll find someone to present them. Maybe there’s something you know about that you’d like to present. There are no meetings in July and August, but we’ll b back in September. is the address for the group. If you’re not on the email list, send a request, and you’ll be added.


Chelsea began. She described herself as a technology trainer at Balance for Blind Adults, and a Siri enthusiast. She began with the very basics. Siri is the artificial intelligence Apple assistant. To access Siri, hold down your home button and give an instruction. She demonstrated opening settings this way. Within settings, there’s a Siri heading. One setting controls whether Siri is on. Check this if Siri isn’t working. There’s a setting concerned with whether or not Siri can be activated without unlocking your phone. The hands-free “hey-Siri” command  works on phones above a 6 when not plugged in, otherwise you need to be plugged into power. It’s a way to activate Siri by saying “hey Siri” without touching the home button. There’s also a setting to choose which voice Siri uses. To use Siri, you must have WiFi or data; it doesn’t work independently on the phone, but connects to the internet.

You can make phone calls. She spoke to Siri, directing it to phone another member. Theoretically, “hey Siri” recognizes individual voices, but a test showed that the words activated several peoples’ phones. When you set up Siri, it asks you to speak certain phrases in order to learn your voice. You can say to Siri, “Call using speaker phone,” or say, “Call my recent missed calls.” This will call the last missed call you had. It will prompt you by naming your last missed call and asking if you want to call that number. You can ask Siri to read your texts, or unread email. You can ask it to read the most recent. You can ask Siri, “Who’s iPhone is this.” For this to work, you have to enter yourself in your contacts. During the setup process, it should ask you for your name. If you subscribe to Apple Music, you can ask Siri to play songs from there. If not, you can ask it to play songs from your music library: whatever you’ve downloaded to your phone. You can ask by artist, title, or genre. You can subscribe to Apple music for $9.00 per month or so. You can make your own playlists.

Siri can be used to set an alarm or timer. Siri will tell you it’s done it. You can ask it to change an alarm that’s already been set. You can ask Siri “which alarms are currently active?” If you ask which ones are active, it will display all alarms and whether they’re on or off. Your wording can vary, “Wake me up at …” You can tell it to set alarms for specific days, for example “Wake me up at 7:00 a.m. Monday to Friday.”

Chelsea demonstrated using Siri for scheduling appointments. “Schedule an appointment …” using key words like “Titled” and the date and time. A member asked if you can incorporate reminders. Chelsea recommended going into the calendar ap to do this for specific appointments. She believes that reminders are better for tasks. Her example was that you can tell Siri to remind you to do something when you get home. You must have your geo tracking on and your address in your contacts in order for this to work, so that Siri knows where “home” is. Chelsea clarified that Siri is a part of the phone, not an ap.

Chelsea demonstrated using Siri for random choices such as picking a number between 1 and 100. You can ask Siri itself to tell you what it can do. A member highlighted that you can ask it for restaurants or businesses nearby, and sometimes make a reservation using an ap called Open Table. Chelsea demonstrated a dialogue concerned with finding a coffee shop.

You can use Siri to open aps, do a web search, as a quick calculator, as a way to check stock prices or do currency conversion. All of these, except the calling options, can be done on an iPad. Siri has a relationship field, so that you can say something like, “Call my brother.” If you’ve identified someone as being in a specific relationship to you, it will work. You can also give it phone numbers. A tip is that when dictating, it’s useful to hold down the home button until you’re finished speaking so that you don’t get cut off. You can send texts with Siri in one step, eg; “Text Mary, I will be late.” Siri can also be used from an Apple watch. You can activate it with the words “hey Siri,” or by pressing the round button. When it vibrates, it’s listening. You can connect a Bluetooth ear piece to the watch and interact with it that way.

As a side-note, she said that the Apple Watch is extremely handy for using Apple Pay. Apple Pay is an electronic alternative to using a card. You link a card to your account, then wave your Apple device at any machine that accepts tap. You can attach more than one card, and swipe to choose.

A member contributed that environments with a lot of background noise aren’t ideal for using Siri.


Adam took over to talk about using Siri with Apple TV. Apple TV is a set-top box that streams to whatever device you have it connected with. It’s probably the most expensive, at several hundred dollars. The latest generation has a Siri remote. This has 5 buttons, and a track pad you can use the rotor on, as well as a Siri button. On the rotor, there are some extra options related to navigating the touch screen. Siri on the Apple TV is limited to media-related questions, and can’t do all the other things Siri on the iPhone or iPad can do. You can ask for recommendations. You can activate Siri without speaking, which will prompt it to offer suggestions about what kinds of questions you can ask. You can use Siri to dictate into an edit field rather than hunt-and-peck on the keyboard. You can spell the words as well, if you’re dictating an email address or password.

Adam demonstrated using Siri to open Netflix, and play the last episode of a specific TV show, or for example, “Play the Friends episode with Robin Williams. You can ask it to start an episode from the beginning, skip ahead by a defined amount of time, or turn on closed-captioning. The Apple TV has its own operating system, so the interface is a little bit different. You can ask questions specific to what you’re watching, such as, “Who stars in this?”

You can also use Siri to search Youtube, eg: “Search Youtube for funny dog videos.” It populates the search field for you, then displays the results. You don’t need to have Youtube open to do this. You can ask Siri to switch the language of your show or movie. The Apple TV remote is very small compared to a phone or iPad. It has a great battery life. Your phone can also function as a remote for the Apple TV. The Apple TV is a way to stream music from your phone to a nice stereo. One good reason you might want to do this is that you’ll get music through your stereo, but voice-over still through your phone.


GTT Notes for March, 2017: Uber

Thanks as always to Christine Malec for preparing these awesome notes!

Jason opened the meeting. Tonight we have a representative from Uber to talk with us. Next month’s meeting will be Chelsie talking about Siri tips and tricks. In May or June we’re open for topic suggestions. You can send an email to with any suggestions. We have Adam Blinnick, Director of Public Affairs for Uber Canada, and Brian Crook, an operations manager for Uber accessibility. After they discuss Uber in broad terms, Jason said he will give a demonstration of how to use the ap.


With raised hands, Adam saw that about 3/4 of those present have used Uber. Uber was founded in 2009. It had relatively humble ambitions. Two people had sold their businesses in San Francisco, where it’s hard to get a cab. Initially it was framed as a luxury service, only “black cars.” As the experiment got going, it became clearer that transportation is an issue for many people. Owning a car or taking taxies is expensive, and public transit can be inconvenient. Also, a lot of car-owners are happy to turn their car into a revenue-generating device. Uber is now in over 400 cities worldwide. The flagship product is UberX. The ideal is, giving rides to your neighbours. Uber has been able to increase transportation to parts of cities that were previously inaccessible by transit, or if you didn’t have a car. Calling a taxi was time-consuming and inconvenient, as you had to sit staring out the window. Now, Uber cars often are available within 5 minutes. It also allows you to track the car as it is coming to you. The lower cost of an Uber ride is indisputable; it’s 30-40% cheaper than a conventional taxi, and Uber pool is even cheaper.

The ap is free from the ap store. You download it, create a profile, then connect a payment method to it, and you’re ready to go. It’s a seamless experience to when the driver arrives, and you don’t have to pay when you exit the car; the ride is charged to your payment method. Up-front pricing has now been implemented; the price you see before you request the ride is the price you’ll pay.

Safety is important in the design of the ap, and during the ride. Adam outlined several policies and procedures implemented with safety in mind. Every driver who wants to drive for Uber must complete a criminal background check. Also, Uber has insurance which covers the rider. When you request a ride, you don’t have to wait outside, as the ap lets you track the driver. This increases your safety. When you request the ride, you get the driver’s name, license number, and a description of their car. You also have an opportunity to contact the driver via phone or text, to give more specific information about your pickup location. During the trip, other safety features are in place. You’re always on the map, being tracked by GPS. You can also use “share my ride,” which allows someone, such as a family member, to track where you are, they don’t need to have the Uber ap in order to do this. You don’t need to have your credit card or cash on you to take the ride. After the ride, you have access to a rating system, which allows you to comment on anything about the driver that concerned you. This allows Uber to track patterns in driver behaviour. There’s 24/7 support if you have an urgent concern about your ride, or left a personal item in the car etc. There’s also a record of every trip you take. You get a copy, and Uber keeps a copy, in case later follow-up is necessary.

In Canada, Uber is throughout the GTA, where the average wait time is 5 minutes or less. Most of southwestern Ontario is covered, as well as lots of eastern Ontario. In the west, Uber is operating in the greater Edmonton and Calgary areas.

A member raised the point that making a customer service complaint was quite difficult. It took a long time to find the phone number, and he had to leave a message. Adam replied that the best way to file a complaint is through the ap itself. There’s a layer in the “help” feature after your ride, which is called, “there’s a problem with my fair.” Responses to complaints made through the ap are usually within an hour.

A member asked if there’s a way to get Uber without a smart phone. Jason answered that there’s a service called GoGo Grandparent. You sign up with them, give them all your information, then phone them and have them arrange an Uber for you. They charge you 18 cents a minute for your trip, as their service fee. They have an 800 number for information. The number is (855) 464-6872. Adam added that Uber is working on a function that will allow you to request an Uber via a computer. He couldn’t say when this will be in place, but he also added that they are planning on adding the service Jason described themselves. Someone else can order the Uber for you, then send you trip information.

A member asked if you can request an Uber using voice. Jason answered that you can, but last time he tried, you can’t specify your pick-up location; it simply uses GPS to determine where you are. You can then contact the driver with your specific address.

A member asked about Uber Assist. Brian described that it is an option that insures you a top-quality driver, who has been through a training program for working with people with disabilities. The cost for Uber Assist is the same as an UberX, but you might have to wait a bit longer for a driver.

In response to a member question, Adam said that Uber uses Google Maps for their GPS data. If your address isn’t found by Google maps, you can always contact the driver to give them more specific information about where you are.

A member asked what Uber does to ensure drivers will accept service animals. Brian answered that drivers are informed of the law, but that he knows cases happen where drivers refuse. There’s work going on in the U.S. about this, and Uber Canada will follow. Uber wants to make transportation as accessible as running water, and when people with service animals are refused service, they’re failing.

A member asked if there’s a way to facilitate passengers and drivers finding one another at pick-up. Jason said that at CSUN, he was at a ride-sharing workshop in which it was said that this is being worked on. A member added that it’s very helpful to text or phone the driver from within the ap to tell them that you’re blind, and give them information about how to find you, and ask them to identify themselves to you. This helps a lot.

Ian returned to the subject of service animals, to point out that it’s not only a question of Uber’s policies, but that drivers are breaking the law when they refuse service.

Adam said that, until now, Uber assist drivers weren’t being notified in a way that distinguished assist calls from non-assist calls. Soon, they will be implementing a pop-up to let the driver know it’s an assist call. Assist is for people who want a door-to-door service. It isn’t necessary to request an Uber Assist if you have a service dog; all cars must take them.

Jason then took over to begin a demonstration of using the Uber ap with Voiceover. You can open the ap using Ciri if you choose. When you open the ap, you get a hint telling you that you can use a shortcut to specify your pick-up location. From the upper left, swiping down gets you a “where to” button, or you can swipe right to “schedule a ride.” Scheduling gives you a 20-minute pick-up window. Another button invites you to rate your last trip. The ap will remember the last couple of destinations you’ve been to, and is location-aware. It keeps track of places you commonly go from wherever you currently are. From the initial screen, Jason found a button that said “Home,” where he can double tap, to set as your pick-up location. Relying on GPS to determine your pick-up location is sometimes vague, so be careful about counting on it to know exactly where you are. Within the ap, you can designate specific addresses as things like home, work, etc. This makes it easier to arrange your ride. In some aps, including this one, swiping misses options, so sometimes you have to use your finger to explore the screen. Jason said he’s been seeing this in a few aps, so it might be a voiceover bug. After setting your destination, you then choose your monetary range. You see your options, and each associated cost and arrival times. It remembers the last choice you made, X, Assist, Pool etc. On the “economy” button, voiceover invites you to swipe pages for more options. This is a 3-finger sideways swipe, as though you are turning a page. Uber Select and Uber Black are the higher-priced options where you get a nicer car. Uber XL gets you something like a minivan. Jason used sideways swipes to explore. On the page titled “more,” there’s a taxi option. Brian explained that this gets you a standard cab who works for a traditional cab company, but takes Uber passengers as well. This doesn’t allow you to have a fixed price, because the Uber taxi is metered. Payment is still through the ap, but the calculation method is in real time. On this “more” page, you can also find the Assist option. WOV means wheelchair accessible vehicle. Availability of WAV vehicles is not great, due to the lack of available vehicles. In the downtown core, your wait will likely be less than 10 minutes. Outside downtown, there might be no availability. No city in North America has solved this problem.

Jason showed that, during the request process, you can switch between multiple payment methods if you’ve registered more than one. Once you request the ride, it begins matching you with nearby drivers. A recent change was made. There used to be a contact and a cancel button on the main screen after you request the ride. Now, you have to double tap on the driver name, then those options pop up. Once you find the “contact driver” button, you have two choices: phone or text. Your text or call doesn’t come from your phone number. It’s a ghost number that vanishes 30 minutes after your trip. This protects your privacy, but allows you to contact the driver shortly after your trip if you’ve left something in the car. Texting the driver to let them know you have a service animal is a good idea because if the driver refuses to take you, there’s an electronic record that Uber can use to discipline the driver.

At the upper left corner of the screen, there’s an unlabeled button. If you double tap on it, you’re in the main menu where you can change your payment option, view your promotional code, look at your trip history, or find the “help” button. Double tapping on “help” gives you options related to previous trips. It also gives you information about Uber. You can find a specific trip, then double tap on it to report an issue. The screen offers several options such as lost items, unprofessional behaviour, fair discrepancies etc.

A member asked about cancelling. Brian answered that there’s a 5-minute window after requesting the trip, within which you can cancel without being charged. Jason said that you cancel by double tapping on the driver’s name, and there’s a cancel button next to the contact driver button.

A member asked what happens to fixed price during a traffic jam. Brian answered that the fixed price remains in place. In extreme cases Uber, will compensate the driver at the back end.

A member asked about splitting the fair among riders. Brian answered that it’s possible to do this from within the ap if each rider has the ap.

Another member asked about multiple destinations. Brian answered that the ap doesn’t currently provide for this. The way to handle it is to tell the driver when you get in the car, then when you’re close to the first destination, the rider goes into the ap and changes the destination to the second one. The driver can also do this for you from within their ap.

Brian explained some of the built-in fees by explaining that, for example, background checks for drivers are paid for by Uber.

A member raised the question of safety again. Brian answered that the background checks for Uber drivers and conventional taxi drivers is the same.

A member asked whether it’s possible to connect directly with a driver you had a great experience with, and request them specifically. Brian answered that this isn’t possible. The goal of Uber is efficiency, so it’s always best and cheapest to send a driver who’s the closest to you.

Uber has a 2-million-dollar liability insurance for all riders through the Intact Insurance company.

Jason raised a question about whether you can rate a driver higher than 5 stars. Adam answered that it’s possible to log in on your computer for more rating options. Passengers are rated by drivers as well. This helps to clarify ambiguous situations where complaints are made. The ratings are stars, and allow for comments as well.


GTT Notes for February, 2017: the Identifi App

Jason opened the meeting with a welcome, and gave a special welcome to those who attended via teleconference. The goal is to have as many people in the room as possible, but for those who can’t, we need to figure out whether it will be possible to have this option available for each meeting. Next month, the plan is to have a representative from Uber in to talk to us; that’s still in negotiation. The month after next, the presentation will be on Ciri. If anyone has any ideas of things they’d like to see covered, raise it. Get in touch by email at:


Tonight’s guest is the author of a free ap called Identifi, which is a smartphone ap that does recognition of various kinds. Anmol took the mike. Identifi allows you to use artificial intelligence to recognize objects, text, facial expressions etc. It’s available in 94 countries, and in 26 languages. The main screen has four quadrants. There are instructions and settings. There are three different object recognition modes, the first is basic, giving the least amount of detail. The second level would give more detail, and the third mode gives the highest level of detail: eg; laptop, laptop turned on, laptop and read the text showing on the screen. Responses take two to five seconds, depending on your internet speed, and the level of detail you’ve requested. He demonstrated text recognition by reading a paragraph from The Great Gatsby. It works best with printed text, but also with hand writing. He then demonstrated object recognition by photographing headphones, a banana, and a stapler. One of its unique features is that it recognizes not only objects, but colour, and background. Also, it’s unique for its speed. He did a few more demonstrations of object recognition. He then demonstrated text recognition in French.


He explained that the ap uses machine learning. The idea is that if you give a computer enough objects that are similar, it’s able to recognize objects. It compares what it’s seeing with what it has in its database. It contains 600 million images. The database comes from Stanford University, and is constantly growing. The photo can be sideways or up-side-down and recognition will still work. It works basically the same way as the human eye. As long as the text is in the image, it will be read out. Artificial intelligence is still new, so the ap is a long way away from actually understanding what it’s seeing and being able to answer questions about it. There are other limitations: taking a picture of an orange on an orange background for example might give it trouble. A white piece of paper on a white table top will also not work. At the moment, you can’t stop reading and start again, but he’s working on it. The text doesn’t actually appear on your phone, so Braille output isn’t possible at the moment, but it’s in development.


There’s no limit on the number of pictures you can take. You can take a picture of Braille and it will tell you that it’s Braille but it can’t interpret it. The ap recognizes 96 languages, but text-to-speech only functions with 26 languages, so that’s a limitation. The Cloudside API has 400 million images and is used for high detail mode. It could be used in a mall to read signs. It recognizes brand logos as well as text, which would help to orient yourself. You could also use it to read the mall directory. OCR uses Google Cloudvision API. Sentence construction of the recognition results was done by Anmol himself. The initial work is output in English, then translated into other languages as requested.


It’s being used in over 90 countries. He’s presented to institutions around the world including RNIB and CNIB. The ap has won awards from several universities, and has been recognized alongside with Google and Facebook for artificial intelligence. Anmol explained that he’s from India, and lived near a school for the blind. He was working in a summer job in artificial intelligence. These two things combined in his mind, and the ap resulted. This version was launched on the ap store last July. He’s in grade 12 of high school.


His plan is to work on version two. He wants to improve the user interface, add extra languages, and improve response times. A long-term idea is to figure out a source of funding, and also to create an Android version. He hopes to work on those things this summer. He seems disinterested in charging for the ap; he’d like to keep it free. One thing he might consider is an audio ad, which wouldn’t prohibit anyone from using it. There are minor costs involved, he’s spent a couple hundred dollars out of his own pocket. One member raised the problem that, when an object is not recognized, no voice message is given to tell the user what’s happening. Could there be an error message? Anmol replied that the phone might be on silent mode. On silent mode, the ap won’t work. The ap should always be giving you some response. Anmol said he would add an error message. Jason also pointed out that there are multiple steps, taking the photo, then tapping the “use photo” button.


When you open the ap, the take photo button is in the bottom right. Take a picture exactly as you normally would. Tap on the “use Photo” button, then two to ten seconds later you should get a response. You can also select a photo from your photo library. Under settings, you can configure how quickly the response is read out to you, or what language you prefer, as well as the level of accuracy you want. The instructions button on the top right will offer help. Once you’ve taken a photo, you can’t save it. Anmol isn’t considering adding this, because it would make an unnecessary step, and would engage privacy considerations. Jason added that, although you can use the “take picture” button, you can also use your “volume up” button, which will also take a photo.


A member raised the issue that saving a photo might not be worthwhile, but the text recognized might be something you want to keep. Someone else proposed including a “share” button, so that you could send the text somewhere else. Anmol replied that if there’s enough demand for it, he could include it. He recommended going to and submitting requests. Anmol said he included the second step because in testing, sometimes people took pictures by accident, not meaning for them to be interpreted. It could read credit cards including numbers and logos. Information is never saved, so it’s secure. Neatly hand printed text can be recognized, computer fonts which are flowy can also be recognized, some cursive writing can also be recognized. As long as most of the object is in the photo, you’re probably good. For a small object, about a foot away is optimal. The flash is always on auto, so ambient light level shouldn’t matter. The suggestion was made to add a “donate” button. Anmol said that would cause problems around being incorporated.

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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 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:

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:



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.




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:

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 Email that address to say you want to get on the list. You can email directly to 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.” 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 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. 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.