3 Keys to Jingle on Your Keyring of Beliefs

Ever have a pivotal moment? A moment like, “Hey, I just signed a 1-year membership to a health club. Now I’m going to have to do some mental exercises to excuse away why I can’t work out. Gee, I hope that won’t be too difficult.”

I’m kidding, get out there and pump some iron!

One pivotal morning, Truck keys jingled in my pocket, I patted my pup on the head with, “I’ll be right back pal. “ Shutting the door on my way out; an immediate thought came to mind, “Did I just? … Oh no I didn’t … Oh yes I did! I just locked the door behind me!” Realize, my truck key does not have a house key with it.

Writer’s note: In case you weren’t paying attention–that would be the pivotal moment right there.

Faster than Clint Eastwood’s cheroot clenched pistol draw, a quick jab to the left front pocket, no house keys! In one fluid move, a slam to the right front chest pocket of my coveralls–which would have impressed even Chuck Norris. Rats! No keys there either… and no cell phone!

Continuing my Dance of External Disappointment, it was… tighten fists, flap lips in various unrecognizable contortions, blend in a burst of vocal expression of self-disgust. Rounding out the choreographed diatribe was a simultaneous wielding of the arms, with an ugly spasm-like twist of the torso.

I’d thought I heard the neighbors squinting out their front window saying “Wow honey. Get a load of this. Brad’s doing some sort of Mosh-ercize, Turbo Slam or something out in his driveway. In the dead of winter no less.”

I stood in the driveway with the pup staring at me through the glass front door with a tongue dangling toothy grin. Was the toothy grin just a sympathetic expression of a canine panting in despair of its owner’s predicament, or more like, “Brad? That hot oatmeal on the counter right over there? That’s mine. Yeeaaah baby!”

How important is remembering your house keys when heading out for the day? Pretty dang important at 15-degrees below zero. Come to think of it, there are a few important keys you need to remember heading out to your day no matter what temperature it is outside.

Key#1: Have a positive attitude and believe you can do it.

No one will ever believe in your ability to be successful as much as you will need “you” to believe in it. Okay yes, there are those around you that see your potential and offer support, but if you don’t see it, or play it down with excuse, they’ll eventually stop. No one wants to keep smacking the encouragement ball to the outfield and drag you around the bases.

It’s your own belief that counts because you’re the one out in the trenches. And you know what? You really can do it if you just get after it. Nearly everything in this world is a teachable skill, and despite how it might appear, we’re all learning everyday so you’re not alone. Just go for it and don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

Key #2: Get going and actually do something.

Funny how once we decide to do something, we’re expected to take action on it. Whose idea was that anyway?

That doesn’t mean endless answering of emails, rabbit trailing down YouTube lane, checking with your neighbor if he brought back the rake he borrowed last fall.

It does mean prioritizing your goals, provided you’ve made them, and accounting for your time. You’re the boss, it’s up to you to give yourself performance reviews, and your boss can get a bit tough. Focus on your tasks, don’t procrastinate, you’ll “loose end” yourself to a point of submersion.

Key #3: Balance the view.

When you’ve forgotten the second key on your keychain, don’t spend all your time looking in the rear-view mirror for it or constantly reminding yourself of all those mistakes you left behind.

Learn from them yes, but hey, there’s a reason the windshield is larger than the rear view mirror. Spending valuable time squinting at that mirror only leads to not paying attention to the things coming at you through that big clear glassy thing with the wipers on it.

Glance at your past to learn from it, but spend the majority of your time looking at what’s ahead. In case you need a blunt reminder–that would be your immediate future, and you’re the one driving straight into it.

Live like you’ll never get hurt, dream like nobody is watching, and above all… Try-try-try until you succeed!

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RWF 5: THE ONE TOUCH PROJECT – Self-defense for the blind

Listen to RWF 5: THE ONE TOUCH PROJECT – Self-defense for the blind

The 1Touch™ is the first comprehensive descriptive self-defense program designed specifically for people who are blind. The program is a hands-on self defense
Technique for dealing with assaults, aggressive behavior,
and bullying.

Bill’s guest today is Stephen Nicholls, the creator of the 1touch program. Stephen is accompanied by two graduates of the training, Carrie and Lori.
Some of the topics covered include:

  • How it all began
  • Stephen’s personal background
  • “One touch” is not a martial art
  • Meeting Umit Turkusev
  • Working with Veterans groups in the US and UK
  • How taking the program changed Lori and Carrie’s lives
  • The sisters plans to spread the “one touch” word
  • “One touch” can be humbling for a traditional martial arts master
  • It’s about empowerment as much as anything else
  • How the training saved one woman from an attacker

Upcoming events

  • April 13-15th Long Beach Veterans Administration CA
  • April 16th, Junior Blind of America Los Angeles CA
  • May 18-20th, Texas School for the Blind
  • June 9-11, Ohio School for the Blind
  • August 12-14, Second Sense Chicago IL
  • August 24-26, Secaucus NJ

For more information e-mail info@1touchproject.com

Contact Bill!

To submit questions to Bill Kociaba, drop him a note at kociabafitness@gmail.com. You can also visit his site at kociaba-fitness.com. Or, feel free to leave your comment below. You may also use your iBlink Radio app to leave an iReport.

Posted in Real World Fitness | Comments Off on RWF 5: THE ONE TOUCH PROJECT – Self-defense for the blind

Independence: A Wound to Profitability?

Some of the benefits in being an entrepreneur are to have freedom over our personal schedules, develop innovative ideas, find creative ways to troubleshoot problems, make things more efficient, think out of the box, and control our own destiny.

Would you agree with that statement?

After all, as entrepreneurs that is our badge of honor, right? Freedom and independence.

We don’t want anyone telling us we have to show up for work an hour earlier…

Can’t take our sick kids to the doctor appointment today…

Need to change our family vacation because a co-worker has that slot already…

Need to solve a problem the bosses way when the obvious perfect solution is right there…

Got moved to a different department due to downsizing…

Or worse, get handed a pink slip.

I’ll be the first to admit, after all these years of being family- or self-employed, I don’t think I could work for anyone else and not be totally miserable.

However, should our independence allow us to disregard wisdom? Does it morph to a point of stubbornness or digging in our heels where it actually hurts us?

What do I mean?

One of the businesses I operate has a connection with a group of similar independent business owners. We sell similar products and have the same dispensation methods for the most part. In fact, in many cases about the only difference in our businesses is the size, shape, and gender of the owners themselves.

In other words, we have a lot in common in our businesses.

That would mean we could discover something, learn something, or find a success in our independent business; then share it with others, and very likely they too would have that same success.

What’s even more is the way our business affiliation is set up, the better each individual business owner does, the stronger the group becomes as a whole fiscally. Talk about incentive to share information and help each other out, right?

Well, you’d think so, but here’s the rub.

A few of us have tried to get these folks to share information via an e-mail discussion list 3- or 4-different times now. After all, we are in different geographic locations, and while we get together once or twice a year at a conference, that doesn’t go too far in networking ideas and successes.

Unsuccessful in getting them to participate, shaking my head incredulously along with a few others who are not business owners but who are involved in this group, I came up with another idea.

I put together an e-mail informing this group that they have a chance at winning twenty-five bucks, proceeded to encourage them about the personal benefits of the discussion list, and reminded them what types of things we could share. All the while sprinkling in a total of four different times that they could win $25. All they needed to do was simply reply to the e-mail, give some ideas how they plan to grow their business, and pick a number from one to a thousand. The closest number to mine wins. I even e-mailed the number to a non-bias party for transparency.

All proud of myself for digging in my own pocket to try helping this group to participate in their own success, within a handful of hours I got a call.

A fellow business owner on the other end said they had gotten communications from other business owners wondering why they had to pay $25 to be a part of the e-mail discussion list.

Huh?

What?

Your what hurts?

I was literally open-mouthed and no words came out.

First, I immediately lose respect for someone who doesn’t have the hutzpah to pick up the phone or send me an e-mail directly asking, “What the hell are you getting at here?”

But, four times I’d Mentioned they could win $25 just for participating in their increased chance of success. All that was asked was to reply to the e-mail and share ideas so we can learn from each other.

And somehow I was soliciting money from them? Hmm.

Afterwards, I sent off a copy of the e-mail to other individuals not affiliated with the group to see if I in any way portrayed a solicitation. If I did, I’d own up to it and apologize.

These folks were just as perplexed as I.

I love to learn, and there is a huge lesson in this. As I said, I’m all for being independent, feeling free, being my own boss and all that. But I walked away from this experience reinforcing the principle of looking at the world for what it is, not with the motive of proving inaccurate assumptions.

You know, take the glasses off and not look through rose-colored ones, dark sunglasses, or ones green with envy or jealousy. Just look at it for what it is.

These folks really are nice, good people, I really like them, but if they would have actually read the four times I mentioned about possibly winning money, rather than seeing a dollar symbol and assuming that meant they had to pay, they would have read it in a whole different way.

Get this. Out of the twenty-six business owners the e-mail went out to, just one person red it and got it. One single person, that was it! Incredible. If it took that one person 5-minutes to reply, he earned $300 an hour just for responding.

I know the lack of response was not completely due to the twenty-five dollar thing. As I said, I’ve tried this before, this group has just dug in their heels. They don’t want anyone telling them what to do, or even worse, expose how they are doing things in case it turns out not to be right.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be wrong, find a new way, and improve my profits; rather than live in fear I may be doing something wrong, don’t want to admit I’m not the Warren Buffett of my industry, and increase my profitability by learning from others.

Honestly, I don’t take the inquisition or lack of response personally. And am I done trying to get this group united? I would if I saw no benefit from it. But no, I see the end result before it is realized, and it looks pretty good from where I sit. I might just pick up the phone and call each and every business owner to make sure they’d gotten it, find out why they didn’t respond, and take a new approach.

Listen, we can’t be so stubborn, so independent, so into ourselves that we ruin our opportunity to role model other peoples success and steer clear of pitfalls they’ve experienced.

Let’s do ourselves a favor in business, find ways of networking and hooking up with others who do what we do, learn from them, share what we’ve learned, even in sectors where competition is a concern, there are things we can learn from others.

And most of all, do not make assumptions about the world around us with the motive of only proving our own insecurities, fears, or self-righteous independence.

A very interesting study was done years ago, maybe you’ve heard about it. A group of individuals in a lab setting were given barbiturates, and another were given amphetamines.

The thing is, each group was told the opposite. That is to say, the barbiturate folks were told they were taking amphetamines, and vice versa.

What they found was an incredible result. Not all, but a good many of the people who were given barbiturates and told it was amphetamines? Experienced amphetamine symptoms, even though their body consumed the exact opposite.

If that doesn’t prove our pre-determined minds are capable of controlling how we experience the world around us and how we see it, I don’t know what will.

Posted in Blog, Entrepreneurship | 2 Comments

RWF 4: An interview with fat loss expert Josh Hillis

Listen to RWF 4: An interview with fat loss expert Josh Hillis

JOSH HILLIS is a nutrition coach who specializes in habits-based, positive changes.LoseStubbornFat.com his popular fitness and fat-loss blog, has tens of thousands of regular readers, and his fat-loss and kettlebell-training e-books have helped people reach their personal goals for more than 10 years. Josh is currently the head coach at PowerHour Group Personal Training in Denver, Colorado. He recently collaborated with legendary fitness author Dan John on the new book FAT LOSS HAPPENS ON MONDAY.

I recently caught up with Josh between clients to conduct this fun interview:

  • How he got started
  • Finding his niche
  • Learning from his clients
  • His first E-book
  • Changing priorities
  • Last to be picked for sports as a kid
  • The value of a great coach/teacher
  • RKC vs SFG
  • Studying with Alwin Cosgrove
  • How the book came about
  • The importance of developing habits
  • It’s really not complicated
  • Little changes can make huge differences
  • Dan John + Laree Draper + Josh =
  • FAT LOSS HAPPENS ON MONDAY

  • Working with Dan
  • The future
  • Random rambling about our personal fitness heroes
  • Hearing the author reading his own words

Josh is one of the most enthusiastic (and likeable) people I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with. His genuine love for what he does shines through whenever he speaks. We went off on several tangents during this interview simply because we were having a great conversation about something we both really love. I left it all in so you can get a deeper feeling for who we both really are.

If your goals are fat loss focused I can’t recommend this book highly enough, and if you are in the Denver area and are looking for a trainer, get in contact with Josh!joshhillis@gmail.com Josh!joshhillis@gmail.com

Click here to order FAT LOSS HAPPENS ON MONDAY

Contact Bill!

To submit questions to Bill Kociaba, drop him a note at kociabafitness@gmail.com. You can also visit his site at kociaba-fitness.com. Or, feel free to leave your comment below. You may also use your iBlink Radio app to leave an iReport.

Posted in Real World Fitness | Comments Off on RWF 4: An interview with fat loss expert Josh Hillis

5 Reasons Why Guide Dogs Are a Terrible Idea!

If you’re blind, you obviously read Braille. Your hearing must naturally be superior to your sighted peers, and of course you have a guide dog! Right?

Well, that last may not be as pervasive as the first and second. Someone recently told me the number of guide dog users has actually declined in my millennial generation. I have no evidence proving this one way or the other, but for the general public, to see a blind person with a guide dog feels as natural as butter and toast.

Thing is, I’m not so sure guide dogs are right for everyone. Or, maybe I’m just projecting my own uncertainties onto the rest of the community?

Last November I took the first step in the application process to return for a second Seeing Eye dog. It’s been more than three years since I lost Gator, and even though I’ve gotten around just fine with a white cane, I am approaching what feels like the final years with sight, however minimal that sight might be. I admit it’s unnerving if I sit still long enough to contemplate total blindness. NFB philosophy be damned, and the thought of an extra set of eyes to help me navigate the world does bring a measure of comfort. But, is it enough to go get another dog?

In no particular order, here are reasons why a guide dog would be a terrible idea:

1. It’s expensive!

Taking possession of a guide dog is not in of itself expensive. To my knowledge, the Seeing Eye is the only school that charges for ownership, and at $150 for first time students, $50 for returns, the amount is negligible.

It’s everything that comes after graduation that is expensive. You should take good care of your pets regardless of their purpose, but service animals demand that extra stretch in commitment to ensure their long-term health. That means better than average dog food, consistent vet visits, and springing for medical treatments that some would deem optional under less special circumstances.

2. It’s inconvenient!

At the Seeing Eye you get up early to begin the daily training. Fortunately these days I’m getting up at 3:30, giving me an unfair advantage over my future comrades, but beating dawn at school is different from beating dawn at home, on a Saturday, in the middle of winter, a snowy winter, a snowy winter when you wake up feeling like a truck ran you over.

After a long day of flying, your first priority is not locating a cab, finding your room, or feeding yourself. At least in my experience, the top concerns were twofold: 1) finding a place for Gator to relieve himself; and 2) finding a trash can to dispose of it. You’d be surprised at how much of a nuisance it can be to find a friggin’ trash can when you need one!

This, of course, assumes the stubborn canine chooses to relieve himself on command. Remember that snowy winter where you felt like crap? Pun totally intended? Well, if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, but you know your dog well enough to know they need to go out, you will stand there, maybe pace back and forth until he finds the perfect spot. And you are sorely tempted to shake the animal, because both you and he know the whole damn world is basically its urinal, so just go for the love of all things holy!

And speaking of traveling, tall people bid thee farewell to leg room. Yes, some dogs are smaller and therefore easier to stow away, but small or large, it’s less space for your feet or the carry-on you used to be able to place beneath the seat in front of you.

3. It’s time-consuming!

On any given day you can decide to go outside, or not. You can decide you’re going to take a walk, or not. Your dog, however, requires both, and even now, living on a large fenced-in lot, I understand despite my ability to open the back door and cut the dogs loose, proper exercise is necessary to keeping a dog engaged and out of trouble.

4. It’s unwelcomed attention!

The United States has made decent strides in implementing equality laws. Sadly, we’re still a tad bit behind in changing minds. Did you read about the ACB’s lawsuit in DC? So, yes, that means the cab driver may or may not pick you up. You may or may not be welcomed into a restaurant, and while you may file complaints, is that really the way to make a name for yourself as a person with a disability in the 21st century?

Let’s not even talk about attention to appearance. No matter how hard you work at it, you will have dog hair on your clothing. That’s just part of the bargain, and while you might get a pass for casual dress, wearing dog hair on a suit deals a hefty blow to your attempts to be taken seriously.

And, we can’t talk about attention without acknowledging the obvious. From here on out, it’s all about the dog, ’bout the dog, ’bout the dog, no kidding! When I had Gator I often wondered if my friends and acquaintances even remembered my name! Even now, several years after reconnecting with old acquaintances, the leading question is not about my health, my job, my general well-being, but rather: Where is that handsome shepherd of yours?

5. It can be dirty work!

When I was training with Gator, everyone made such a big deal about bonding with your dog this and bonding with your dog that. Say what you will, but there is no greater bonding experience than cleaning after your animal, be they pet or guide.

The first morning we were expected to begin cleaning up after our dogs, one of my new friends nearly gagged. I laughed. What a girl! Then one morning Gator had diarrhea. I stopped laughing…

The dog will inevitably vomit. If you’re good, you may even avoid stepping in it. One day my idiot dog went and got his paw stuck in some discarded fencing. It’s a good thing blood doesn’t phase me.

Damn! Any Words of Encouragement?

If you were contemplating a dog, came across this post and felt discouraged, you should not get a dog. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of responsibility. It’s constant care and attention and a commitment to keep up the dog’s level of training. No one will fault you for being mature enough to walk away.

If, however, you plowed through it and decided none of these deterrents really deterred you, by all means push forward.

I have never heard of anyone who returned their dog on account of not being able to afford it. That’s not to say you should not go into the commitment with your eyes wide open and take steps to prioritize their care. If the dog needs to be prematurely retired, and you choose to keep your dog, assuming your school lets you keep the dog, the small financial breaks you get at the vet cease to exist. Your school can usually provide a good safety net for active guide dogs, but medical emergencies can sometimes outpace school assistance.

Owning a guide dog can be inconvenient, but hell, being blind can be inconvenient. You may as well have a good excuse to bring your puppy to work. As for the airplane comfort? Well, there’s no lying about that one. If you’re tall, you’re screwed.

Yes, handling a guide dog can take up precious time you could have once spent doing something else. I don’t know. I mean, it seems like a fair trade considering the service they perform on your behalf, and the bonding thing really does smooth over some of those minor gripes.

Unwanted attention? Well, here again I point back to the blindness thing. You’re always going to attract it in some form or fashion. Society has not improved to such a degree that the role of service animals is fully embraced in all public spaces and across varying cultures. It’s really going to come down to whether or not you love dogs by nature and whether or not you feel the dog is worth it. Learn to make a lint brush part of your essential tools. People will generally understand you have a dog; therefore, the dog hair is a nuisance but at least a condonable shortcoming on appearance.

That leaves us with the least fun aspect of owning a guide dog, and well, there’s no covering up that one. It would be crappy of you to leave your dog’s mess behind. Neighbors will raise a stink. Strangers will give you dirty looks. Your fellow blind comrades will turn up their nose. Haha. The puns sounded so much funnier in my head than they do coming through your screen reader, I’m sure.

In all seriousness, there are definite pros and cons to committing to a guide dog. Do not get a dog because your family thinks it’s a good idea, you think it would be cool to have a fully trained pet, or need to rely on a dog to gain your independence. Whatever the guide dog school marketing might argue, the dog does not grant you independence; it will enhance it. Do get a dog if you can treat the dog as a living, breathing companion you can collaborate with to navigate the world.

So, why do I care? Because I’m toying with the idea of returning for my second dog. Someone said writing things out helps with the brainstorming, so why not turn my scribbles into a post you can mutually benefit from? And, speaking of blogging, I always thought it was a little lame when people kept a journal of their guide dog training experience. Kind of fru fru if you ask me, so if I go back to school, I’m totally blogging the experience like the lame-ass blind person that I am! And you will read it, because you are every bit as curious as I am to know, if I go, whether or not my dog will come with a redonkulous name like Bon Bon, Daisy, or Pebbles… Actually, come to think of it, Pebbles would be kind of cool.

Comments? Questions? I’ll answer what I can and leave it to the experts to field what I cannot. And if you think it would be worth featuring a SeroTalk Extra maybe not even so much on guide dogs, but on understanding animal behavior, let me know this as well.

Posted in Blog | 31 Comments

SeroTalk 225: Mirror Mirror

Download SeroTalk 225: Mirror Mirror or use the audio player below the show notes to tune in.

Joe, Katie, and Laine are back at it again. Steve is still very much a part of the family but is shifting over to anchor a different project at SPN.

Speaking of SPN, thank you to Audible for their continued sponsorship of the Network. Joe recommends you read They Thirst by Robert McCammon, which you could get for free via AudiblePodcast.com/SeroTalk

Recently in Tech News

Here were the recent tech stories that made headlines:

Google talks about offering its own cellular service

HBO Now” coming this spring for $15 per month, with Apple as launch partner

Apple Watch will have ‘thousands’ of apps

Apple’s medical research app raises hopes, questions

Smartphone dead? Fuel cells offer instant power anywhere

Android 5.1 arrives with HD calling and safeguards for stolen phones

Would You Pay $499 for Medium-Rare Steak That Cooks Itself?

A T Pulse

Lots of news in the assistive tech industry. Don’t forget to check out Joshua Loya’s coverage of CSUN 2015. Among other news:

MathPlayer 4 Public Beta is Released

Introducing AT Prime!

Breeze + coming soon this Spring

Bluetooth beacons are helping the blind navigate London’s Tube

San Fransisco International Airport Demonstrates indoor navigation system for Visually impaired passengers

Finger-mounted reading device for the blind

What’s Next looks at drawing equipment for the blind

Human Interest

And then there’s the human interest pieces that usually make for colorful commentary.

Straight To Audiobook: Authors Write Original Works Meant To Be Heard

Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, and Adam Scott to star in My Blind Brother Shortly after this episode released, Laine published a blog post going into more detail on the subject, which you can read here.

Former Prison May Become Home For Adults With Special Needs

The afternoon I spent as an adult with special needs

A Scientist Accidentally Developed Sunglasses That Could Correct Color Blindness

Science proves men are more narcissistic than women

From the Mailbag

In addition to iReports played in the show, here are some e-mails we received.

From Christopher:

*”I wanted to thank Laine for encouraging me to take a second look at Google apps accessibility. I have, using the resources you all provided finally ditched Outlook for email and am using the Gmail standard interface full time, and enjoying it very much. I’m taking more tentative steps into Google’s office-like products, but expect to at least achieve competence with them over the next couple of months as another tool in my toolbox. I appreciate the pointers and the impetus to explore this again.

Finally, I am enjoying the renaissance of Serotalk. Along with the Blind Bargains content hosted by former Serotalk members, I am enjoying the greater variety of perspectives on AT and related issues that all of you are providing. I’m looking forward to what you all will think of next.”

Christopher

And from Jenine:

*”Thanks for the discussion about cord cutting. I’m curious as to which internet and phone providers you all chose.

I need to have a land line for private use though I have considered just having the cell. My husband is wanting to get rid of his land line and just go with his cell.

Anyway, I’m looking into the Apple TV and am adding up costs. right now our cable bill keeps creeping up. It’s at $170 a month which is outrageous for the amount of TV we watch. I’m not convinced that the internet service or land line phone service is that great either.

Keep up the great work!”

Jenine

Jenine also asked about alternatives to the Samsung Haven. Do you guys have any suggestions? Please post them in the Comments here.

Get in Touch!

Want to connect with our hosts? Tweet us! Katie @holnan, Laine @laine_amoureux, and Joe @ScribblingJoe.

For comments, questions and criticisms of the show, please e-mail them to resources (at) serotalk (dot) com, Tweet them @SeroTalk, or use your iBlink Radio app to send us an iReport!

Posted in Podcasts, SeroTalk | 1 Comment

Leadership and Professionalism: Key Qualities

What makes someone a leader or a professional? Is it their ability to aspire and motivate subordinates? Is it a specific set of skills or knowledge? Perhaps, or perhaps it is far more. I think ultimately the definitions are subjective and open for interpretation, to a degree.

The following definitions were retrieved from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary leadership, as a noun means 1: the office or position of a leader 2: capacity to lead 3: the act or an instance of leading 4: leaders Leading, an adjective 1: coming or ranking first : foremost 2: exercising leadership 3: providing direction or guidance 4: given most prominent display Professionalism, A noun: the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well 1: the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person(see 1professional) 2: the following of a profession (as athletics) for gain or livelihood.

Qualities/Characteristics According to Forbes Magazine the top 10 qualities, of a leader, are: Honesty Ability to delegate Communication Sense of humor Confidence Commitment Positive attitude Creativity Intuition Ability to inspire The Holden Leadership Center includes the following as must have characteristics of good leaders Ability to be proactive rather than reactive Flexibility/adaptability Respectfulness Open-mindedness Resourcefulness Ability to recognize achievement Being well informed/educated Being interested and engaged in feedback and making change Being well organized Consistency Discussion

I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds in the assistive technology industry. They have not only taught me a lot about technology, access technology/accessibility, and other specific hard skills; they have also taught me some valuable soft skills, like how to be an effective teacher and to relate to consumers in a meaningful yet professional way. Through it all they have demonstrated leadership and professionalism that I aspire to. Those who have modeled leadership and professionalism throughout my life, education and career have lead by providing direction/guidance and demonstrating professionalism. Each of my mentors have been honest, creative, committed, and had a sense of humor, though some may have been a little dry. In short, they have been teachers.

Professionalism has been demonstrated to me in a variety of ways. First, these people were honest and treated others with respect and dignity. Second, these professionals utilized constructive criticism and provided direction/guidance to others who might be struggling or disagree with them on a topic. The third way that professionalism has been demonstrated by my mentors is through open, direct, conversation and information sharing.

An action that one perceives as honest or respectful may be perceived differently by others. Honesty and respect are key components in defining both leadership and professionalism. If the perception of honesty or respect is perceived as dishonest or disrespectful conflict may arise, and the professionalism or capacity for leadership may be questioned. It is such perceptions that leave the definitions of professionalism and leadership open for interpretation.

So, how do you define leadership, or professionalism?

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Don’t Let An Invoice Be The Last Thing Your Customer Sees From You!

Recently, I decided to spring for an indoor spinner bike. You know, one of those exercise bikes you’d find in a workout club?

I’ve wanted one for years. When I could see, I loved to ride bike. An afternoon ride out to my parent’s place and back twenty-miles away was not all that out of the ordinary.

The Walkman radio piping tunes in, riding along the river on a fall evening, taking in the aroma of the country, checking out the wildlife, getting chased by Cujo–for those old enough to remember that movie.

It was great exercise. I loved it. So, I wanted to get back into biking indoors to get the cardio exercise rolling again, and see if I can get the old muffin top back down to flat-belly.

Here’s the point.

I researched all these spinner bikes and thought I had one picked out until I ran across this outfit in California.

They had some YouTube spots that were, and are, just awesome. Jeff, unfortunately no longer with us, did an excellent job of making you feel his place was the place to buy a bike, and really it is. I totally recommend Studio-Cycles.com. Tell them I sent you… What the heck.

Anyway, this place is top notch, they really know there stuff, they saved me from making a wrong decision on a bike, they are awesome in every area accept for one.

The last communication I had with them was something like:

“Your bike is shipping, attached is a copy of your invoice, and here is our purchase policy below.”

Not only that, the reply, obviously an auto-responder e-mail, was filled with those character artifacts one gets by pasting in a Word document into an e-mail management system.

You know, “Thank you for ™ú purchasing ™ú your ™ú new bike ™ú from us!”

Oh boy, aren’t those characters so much fun with a screen reader, not.

Here’s the thing though, even though I really like this company, and I would recommend them, I was really disappointed how they left the seller-purchaser relationship.

As a marketer, I absolutely know they are missing an opportunity with every sale to sell more, and as a purchaser I felt like someone dropped the conversation in mid-sentence.

What should they have done?

As a purchaser I would have really appreciated an e-mail stating something like:

“Congratulations on making the right choice for your new bike! We’re excited for you to get riding, and we want you to know we’re here for you anytime to ensure you get the most from your new purchase.

And to prove it, here is a 7-Point check on how to properly set up your new bike so you don’t’ injure yourself by exercising with an improperly adjusted ride.”

That is the sort of thing they should have done. Education, a company can never go wrong educating their customer after the sale. Even if I was an experienced rider, I would have appreciated the effort.

As a marketer in that same e-mail, I would have taken opportunity to offer some workout videos one can follow along with. People go to clubs or take their bikes to live workout classes where an instructor instructs to gear up, bump down, or double time the cadence; but one can follow an instructor at home too with a video workout.

Why would they not take that opportunity to add to their annual sales by helping a customer use the product they bought? I don’t have a clue.

It wouldn’t end there. I’d offer a daily tip for the first week, and maybe one a week for the next three-weeks.

Each time I’d be helping them with some aspect of their health plus offering products like protective mat, bike maintenance and polish kits, digital counsels to be attached, SPD bike cleats or shoes, proper biking attire…

The list could go on.

As a customer, I would appreciate the tips and education, and I’d be willing to look at their offers too. Why? Because I trust them and I have confidence in them.

As a marketer, even after all that, I’d still send my customers some sort of update or other reason to contact them at least once a month, because if they bought a bike from me, they likely know others who ride, and there is no better sales tool than word of mouth from a trusted source, a friend.

And that is the main point with this follow up system. You, or a friend of yours, are more likely to buy from someone who you’ve already laid out cash to once before, than someone totally new.

As an entrepreneur? Do not let that opportunity pass you up. Don’t’ let the invoice be the last thing your customers see or hear from you.

Once you’ve got a customer’s trust, respect it, but use it as well. A customer is 80% more likely to purchase from you again if they are happy with the initial purchase. Don’t leave them feeling as though they’ve been sold something, make them feel they’ve purchased more than the product, they purchased your experience and support which goes beyond the credit card transaction.

Do this in your business, and you’ll build a solid customer base and strong word-of-mouth advertising.

Until next time…

Live like you’ll never get hurt, dream like nobody is watching, and above all… try-try-try until you succeed!

Posted in Blog, Entrepreneurship | 2 Comments

Real World Fitness 3: Al Kavadlo – Top Body Weight Guru

Listen to Real World Fitness 3: Al Kavadlo – Top Body Weight Guru

In this episode of The Real World Fitness Podcast Bill addresses a listeners question regarding choosing the right gym. He also offers a couple simple nutrition tips to help lose body fat.

Bill’s special guest this week is Al Kavadlo, who is one of the busiest men in the fitness industry. Personal trainer, blogger, author of five best selling fitness books and master instructor for Dragon Door’s Progressive Calasthenics certification program!

Some of the interview highlights include:

  • Brotherly roll reversal
  • Growing up in brooklin
  • A musical family
  • The pushup battle
  • Adding intensity to basic bodyweight exercises
  • The origen of the PCC
  • The “century test”
  • “if your grandma wouldn’t know what it is, don’t eat it!”
  • Self publishing his first book
  • The Dragondoor Kavadlo marriage
  • Stretching to enhance mobility and strength
  • What’s in the future
  • Stop being negative its all good

Contact Bill!

To submit questions to Bill Kociaba, drop him a note at kociabafitness@gmail.com. You can also visit his site at kociaba-fitness.com. Or, feel free to leave your comment below. You may also use your iBlink Radio app to leave an iReport.

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Serotalk Extra: Csun 2015 Part 5

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In this special Joshua Loya speaks with a well known representative from APh, as well as representatives from Canon, ambutech, as well as Baum. He also was given the opportunity to speak with a representative from Click and Go, and Eric Damery of Freedom Scientific, as well as some other fun surprises along the way. Many thanks to Joshua Loya for giving us such great and diverse coverage. Thanks also goes out to those interviewed for their time and information.

You can always find the latest on this show and others on the SeroTalk Podcast Network

using iBlink Radio for your iOS device, the Kindle Fire, the Mac or your Android device. You can even leave us an iReport right from the iBlink app.

Thank you for listening!

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Serotalk Extra: Csun 2015 Special Part 4

Listen to SeroTalk Extra: CSUN 2015, Part 4

In this special Joshua Loya speaks with independence Science. He also speaks with a representative from Optelec, Humanware, Tobiidynavox and Aira as well as some other surprises.

You can always find the latest on this show and others on the SeroTalk Podcast Network

using iBlink Radio for your iOS device, the Kindle Fire, the Mac or your Android device. You can even leave us an iReport right from the iBlink app.

Thank you for listening!

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Help friends and family with PC woes. It’s easy and cheap too!

Have you ever needed an easy way to remotely get someone out of a pickle with their PC?

Do you wish it was possible to remotely access your friend’s PC regardless of their choice of screen reader? Or even, gasp, remotely help a sighted friend or family member?

Have you found yourself wishing the solution could be as intuitive as it is affordable?

Since 2007, Remote Incident Manager (RIM) has been a reliable solution for assistive technology trainers and tech support providers seeking to provide assistance computer to computer, and in its latest iteration, remote assistance is easier and more affordable than ever for everyone from the tech know-it-all to the green novice.

We’re rolling out RIM day passes, and here’s how we roll.

For the person offering help:

  1. Buy a day pass from us. No sense in shelling out hundreds of dollars if you only need remote access every now and then, right?

  2. Download and run a small program on your PC to start the remote session.

  3. The program will give you a 9 digit code you will share with that PC user in need.

For the person receiving help:

  1. Head over to SeroHelp.com, then download and run a small program to set up the remote connection.

  2. When prompted, enter the 9 digit code you got from your techno-savior. Press Enter and presto! You’re connected.

If the computer has to be rebooted, don’t worry; the connection will come back on its own. So no matter how many of those annoying reboots are required while whipping that stubborn PC into submission, you’ll both remain connected through it all. Doesn’t that sound romantic?

RIM is compatible with all major Windows screen readers, on both computers. If you’re helping someone who isn’t running a screen reader, then our very own System Access will run in a special mode where you hear the speech but the other person doesn’t. Yes! This means that it’s now practical for you, a blind computer professional, to remotely help your sighted friends, family, and clients. Aren’t you amazing?

While we know you’re a tech genius, you’ll find helpful instructions all along the way. It’s so easy it doesn’t need any documentation. We do all the magic for you. And besides, why would we want you tearing apart our documentation and telling us how you would have written it differently?

So, the big question is, of course, how much will this all cost? How about five bucks to get someone out of deep doo-doo? But don’t procrastinate on helping your friend or relative with that pesky PC problem, because after 30 days, the price will go up to $14.95. Which still isn’t much money if you’re up the creek without a paddle.

We’re also sharing the love with our loyal RIM subscribers by slashing our subscription prices in half. Now for just $49.95 a month or $499 a year, you can help your friends, family, and customers with those vexing PC problems at any time, or even train someone else to become a tech god, just like you, if that were possible. And if you’re not yet a RIM subscriber, there’s no better time to get started, because now you don’t even have to pay that annoying $199 setup fee anymore. So now you’ll have money for therapy when you just can’t figure out why Aunt Tillie is having so much trouble watching Facebook videos of her grandkids on her 5-year-old PC. Or just buy her a tablet and still have some money left for yourself.

So come on, take a walk on the wild side! If you’re ready to take on the challenge of becoming a one-person PC tech support department, sign up now!

Posted in Announcements, Blog | Comments Off on Help friends and family with PC woes. It’s easy and cheap too!

Are You the Boiling Frog in the Kettle?

Before I make use of the below metaphor, I want to emphatically state frogs are great…

I like them…

And I mean no harm to them!

In fact, in my little example, I even made a way for this little guy to be just fine.

That said, I’m sure you’ve heard the way to boil a frog without him knowing it is to put him in a kettle of cold water and then turn on the heat to gradually bring water to a boil, rather than drop him in a hot kettle, otherwise he’ll jump right out.

This is a metaphor used to describe how gradual changes eventually become detrimental without us being aware it’s happening.

It’s a silent killer of projects or even business.

Do you know as entrepreneurs, even though we are in control of our own destiny, our own business, that same thing can still happen to us?

Not only that, we could truthfully claim we were busy getting things done, and we still got boiled.

Let me explain it this way and see if we can save a frog today.

Let’s pretend we put a little frog in a kettle of water, we’ll call him Mr. Greenskin. We put the kettle over the burner, but instead of us turning up the heat, we’re going to let Mr. Greenskin decide whether he gets boiled or whether he can swim in his indoor pool and enjoy himself.

The basic rule is this; if Mr. Greenskin keeps the water clean of leaves and pieces of hay, the burners will not come on.

But, if he lets leaves and pieces of hay float around, the burners will come on, and its frog legs for dinner, right?

So, in goes Mr. Greenskin. We place the kettle on the burner which is off, and there’s the little guy doing the frog stroke all around his little pool there.

So far so good, no leaves or sticks of hay, so Mr. Greenskin is cooling himself nicely.

Let’s say we toss a couple flies in the water.

Oh, look at that, Mr. Greenskin likes that. Now he’s got a pool-side buffet.

Let’s toss in a handful of more things. We’ve got a couple dozen leaves of various sorts, a couple sticks of hay, maybe fifteen flies, ten red ants, and we’ll toss in a mosquito or two for good measure. All the things our little green friend needs to clean up, but only certain things to keep from turning on the burner and boiling the water.

Our little green friend is having a great time at work. He’s downed a few flies and an ant, and is thinking of one of those mosquitos for dessert.

He starts to notice the water is getting a bit warm, so downs the last few insects, and he’s stuffed. He can’t even move anymore he worked so hard cleaning up the water.

Floating there, he notices bubbles in the water and he’s breaking a sweat.

Mr. Greenskin’s in deep trouble.

He was busy cleaning up the water the whole time he was in there, so what’s the problem?

The problem was he only did the fun stuff. He didn’t give a rip about no floating leaves or pieces of hay which were the more important things to get done. It was the insects he was interested in cleaning up, because they were fun tasks to do, tasty too I might add.

Let’s pause our little story here.

Is that something you find yourself doing in your business or even at home?

Do you make this big list of things to do and start picking away at the easy or fun stuff to do?

Maybe you had to do a little research on a project or idea. You love research, not to mention the YouTube rabbit trails, so you grabbed a bowl of snacks and camped out at your desk.

Could be you had to create a spreadsheet. Since you love doing spreadsheets, you bought some special coffee and brewed some up for your little project.

Perhaps you needed to clean up the office a bit before you tackled the rest of the list of items, so you put on a new CD you downloaded and shoved a headset on while cleaning.

Maybe for you doing research, creating spreadsheets, and cleaning your office are like our little green friend’s yummy fun to eat insects.

Maybe you skipped the calls you needed to make, bills you needed to pay, and appointment you needed to make with an unhappy client to try saving his patronage.

And here’s a back pocket kicker…

When you get all the easy stuff done and you think you are finally ready to dig into the harder stuff, the harder stuff will have gotten even harder to think of doing, and there will be a fresh batch of easy fun stuff tempting your attention. Before you know it though, you’ll be breaking into a sweat noticing there’s steam and bubbles in the water.

Look, as business owners, there is always something for us to do. Some of it more pleasurable to do than others, and some no fun at all. Some might take us well out of our comfort zone.

The point is to keep from boiling in your own water, prioritize the list and don’t cop out by going for the easy-peasy stuff.

You don’t want to look back and see you had been busy the whole time taking care of business items, but missed the things that kept everything in perspective and operational.

I’m all for making tough things fun to do, and even doing some of the more enjoyable parts of business after a rough day, but that doesn’t take away the fact the more challenging stuff needs to be done.

Often times, these are the backbones of your business and a bit of a personal challenge. Handle them and not only will your business do better, but you’ll gain a boatload of confidence having plowed through those items.

Next time you’re faced with challenges? They’ll seem a little more like the easy-peasy stuff and less of a challenge!

Happily Mr. Greenskin tossed out all those bits of leaves and hay at the last minute and he’s back to doing his little frog stroke around the pool.

Until next time…

Live like you’ll never get hurt, dream like nobody is watching, and above all… try-try-try until you succeed!

Posted in Blog, Entrepreneurship | Comments Off on Are You the Boiling Frog in the Kettle?

Serotalk Extra: CSUN 2015 Part 3

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In this special Joshua Loya speaks with some Sensotec representatives about Knfb Reader. He also chats with Harpo American Thermoform Corporation and Hims as well as a few other nuggets.

You can always find the latest on this show and others on the SeroTalk Podcast Network

using iBlink Radio for your iOS device, the Kindle Fire, the Mac or your Android device. You can even leave us an iReport right from the iBlink app.

Thanks for listening!

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Serotalk Extra: CSUN 2015, Part 2

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In this special, Joshua Loya speaks to Steve baum from Kurzweil Educational systems He also has a chat with Mark Solomon of AiSquared, and a representative from AccessAMed along with some other surprises.

You can always find the latest on this show and others on the SeroTalk Podcast Network

using iBlink Radio for your iOS device, the Kindle Fire, the Mac or your Android device. You can even leave us an iReport right from the iBlink app.

Thanks for listening!

Posted in CSUN 2015, Interviews, SeroTalk, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Serotalk Extra: CSUN 2015, Part 2

SeroTalk Extra: CSUN 2015, Part 1

Listen to SeroTalk Extra: CSUN 2015, Part 1

In this special Joshua Loya speaks to Bill Mccan of Dancing Dots as well asBrad Davis of Freedom Scientific and Glen Dobs of Logan Tech.

You can always find the latest on this show and others on the SeroTalk Podcast Network

using iBlink Radio for your iOS device, the Kindle Fire, the Mac or your Android device. You can even leave us an iReport right from the iBlink app.

Thanks for listening!

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Real World Fitness 2: Michael Elliott – Muscles and Brains

Listen to Real World Fitness 2: Michael Elliott – Muscles and Brains

Michael Elliott began his life as a normal child with 20/20 vision and dreams of becoming a professional basketball player. As an adult he earned a masters degree in clinical social work and climbed the ladder of professional success to become the bureau chief for the Board of Education’s Division of Blind Services. He is a multi world record holding powerlifting champion and recently started his own IT business, soarconsultants.com,) all while being totally blind!

Interview highlights include:

  • Always a great athlete
  • How he got started in weight training
  • From Goalball to powerlifting
  • No adaptions needed
  • His DBS career
  • S.O.A.R consultants
  • Being a part of the USABA
  • Athletics support social interaction

Contact Bill!

To submit questions to Bill Kociaba, drop him a note at kociabafitness@gmail.com. You can also visit his site at kociaba-fitness.com. Or, feel free to leave your comment below. You may also use your iBlink Radio app to leave an iReport.

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Opinion: why does Netflix exclude the blind?

When I was a little kid, I had an excessive vocabulary. I knew what the word ‘superficial’ meant, and also even bigger words, like ‘garrulous’. But even with these words and countless others in my head, there was one that wasn’t – and that word was Accessibility.

Back when I was seven, many things were accessible, and if they weren’t, my grandmother would help make them so.

Not being able to see, my primary way of learning was through reading, touching objects, and listening to explanations. Of course, all my other remaining senses came into play, but hearing and touch were, and are, my primary link to the world not constructed by books.

Even though I had never heard the word Accessibility, I was an early adopter of its concept.

One day, my grandmother took me to a museum that was new in town. It was different from the ones we frequented, and I was very eager to feel exotic artefacts under my fingertips, and experience paintings through verbal descriptions given to me via headset. I eagerly speed-walked with my grandmother into the museum, my stomach full with butterflies over the soon-to-be.

When the tour started, I could sense the body heat of a dozen people beside me. I waited for my grandmother to take me to the artefact so I could explore it. She didn’t. I began to tune into the many exclamations beside me describing how wonderful the artefact was. Why was it so wonderful? I wanted to know too! I wanted to feel it and see what people were talking about. I soon began to cry, and people’s feet shuffled as they turned and stared at me. With steely resolve, my grandmother picked me up and pushed her way to the front of the crowd with my white cane dangling in my grip. When she reached the front, she ducked under the rope and placed my hand on the elegant statue carved with dynamic symbols. People started complaining that a sign said ‘Don’t Touch’. Soon, a stern sounding man cleared his throat next to me.

Miss? I’m the manager here.”

I felt the air whoosh as my grandmother whipped around. With slicing syllables, she told the manager:

“If you tell my blind grandson to take his hands off this statue, I will take every ‘Don’t Touch’ sign down and burn them all. I will then tell the police what I did and sue you for lack of accessibility.”

nineteen years have passed since then, and I have heard and witnessed countless instances in which companies and people just don’t exert any will to include the blind and the visually impaired whatsoever, unless forced by law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was a huge breakthrough for our inclusion, but it didn’t merge us with the sighted world. People didn’t want to include us, so often we had to go to special groups, events, and even jobs for the blind. We also had to fight for education as well. Entertainment was, and still is an issue accompanying all the other accessibility barriers.

It took a law in 2010 to make Audio Description available on television. Before the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, we couldn’t watch movies, TV shows, or any visual media with audio description as frequently as today. Audio Description is as important to us as closed captioning is for the Deaf. It opens up a whole new mode of entertainment that we’ve never been able to experience before.

However, there are still a lot of companies that don’t want to offer it, and are not forced to by law. Many of these companies reside in the internet realm, a place the law hasn’t even scratched yet. Audio Description is available on TV, and more DVDs, and even more movie theatres. The law applies to the top 25 TV networks now but will increase.

But even with all this inclusion, no Video on Demand service, such as Netflix and Hulu, has Audio Description.

I’ve wondered why Netflix won’t provide Audio Description, or even accessible interfaces so that our adaptive software can interact with their website and web player fully. I’ve examined this through all different angles, even finding out for myself the cost of describers, and other production costs. It’s not all about cost however. The BBC has shown that cost doesn’t matter when it comes to Accessibility, offering an Audio Description On Demand service through the BBC iPlayer. Many other companies and organisations also show that having audio description on the web is not hard at all. All of these can be found on our audio description on demand page.

It wouldn’t be hard at all to include Audio Description on Netflix. Two methods could be done to achieve this. Closed Audio Description, where the viewers would need to select a language track, requiring less bandwidth and less server space on Netflix’s part. There would definitely be downsides to this as well, such as that Audio Description wouldn’t be able to be available on every Netflix compatible device, such as the Nintendo Wii, as the Wii even has a hard time with closed captions.

Another way is to have a separate blind version of the same movie or TV show, like iTunes has it. But this will require that the film or TV show be uploaded twice. From a technical point of view, this would be the easier thing to do, but who knows, the servers might buckle.

For years, the blind community has asked and even begged Netflix to make their site and service accessible, with accessible web design and Audio Description, but Netflix have said “No” repeatedly, and eventually the blindness advocacy groups just give up.

I refuse to give up though. Which is why I started the Accessible Netflix Project.

Our aim for the project:

Netflix is a popular internet streaming and rental service that streams TV shows as well as movies. It also allows subscribers to rent DVDs. The Netflix platform isn’t accessible and that’s what this project aims to change. With the help of the community we will make Netflix a truly accessible place for everyone to enjoy.

The Purpose (Mission)

  1. To provide accessible software and interface to Netflix users

Implement and ensure future accessibility practices and consideration

  1. Ensure that relatively all types of disability are taken into careful consideration at all times

These are the targets we want to meet

  1. Provide a screen reader friendly experience to all Netflix functions on the PC and mobile devices with all screen readers

Provide an easily navigable interface for the mobility impaired using adaptive technology.

  1. Provide easy access to audio described content for the blind and the visually impaired on streaming services as well as DVD selection currently and in the future.

Regardless if it’s inconvenient or costly, Netflix should provide Accessibility solutions. Many blind people pay for a service they can barely use, whether they are a novice or advanced Screen Reader user.

It has been a long 2 years since I began the project. So far, they have told us “No”, directly, nine times and counting.

Determined to have the freedom to enjoy Audio Description on the Internet, a place that has become a utility for my work and entertainment needs, I decided to ask them why they said no. The first time, they said that:

We don’t have control over the content that makes the Audio Description, so we’re not the people who you should be contacting.”

So, I started contacting studios for the next three months, often going through back door connections to get to producers, and explaining the situation. Seth MacFarlane, the producer of Family Guy, a show that has Audio Description on TV, was one of these connections. I wanted to make it as cheap as possible for Netflix, so I asked these producers if they would simply give the Audio Descriptions to Netflix at no charge. Many, including Seth, agreed to this.

I replied to Netflix with the fantastic news, and this was their response:

Hi Robert,

Thank you for being a Netflix fan and for being so passionate about making Netflix more accessible. At this point we have no immediate plans to add Audio Descriptions to our service. We continuously evaluate this and we will let you know if there’s a change, but don’t expect it to come in the near future.

I don’t understand why they’d say no. Even after contacting 56 different people in the company, they all said the same – don’t expect it anytime soon, even with the studio support.

It deeply disappoints and frustrates me that access to a service that’s so accessible to my wallet is impossible for me to use independently, simply because I require adaptive technology. I can’t even manage the site independently, no matter how many advanced keystrokes I learn or new Screen Reader tricks. Blind and visually impaired people shouldn’t be banished to outside sources to get described content. We are millions and millions strong, and our revenue would help grow Netflix. And, small aside, they’d surely be given excellent publicity for being the first mainstream company to do this.

The accessible Netflix project has grown and, with it, we have dedicated team members who will ensure equal access to entertainment simply because it should have been done a very long time ago. There isn’t an excuse anymore as to why this can’t happen. My team and I are here for entertainment equality and we will continue to be for years ahead.

The ADA was meant to include and not divide. Blind people should have reasons to spend their income. We should be able to laugh with glee with our family, enjoying an Audio-Described comedy. We should be able to proudly call ourselves a Netflix customer. My team and I will do whatever we can to ensure everybody gets past the unnecessary velvet rope and touch an accessible Video on Demand service that is accessible to everybody else. I don’t understand why Netflix doesn’t want to give us that inclusion, and I possibly never will, but I do understand one thing for certain – it should happen. It will happen, with our leadership.

Posted in Assistive Technology, Blindness and Low Vision, Blog, User Submissions | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

SeroTalk 224: Red World Z

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The new team is back for its round 2 of the SeroTalk Podcast!

This episode was brought to you by the good folks over at Audible. Want to get your free audiobook download? Laine recommends The Escape by David Baldacci. Download it or your own choice of audiobook at AudiblePodcast.com/SeroTalk.

PC Talk

We discuss Lenovo’s Superfish security snafu. It’s hard to tell whose fault it is what with all the finger pointing. For some helpful tips on cleaning your new laptop, and not just Lenovo, check out this helpful article from Wall Street Journal.

Thankfully, not all is gloom and doom in PC land. Microsoft is making Windows 10 free to Windows 7, 8.1, and Windows Mobile 8.1 users. Are you on the fence about upgrading to Windows 10 when it finally releases? You might be enticed with the New TTS voices. Check out more improvements to Cortana at the Windows Weekly podcast.

Also check out Cool Blind Tech for more on breaking in Windows from an accessibility perspective.

Even if you choose not to enjoy the new OS in its native environment, you may find certain popular Microsoft apps in the Samsung S6 as part of a joint effort, of sorts. Not so much into Android? Okay, here’s info on the preview for your Windows phone.

A Bite of Apple

In Apple news, the Cupertino giant is fighting iOS bugs with their first-ever iOS Public Betas. Jonathan Mosen says this is great start, but only part of the solution.

You know what does make for a wonderful solution, on the iPad? Microsoft Word! Check out this article on Accessibility in Word for iPad.

And if you want to read a little more about other Apple app goodness, tricks and tips, check out this helpful website.

The Internet Debate of Things

Even though there has been an FCC ruling on the subject of net neutrality since we recorded this episode, you can read about that ruling here, it’s unlikely the matter has been entirely settled. Read Robert Kingett’s take on how the issue affects persons with disabilities.

How long have you told yourself you are finally going to cut your cable and save yourself a lot of money? This diary Of A cord cutter just might lay out some compelling reasons why it might be time to give it serious consideration. Don’t forget to read parts 1 and 2 in what is so far a 3-part series.

Accessibility Talk

We like doing what we can to save you money. Hence, it was perfect timing for Jeff Young to offer this piece on keeping pace with modern adaptive technology on a very low budget.

Of course, one thing that will not cost you any money unless you donate, and you should, is the latest release candidate of NVDA 15.1.

So, think of this for a moment: Will tech put an end to disability? Some in the disability community disagree with leaps in that kind of human engineering. Others wish they could obtain it but find the process too bureaucratic and/or expensive. In the case of one mother, she defied the status quo and created a Groundbreaking Tool for People With Visual Impairments.

Speaking of low vision, our very own Laine Amoureux was featured in a Women’s Health article discussing what it’s like living With low vision.

CSUN 15 will be in full swing by the time you probably read this. Sendero will be in attendance with special deals for attendees.

Human Interest

Did you hear about the new study that says it’s okay to skip the gym and go straight to the pub? This item quickly imploded at recording time, but rather than edit, we offer it in most of its raw goodness.

On a more serious note, what would you do if you knew you only had a few months to live? This gentleman says it’s “my own life and gives us lots to put into perspective.

On the other hand, Mars One, a dutch company, says We’re all going to die, but it’s important what you do before you die.

Mailbag

The mailbag comes bearing feedback from Episode 223! In addition to an iReport from Ben and an audio response from Hartgen Consultancy in response to our coverage of J-Say, the mailbag brings this:

From Twitter, this comes to us via Adrian, who tweets: I was just listening to the newest @serotalk podcast.I really enjoyed the newest epasode of it.

kaveinthran tweets: @SeroTalk new voices,new shape and new host, makes serotalk, appealing

Eden Kizer tweets: @SeroTalk Good job, but as for Be My Eyes, some people don’t have a lot of family or friends they can just facetime.

Finally, Rachel Keyte tweets: I decided to have a bit of a listen to the Serotalk podcast and even though the prev team sounded great, I like this new sound a lot. :)

Tony and Tina Sohl, via SAMNet, write:

Hi we would like to express our appreciation for the hard work the staff has been doing in this time of transitioning. First, the content team has worked very hard in updating described movies and TV shows. In the past several weeks, we have noticed a lot of material has been added such as TV shows and movies. Second, the SPN (Serotek Pod cast Network.) We like the new shows including Triple Click home and the most recent pod cast. Third, the Customer Portal is very easy to work with. In Conclusion, everyone at Serotek is doing a wonderful job and keep up the good work!

Also via SAMNet, Scott V writes:

podcast 223 I thought it was wonderful. The content was good, and also the audio quality was fabulous. Not to loud, just right. Thank you. Scott

Get in Touch!

Want to connect with our new hosts? Tweet us! Katie @holnan, Laine @laine_amoureux, Steve @steveofmaine, and Joe @ScribblingJoe.

For comments, questions and criticisms of the show, please e-mail them to resources (at) SeroTalk (dot) com, tweet them @SeroTalk, or use your iBlink Radio app to send us an iReport!

Posted in Podcasts, SeroTalk | Comments Off on SeroTalk 224: Red World Z

One Essential Belief of the Entrepreneur

There is an absolute essential principle every entrepreneur must adopt. If they don’t, they’ll fail.

I’ll share that little nugget with you, plus give you a link to something worth listening to which describes the life of an entrepreneur quite well.

First, let me invest in a few sentences to set the scene.

Its 2005 and I’m in Nashville for a week, sitting in a room full of serious songwriters at a writer’s camp which was put on by the top songwriting organization in the country.

At the front of the room are hit writers whose tunes were on every station program directors playlist across the country at one time or another. And … There I was, a corn-fed, do-it-yourself musician from the Midwest expecting these folks to take time to show me how to write songs.

Granted, I was in a room full of peers who were looking for the same information, and the instructors were getting paid handsomely to teach, but that’s not how I felt sitting there. It was pretty intimidating. I wondered if my music and I even belonged there.

Opening the week’s event, one instructor walked up to the front of the room, put his foot up on a chair, leaned on his forearm resting across his perched knee, looked at all the people sitting there anticipating his words, and said:

“There’s one thing you need to know about your music. There will be times when you are the only one who will believe in it. Publishers, industry pros, … No one else will get it. You will be left alone with your music, but, if you don’t believe in it? No one else ever will, and it won’t go anywhere!”

What he said really stood out to me. First of all, it was addressing the doubt I was feeling sitting in the front row. Secondly, I realized that principle is huge for any entrepreneurial endeavor we chase.

We often hear the romantic side of working for yourself. And it is true; there is that side of it. I have the good fortune of working with my sweetie each and every work day. We don’t have to ask permission from anyone to have an extra cup of coffee in the morning, to take an extra-long lunch, to run personal errands as long as we’re out and about, or to say, “You know what? Let’s skip work today and go play a bit.”

Ever been in a job where you only get so many days off, sick or not, and if you surpass it, you’re fired? I don’t worry about it. As I type this I was scheduled to be a work, but my wife and I are a bit sick, so we stayed home. No calling anyone, no pretending to sound sicker than you are on the phone so the boss doesn’t raise a judgmental eyebrow.

Those decisions don’t require much belief though do they? They are rewards.

There is however, another side to the time card. When it comes to problems at work and there seems to be no solution, and I’m in a real pinch, there ain’t a boss to hang the problem onto while I go home for the night either. There are times when it’s literally midnight and creative solutions need to be made, and there is no one there to say it will work or it won’t. It’s my call, and I had better believe in it.

There are times when you must believe what you are doing is right, watch for evidence of that, and where things need to be adjusted, adjust them and move on.

In other words, one has to have the confidence and strength to get through the tough times, or just like that songwriter said, if you don’t believe in it, it all stops right there.

Plus, like anyone, I make wrong decisions. Do you think that has an effect on the next time I’m forced to make a call on something? It can if I let it, but it’s a good idea to adopt the notion that tomorrow starts a new day, the slate is clean, and any mistakes we’ve made is strictly for purposes of learning, not creating debilitating fear in the decision at hand. The past does not have to equal the future.

So, if you are contemplating entrepreneurship or just now entering it and are having some doubts, first know that we all experience frustration and overwhelm. There are times I wonder why I just don’t go get a job and work for someone else so I can come home at 5:00 p.m. and leave the day’s worries behind me. There are times of vehicle breakdowns, overbooking my time, unforeseen snags cropping up, and we better not leave out technical problems like a computer crashing.

But, I can look back on past challenges where it appeared there was no way through it without loss, and see somehow we made it through. And not only did we make it through, but confidence gets a boost in the process. Once again, I’m so glad to be a free spirited entrepreneur, and really, I could do it no other way. I believe in what I am doing.

A 9-to-5 person asked an entrepreneur, “How can you go to work and not know how much money you are going to make that day?”

To which the entrepreneur said, “How can you go to work every day knowing the most you can possibly make that day?”

For us entrepreneurs it is the freedom, the challenge, the unknown that is thrilling. It’s a strange balance of taking risk and realizing our potential. Without the belief in our ideas or plans however, especially in the rough and challenging times, we will fold. Give yourself some credit, realize you’ll make mistakes. It’s not that we’ve made them that matters, it’s what we do with them. It’s about not letting our confidence be shaken, but to forge ahead because we know what we want in life.

I don’t know if you ever heard the below monologue. I believe it is meant for high-school or college graduates, but if you listen to the words it clearly defines the life of the entrepreneur. I listen to it every so often. I love it. There is so much truth to it.

Have a listen to, Oh The Places You’ll Go.

Live like you’ll never get hurt, dream like nobody is watching, and above all… Try-try-try until you succeed!

Posted in Blog, Entrepreneurship | 1 Comment

Real World Fitness: England’s First Blind Fitness Trainer

Listen to Real World Fitness: England’s First Blind Fitness Trainer

The SeroTalk Podcast Network proudly introduces a new member to the SPN family. Here is Bill Kociaba’s debut on the Network:

An Interview With Jaina Mistry

I recently interviewed an extraordinary young lady from the UK. Jaina Mistery began her life as a typical young girl growing up in England. Her life was pretty average until tragedy struck when she was only 17. How she bounced back from that tragedy and what she has accomplished since then makes for one of the most inspirational stories you will ever hear!

Interview highlights:

  • A typical teenager

    • Poor body image

      • How an allergic reaction to penicillin changed her life

        • Steven’s Johnson Disease

          • Her 3 month hospital stay

            • RNIB

              • Complimentary therapies

                • Finding out who her real friends were

                  • 2009, back to the hospital 3 times

                    • Finding a trainer

                      • Not the most cooperative client

                        • Achieving her first fitness goal

                          • Her best birthday present ever

                            • A new friend and new found confidence

                              • National fitness award

                                • Jaina’s Journey

                                  • UK’s first blind female fitness instructor

                                    • Where to next

                                    To learn more about her, stop by her Facebook page, Facebook.com/jainasjourney.

                                    Also, to learn more about me check out SeroTalk episode 220 or go directly to my website, Kociaba-Fitness.com.

                                    If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at kociabafitness (at) Gmail (dot) com

Posted in Real World Fitness | Comments Off on Real World Fitness: England’s First Blind Fitness Trainer

The Argument for Becoming Multi Access Tech-Savvy

There is a lot of discussion out there regarding which screen reader and operating system combination is best. Each camp has their arguments, and honestly I can’t disagree, to adimently, with any of them.

The thing is, in my experience, those who are fluent with as many tools as possible are the most successful in employment. What matters more, your convictions for the tool of choice, or having a job that pays the bills, and allows you to live the quality of life you desire? I thought so! So, it is time to become multi-tech-savvy.

The Employment Environment

I am exposed to a variety of potential employment environments as an AT specialist, with an emphasis in communicating with employers and job site accommodation,. Most employers take advantage of networking to distribute information to employees. More recently a trend toward web-based applications has been observed. The web-based applications tend to be written for one web browser or another. Often the companies web app can only be displayed in Internet Explorer, or in Mozilla Firefox, and the screen must be set to a specific resolution to display the contents.

Hardware Decisions

Businesses have to make decisions regarding what hardware and software to purchase, deploy and maintain. The decision is often based on matching the technology to the environment and nature of the business. In retail business owners have multiple choices. They can purchase a Windows, or Mac based Point of Sale system, or a mobile point of sale system that utilizes either IPad, Windows tablet or Android tablet hardware. If one chooses to learn only how to use an IPad, with VoiceOver or Zoom, they may be limiting employment opportunities.

Browser Decisions

It seems unthinkable that a business could operate, in today’s market, without an internet connection. Web browsers are designed to be the gateway to the Internet. Business owners again have many choices. The decision regarding which is best for the companies type of work, need for security are likely to outweigh their desire to accommodate an individual users preference.

Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox are reviewed as having superior security and privacy features. This may be one of the reasons that they are common among business information infrastructure. A web search reveals that from year to year, and version of browser to version of browser, one or the other will boast greater security or faster speeds than the other.

Access Technology Decisions

In recent experience, and simply stated, NVDA works better in Firefox than it does in Internet Explorer 11 and later. JAWS works better in Internet Explorer 11 and later than it does in Firefox. Some web pages display better in Firefox than they do in Internet Explorer and vice-versa. Toss Apple products into the mix, and you will likely see the same thing.

There are also differences between how one screen magnifier will display a page verses another, and this is compounded by the diversity in how browsers display text. Screen magnification users may have to learn to configure how the text is displayed in the browser, as well as how to enhance the text with the magnifier, to identify the optimal viewing experience.

Training Decisions

Q:Which screen reader, or magnifier, and browser combination do I need to learn?

A: As many as possible!

In Conclusion

At one point it was safe to say that Microsoft Windows was the business standard, and that if one wanted to be successful in an employment environment they needed to be proficient with Windows, Internet Explorer and a Windows-based access technology. This is no longer the case, as business owners/operators have a variety of choices available to them, and select the hardware, software and web browsers that best meet the business needs as far a security, data sharing and other factors. Great news, many of the options available to employers are accessible to consumers of access technology! Bad news, this can make it difficult to know which access technology one should learn to use effectively.

If one limits him/herself to the use of a specific access technology, employment options could become limited. Title I of the ADA uses the term “reasonable accommodation” to allow employers and employees some leeway in job site accommodation. Is it reasonable to ask an employer to risk their companies security or, potentially, rebuild their communications and data sharing infrastructure to accommodate a single users preference in access technology when access is available through other access technology tools?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Posted in Assistive Technology, Blog | 5 Comments

SeroTalk Extra: Policy Talk Around the Hill – Winter 2015

Listen to SeroTalk Extra: Policy Talk Around the Hill – Winter 2015

A big thank you to Audible for their continuing support. Download your free audiobook at AudiblePodcast.com/SeroTalk.

Stay tuned. The full team returns next week for SeroTalk 224. We also hear the Triple Click Home team is headed for the studio soon to record Episode 36!

Meanwhile, the legislative season has kicked into gear for blind consumer groups in the United States, but even if you do not live in the U.S., there is at least one item of interest for blind listeners abroad.

Joe and Laine bring you interviews with Rose Sloan from the National Federation of the Blind and Eric Bridges from the American Council of the Blind, spotlighting issues that could have an impact on you or someone you know.

First, the National Federation of the Blind held its Washington Seminar the week of January 26. Their legislative priorities include:

Posted in Interviews, Podcasts, SeroTalk, SPN Special | Comments Off on SeroTalk Extra: Policy Talk Around the Hill – Winter 2015

One Thing Worry and Success Have in Common

I’ve got a question for you.

Have you ever worried about something?

Okay, dumb question, let me rephrase.

Have you worried about something to excess?

Maybe you heard someone in your department was getting the ax. Then you suddenly realize:

“Uh. Oh. People in the office have been overly nice to me all week! That can’t be good.”

And it kept you punching your pillow all night long.

Can you think of any such worrisome time in life? Take a second and conjure up a goodie. A real doozey.

Got one?

Do you remember what was going through your head at the peak of the worry?

It might be something totally different. For you maybe it was fear of not making a deadline, a relationship challenge, or a lost pet. Maybe it was fear of flunking a class, getting lost in a city with a new guide dog, or maybe it really was that fear of getting fired.

If so, I bet you were visualizing something like a box filled with all your personal stuff sitting on your desk chair one morning.

Were you hearing a very sincere tone in your boss’s voice apologizing for having to let you go?

Maybe you could feel the grip on both your elbows as security escorted you off company property as they do these days.

Did you feel that rush of blood to your face at night when you were alone with your thoughts and the reality of what it all meant flooded in?

Can’t’ make the house payment.

Eating rice and beans instead of your favorite foods.

Credit score plummeting to the depths.

Your spouse’s quivering voice asking, “Honey, what are we going to do? We just got our credit card bill for the month.”

Can you feel your face pulsing with every heartbeat?

Okay, enough pain. Shake it off.

Now, did any of that stuff actually happen?

My guess is no, it never happened. Or if it did, it wasn’t nearly as bad as all those horrible sound bites and images your imagination whipped up in your mind, and you overcame in spite of it all.

If you are in mid-battle now, you will overcome! You really will.

There’s a quote by Shakespeare of all people which I really love.

“Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.”

Now, before you think I’m calling you a coward, I’m not. Trust me; I’ve learned from worrying to excess in the past, as well reminding myself here. This quote says to me we can allow ourselves to experience our worst fears over and over and over and over and over and over in our minds; when in reality they’ll never come in the first place.

It’s telling me to be courageous, to be valiant. And even if it is going to happen, chest out, chin up, and let it happen just the once. I’ll deal with it once, not a thousand horrible different times in my mind.

If you have teenagers and they’ve ever been two-hours late for curfew, and you can’t reach them on their cell; you know what I’m getting at here.

The real point I want to make here is, as much as visualizing can cause us to live out something terribly worrisome in our mind which never comes true, success shares that technique only in the opposite direction, but with tangible positive results.

It’s pretty awesome really.

What if instead of worrying about getting the axe and picturing all that negative imagery and sound bites, instead you visualize your boss shaking your hand saying…

“Congratulations, I’m so happy for you to get the promotion.”

Maybe a co-worker smiling at you saying, “Yeah, we all thought it was you that would wind up with the promotion, you deserve it. Awesome, congrats!”

Or if you are a business person, how about we hear a phone conversation with a client who is so impressed by your professionalism and work that he or she awards you the contract over the phone.

Maybe you picture yourself standing upright, chest out, breathing deep and confidently saying,

“Tell you what, besides the 4-hour consultation and review of your marketing program, I’ll toss in a 5 piece e-mail campaign to kick off my ideas at half the normal rate, because I really believe in this project.” And in return they say, “Awesome, when can you get started?”

Are you getting the idea? Visualize and hear yourself being successful and getting the contracts, or whatever it is you are going for.

Sounds kind of silly doesn’t it?

Well, mental visualization has proven to have measurable results in sports such as basketball and high jumping for instance. It improved both the form and results of the sportspersons.

It has proven to work. Is it metaphysical or just preparation meeting up with opportunity? Who cares, if it works, it works, that’s all we need to know.

Your body language and mental disposition from doing these exercises is worth the price of admission.

Here, try this little exercise.

Point your nose to the ceiling, and put the biggest, widest, crappiest grin on your face.

Come on, do it. Ah just try it this once, go ahead. Put the biggest ear-to-ear smile on that mug. Hold it there for ten-minutes. Five-minutes? Even two-minutes.

Go ahead, I’ll be here when you get done. Stop reading and come back when you’re finished.

Okay. Are you still smiling now because you just are and not having to force it?

Did you wind up smiling just because the very act caused you to? Do you feel better from just that one simple little exercise?

You might be interested to know this little exercise was successfully used as therapy for patients with depression.

Similar happens with mental visualization techniques to put us in optimum position to succeed at our goals. We’ll feel better and do better, because we visualize it and our physiology lines up with when we do our best, and we’ll get the best results.

Try living your life by daily visualizing success, joy, and peace of mind.

I’ve got a feeling you’ll be just like those sportspersons, you’ll increase your successes markedly.

Hey, we really do have a choice, we have control over our minds, is there any reason why you’d choose to think the worst will happen? Why not imagine the best, and expect positive results?

Until next time…

Live like you’ll never get hurt, dream like nobody is watching, and above all… try-try-try until you succeed!

Posted in Blog, Entrepreneurship | Comments Off on One Thing Worry and Success Have in Common

Keeping pace with modern adaptive technology on a very low budget

There are a lot of things happening with technology in today’s world, and as most of us are aware adaptive technology is no exception. We all want to have access to the latest and greatest. I have personally drooled over the iPhone 6 on several occasions, ok, not really, but it’s a sexy device, and, come on, who wouldn’t want one.

The problem is, we have an astronomical unemployment rate among the blind, and the fact of the matter is a lot of us are not in a position to take advantage of the latest tech trends. This is why I am writing this overview of how to stay reasonably up to date without breaking the bank.

A few quick notes.

Note one: This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to every single blindness related low-budget item on the market.

Note two: I am not employed by, or in anyway compensated by any of the companies linked to in this post.

Note three: This article is meant for blind people spending their own hard-earned cash. If you are receiving services from vocational rehabilitation then you may have other options.

Low budget computers.

The Apple Macintosh has been taking the blind community by storm over the last several years. Many are sold by a screen-reader built in to the operating system. I have personally used a mac as my primary platform for the last half-decade. However, if you are someone who is not in a position to fork over at least $900.00 then you may feel left out of the loop. For a low-budget individual even a $500 computer is akin to flying to the moon.

There are options though, and some surprisingly good ones. This article is an excellent overview of computers for the blind They offer windows 7 desktops and laptops for well under $200. The machines come with clean versions of windows 7 (IE no crapware) and with several apps pre-installed. It is worth noting that some of the desktops come with a 17-21 inch monitor which may be beneficial to a low-vision user. Note: customers are only aloud to purchase one PC from Computers for the Blind at this time, so it is prudent to have a good idea of whether a desktop or laptop better meets your needs.

Another option for those who are mobile minded is the HP Stream. This laptop (available in an eleven or thirteen inch model) is in the $200 price range. It also comes with one free year of Office 365 personal, and a $25 gift card: effectively giving you an extra $95 in value with your purchase. These units are not meant as primary PC’s, but used in conjunction with a desktop from computers for the blind, the Stream can be an effective mobile option The HP Stream can be purchased from amazon and I can’t wait to get my hands on one. If you are wondering about the quality of a device such as the HP Stream check out the review from Paul Thurrott

Warning I highly recommend purchasing the signature addition of the HP Stream or any windows machine. These are available mainly from the Microsoft store, although some can be found on Amazon. Signature addition PC’s do not have all the extra garbage programs typically found on the average windows computer. Not having to deal with such pre-installed trash dramatically speeds up ones computer. More importantly, it drastically reduces the amount of cursing and death threats most of us make toward our new PC’s wile wasting hours upon hours of uninstalling junk software.

Other great low-budget PC deals can be found on Amazon, and others. Blind Bargains is a great place to find deals on PC’s and many other items.

Now that I have this new computer, how do I make it accessible?

The units from Computers for the Blind come with Non-visual Desktop Access, NVDA already installed, along with demo software of other screen-readers and screen-magnifiers. “But I didn’t get one of those, I got a good deal on a computer from Amazon, now what do I do?”

Well, my friend you have plenty of options. You can install the aforementioned NVDA. You can check out the many options offered by Serotek. They have choices to fit almost any situation. You can also investigate Window Eyes which is free if you own an addition of Microsoft Office 2010 or 2013, or if you have a subscription to Office 365. All of these are great options, and the serotek solution can even include an OCR scanning program, which paired with a low cost flat-bed scanner, can provide access to one’s daily mail as well as many other forms of paper documents.

“what about us low-budget low vision users?” I didn’t forget about you guys, but I am not a low vision user, I do not feel qualified to write on that topic.

Mobile Gadgets.

I’ve chosen to lump phones, tablets, and other hand-held devices together in this section.

The aforementioned iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the hottest new devices on the market, however they are rather pricy–especially for those of us who use prepaid wireless service. Prepaid services often offer the same amount of coverage as the big-name carriers, but with much cheaper monthly plans. THe drawback is that the consumer must purchase a device without the option of financing or contract subsidizing. This means the latest iPhone is out of reach of most of us low-budget users, but like the PC options listed above their are still great choices.

Talking MP3 Players offer several low cost IOS and android smartphones as well as some accessible basic flip phones. The Android devices come with Talkback already set up and ready to use. While the devices offered are a couple of years old; they still offer access to the majority of the modern applications popular in the blind community.

If you choose to go the Android rout I recommend Android 4.4 KitCat or higher. If you opt for IOS make sure the device in question will run the apps you want and need. For example: the new Voice Dream Writer program only runs on IOS 8 and above. The oldest iPhone that supports iOS 8 is the iPhone 4S and running this version of the software is rather buggy.

If you are hoping to use the Voice Dream apps, or the KNFB Reader, Android isn’t necessarily a bad option as both companies have stated they plan to create Android versions of their applications. If you want a device with BARD support then you should probably stick with the iPhone. I think humans will establish a colony on Mars before NLS creates an Android application.

Much of what has been said about phones can be applied to tablets. There are numerous low cost tablets running Android and Windows. The same Android advice applies here, and if you are looking at a Windows unit I give you two items to remember.

  1. Go with the signature addition. You’ll thank me later.

  2. Make sure your screen-reader of choice supports touch navigation, otherwise you’re stuck with having your tablet constantly paired with a keyboard.

On the IOS front you may have some luck. There are several iPad models currently on the market, and with some diligence you may find one in your price range. You can also pick up an iPod touch, but it is worth noting that the iPod Touch hasn’t seen a hardware refresh in a long while.

If you are looking for a device that will just play music and Audible books then you have many cheap options. You can pick up an iPod Nano, or check out the selection from Talking MP3 Players

Even portable Daisy players can be had for a bargain if you are willing to skip out on some of the more modern features. The 1st generation Victor Stream and the original BookSense still fulfill their intended purpose quite admirably. They are commonly sold through various classified sections throughout the AT community.

Lastly, their are tuns of affordable accessories for all of the products mentioned. Many can be found through Talking MP3 Players, AT Guys and through Amazon and others. . It is worth mentioning that the customer service offered by Talking MP3 Players, AT Guys and others is well worth the occasional higher prices as opposed to sites like Amazon.

Closing Thoughts

I recognize that not every piece of advice offered here will fit every situation, but I hope the references mentioned will help those who are in a similar situation as my own.

Some might be saying, “well, these devices will be slow, and you can’t run everything on them.” Wile that may be true in some cases, I believe the solutions discussed can help a lot of blind people be more productive, and ultimately find meaningful employment.

You may also be wondering if I take any of the advice offered. I hope to purchase a machine from Computers for the Blind, (I had to sell my macbook) as well as a new phone. Furthermore, in case anyone doesn’t think work can be accomplished on the hardware just take note of the fact that I’ve written this article on my iPhone 4S with an Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

If you have questions or feedback feel free to contact me on twitter. @Jeffyoung_

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

It’s time to meet your content team!

Serotek has seen several changes over the last few months. Podcasts such as serotalk and triple click home have taken on a new format and a new sound, in order to fill a niche, we feel, exists in the community. Who is this “we,” you may ask?
Its the new Serotek content team who wants to introduce themselves to you, and who wants to get to know the community as well. Thursday at 7:00 PM eastern, a meet and greet will be held in the “Welcome Lobby,” found within Samnets socializer. IF you haven’t tried Samnet for yourself, consider doing so by downloading a trial copy of our software and signing up. However, if you want to get started quickly, have a look at System Access To Go.

The content team is looking forward to seeing you there!

Posted in Announcements | 1 Comment

Why killing net nutrality will hurt the disabled

In a matter of days the FCC will determine our freedom on the internet.

I know that sounds really drastic but it is true. Why should we care though? Because, fact is, disabled people need the internet.

There are a lot of things that make me want to question all humanity, simply because it seems that common sense is becoming more and more a luxury than anything else today. Why? Today, I read an article that’s just promoting nothing more than false intentions.

I’m on twitter a lot and I read what my followers post a great deal. When I saw the article about the notion that Verizon was fighting against Net Neutrality to benefit the disabled populace, I didn’t have anything clever to say. I didn’t have a retort to utter. I didn’t even have a tweet to formulate in wake of this. Ladies and gents, there’s simply no other word to describe what they are claiming and the propositions that they claim, other than one. It’s a word that fits all, I believe, given this context and the huge array of just false debauchery that Verizon is trying to cook up.

LIES.

If you have not heard about the FCC and their latest plan to destroy the internet do a Google search for FCC and net neutrality. You will get some really interesting articles that basically outline what their new rules will entail.

It’s a proposal that would ban Internet providers from blocking or slowing down access to websites but may let them charge content companies for faster and more reliable delivery of their traffic to users.

It sounds good on paper and in a simple sentence like that. It’s not. I will briefly explain why.

Anything can be abused, including this new law. Internet service providers (ISPs), like Comcast or AT&T—believe that, as providers of internet access, they should be able to distribute bandwidth differently depending on the service.

They’d prefer, for example, to create tiers of internet service that’s more about paying for priority access than for bandwidth speeds. As such, in theory, they could charge high-bandwidth services—like Netflix, for example—extra money, since their service costs more for Comcast to provide to its customers—or they could charge users, like you and me, extra to access Netflix. They can also provide certain services to you at different speeds.

For example, perhaps your ISP might give preferential treatment to Hulu, so it streams Hulu videos quickly and for free, while Netflix is stuck running slowly (or we have to pay extra to access it). If you don’t think that won’t wrack up a huge bill, you are wrong.

How many people use cell phones and access Facebook, twitter, Netflix, ETC. This will affect everything that’s connected to the internet and they can all have a separate charge attached for that device to access websites and content.

This will also affect your tablets, game systems, ANYTHING that is hooked up to the internet. Knowing the USA, those fees can be taxed. enough said.

Imagine that Verizon or AT&T don’t like the idea of Google Voice, because it allows you to send text messages for free using your data connection. Your cellphone carrier could block access to Google Voice from your smartphone so you’re forced to pay for a texting plan from them. Or, they see that a lot of people are using Facebook on their smartphone, so even if they have the bandwidth to carry that traffic, they decide to charge you extra to access Facebook, just because they know it’s in high demand and that they can make a profit.

Obviously this will be great for people who have money spilling outa their pockets and who live in a financial bubble ignorant of the rest of us but I don’t think the FCC remembers that not everyone has money, If this rueling gets past it will ban some disabled people from using the internet. Let’s be real here.

Take SSI. How much is your internet bill per year now and how often do people on SSI rely on the internet and websites that host special content like Facebook, for social collaboration and school websites that often hold YouTube videos, which can have a steep price on it too on top of your internet bill if net neutrality is killed.

People on SSI or even SSDI won’t be able to pay all of that, given the fact that disabled people use the internet more than anything else for more than just socializing. People host teleconferences on Facebook, promote goods on blogs, the list goes on and I should not even have to point these out.

These ISP;s certainly won’t remember that not everyone has money because they want to have the money and they will want to have the money that they think they should have any way that they can get it, including charging people like you and I to use an email provider that isn’t with your default ISP like, for example, if you’re using Comcast and you look at your Gmail. Comcast could charge you to access Gmail even though Gmail is free.

The reason why blind people use Gmail is that it offers a lot of customization. For example, it offers free IMAP and POP3 access to mail clients. Yahoo does not.

This is why I say that Verizon is spewing illogical banter. There’s a stereotype about us Americans that say, frankly, we are greedy.

Verizon and Comcast really want to have this new rueling passed just so they can get more money and the fact that Verizon is using disabled people as a valuable excuse to justify why they want to kill Net Neutrality just so they can have more money really makes me, well, disappointed at my own country.

Hears the claim Verizon makes. Without a fast lane, disabled Americans could get stuck with subpar service as Internet traffic increases.

The issue that’s a constant problem isn’t even about the speed of access but, rather, the simple act of accessing something. I don’t understand how this will help us access something such as a website that isn’t designed to be accessible or obtaining some key information that’s in an accessible element on the inaccessible or partially accessible website. Since the internet often has inaccessible websites, even today, we would just turn to the phone, or, in my case, text one of my minions to look something up for me, adding a winking smiley at the end just because. The issue of speed doesn’t even culminate into a logical fit within this particular claim, if people really knew about screen readers and magnifiers and such. Instead of slower speeds dolling out a subpar service it’s the incomplete and botched content that we cannot access because developers didn’t make whatever accessible.

If there were, indeed, a way for ISPs to create two lanes of internet access, one slow, with costs to use all these demanding sites like Netflix and such, and one fast, combined with services like Facebook, it would ban a lot of disabled people from accessing some very key information all together all because of costs that would be designated by the ISP and then that would be yet another contender blind and visually impaired activists would have to constantly advocate for.

State rehabilitation will not pay for internet as is, and that’s just one monthly cost to access all websites and services. If this were to actually be enforced people with disabilities wouldn’t have access to certain sites at all because of the high costs that will, without a doubt, be determined by the ISP.

This could lead to loss of employment, fewer educational opportunities because this will affect schools too, and overall fewer productivity and would make the unemployment rate for disabled people increase because a lot of disabled people work from home, using many sites and services every day that wouldn’t be able to be accessed because, oh no! The bill is really high!

Speed is not the issue and it infuriates me that Verizon even uses that as a claim. If people know about screen readers, magnifiers, and accessibility issues with software and sites then they will see right through this fallacy. If they don’t know about disabled people and access technology it would be a simple conclusion that would make sense in their minds even though its hugely false, that speed would help us.

Access is an issue but the irony is access would be an even bigger issue, coupled with taxes and stuff, I’m sure, will be added onto these extra speed costs and costs to access content, thereby bridging the disabled homeless and otherwise on an even wider separation all because of money. Access won’t be an issue, it will morph into a barrier, one that will always be up.

This is just for work. Could you only imagine how disabled people wouldn’t have access to sites like twitter, where news is happening all day, every day? Oh my god!I don’t even want to entertain that nightmare.

I just cannot believe that Verizon would even say such a disingenuous thing. It won’t help disabled people at all. It would ban some from even using the internet, even some who are not disabled. I don’t think people who work at these companies know that not everyone works at Verizon or otherwise, but hey, in America, it’s all about the money. It’s all about the money.

Posted in Assistive Technology, Blindness and Low Vision, SeroSpectives, Serotek | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

SeroTalk Podcast 223: Autonomous Wheels, Bat Men, and the Mesh in Between

Listen to SeroTalk Podcast 223: Autonomous Wheels, Bat Men, and the Mesh in Between

The SeroTalk Podcast is back in business! And Audible continues to be a proud sponsor. If you haven’t downloaded your choice of free audiobook, what’re you waiting for?! Visit AudiblePodcast.com/SeroTalk to get yours now.

Then tune into your new SeroTalk Podcast team–Joe, Katie, Laine, and Steve–in a deep dive analysis of recent developments and headlines affecting the community!

From the Mainstream Files

Some of us are Goo-Goo for Google, but Are the Blind and Visually Impaired Being Left Behind? Laine doesn’t necessarily think so, but are assistive technology trainers themselves partially responsible for promoting this misconception? Check out Laine’s project, GoogleAX, for some helpful resources to tackle the interface. Also, be sure to read Trenton Matthews’ comments at this post for additional resources on Chrome.

Uber to Open Center for Research on Self-Driving Cars. How might this change the traveling dynamics for blind passengers?

Cisco Makes Its Annual Predictions on Mobile Data Traffic. 69% of the world is expected to consume content via mobile devices. With the impending congestion, it’s a good thing Google Fiber is coming to four more cities, and Everything You Love About Ting is Coming Home. Speaking of your home, Eero takes a crack at pushing mesh Wi-Fi through your whole house. Of course, if the Internet is poised to become so prevalent, you might want to keep your systems secure. Here’s a great page from Gizmo to get you started. They’re constantly updating that section of the site.

Apple Watch to start shipping in April. Are you planning on getting yours?

A T Pulse

A couple new apps are already rocking 2015. Be My Eyes relies on a global network of volunteers to help you identify objects and orient to surroundings, but should the app be welcomed with open arms or viewed with skepticism?

And remember VoiceDream Reader? Well, the developer hits it out of the park again with Voice Dream Writer. This is not like any of the writing apps you have on your device already.

Kurzweil 1000 version 14 improves learning experience for users with vision disabilities. Is it worth the update?

It’s always been said it’s okay to talk to yourself, so long as you don’t talk back. But, do the same social norms apply to our computers? J-Say says it’s okay to chit-chat with your PC to get things done.

Jonathan Mosen is out with a new book, Become an Amadeus Pro Maestro. If past offerings are any indication, this one is not one you want to pass up!

Lots of developments in assistive technology so far in 2015. If you haven’t checked out the BlindBargains’ coverage of ATIA 2015, visit their Audio Index for excellent coverage of the conference as well as new episodes from their podcast.

Of Special Interest

Brain Scans Reveal the Way Blind People See Isn’t That Different From Anyone Else. This article goes hand in hand with a recent Invisibilia episode, How to Become Batman. Crazy talk, or is there something to this method of getting around we aren’t fully utilizing?

Get in Touch!

Want to connect with our new hosts? Tweet us! Katie @holnan, Laine @laine_amoureux, Steve @steveofmaine, and Joe @ScribblingJoe.

For comments, questions and criticisms of the show, please e-mail them to resources (at) SeroTalk (dot) com, tweet them @SeroTalk, or use your iBlink Radio app to send us an iReport!

Posted in Assistive Technology, Blindness and Low Vision, Podcasts, SeroTalk | 1 Comment

What Kabobs Can Teach Us About Marketing

One thing I’ve found in this world is lessons jump in front of our path constantly, all we’ve got to do is be willing to see and make good use of them.

For instance, just this past week my wife and I are at the snack bar talking about what’s for dinner and she says…

“Yeah, we could light up the grill, put on some ka-bobbys and…”

Ka-bobbys? In less than 5-seconds I made the connection from Kabobs to what marketing is not. Hang with me a second, I know it sounds crazy at first.

Kabobs, sometimes called Shish Kabobs, are skewers of meat and veggies or perhaps all meat or all veggies often times grilled to perfection over a hot bed of coals.

But, what they are made of is irrelevant. What I’m looking at is what the name Kabob is, and what it isn’t.

My wife called them Ka-bobbys, and my sometimes screwy mind immediately thought…

“Ka-bobbys? What about KaRoberts?”

I thought, how off is that? KaRobert just takes all the fun out of the name, takes all the summer out of the experience, and is taking something fun and conversational and making it stuffy and formal.

Who cooks up KaRoberts? No one, it sounds almost cannibalistic.

And that is just what your web copy can be, cannibalistic by being too formal, no fun, and the emotional experience in its consumption is like dressing up in a corporate suit, grabbing a heaping bowl of communion wafers and a glass of warm water to sit down for the game, or movie night. I think the boys would be a little shocked and headed to the sports bar, or the girls would be asking, “What is up with you girlfriend?”

For example, if I were to say:

“When you utilize my services, I’ll optimize your content to maximize your potential on the market. The benefits of securing a reader’s actions are the epicenter of your business’s concern, and that is the target in our partnership.”

Peee eeeeew! Can you smell the Ka-Roberts burning here? Someone get some water to cool this thing down and get them off the grill.

What I should have said was:

“Want search engines to put you as high as they can? I know the web optimization secrets to make it happen. Look, I know every business wants to increase sales, and, bottom line? It all comes down to turning people into customers by getting them to find you when they are looking, and click those links and buttons on your web site, e-mails, and other direct response pieces.”

See the difference? Why is it people immediately run to the thesaurus to fill up their mouths with what they are not?

It isn’t fooling or impressing a reader anyway. All it does is glaze their eyes over and put their wallet out of reach.

So when you’re writing any marketing piece, unless it is specific to a field which demands technical speak, get out the coffee pot pen and begin to write just like you chat while waiting your turn to fill your cup. In other words, write more like you talk, not like you swallowed a dictionary.

There are other techniques within marketing such as the “lean in,” transition, and others, but we’ll save them for future posts.

Until next time…

Live like you’ll never get hurt, dream like nobody is watching, and above all… try-try-try until you succeed!

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized | Comments Off on What Kabobs Can Teach Us About Marketing

A month off the grid. Living blindly without Internet

Usually, once in our lives, if not more than once, there’s a sentence that flutters out of our mouths without a hesitation. People have uttered this sentence in all cases of need, where they wanted something really badly but they felt as if that new book would enhance their lives or that video game would make the winter bearable or this movie would help with bringing the family together. So people say it, feeling like they really mean what they say,

It’s the sentence, “I need that.”

A dictionary has many definitions for the word need. Until October, when I decided to take up a challenge by a friend to not use any Internet for a whole month, I didn’t really understand what I needed or even why I needed it.

In September 2014, the sun speckled the ground with bursts of bright light even though the weather was cold in Chicago. I was sitting in a park with an engineer friend of mine, stealing his fries as we talked about the internship that I applied for but didn’t make. The topic nestled into the internship miss until, suddenly, he blurted out an exclamation of “oh my god, Robbie, you have GOT to read this!”

And so I did, or rather, listened, having limited vision and everything. It was an article that said that killing net neutrality would help the disabled. Verizon was saying that, if the Internet were split into a fast lane and a slow lane, disabled people would have much better Internet. Naturally, the irony wasn’t lost on me. In most cases, no matter how politically correct people wanted me to be ever since I started saying it, a good portion of the disabled populace were very poor, so the idea Verizon had was just utter nonsense.

“That’s a complete fallacy!” I spluttered, shifting my weight so my good eye could stare at Marcus full on in the face. “That’s just plain wrong!”

“I know,” he agreed, but we ranted and raved for a bit, just to make sure our thoughts were out in the open. Suddenly, though, as I was stealing a fry, he commented, “I have an idea. Why don’t I give you a challenge, you know, like a dare?” I liked the prospect of a dare so I accepted his challenge before having the intellect to ask what it was.

“Why don’t you, as a disabled person, live without the Internet for one month, and this means using Internet in schools and in libraries and the like, don’t use the Internet at all for one month.”

And that’s how it began.

Now, my memoir details my journey of living offline. Through my words and reflections, readers will know what adapting to a new kind of world is like. I was soon swept up in a different world, a world that was inaccessible to me and a world that I had to learn how adapt to, on my own since I live in an apartment complex by myself. I really did learn the difference between needing something and wanting the convenience of something.

I assumed I was going to do the everyday things that people did, such as walk outside, even though it was starting to get cold in Chicago. I thought my entries were going to be filled with sentences outlining what I did, rather than what I’d think about and declarations and observations of people. I thought that I’d write more about what I did and why I did it, rather than my observations about the Internet-less life and how it changing everything from communication to education to human interaction.

In the memoir, many aspects of life are examined. Why? Because I had a lot more free time to share with myself. The memoir is a diary that’s intimate and allows for a glimpse into the human psyche before being connected to everyone.

Living offline changed me in many ways that I didn’t even see coming. For the first few days, I needed to get online, I wanted to look up something. I wanted to type in the commands and the search strings that would get me exactly what I wanted, how I wanted it, where I wanted it. Without that power, for a few days, I was utterly lost because I didn’t know how to cope after that power had been taken away.

Even though I felt as though I was going to back down on the first few days, I gave it a shot still, and kept on with the challenge.

The fact is, the Internet is a requirement, especially for the disabled. I experienced much frustration simply because I could no longer do something so basic, such as hooking up a landline phone because I couldn’t download the manual from the website. I had to rely on the sighted population more than I have ever needed to.

This is because there isn’t as much accessible information offline as there is on the Internet. On the Internet I can look up any news I want to look up or any manual, for that matter. Take news content: Writers are not filtered by space and advertising columns so they can pepper the Web page with in-depth reporting and I could read it all.

Mainstream offline media doesn’t tell you about all the news that’s happening or the kind of topics people want to know. The fact is, people want to know. On the radio and TV everything is delegated by space and time. When you have limited options to get information, information becomes a need, not a luxury. I had to cope with losing that by asking more questions from other people and relying on their answers. Sometimes, it was effective. Other times, it left me feeling as if I was being denied information simply because I didn’t use the Internet.

We live, however, in a world that needs the Internet. I learned that the hard way when I didn’t get hired for a job because I couldn’t use the Internet. It really has shocked me how it’s turned into an unclassified utility. Sure, apartment owners are saying it is a utility but not the government, not the people higher up. It should be. Why? Because I know what it’s like, as a disabled person, to live without the Internet for one month. A disabled life without Internet is not a completely independent world. The Internet breaks down barriers, even if we can’t see them.

Posted in Assistive Technology, Blindness and Low Vision, SeroSpectives | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Three-and-a-half Ways to Improve Time Efficiency

There is no such thing as time saving anything and I can prove it.

Don’t believe me? Okay, we often say time is money, let’s say I gave you $1,000 yesterday and told you to get whatever you could with it, and you got 25-items.

Today we do the same thing. But this time you were twice as thrifty with the $1,000 and got 50-items. What happened? You didn’t save any money; you just doubled your stuff.

Isn’t that how time works? We can’t bank it in our life like some savings account. We’re given only a limited amount and forced to spend it with every blink and every breath. About all we can manage is to be more efficient with what we have, we can’t save it up to use in the end.

That said here are 3.5 easy methods proven to let you be more efficient with your time.

1. Mail. When we pull in the driveway at home, one family member who shall be nameless immediately goes for the mailbox. I’m grateful the mailperson only comes once a day at a predictable hour or this person might be out there every hour checking if we’ve got any new mail. Okay, not really, but you get my point.

Unfortunately, e-mail comes 24/7/365 and so many of us entrepreneurs really do check e-mail way too often.

Smart phones have helped with that which I’ll touch on later, but do yourself a huge favor; when on task don’t tempt yourself to check mail continually. Even if you feel you have some fairly important mail coming or think it will just take a second, because you run the risk of getting hooked on answering e-mails or writing new ones as long as you are there, and before you know it one-eighth of your work day was set adrift never to be heard from again.

Instead, turn off the automatic e-mail checking feature on your mailer, or at least turn off the audio notification, and allow yourself a set amount of time to do e-mail once or twice a day. When time is up, stop. Even if you are in the middle of something, stop. I guarantee you the more you do this, the more efficient you’ll be and the better distinctions you’ll make in what mail to receive in the first place.

2. Automobile University. Zig Ziglar, one of the great motivators of the past use to have a thing he’d call Automobile University. Basically, it was making use of unproductive time you are forced to spend in a commute to work, cleaning an office, or even mowing the lawn.

I’ve listened to many audio books, webinars, motivational programs, and on-line courses while commuting somewhere, exercising, cleaning the office, or any other task that doesn’t require much thought. I even answer or weed out unwanted e-mail with my iPhone on the fly.

This actually does two things. First, of course it allows you to get so much more good information in you that you’d not otherwise have, but more it makes a droner of a task… sort of fun. It got to a point with one audio book I read where I couldn’t wait to clean up the house or mow lawn just so I could get back to the book. I think my wife secretly hopes I’ll find a similar book… maybe even a trilogy or series.

3. Schwartz 33:33 Rule. Back in the day, copywriting legend Gene Schwartz came up with a method which allowed him to write his many books, and entrepreneurs still use it today. Set a timer for 33-minutes and 33-seconds, and start working. When the timer goes off, get up for a 5- or 10-minute break, then repeat the timer and get to work again.

At first, breaking your flow and interrupting your day seems counterproductive, but this mini-deadline is proven to work. You are training your mind to stay more focused when you sit down at your desk. Try it and see if it helps your productivity.

And now for the one-half-method you wondered about since reading the header …

3.5. Don’t work at all. That’s right, take some time off. Working continually only burns you out, makes you feel like there is no reward for your efforts, and your brain needs time away from what you do, even if you love what you do.

There is proof that your subconscious will go to work producing solutions and background work when your mind is at rest. We can reach a saturation point of productivity if we never give ourselves conscious time away from it.

I say this is the one-half-method not because it was half as important, but if you are like me, you are half likely to do it if left to your own workaholic tendencies; and it really does need to be observed and enjoyed.

This is just a sampling of ways to be more productive. Try journaling your day’s activities noting how much time you spend on each item, you’ll quickly identify the patterns and tweaks to your productivity.

Posted in Entrepreneurship | 3 Comments

Goo-Goo for Google, but Are the Blind and Visually Impaired Being Left Behind?

The following is a guest post by Laine Amoureux. Laine is employed as an assistive technology specialist at the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She has served the state of Idaho for seven years. She recently obtained a M.S. in Assistive Technology Studies and Human Services from California State University, Northridge. Laine is an avid consumer of screen reading and magnification technologies, and best of all, you will soon be able to enjoy her contributions as part of the new SeroTalk Podcast team!

72 of the top 100 Universities in the U.S. and 7 of the 8 Ivy League schools were using Google Web Apps for productivity according to a 2012 “Official Google Blog”. Further 1 in 5 U.S. School districts are taking advantage of the Google platform, including web apps, according to a 2013 article. In addition the Google Blog also reported in 2012 that 5 million businesses, worldwide are taking advantage of Google Web Apps for business. Telework/commute opportunities are on the rise, according to a 2014 NY Times article and guess what platform lends itself perfectly to virtual meetings and collaboration? You guessed it, Google.

Why is everyone, at least in the main-stream, so goo-goo for Google? Could it be the incredible price tag of FREE for individual consumers? The incredibly low prices for educational institutions and businesses? The decrease in employee hours focused on information technology “IT) as a result of Googles’ simple deployment system?

Why are so many blind and visually impaired consumers complaining about Google? Why aren’t more blind and visually impaired users using them? Are individuals who utilize access technology being left out/overlooked/forgotten?

Instant Gratification

Instant gratification cannot be overlooked as a contributing factor to the widespread adoption of Google Web Apps across personal, educational and professional environments. Google leverages HTML 5 and Web 2.0 to create a dynamic virtual environment that provides instant communication and collaboration. Google has also implemented design attributes that make the interface easy to use, and learn to use. Little to no time is required to learn to use the apps.

As I chat with AT specialists in the field of visual impairment and blindness I am commonly asked to share tips and tricks for using new web pages. The sentiment expressed in many conversations is that web pages don’t behave like they used to, and users never quite know what to expect. Sometimes users can activate or interact with an item one way, and the next time they encounter the same type of element they must activate or interact with it differently.

The Google Gmail Web App is often used to demonstrate the specialist’s frustration and concern. It also tends to send the message that, in fact, individuals who use access technology to interact with the web are being left out. Some AT users, and specialists, will argue that it is how the web page was created, others will argue that it is the fault of access technology manufactures falling two steps behind.

Why is that? Why are so many in the visually impaired and blind community experiencing so much difficulty with inconsistent web pages? The simple answer is that not all web pages are created equal.

HTML offers developers many tools to render a web page. Each designer has preferences regarding which features work best, and how they should work. Many web designers are unaware or unconcerned with the fact that there are people on the web accessing their content with alternative tools like magnifiers and screen readers.

HTML 5, one of the tools used to render Google Web Apps in a browser, has introduced new elements that can be used by designers to render web pages. The new elements are dynamic and interactive in nature. Some of the elements are put in place, and when interacted with/activated information changes on the page. That type of activity goes unnoticed by screen readers, and for individuals using high levels of magnification the activity may also be missed, as it occurs outside of the field of view. This is one reason AT specialists report that Gmail is one of the most difficult environments.

The best resource for web designers to gain a greater understanding, and to find guidelines for using all of the great tools and elements available to them in HTML is, of course, the World Wide Web Consortium. However, that does not solve the immediate problem of using existing web pages and helping new users learn to use the increasingly chaotic web. Imagine the surprise when the tip that I give to AT specialists who requests tips and tricks for using and teaching Internet concepts and how to handle complex web pages is to use Google Web Apps.

All arguments related to how and why individuals using access technology being “left out” or “forgotten” and complaints about web designers have some validity. However, they are learning to use and implement new tools, they’re not going to get it right the first time, and if they aren’t provided with information about the problem they can’t fix it. The manufactures of access technology also play a role. They are, admittedly, one or two steps behind the main-stream. Again however, cut them some slack. They are still learning too, and what are the odds that the access technology manufactures are better than the web designers? They are going to get it wrong the first time too. If you were running before you were crawling, by all means, jump into the fray and fix this discrepancy for us.

Some Thoughts on Chrome

The accessibility features in Chrome OS can transfer, in some respects, to the Web Apps displayed in any web browser. At the time of this writing there are 3rd party tools available as well, however they are not discussed here. For anyone interested, NVDA with Firefox appears, at the time of this writing, to be the best combination for accessing the Google apps environment, and provides new users with the most consistent experience.

In Google Web Apps, prior to enabling any accessibility features, users are already at a large usability advantage, if they must interpret and work with information in this way. The interfaces are “clean.” There is not a lot of meaning conveyed in the layout, but what meaning is conveyed by placement of web edit fields, or text changes, there is white space surrounding the item. This allows magnification users to clearly find, and read, text or view images, with fewer distractions. Google also tends to use simple images to convey meaning through pictures. For instance, one gear to represent “settings” rather than a complex, colorful, interwoven image of multiple gears.

The high contrast mode, that can be enabled in Google Chrome browser (on Chrome books) or on the Android tablets, can aid in reducing glare. In turn, for some users, this reduces eye pain and fatigue and allows users to spend more time on the computer than they might otherwise. Unlike high contrast in Windows or Mac OS, I found that all content is displayed in contrasting colors. In Windows, for example, links remain dark blue, but the background is black. In that environment links become indistinguishable from the back-ground. This did not appear to happen when high contrast was enabled in Google Chrome, on a Google ChromeBook.

The experience of the ChromeVox TTS extension is highly variable. Variables that impact a user’s experience include, but are not limited to: ChromeVox developer flaws, flaws in the HTML, the ability for one to tolerate the TTS synthesizer, previous screen reader experience; ability/willingness to learn new methods of navigation/interaction; ability to memorize key strokes; the platform on which the browser is running; and the user’s ability to conceptualize based strictly on textual information.

The magnifier extension in Chrome, on the ChromeBook is nothing too exciting. It falls in line with most magnifiers. You can select full, docked or lens magnification. The image begins to pixelate around 7 power, which is consistent with other screen magnifiers. The user can control the level through key strokes, but to make more advanced setting changes, like the type, the user must enter the accessibility settings. This is inconvenient for users who need to change the visual appearance frequently.

A Side Note on Magnifiers

I want to quickly touch on one of the most innovative magnifiers I’ve encountered. It just so happens to come on the Google Nexus 7 Android Kit Kat tablet. I know, a little off topic, but I feel the need to share since I’m on Google.

The user must enable the feature in accessibility before the short cuts will work, however, once enabled, the user has simple, one-touch access to the type and level of magnification. The user can triple tap one finger to enable full magnification, increase and decrease magnification with the “pinch to zoom” gesture, and is provided with an automatic switch to 0 magnification when a new page loads. This provides the user the opportunity to get an idea of the overall content, gather some of the contextual information provided by layout, and to select where he or she would like to see in greater detail.

IN addition the user can triple tap and hold to magnify only the area under the finger. This is similar to the lens type of magnification offered by most desktops. To the best of my knowledge this is a feature only available in Android. This allows a user to gather contextual information, focus in on specific details without losing other reference points.

Final Thoughts

One factor that is sometimes missed in the accessibility finger pointing game is us, the AT specialists. Yes, I’m including myself. Often AT specialists are self-taught in the technologies they use and instruct on. When providing 35 hours of direct service to consumers each week, with the other 5 spent on preparations and report writing there isn’t much time to try to figure out something new. The concepts behind the Google Web App interfaces, and how the access technologies can interact with the interfaces, is significantly different than most are accustomed to in a traditional PC environment, either Windows or Apple. I’m guilty of dismissing something as a possible tool for professional, educational or instructional use because it took more than 5 minutes to figure out. So, again, we’re back to that instant gratification thing.

For the AT specialists it may not be instant gratification, as much as it is ease of use, or learning to use, the tool. As I’ve read more on the learnability and heuristics of text-to-speech I’ve come to believe that individuals who use TTS, or high levels of video magnification, to access content are unaware of contextual information provided by formatting, layout, font size etc. As a result these users synthesize the information differently (i.e. smallest detail to big picture). As a result the learnability factor of Google Web App interfaces, rendered with HTML5, often take more time to figure out. They are however consistent, and provide a solid environment in which to teach people about the dynamic HTML 5 elements, that will hopefully transfer to using other web pages. It is much like using Microsoft Word to help reinforce, or teach, Windows concepts.

To aid fellow AT specialists, and access technology users, I have committed to learning as much as possible about the Google Web App environment, and want to share that information. If we are not careful we will be the reason our consumers cannot compete in education and employment environments. This is not an easy under taking. I am still learning, so cut me some slack too, I’m going to get some things wrong to start, and of course the web pages, and other tools are likely to change as well…

Posted in Assistive Technology, Blindness and Low Vision, Blog | 1 Comment

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

It’s highly unlikely the world will fall to the likes of the walking dead. I read an article the other day explaining the logistical impossibility of a virus triggering the kind of symptoms common to Hollywood zombies, and if the Internet says it’s impossible, it must be true, right? Then again, who needs hungry corpses when there are enough real world scenarios to turn our world upside down?

The Setting

Consider the following quick facts:

  • More than 8 million homes across 17 states lost power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

    • In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina most major roads into and out of New Orleans were damaged.

      • It took at least 3 days to partially restore cell phone service in New York City after 9-11.

        • The Chernobyl nuclear explosion contaminated 56,700 square miles of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, a region larger than New York State.

          The immediate takeaways from these examples are self-evident. Emergencies can happen anywhere. Nature is not the only culprit, and you don’t need a thousand casualties for the incident to be a personal tragedy.

          Then there is the matter of advance notice. In the case of hurricanes, tornados, and wild fires, you may have a little time to prepare and possibly evacuate. Mass shootings, terrorist attacks and other forms of large scale violence could happen at a moment’s notice.

          Consider these questions to gauge your current level of preparedness:

          • How much food do you have in your house right now that could be prepared without electricity?

            • Are you likely to want to eat that food?

              • What will you use to prepare the food?

                • How much water do you have stored up?

                  • How much of that clean water could you easily transport?

                    • How much clothing do you have to meet the temperatures of the current season?

                      • What kind of light source can you count on, such as candles or flashlights?

                        • What kind of heat source can you rely on?

                          • What kind of access, whether battery-powered radio or HAM radio, do you have to news services?

                          Special Considerations

                          It’s safe to assume a blind person’s usual modes of independence could be disrupted in the wake of a widespread disaster. One could possibly use a cell phone to navigate with GPS, but an earthquake could reshape the topography of one’s local surroundings. Besides, with the power out, it may not be so easy to run a Google search on nearby emergency shelters. Of course, navigation and technology of any stripe could be of secondary concern if you rely on medication that needs refrigeration.

                          Disabilities introduce their own set of priorities in the aftermath of an emergency. In such a scenario it is best to follow the tired flight attendant admonishment to help yourself before you help someone else.

                          Consider these questions if you have a disability:

                          • Do you have extra canes and cane tips?

                            • Do you have extra dog food for your service animal?

                              • If the service animal is on medication, do you have some stored up?

                                • What about your own medication?

                                  • What is the list of mobility equipment you rely on a day-to-day basis, and do you have backups?

                                  Supply Recommendations

                                  To start, people who live in urban areas should, at the very least, maintain a 72-hour kit. These are essential items that could see you through a few days of uncertainty.

                                  Items could include, but should of course be customized to your needs:

                                  • Water bottles

                                    • Canned food

                                      • Can opener

                                        • Utensils

                                          • First Aid Kit

                                            • Hand crank radio

                                              • Currency in small denominations

                                                • Sufficient change of clothes

                                                  • Sleeping bag

                                                    • Basic hygiene products

                                                    Follow the steps in this article to avoid 10 72-hour kit mistakes.

                                                    Don’t forget to store bartering goods. You may not drink or smoke, but whiskey, coffee and cigarettes could make for good bartering chips. Silver and gold are another option, but collecting and securing these requires such a specialized coverage as to warrant their own blog post.

                                                    General Advice

                                                    First, it seems like a given, but don’t forget to factor in your pets! You don’t want to be put in a position where you have to pick between your kids or your pooch. No one really knows how long kids could survive on their own.

                                                    Kidding!

                                                    Second, your family should agree on a primary and secondary assembly point. This could be your home, a known shelter location, a hospital or some other well-established facility. In the event of a disaster, everyone will know to report to this location without being told, because cell phone and Internet access could be out of service. Once there you can decide if you are equipped to hunker down for an extended stay, seek shelter, or evacuate to a safer region.

                                                    Third, use this opportunity to think of how you’re going to store water. Remember, you will die of thirst before you die of starvation. The basics include storing one gallon of water per day per person per pet. A minimum of 3 days’ supplies would be great. 2 weeks would be better. Rotate the supplies every 6 months. Check out this CDC article for excellent information on emergency water storage.

                                                    Fourth, establish an out-of-state contact. When you are able to get past the cell phone congestion, you should have one point person who can confirm you’re okay to the rest of your family.

                                                    Next, self-sufficiency is essential. Take the time to learn how to hunt or fish. The fruits of this labor could be your family’s primary food source on the go. Otherwise, learn to start and maintain a garden. Consider canning for extended food storage.

                                                    And, don’t forget your labor will be for not if you have no means of protecting it. Consider firearms training and self-defense. In the aftermath of disasters, rule of law can be elusive. No one is above learning how to guard their families and their belongings. If you find that extreme, consider the civil disobedience in Ferguson. Moreover, learning to protect yourself is key in micro emergencies you could encounter while out and about.

                                                    Final Thoughts

                                                    Mormons are well-known for incorporating emergency planning into its culture. In fact, the bulk of this article was written based on notes from a recent church lecture. It’s no secret the church maintains large stores of food in central locations for grim eventualities, but the advice herein ought to be of value to you no matter your faith, or lack thereof.

                                                    If I could offer two major points for your consideration, the first is to start planning now. A disaster may never happen, and my writing may only amount to the mad rants of an over-enthusiastic prepper in the making. Still, the impact of disasters is compounded by our instinct to make rational decisions in the midst of irrational situations.

                                                    Think now about what you would do, or what you would need, if: Fill in the blank.

                                                    Second, building an emergency store can become something of an addiction when you tune into the news. Any number of climate shifts, political developments, or brewing storms could create chaos. My favorite theories are those dealing with economic collapse, but you cannot live your life planning for the worse. It would be financially irresponsible to throw money at books, bullets and bomb shelters out of fear of disaster. Think carefully before you create an avoidable financial crisis before the true crisis comes knocking.

                                                    Did you find this article helpful? In 2015 I am working hard to double up my own emergency stores, and if there is enough interest, I will maintain a column documenting my progress, review the products and services I use, and delve deeper into the points I raised in this introduction. Trust me, we have not even scratched the surface.

                                                    To read future emergency prep articles, subscribe to my personal blog or follow me on Twitter @ScribblingJoe.

Posted in Blog | 4 Comments

The Return of SPN

So, what’s the scoop? Is SPN dying a slow death? Well, that’s what skeptics would have you believe, but thank goodness SPN is the intrepid cat that keeps coming back and feeling more than ready to rise to the challenge!

Let’s start with staff changes. To that end, we’ll begin with your Serotek Communications Director. I oversee the company’s external channels. Hence, the SPN platform and its staff fall under my supervision, an excitingly daunting prospect to be sure. My philosophy for SPN moving forward is pretty straightforward: Recruit the best talent to bring you the best information you can count on.

But, I am boring. Let’s move onto a couple of the people who are the real stars behind this operation.

Derek Lane and Hope Povenmire are Serotek’s new Co-Content Directors. They have quickly become my trusted pilots at the helm, and our highly engaging strategy sessions make me confident you are going to be in really good hands. For everything that goes well, thank them. For anything that goes wrong, blame me.

Derek in His Own Words

My primary hobby and professional work have always dealt in different aspects of audio production. I learned how to run live sound at church–where we run mixes for the house and musicians. My work there exposed me to different microphones and maximizing peoples’ voices with a variety of equipment. When Sound Forge rolled out, I moved my work away from a minidisc recorder and into computers.

I graduated from Gardner-Webb University with a major in communications and an interdisciplinary minor in music. The college experience taught me valuable interviewing techniques, recording styles, and collaboration with different personalities to design optimal products. I enjoy special interests ranging from teaching an audio fundamentals course with the Cisco Academy to audio restoration and Internet broadcasting on such stations as TBRN, where I am joined by Patrick Perdue and other talented personalities.

I am no stranger to SPN. You’re familiar with my work if you’ve been a fan of Triple Click Home and High Contrast, among other imaging products around the Network. In my new role my creativity will be stretched, and while there are moments when it can feel daunting, I am blessed to count on a community so willing to pitch in their assistance. If there is something that is missing that you want to see, let me know. I’ll be monitoring the SAMNet forums, and doing what I can to act on your ideas.

SPN and SAMNet are solid platforms. I can’t wait to work with you to make it stronger and better than ever.

Hope In Her Own Words

I grew up in a small town in Ohio. My family encouraged me to do what I wanted to do and not let my blindness stand in my way. Even though it really scared my mom, she encouraged me to cook on the stove, ride bikes, build tree houses and hit the ski slopes in Vermont.

Music helps me in so many ways. It is my water colors; my clay, my garden. It allows me to create, and, put into music emotions that words alone could never begin to fully express. As long as I can remember, music has been a part of my everyday life. I love playing the piano, the Celtic harp, the accordion, the recorder and really just about anything I can use to produce notes. My attempt at the violin was brief, though at least I was able to calm the screeching cat I initially produced. I enjoy singing, almost as much as I enjoy playing, though I love choral singing and hope to do it again one day.

My interests are pretty diverse. I enjoy cooking. It’s intriguing to combine a number of ordinary ingredients to create something memorable. Maybe that’s why I enjoy the way some authors can string a few words to create awesome plots. I love epic fantasy, thrillers, and yes, even a few well-written Nora Roberts books now and then. I also love to travel; to see new places and experience the way people work within different cultures.

I’m a very curious person. When I learn something, I want to learn as much as I can from it. The same thing can be said for when I take on projects. It’s either all or nothing. If I take on a task for someone, I know that I gave it my best. Those are the attributes I plan on contributing to Serotek and for you, our loyal followers.

Current Momentum

Our guys have been hard at work rebuilding the wonderful platform you know and love.

Over on SAMNet, an awesome feature of the Accessibility Anywhere package, the user forums have been hopping with suggestions we’ve been able to tackle on your behalf. Among other fixes, we’ve improved the organization of the described audio library to better help you find what you’re looking for. We’ve revamped the sound quality where you told us it was lagging. You wanted to see recent listings in television, not just movies. We heard, obeyed, and we’re looking forward to making other improvements to make SAMNet the place you turn to for the best in information and entertainment in the company of good friends.

We’re proud to report the SeroTalk and Triple Click Home Twitter feeds have been reactivated. If you’re not following, now’s a great time to change that!

Our podcast rosters are bringing back a few familiar voices along with some fresh talent. Technology will always be a staple of the SPN brand, but in the New Year we are branching out to other special interests. You said the world does not revolve around Apple and Android. We hear you loud and clear and have recruited talent to meet you at your interests. We will of course continue relying on the combined wizardry of Derek Lane and Patrick Perdue to create that clean, crisp audio landscape you know and love.

Finally, SPN is more than just a digital tapestry for your ears. We’ve already begun recruiting writers to boost our blog for those of you pressed for time or who prefer the written word to the spoken one. We look forward to covering everything from entrepreneurship to product reviews, from current events to financial management. In time we hope for our blog to play a lead in stimulating great debates over hot topics of impact to the community.

So, yeah, you could say we’ve been busy. Things are definitely looking up, and we really want you to be a part of our upward momentum. Stay tuned for regular programming to resume just around the corner. Sign up for our RSS feed or use the e-mail sign-up form below to get regular updates on current happenings.

Spread the word: SPN … has returned!

Posted in Announcements, Blog | 5 Comments

SeroTalk Podcast 222: where’s my remote?

Listen to SeroTalk Podcast 222: Where’s my remote?

What happens when you put three guys, three computers and one heck of an idea together in the same room? There’s bound to be strategic chaos, but that’s only natural of a product set on disrupting the assistive technology industry.

NVDA Remote Access will give blind users the freedom to enjoy a number of career and educational options. Blind Technical Support Professionals and amateurs alike can Use NVDA Remote access to connect to their clients computers remotely in real time and walk them through multi-step procedures or teach them new applications, techniques and workflows. Educators can hear what their students are doing on their computers and vice versa, providing a perfect environment for hands-on training from afar. Whether in an office down the hall or a datacenter on the other side of the globe, NVDA Remote access will provide powerful, minimal latency access to the Windows desktop via speech.

Actually, we think NVDA Remote Access is bound to lay the groundwork for some exciting innovations for the free screen reader, and we’re counting on you to help get it off the ground. Tune in, as Derek Lane and Patrick Perdue bring you a rather different kind of product demo that will make you look twice at NVDA!

Feel free to send your feedback on this show to resources@serotalk.com

You can always find the latest on this show and others on the SeroTalk Podcast Network

using iBlink Radio for your iOS device, the Kindle Fire, the Mac or your Android device. You can even leave us an iReport right from the iBlink app.

Thanks for listening!

Posted in Assistive Technology, Blindness and Low Vision, Interviews, Podcasts, SeroTalk | Comments Off on SeroTalk Podcast 222: where’s my remote?

Is the Death of the Third Party Screen Reader Really a Good Thing?

These days it seems more voices are adding to a chorus of death to the third party screen reader. Apple fueled a universal hope in the blindness community that if one company could make their products talk straight out of the box, so could the rest of the mainstream. Paying over a thousand dollars for a commercial screen reader is always a daunting prospect, but reducing screen reading choices to a free built-in solution could create its own grim reality.

The current built-in screen readers are insufficient for the blind professional. Apple’s Voiceover, an excellent choice for core functionality, does not grant blind professionals the access to, or flexibility with, a wide range of enterprise products required in the workplace. Actually, these core screen readers sometimes have difficulty with day-to-day tasks. Read Chris Hofstader’s frustrations with OSX.

Microsoft is hardly better. Though they are not last in accessibility, it would be an exaggeration to suggest Narrator has evolved to the point of self-sufficiency. Microsoft may or may not improve on the built-in screen reader in Windows 10. Microsoft may or may not fully incorporate Window Eyes into their operating system, but the blind professional needs to be productive today, not tomorrow.

The Cost of Free Products

Have you read Tim Connell’s take on the cost of free products on the NFB’s Braille Monitor? It’s a thought-provoking piece suggesting free assistive technology is not always better and that a super market approach may sacrifice the level of detail and response only smaller specialists can afford. Read the article in its entirety so you can decide for yourself if my own points are fair or full of bologna.

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

“A growing number of people in the print-disability field are not happy with the status quo and with the fact that specialist products are expensive and not available to all. The prospect of cheap or free products has become the goal that many individuals as well as some agencies are now supporting. When I started to think about this subject, my first question was, “Who is going to support an argument against free products?” “Not many people” is the answer. So perhaps the days of specialist developers and vendors really are numbered. In a world where many problems still exist, particularly in employment, some people need to assign blame and prefer to view the specialist providers as the problem. The cost of a commercial screen reader is viewed as the problem, and getting something free would help solve that problem. However, I keep returning to the supermarket analogy and have come to the conclusion that those small steps of change that occur incrementally mean we may not know what has been lost till it is too late. We may not really be aware of the change that is currently underway in the AT market. The point that is being missed is that it is not the cost of the product that should be our focus, but the ability of the product to fully meet the needs of each individual. Does a keen fisherman get all of his fishing gear at Kmart, or does he go to a fishing gear specialist? Do elite athletes buy all their sporting gear from Target, or do they go to specialist suppliers? Is price going to be the driver to make people successful, or is it getting the best possible solutions that will determine whether people can achieve their potential?”

A few critiques

First, Damn political correctness. I didn’t realize blind people were now part of the “print disability” community. When did the equally dreadful “visually challenged” fall out of style? I can’t keep up!

Sorry, I digress.

Second, while free or cheap is certainly desired among blind professionals, it’s hardly unique to the blindness community. Who doesn’t like a good deal, and in a market where it costs hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars to read a screen, scan a book, and read the Braille, it’s more than fair to ask why manufacturers continue to peddle prices that are rational for government agencies but completely out of step with reality for the individual consumer?

Third, yes, I am guilty of believing screen reading technology ought to be available to all. The assistive technology industry cannot claim small market arguments to justify exorbitant prices and then turn around with prices only accessible to an even smaller piece of that market. Surely the core products and business models have evolved to a point where companies can drop prices and still enjoy a healthy profit.

Next, Connell’s argument about our need to assign blame is perplexing. Is it the author’s claim that consumers do not have the right to complain when they do not get a return on their investment? He makes the point that we should not judge a product by how much it costs, but rather, by how fully it is meeting our needs. From where I’m sitting, and gauging by the comments accompanying my complaint against Freedom Scientific, the so-called specialists are not fully meeting the needs of the blind professional. Surely the elite athlete has the right to complain when the specialty store fails to produce adequate equipment.

Blind professionals recognize the value of the specialist but equally recognize the specialists too often overlook the value of their customers. Despite the prices, blind customers are still paying for the products, and it is not unreasonable to raise expectations for the amount of productivity you get out of that investment.

While the cost of certain blindness apps can sometimes be higher than usual, people still purchase the products because they fulfill a need. You don’t have to look far beyond the KNFB Reader app to prove the blind will pay if the app is solid.

To be fair, there is a uniqueness to the assistive technology arrangement. The industry does not pitch customers. They pitch to agencies with the capacity to meet market prices, and the agencies are too bureaucratic to demand better deals.

Common Ground

By now you may’ve gotten the impression I thought Connell’s article was outrageous. Not so. His overarching argument that pricing should be second to the best solutions could be painting too simplistic a picture of the status quo, but on the whole, Connell makes some valid points we should consider before deciding the third party screen reader should die.

If the industry is indeed drifting toward a single, built-in solution, I worry about what that means for stability. How many Voiceover and Braille glitches persist in iOS 8? How much attention has Microsoft given Narrator in its regular updates to Windows 8 and later in 8.1? Apple and Microsoft feature excellent accessibility lines, but these teams can only respond to what their products offer today. They are not in the position to execute accessibility bug fixes overnight.

Perhaps there’s comfort in the devil we know? JAWS can be nerve-wracking. Professionals want to squeeze advanced features out of the consumer-friendly System Access. Window Eyes is…Well, it’s Window Eyes. I mean no insult. I’m just too much of a simpleton to understand their command logic, and NVDA always seems to be on the verge of dying if they don’t generate enough donations, but by golly, there’s something to be said for on-the-fly choices when one application can work around an accessibility issue better than the others. I believe I would have already switched to a Mac if there was a logical alternative to Voiceover, which is extraordinary on iOS but worthy of a few offensive gestures on OSX.

Screen readers have generally reached a plateau. This is not because there is nothing else that can be done to make screen readers better. It’s because manufacturers are not devoting as much creative thinking to adapting their product to emerging apps.

Final Thoughts

Am I selling out after railing against my perceived evils of certain companies? I like to do my tiny part to keep them accountable, but I am always going to fall on the side of choice for the blind professional who needs more than one option to get things done.

Perhaps the Freedom Scientifics of the world are also betting Apple and Microsoft will soon dominate the screen reading market, rendering their solution irrelevant. Maybe that’s the best explanation for the general plateau we’re experiencing. If so, we may be in for a rough ride.

The current screen reader landscape could be far better than what it is. Yet, competition creates choice, and choice makes for greater productivity. Microsoft has had ample time to make something extraordinary happen with Windows 8. Maybe something will surprise us in Windows 10 under the new CEO, but I’m not holding my breath. Even if we are pleasantly shocked, I will still consider it a really good thing if customers can continue enjoying a diverse market to get their work done as sighted peers. Whatever Mr. Connell may believe, the blind do appreciate and pay for good products.

Okay, let me have it. If you think built-in screen readers and universal accessibility is preferable to the third party screen reader we love to hate, let me know about it in the comments!

Posted in Assistive Technology, Blog | 15 Comments

What is Net Neutrality and Why Should I Care?

The best way to think of net neutrality is to think about the telephone. When you pick up your telephone, you can call whomever you want, say whatever you want to say, and your telephone company can’t regulate any of it. They can’t choose to connect your neighbors’ calls faster than yours. They can’t disconnect your call if they decide you’ve spent too much time chattering over the phone line.

The Internet has always been approached in a similar fashion. Your speeds depend on the quality of your service. Dial-up connections using copper cables are not going to move as fast as fiber networks, but once you’re on the Internet, the Google website should be as readily available as Yahoo, Netflix as available as Hulu, etc.

Net neutrality seeks to maintain the open nature of the Internet. Supporters want to keep the environment decentralized. This makes it possible for people and companies to conduct business without interference from a third party, unlike countries like North Korea where the Internet is no more than an Intranet closely censored by its government.

But, it’s more than just an open Internet. There are cable companies that want the ability to charge content providers like Netflix more to stream movies. Now, you may or may not be a Netflix subscriber, but we’re talking about cable providers appointing themselves gatekeepers of what is and is not easily accessible. A cable provider could severely hinder or block access to a competitor’s website. Ten years ago that would have not mattered, but these days we see a small landscape of mega corporations with vast interests across print, web, music, and video content. Think of Comcast prioritizing NBC over other networks. Can you imagine a world where a handful of companies can control what you can access and hike prices up to access it?

Now, on the other side of the aisle, opponents of net neutrality see nothing wrong with a tiered service. Bandwidth hogs should pay more to move their packets of data faster. The revenue generated from these fees can help pay to expand broadband access to underserved consumers.

Besides, the Internet has already proven to be anything but neutral since larger companies pay for more servers and high-bandwidth services. Activity like file transfers are more likely to take priority over real-time communication. Some networks are not prepared to handle the surge from popular streaming services, which could deteriorate quality of service for all customers on that network.

Think of it this way, Google and Skype can clog up the pipes for free calls we spent billions to build. Why shouldn’t they pay their fair share to maintain these pipes?

Pros and cons aside, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a mistake when it classified Internet service providers as information services instead of telecommunication services. That means the FCC cannot keep AT&T, Verizon and others from prioritizing some content providers over others.

Okay, so why should you care?

First, if content providers like Netflix have to pay more to move their data, guess who’s going to pick up the bill? Here’s a hint, it’s not going to be Netflix! The same could be true of Amazon, Spotify and other services you rely on for multimedia content.

Further, you’re likely to experience changes in the quality of service. The United States already pays among the highest bills for pathetically slow Internet speeds. A tiered system sounds good on the surface, but how much is too much for less than adequate Internet speeds?

Finally, it’s the principle of the matter! We should not have gatekeepers dictating what websites and services can reach customers according to the highest bidder or business agendas. They should not slow down or block content providers they do not like. We should care because it will impact the open access to whatever information you want from whatever source you desire.

But, over to you. What are your thoughts on the debate? Do you think the Internet ought to continue being the open decentralized system it’s always been, or do you feel times have changed and bandwidth hogs should pay for their share of traffic congestion? It’s an issue more of us should closely follow. It’s a topic being debated in the courts, in the news, and pretty soon it’s going to hit your bill.

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on What is Net Neutrality and Why Should I Care?

SeroTalk Podcast 221: The Good, The Bad, the Future

Listen to SeroTalk Podcast 221: The Good, The Bad, the Future.

Serotek does not simply serve the community; it is very much a part of it. For fourteen years we have faithfully met you where you needed us, so in that spirit of fair exchange, we invite you to listen to a special edition of the SeroTalk Podcast for a candid conversation between Joe Orozco and Serotek’s co-founder, Mike Calvo, to cover everything from the Serotek product line, SPN, staff departures, and more.

Feel free to send your feedback on this show to resources@serotalk.com

You can always find the latest on this show and others on the SeroTalk Podcast Network

using iBlink Radio for your iOS device, the Kindle Fire, the Mac or your Android device. You can even leave us an iReport right from the iBlink app.

Thanks for listening!

Posted in Interviews, Podcasts, SeroTalk, Serotek, SPN Special | 16 Comments

High Contrast Episode 27: Blind Hockey

Listen to High Contrast Episode 27: Blind Hockey

Have you ever heard of blind hockey? If so, did you scratch your head and wonder how such a visual game could be enjoyed and played by both blind and low vision hockey enthusiasts? This month, Maurie spoke with Kevin Shanley, co-founder of both the New York Nightshades blind hockey club as well as Courage USA, a spinoff of Courage Canada. Kevin spoke of his introduction into blind hockey and his experiences at the annual Courage Canada Blind Hockey Tournament in Toronto, Ontario. Kevin’s hope is to bring the sport below the Canadian border so we can eventually have some true international competition and perhaps be involved in the birth of blind hockey as a paralympic event. Kevin explains how it works and the rule changes that make it possible for blind and low vision athletes to work together and exhibit a pretty impressive athletic competition.

Historic Movement in Blind Hockey includes a video of the first Courage USA blind hockey event discussed in Maurie’s interview with Kevin Shanley.

Courage USA Brings the Sport of Blind Ice Hockey to America

2015 Courage Canada National Blind Hockey Tournament to Take Place Feb 13-15

For information about registering for the 2015 Annual Courage Canada Hockey Tournament in Toronto,

Matt Morrow, Courage Canada Executive Director

845-234-1650

Courage USA

Christine Osika, Courage USA Co-Founder and Vice President
courageUSAhockey@gmail.com or
845-234-1650

Interested in developing your skills?
If you live in upstate New York, here are 2 organizations ready to hear from you:

New York Nightshades in Newburgh, NY

Kevin Shanley and Christine Osika

Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired

CABVI is in search of blind or visually impaired individuals who would like to play hockey! Beginning in 2016 CABVI will introduce its new blind hockey program. Please contact Kathy Beaver, VP of Rehabilitation, at (315) 797-2233 for more information or to express interest.

How can you find out what our hosts are up to outside the podcast?

Follow Maurie Hill on Twitter

Check out Maurie’s writing on the AI Squared Zoomed In Blog

Follow Rodney Edgar on Twitter

Check out Rodney on the Tech Access Weekly Blog and Podcast

Follow Byron Lee on Twitter

Check out Byron’s LowVisionRants.com Website

Feel free to send your feedback on this show to resources@serotalk.com

You can always find the latest on this show and others on the SeroTalk Podcast Network

using iBlink Radio for your iOS device, the Kindle Fire, the Mac or your Android device. You can even leave us an iReport right from the iBlink app.

Thanks for listening!

Posted in Blindness and Low Vision, High Contrast, Interviews, Podcasts | Comments Off on High Contrast Episode 27: Blind Hockey

SPN Feedback Special 6

Listen to SPN Feedback Special 6

The SPN team has a lot to be proud of–hundreds of hours of content, some great interviews–but most of all, we value you, our listeners. We take this special opportunity to recognize the love you have shown to us and try to return that love and appreciation in a very small way. This SPN special salutes you, our listeners. Thank you all for everything you have done for us!

Posted in Podcasts, SPN Special | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

SeroTalk Podcast 220: Kids Scare Me

Listen to SeroTalk Podcast 220: Kids Scare Me

Join Jamie, Lisa and Buddy as they discuss the top stories of the week. Then, Joe Orozco talks health and fitness with Bill Kociaba. Join Bill as he works out on Blind Cafe and let’s get fit for the holidays!

A T Talk

Comcast announces Talking Guide, a Siri for your cable box; teases smart home features

A Touch-Free Smartphone the Disabled Can Control With Their Heads

Refreshable Braille gets an engineer’s touch

Braille Authority of North Amaerica offers a free new publication to help readers transition to the new UEB code

Blind U.S. Army Captain Teaches Us to Keep Learning and Serving!

NVDA now supports Goldwave 6

Jazz up therapy with the MusicGlove!

The holiday gift guide issue of AccessWorld is now available! Gear up for the holidays here

When should we react, when should we let it go?

Mainstream Matters

YouTube’s Music Key: Can paid streaming finally hook the masses?

Microsoft Rolls Out Skype for Web Beta

Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life

iPhone 6 outselling iPhone 6 Plus by 3-to-1 margin in US

Nexus 6 smartphone marks first carrier release

Google Glass Losing its Glitz? Early Adopters, Developers Quietly Skulking Away

Why You Should Ignore Everything You Have Been Told About Choosing Passwords

Mailbag

Blog Comment from Dave:

Hi guys! I really enjoy the show! You all do a great job presenting in a way that is quite entertaining. Totally agree with the observations of Mr. Whitaker. Remember those dogs are not guide dogs if the harnesses are elsewhere. That is your driver’s license equivalent! I was going to put these comments into an I report and voice them, but considering the poor quality of mobile phone connections, I believed it served better if they were written, so there you are! Early happy Turkey day to the team, and please do keep it up!

Blog comment from Jake:

Hi everyone. I just listened to podcast episode 219, and I’d like to comment on the ending segment where Buddy Brannan interviewed Art Schreiber. That segment was fun. I am a huge Beatles fan, and it was cool hearing Art describe his and John Lennon’s monopoly games. Sometime I want to go to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, but for now I will just have to dream about it I guess. Art’s book sounds excellent. Anyway, great podcast as always and keep ’em coming! I love iBlink Radio!

Listen to Lisa’s interview with Fleksy on SeroTalk Podcast 214

Roundabout

10 Little-Known Units of Time

How 18 inmates at California’s notorious San Quentin prison learn to code

Five-year-old passes Microsoft exam

The Twitter song

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SeroTalk Podcast 219: Journey of Discovery

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Activate this link to sign up for a new account on Audible and get one free book.

Our recommended book for this episode of the podcast is Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs written by Yukari Iwatani Kane.

Listen to Lisa Salinger’s demo of setting up a new Audible account using System Access.

We thank Audible for sponsoring this episode of the SeroTalk Podcast.

Jamie, Ricky and Joe are back for another round of news stories in this week’s podcast. After the news, Buddy Brannan sits down with veteran journalist Art Schreiber to talk about his friendship with the Beatles, the current state of the news industry and his new book Out of Sight – Blind & Doing All Right.

Topics covered in this week’s podcast include:

Independence Day

And the audio version of this story is here.

Microsoft Had To Blindfold Me To See The Future

Cities Unlocked: Lighting up the world through sound – YouTube

: Braille printer leads $62m Intel injection for 16 startups

Listen to Buddy Brannan’s interview with Shubham Banerjee, on SeroTalk Podcast 188.

3 Tips for Teaching Young Children with a Visual Impairment How to Become Strong Readers

Braille and Large Print Menus Bring Dining with Dignity

Spread the word and the holiday cheer – @BraillePress has print/braille holiday cards on sale now.

Skype 6.22 JAWS scripts released, typing indicator fixes and over ten more things.

BBC iPlayer Now withAudio Description

Switching From iOS to Android

Eloquence v1.1.7 released

The first phone with Android 5.0 Lollipop is… the 2014 Moto X?!

Amazon Unveils Echo, a Speaker With a Siri-Like Voice Assistant

Office for iPhone Apps: 3 Things to Know

CBS brings a round-the-clock streaming news network to cord cutters

Shaking off Spotify is easy for Taylor Swift; for everyone else, it’s complicated

The top 20 catchiest songs of all time, according to science

Mailbag

From @blind_educator
Good MailBag, good MailBag, you’re back home. YOu were a good MailBag.

Hey there Ms. Enger, Mr. Pauls, and Mr. Steinkamp,

I return MailBag to you nice and clean. I brushed MailBag’s teeth, cleaned behind the ears, and got MailBag ready for the winter. We both had a wonderful time, MailBag tried sharing some Sero Tek secrets, but told MailBag it wasn’t a good thing giving out secrets when someone is trusting MailBag to keep them. We talked about what was good and bad, and MailBag seems to understand. I have no idea why Ms. Enger is the only person that MailBag behaves somewhat. A lot better then Mr. Steinkamp or Mr. Pauls. But I guess MailBag is star stricken because of the Rock Star from EOLShow.

By the way, Mr. Steinkamp if there are some charges on your credit card. MailBag share your card with me. We wanted to see if ApplePay is accessible. So I have it as part of my ApplePay. I have Triple Click Home folks and That Android Show peeps coming over for lunch. Between MailBag and myself, we’re going to see if they can start playing nice and stop the bashing between the 2 shows. I promise not to go over $1,000. Unless MailBag gets really hungry. Please, please, do not over feed MailBag over the holidays, and get all that is on MailBag’s Christmas list. Or wise, MailBag will start acting up again.

Have a good one. Awesome show, keep it up. Really enjoy the trio.

Blog comment from Steven Whiteker:

Thanks again for a wonderful podcast! I agree that when you have a guide dog or a service dog, you need to comply with all laws and also be a responsible person

From Pam Francis:

Hi folks,
As a young child, I was very fortunate to have had a sight-saving teacher take an interest in me & my ability to read as a student of the Missouri school for the blind.
At the time, my vision was considerably less than it is now; yet no one knew the course it would take. Therefore I was taught both braille & print simultaneously. Though I spent most of my school day in a braille atmosphere, I had minimally an hour a day with a sight-saving class working with the print alphabet. I could not read large print at the time. My teacher took a purple crayon to copy stories on to the cream colored paper we had with light green lines.. I was to read that story & come back the next morning explaining what I had read.
I did not realize how valuable that resource would be until I was mainstreamed in the middle of my 4th grade year through the end of my 7th grade year.
I basically did double homework. I learned to type & spell without braille contractions in order to turn my work in to my sighted teachers while making a copy for myself in braille in order to follow along with the class.
My Father spent time in Federal prison. While incarcerated, he took it upon himself to learn braille in order to communicate with me. He initially learned on a slate & stylus. More than once I had to translate many backwards lines of braille in his letters. He finally got a lavender braille writer. We all know how crappy they were.He ultimately got pretty good. He took it upon himself to teach other inmates as a resource they could use on the outside to help break down the communication barriers between the blind & sighted community.

I also had an experience with a pre-school class attempting to explain braille.
I wrote the print letter on a chalkboard with its braille counterpart underneath, explaining how the dots worked. We had a project of baking heart-shaped cookies; as it was near Valentine’s day. As a means for the kids to find their cooky, we used small cinnamon beads to form their names in braille in the cooky dough. They had to pick out their cooky with their names written in braille.
Pam Francis

Roundabout

Why Are Elections on Tuesdays?

Richard Bernstein to Become First Blind State Supreme Court Justice

A great scene from the West Wing for election day, “Do you know if I have to be preregistered or something?”

Titles
Cranky Cortana
Low-vision Ranch
Joe Steinkamp for President
Audible book: The Haunted Empire
Out of sight: Blind but doing all right
blindart@samobile.net
artschreiber.com

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SeroSpectives: Vision Expo 2014

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Serotek’s own Richard Wells recently had the opportunity to attend the American Foundation for the Blind’s 2014 Vision Expo held in Waco, Texas. While he was there, Richard managed to snag some great interviews which he brought back to the team. We are pleased to feature those interviews in this month’s episode of SeroSpectives. Be sure to visit the Websites of the respective organizations mentioned in this podcast so that you can learn more about what they have to offer.

Neva Fairchild talks with Richard Wells about the American Foundation for the Blind’s 2014 Vision Expo held in Waco, Texas.

Richard visits with a representative of HIMS Inc.

Heather talks about the Texas Talking Book Program.

Steven Thompkins talks with Richard Wells about NFB Newsline.

Kathy visits with Richard about the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services of Texas.

Philips Lifeline offers many health aids such as talking prescription information.

Tracey represents the Dallas Services Low Vision Clinic.

Teresa tells us about Ridgecrest Retirement Village.

Learn about emergency preparedness from a representative of the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry.

Jan tells us about the programs available from the Area Agency on Aging.

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SeroTalk Podcast 218: I Know A Secret

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Everyone on the podcast team survived Seroween … erm … Halloween with plenty of candy to go around. Jamie, Ricky and Joe take a look at this week’s news, mailbag gets a makeover, and Jamie visits with award-winning contemporary Christian artist Ginny Owens about her new project “I Know A Secret”. You can listen to “No Borders,” the first single from her album and pre-order the entire project on Amazon or iTunes. Visit Ginny’s Website to learn more about what she is up to.

A T Talk

Audio Defence : Zombie Arena | AppleVis

Get a sense of what Audio Defence is like with this gameplay trailer.

An Indecent Proposal for Halloween – FamilyConnect: for parents of children with visual impairments

Braille: What It Is and What It Is Not

Beginning Braille Skills | WonderBaby.org

The updated Bookshare website is live! Learn what’s new and take the video tour.

JAWS 16 has officially been released! Details can be found on our homepage under “Featured News”

My Complaint with Freedom Scientific

Apps, the web, and productivity

Play it by ear: Baseball for the blind

Mainstream Matters

Starbucks just announced big news about delivery

Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health: The $199 all-platform fitness band

Google’s Massive Android Update Will Come With A New ‘Smart’ Lock Screen

Amazon exec: Fire Phone was overpriced

Samsung will ‘fundamentally reform’ its smartphones after dire earnings report

Dabbling in the future of payment: A week of Apple Pay and Google Wallet

MCX’s CurrentC, the infamous Apple Pay competitor, says its already been hacked

Meijer is first MCX member to break ranks, continuing to support Apple Pay

The guy behind Google Wallet is back to change payments all over again

Mailbag

From Jenine Stanley:

You all know I couldn’t stay silent on this one so let me explain the various legally allowable types of animals in public and then the reality.

Under federal law, specifically the ADA, Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Access Act and Rehabilitation Act, there are two categories of animal that someone may be accompanied by and for which that person may have access rights.

“Service animals”, as of March 2011, are classified as dogs only with some exceptions for miniature horses. People who partner with service animals have access rights under all of the above laws. A service animal must, and this is the key, do work or perform tasks to be considered as such. An animal that just makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you pet it doesn’t perform a task. Also, tasks and work must be reliable and able to be duplicated.

Emotional Support Animals can be of just about any species or size, save for air travel where there are restrictions on species. The animal generally has no trained tasks but must be house broken and must conform to standard behavior expected of pets in public places.

The only laws that specifically mention rights for people with Emotional Support animals are the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. Both of these laws allow people to bring their Emotional Support animals with them on planes and in housing situations. Under both cases, the animal must be prescribed by a mental health professional. This documentation must be presented in very specific ways and the team does not have public access rights.

Where this all gets slippery is when dogs do work such as seizure detection or some of the tasks associated with psychiatric disabilities. If they do tasks that can be repeated and controlled, then they are service animals. If it’s just a random thing the dog, in most cases, does, then it’s not a service animal.

One example in an article I read was of a family who had a lovely and well behaved German Shepherd who helped keep the kids together on family walks. They wanted to take the dog with them into other public spaces so got a service dog vest and called her a service dog. No one in the family had a disability per say. That family admitted to their fraud, sadly most don’t.

I could obviously go on and on about this but technically there’s no difference in access rights between the guide dog and the dog trained to alert someone to low blood sugar or perform a task related to PTSD such as focused grounding when the dog will actively touch or stop the person so he can refocus and shift attention from the distraction to the dog.

The final two thing I do want to note are:

  1. With great rights come great responsibilities. This point is all too often ignored by many people, fraudulent or not. If my experienced guide dog is out of control in a public place, I can be asked to leave just the same as if the pocket Poodle yapping at the waitress yet being touted as a service dog, can be removed.

  2. Aggression or personal defense has no place in service or emotional support animal work or presence. A lot of people want a dog for such protection and think a little growl is OK now and then. Granted, dogs in and of themselves are deterrents in many cases but specific aggressive behaviors are just not allowed under any access law.

Hope that helps sort of clear things up. the truly frustrating part is that we as guide dog handlers have had to behave and toe the line for nearly 90 years now while all manner of service dog comes along and people just assume they have rights with little responsibilities included. It really drives a rift between disability groups.
Jenine Stanley
jeninems@wowway.com

Blog comment from Dominique

Alan Wheeler well said. That makes lots of since. Prioritize as they say… First, think of saving yourself first, then fun apps after. Otherwise, you’d not be here to play said fun games if you didn’t.

Roundabout

10 Words With Spooky Etymologies

We Are All Confident Idiots

The Blind at Work in an Unusual and Demanding Profession

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SeroTalk Podcast 217: The Kindling

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the podcast which manages to combine electronics, food and airplanes all into one show. How do Jamie Ricky, Joe and Mailbag manage this? You’ll just have to listen for yourself in order to appreciate the amazing artistry involved! After the news, Mike Bullis, Executive Director of the Image Center of Maryland, talks with Jamie Pauls about the Aging and Disability Skills Gateway, an ambitious new project that endeavors to fundamentally change how people with all types of disabilities obtain knowledge on how to accomplish ordinary and not-so-ordinary tasks. Stories covered in this episode include:

iOS8.1 is here. @AppleVis has the details on what got fixed for VoiceOver users

Emirates innovates with inflight entertainment for the visually impaired

Touchable Memories allows visually impaired to “see”

Magical Gardens for the Blind, Deaf, and Disabled

New Software Lets the Visually Impaired 3D Print a Map To Go

Registration now open for FREE Web Accessibility Training for Developers

Verizon unveils National Accessibility Customer Service (NACS): 888-262-1999

Hospitality, Accessibility and the ADA

Accessibility features on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Nexus 9 hands-on and first impressions

4 Reasons Amazon’s Fire Phone Was a Flop

First major update to Windows 10 Preview, delivered through Windows Update

Why the Mac momentum may just be starting

How to set up and troubleshoot Apple Pay

Apple Pay for Travel: Very Far from Great, or Even Good

Google Is Making Some More Noise About Google Wallet

Roundabout

NASA has a new SoundCloud page FULL of mission, spacecraft, and historic audio…an immensely compelling listen.

ever hear the sound of northern lights?

Unconventional Orchestras and Bone Conduction Headphones

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High Contrast Episode 26: Muscle Memory

Listen to High Contrast Episode 26: Muscle Memory

The team takes a look at the new Apple Mac OS, another check in with Rodney on how he likes his new iPhone 6 Plus then a trip into the world of 4k resolution and beyond. All that and Joe gives into Rodney’s insistence with this month’s app review on High Contrast.

Remember, you can keep up with even more Apple news by listening to SPN’s sister show “Triple-click Home”

Or, for even more up to the minute Apple news, check out the Twitter feed for the show at
https://twitter.com/tripleclickhome

App Review: WWE Super Card

Rodney has mentioned this game enough for Joe to grab it and, be it grudgingly, agree that it’s not bad. Not bad at all. The words “collectable”, “card” and “game” are innocent enough. But adding the letters W, W and E might make one pause. Yet, when combined into the title WWE Super Card, the result is really fun for both fans of the WWE and those who like stat based game play found on so many other mobile apps. The fonts are large, however, some might have problems with the colors on the card’s background images. The game is free and playing a round is fast. It’s out now for both Apple and Android. And, like we said above, it isn’t bad.
Find the app on the Apple App Store at
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wwe-supercard/id775402833?mt=8
And on Google Play at
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.catdaddy.cat22&hl=en

How can you find out what our hosts are up to outside the podcast?

Follow Maurie Hill on Twitter

Check out Maurie’s writing on the AI Squared Zoomed In Blog

Follow Rodney Edgar on Twitter

Check out Rodney on the Tech Access Weekly Blog and Podcast

Follow Byron Lee on Twitter

Check out Byron’s LowVisionRants.com Website

Feel free to send your feedback on this show to resources@serotalk.com

You can always find the latest on this show and others on the SeroTalk Podcast Network

using iBlink Radio for your iOS device or your Android device. You can even leave us an iReport right from the iBlink app.

Thanks for listening!

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SeroTalk Podcast 216: Cranial Course Correction

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Welcome to this week’s episode of the SeroTalk podcast where Jamie, Ricky and Joe discuss the top news stories of the week. Then, Lisa Salinger talks with Tyler Thompson, an adaptive technology instructor from New Mexico about iFidget, a soon-to-be-released free app that will unobtrusively alert a person to body movements such as rocking. Stories covered in this episode of the podcast include:

White Cane Safety Day

A subscription free version of Sendero’s Seeing Eye GPS app for iOS is now available for $299

Chicken Nugget 2.4! Better filtering! Better conversations! More stable! Loads of new good things!

Young Ham Recognized for Navigation Aid for Visually Impaired

SPN Special: 100 Years of Amateur Radio

Windows10 Technical Preview – Peering into the future.

Accessibility for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPad Air vs. iPad Air 2: Is It Worth the Extra $100?

Features and Bugs of OS X 10.10 Yosemite

Whose Responsibility is Accessibility?

All the New Stuff in Android 5.0 Lollipop

A list of all the Google Now voice commands

Google reveals our embarrassing voice search habits

HBO to Offer Standalone Streaming Service in U.S. in 2015

Watch out, HBO: CBS launches standalone Web TV service

Facebook Safety Check Confirms You’re Okay During a Natural Disaster

Mailbag

Greg Wocher Writes: “Hello SeroTalk Team,
I want to apologize right off the bat because this is going to be a long e-mail. There were so many things in the latest episode that brought back memories. First, Ricky yes it was me that sent in the long e-mail about braille a couple of weeks ago.

When Joe mentioned the mall and Sharper Image I could not help but think about how I use to go to the malls when I was younger and had eyesight.
I use to love to go and look at all the shops. I remember going into the various stores that carried items that you did not see in the regular stores. There was one I cannot remember the name of but it use to carry unique gadgets of various kinds. For example, little unique tool sets in something like a golf bag. I also went to the mall for BDalton books, Walden books, Electronics Boutique and the arcade.

Concerning Pop tarts, my favorite is the frosted brown cinnamon sugar ones. Also when Ricky mentioned chocolate mint pop tarts I thought of York Peppermint Pop Tarts. Sounds good doesn’t it? LOL.

When I had sight I used to play video games a lot. I had the SNES, N64 and the original PlayStation. My family even had the Atari 2600 which we used to play games like Pong and Pitfall on as a family. I even have a working SNES here at the house that my niece and nephew used to get out every once in a while and play Super Mario and Donkey Kong on. I used to have, and may still have somewhere, a system I want to see if Joe remembers. It was called the Turbo Graphics 16. It was competing with the SNES and the Sega but never did catch on. Well that’s it for now.
Have a good week everyone.”

Jenine Stanley
Says: “Oh how I remember installing Windows, from 95 on, with the many floppy disks.

I actually miss one aspect of Windows 95 and 98, the custom Office Assistant in the MS Office Suite. OK, it wasn’t necessarily very helpful as assistants go but in 95 there was a dolphin who made all kinds of cool noises when stuff happened. There were many choices for your Office Assistant but the dolphin was the most fun.

Then I think it was in 98 and office 97 that the dolphin went away and was replaced in our house by the cat. It was this white cat which appealed to us as we have always had pure white cats. The cat was great because when you got an error in Word, say, it would hiss. Our cats talked back to it.

I’m sure there are probably different sound schemes for the Mac that I have not discovered yet so maybe the dolphin can return to my computer. My home Windows 7 machine had a lovely beach soundscape on it but alas, no such thing for the Mac and not enough memory to run it on the work laptop.

Maybe we can get a MailBag soundscape going. Now that’s frightening.”

From matej Augustin

“Hellož!
I finally tried out the NVDA screen reader. It’s… interesting. One of the things I don’t like is the Espeak voice. So, if any of you are using NVDA, could you tell me which voices/tts engines are you using?
There are a few suggestions on their website, but I would still like to hear your input.
Also, some tips and tricks for new users would be helpful.
Thanks in advance and keep up the good work”

Roundabout

Why Your Privacy Matters, Even If You’re Not “Doing Anything Wrong”

10 Grammar Mistakes People Love To Correct That Aren’t Actually Wrong

Video games which open the door for the blind to play

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SeroTalk Podcast 215: Sacrelicious

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Welcome to this week’s episode of the SeroTalk Podcast. Fast cars and music are just a small part of what we have to offer this time around. After the news, Wade Wingler tells us what’s going on over at the Indata Project. Follow them on Twitter, visit their Website and check out their podcast on iBlink Radio.

Stories covered in this week’s podcast include:

The AT History site seeks to preserve the history of adaptive technology for the blind

Preview of Windows 10 Preview using NVDA

Windows 10 Technical Preview deep-dive: A promise of better things to come

Why Learn Braille as an Adult?

Navigating Immersion Training: Are Sleepshades Blinding Me?

No Barriers Grand Canyon Expedition Reflection

Google’s Conversational Search Gets Smarter, Adds OpenTable Integration

Microsoft CEO Tells Women To Trust The System And Not Ask For Raises

This Week in Tech Episode 479

Amazon to open first physical store

An Overview of iOS 8

What we know (and suspect) is coming in iOS 8.1

Apple’s iPad/Mac/OS X Yosemite event: Here’s what to expect

Apple Reportedly Preparing to Remove Bose Audio Products From Retail Stores

Tesla Unveils New Self-driving Car

Roundabout

David Hasselhoff Makes Dream Come True for ‘Knight Rider’ Fan With Down Syndrome

Peek Inside the World’s Oldest Sealed Time Capsule

Listen To This Woman Sing Two Notes At Once

Isolated vocals: David Lee Roth

Isolated vocals: Joe Elliot

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SeroTalk Podcast 214: FaceBucks

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Activate this link to sign up for a new account on Audible and get one free book.

Our recommended book for this episode of the podcast is Ready Player One written by Ernest Cline and Narrated by Wil Wheaton.

We thank Audible for sponsoring this episode of the SeroTalk Podcast.

There is lots to cover in this week’s podcast including the top news stories of the week and an interview with Ioannis Verdelis of Fleksy. Stories discussed in this podcast include:

Windows Technical Preview is Microsoft’s Alchemy Moment

Keyboard Shortcuts in the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Bye, Bing: Microsoft’s Windows apps rebranded as MSN

Microsoft starts rolling out its new Office 365 small and mid-size business plans

Google Launches Drive For Education With Unlimited Storage

Android L 5 release date, preview, features & rumours

Facebook apologizes for manipulating news feeds in psychology experiment

Facebook seeks entry into health care

Apple event reportedly set for October 16 with new iPads, Macs

The Complete Newbie’s Guide to iPhone and iOS

Third-party iOS 8 keyboards offer choice, but Apple limits functionality

MBraille 1.0 for Android is out! Features file management, dropbox support, spell check, direct emails,… coming up for iOS also.

HIMS and Diotek Announce Plans to Enhance and Expand Technologies for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Novasentis and HumanWare Join Forces to Bring Radically New Sensory Experiences to the Visually Impaired

Students developing low-cost, portable Braille printer

Introducing ZoomText Remote Training!

Introducing Leasey Advanced!

if your using the qube again, a new feature list is here

Roundabout

13 Things You Never Knew About Pop-Tarts

The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times

Building a monument to wounded warriors

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SPN Special: 100 Years of Amateur Radio

Listen to our SPN Special: 100 Years of Amateur Radio

Buddy Brannan recently had the opportunity to attend the 100-year celebration of the existence of ARRL–the American Radio Relay League–in Hartford, Connecticut. He brought back back a lot of great audio, and this is just the first of several SPN specials to come out of this event.

Among other things you will hear in this special, Buddy gets to play a phonograph machine from 1905 courtesy of the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut.

Then, he learns about the Morse Telegraph club and the history of Morse Code.

Next, Elecraft makes an appearance and Buddy talks about all the ameture radio equipment he has owned, currently owns and would like to eventually own.

After that, the president of AMSAT talsk with Buddy about the past, present and future of amateur radio as it relates to satellites.

Finally, the public relations director of the American Radio Relay League talks about the past, present and future of the organization.

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