Tech Resources for the Blind

Hines Alumni Association and Blind Not Alone, LLC offer and recommend the following list of teleconferences and resources to support your assistive technology goals. Please send any corrections or additions to TERRYKEBBEL@HINESALUMNI.ONMICROSOFT.COM or info@blindnotalone.com

Conference Calls

Blind Vet Tech’s Monthly Teleconference

The Blind Vet Tech team operates four monthly teleconferences. Below is the list with their times and how to connect. You can visit https://blindnotalone.com/zoom/ for more information.

  • Get Started with Narrator on Windows 10, meets the 2nd Tuesday at 1300 CST
  • Monthly MacOS Talk, meets the 2nd Thursday at 1300 CST
  • Monthly Tech Talk, meets the 3rd Thursday at 1300 CST
  • Open Mic Night, meets the 3rd Thursday at 1900 CST

To participate with any Blind Vet Tech teleconference:

  • Visit https://zoom.us/j/7854091838 to connect via your computer or iPhone/iPad app
  • Click this number with your iPhone: 6468769923,,7854091838#
  • Dial (646) 876-9923, Meeting ID is 7854091838#

Hines Alumni Association’s Monthly Teleconferences

The Hines Alumni Association conducts two monthly teleconferences. Below is the list with their times and how to connect. Learn more about the Hines Alumni by visiting http://hinesalumni.org/.

  • Kevin Jackson moderates the Hines computer conference call. It meets the first Thursday at 10 AM CST. For more info, kmjacksonsr@att.net.
  • Rick Olsen moderates the Hines iPhone and GPS Users conference call. It meets the first Tuesday at 10AM CST. For more info, rwoverna2@gmail.com.

To join either of the Hines Alumni conference calls:

  • Click this number with your iPhone, (800) 767-1750,44125#
  • Dial (800) 767-1750, Meeting ID is 44125#

Future Teleconferences

Hines Alumni Association and Blind Not Alone are interested in receiving your feedback and interest for future teleconferences. We believe in connecting virtually to share our thoughts and experiences in order to promote independence. Below is a list of teleconferences we wish to host via ZOOM. If you are interested, email Terry Kebbel at terrykebbel@hinesalumni.onmicrosoft.com

  • Hines Alumni’s Before and After
    The call will provide individuals with the chance to share their experiences and questions related to attending a Blind Rehab Center. The conference is open to anyone who has attended a Blind Rehab Center.
  • Hines Alumni Virtual Book Discussion Group
    Many of us are avid readers, so let’s come together to discuss our favorite books.
    Coaching Sessions on demand
    Hines Alumni Association and Blind Not Alone offer peer-based and professional coaching sessions. If you are interested in participating in a coaching session, send an email to terrykebbel@hinesalumni.onmicrosoft.com or info@blindnotalone.com.

Contractual and Peer Mentorship Services Services

If you represent the VA or a State Vocational Rehab program that requires an assessment or training of a consumer prior to issuing a device, services are available and are conducted by a Licensed Social Worker and ACVREP Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist. For more info contact info@blindnotalone.com

Websites to visit

Below is a list of websites we find the most beneficial. Please visit them and add them to your bookmarks.

Help Desks

Each of the major technology companies offers dedicated support for individuals with disabilities. Below is how to contact the accessibility support programs.

  • Microsoft Accessibility Desk personal – (800) 936-5900
  • Apple Accessibility – (877) 204-3930
  • Amazon Accessibility – (888) 283-1678
  • VFO Accessibility Desk (727) 803-8600

Podcasts

Podcasts offers a great method to listen to news and information on your own schedule. The below podcasts represent some of the best ways to learn more about the technologies and services you use. If you are using a Victor Reader, Hims Blaze, or any podcasting app, just search the name and add to your play list.

  • Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials
  • Blind Vet Tech News Update
  • Freedom Scientific (FS Cast)
  • Apple vis
  • Seminars at Hadley
  • Tech talk archive
  • Eyes on success

Blind Vet Tech News Update on Intel’s devastating security exploit, Apple’s battery replacement program for older iPhones, and our teleconferences for January

Happy New Years to everyone. This year starts out with alarming news coverage of the Meltdown and Specter exploits impacting all Intel Processors, Apple’s $29.99 battery replacement plan after admitting to throttling older devices, and The return of our own Blind Vet Tech monthly teleconferences.

If you are wondering about the Meltdown and Specter exploits affecting all Intel processors, yes it impacts a vast majority of Microsoft, Dell, Asus, Acer, Apple, Android, and so many more manufacture’s devices. The best defense we each have is to update our operating systems and internet browsers. Apple and Microsoft recently released OS updates to patch vulnerabilities and more are on the way. If you are using Windows XP still, I advise upgrading to Windows 10 since you will be left out for the most part. Google and Mozilla will be releasing updates to Chrome and Firefox in the near future, and Apple will update Safari for legacy Mac’s and iMacs.

Shortly after Christmas, Apple admitted to throttling iOS devices based on battery health. Their reasoning is one I fully support, to promote the usability of older devices. This affects Voice Over by slowing down its responsiveness and may cause some glitchy behaviors. The solution is to take advantage of Apple’s $29.99 battery replacement for all of your older devices from the iPhone 6 and newer. The catch is the slots at your local Apple Store are filling up a week in advance, so you need to jump on any available time slots with the Genius Bar you see available. The best way to arrange an appointment is to
contact Apple Support or use the Apple Support iOS app.

Finally, January starts our new times and calls for the Blind Vet Tech Monthly Talks. Our Monthly Talks provide visually impaired individuals the chance to learn and share information about their favorite devices. Below is a list of the upcoming calls and how to connect. We have switched to the Zoom platform for our calls, which enables one to connect via their computers, iOS devices, or landline phones in a simple and accessible manner. More information may be located by clicking here.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

Tech Capabilities: Recognize digital images through Apple’s Voice Over, Microsoft Narrator, and JAWS 2018

Have you ever wondered how to increase independence through the various apps and devices available for the blind? Blind Vet Tech’s Tech Capabilities offers suggestions to achieve these goals.

Did you know that Apple’sVoice Over, Microsoft’sNarrator, and JAWS each possess the ability to recognize images? No longer must we hope a website or an image title in an email contain a alt tag or name that describes what the picture portrays or PDF image states. There is a couple of caveats here. First, the image recognition falls short of Seeing AI’sor Tap Tap See’s service. If there is some text, each will attempt to OCR it, or just call it a sign, poster, or newspaper. JAWS’ image recognition is limited to OCR’ing images and PDF’s. Voice Over will OCR only a portion of a PDF image, based on what is displayed. Here is how to use the image recognition features for each screen reader:

  • Voice Over in iOS
    • Place Voice Over’s focus on an image
    • Preform a three finger single tap
  • Voice Over in MacOS
    • Place Voice Over’s focus on an image
    • Press VO plus Shift plus L
  • Microsoft Narrator
    • Place Narrator’s focus on an image
    • Press Caps Lock plus Shift plus D
  • JAWS 2018
    • Place the JAWS cursor on an image or PDF file in File Explorer
    • Press Insert plus Spacebar, then O, then F
    • Within a document, press Insert plus Spacebar, then O,and then D
    • For a full list of options, press Insert plus Spacebar, then Question Mark

Below you will find some alternative solutions to identify digital images and PDF’s.

  • Use an AIRA agent to describe or read the image
  • Scan an image with your smart phone via Seeing AI or Tap Tap See
  • Facebook recognizes images posted to your feed or page

Hope you enjoyed learning about the different solutions available to describe images through Blind Vet Tech’s Tech Capabilities.

Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk for September

This is an announcement for the Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk for September 21. This month we turn our attention towards our new conferencing platform, Zoom.us and what is new in iOS 11. Zoom is a highly accessible conferencing platform allowing participants to connect via their computers, smart phones, or through a dial in number, see below for how to do this and coming shortcut kets.

Apple releases iOS 11 on September 19, and we are super excited to share what we know. Voice Over received many updates and tweaks, earning our trust and approval. The couple of updates exciting us include the ability to fill out PDF’s, recognize a bit of text in images through a built into Voice Over OCR, find facial features in Photos, and ability to drag and drop multiple items. Zoom users will enjoy the ability to place your finger on the menu bar and automatically zoom into it without Zoom on, clean up of the Control Center for easier navigation, and the easier to see Dock and app switchers.

Participate on the call through Zoom by:

  • Thursday, July 20
  • 1900 Central Time

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android by clicking here

iPhone users simply tap on the phone number below or dial:

  • (646) 876-9923,,7854091838#
  • or (669) 900-6833,,7854091838#

Zoom enables one to control their participation through a series of hotkeys. The table below lists the possible actions and how to complete it based on your connection method:

Action Zoom for Windows Zoom for MacOS Zoom for iOS Dial into Zoom
Mute Alt A Command Shift A Mute Button on app Star 6
Raise hand to prompt moderator Alt Y Option Y Raise/Lower hand Button on app Star 9

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

Blind Vet Tech News Update: Rise of the Accessible Microsoft Machines

Welcome to this installment of the Blind Vet Tech News Update. In this episode, Terry and I discuss the evolving accessibility culture filtering through Microsoft, our thoughts on Narrator as a stand alone screen reader, the accessibility and usability of One Note and other Microsoft Office products, and why machine learning to recognize objects and text excites us. The combination of these items truly demonstrates what happens when a company, like Microsoft, takes the stance to integrate universal design within its core beliefs.

For those skeptical about Microsoft’s commitment to accessibility, watch this Youtube video. It outlines exactly how accessibility is no longer a buzz word where Microsoft passes the responsibilities to fix inaccessible platforms onto third party solutions. Rather Microsoft takes the lead with integrated accessibility tools, accessibility checkers in Office products, and even promoting universal design amongst its partners.

Visit these links if you wish to learn more about how to use the Microsoft integrated accessibility tools or produce completely accessible Office documents.

Regarding Narrator, we both agree its a wonderful screen reader to use. Placing our screen readers where our mouth is, we both have made the commitment to adopt Narrator as our primary screen reader on Windows in the upcoming year. Currently a lack of end user guides exist, but Microsoft released a terrific user guide for those willing to take part in our challenge. Its from this guide we have started to produce the Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials Narrator series.

The final segment quickly reviews machine learning and how its recognizing the world around us. As blindness tech advocates, these complex systems needs to be promoted by our community. Its up to us to share how machine learning to recognize objects works, what type of descriptions would benefit us, and dispel myths about computers rising up against us to take over the world.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

Blind Vet Tech News Update: Accessibility and Usability – Blind Vet Tech

Welcome to the first Blind Vet Tech News Update, the podcast presenting news, information, and thoughts related to expansive tech world. In this episode, Terry and I introduce ourselves, review Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, introduce the Web Accessibility Initiative, debate accessibility versus usability, and how these items formed the Information and Communications Technologies Refresh.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act established the core accessibility requirements for electronic and digital informational technologies for Federal, state, and similar entities. Originally established in 1986, the regulations received only two updates. The 1998 update established requirements for items like federal and state websites, web-based services, and other items based on the type of technology. The Information and Communications Technologies Refresh redefined web accessibility requirements by adopting the Web Accessibility Initiative’s guidelines and reclassifying technology categories based on their function.

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is a collective of industry leaders, disability advocates, and governmental representatives under the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The aim is to establish a fluid set of accessibility guidelines for the world wide web and anything interacting with it. This becomes more important as devices, like smart phones, wearables, and VR/AR, change how we interact with not just the world wide web by the greater internet. Without a baseline set of accessibility recommendations, we as disabled consumers would be lost.

Both Section 508 and the WAI struggle in one area, what does accessibility and usability mean. Yes, something may be completely accessible but not usable, demonstrating the objective versus subjective nature of the debate. In the comment fields below, what does accessibility and usability mean to you?

The Information and Communications Technologies Refresh pulls these three items together and redefines Section 508, Section 255 of the communications act, and so much more. The US Access Board overseen this update, presenting the update in January 2017 with an publication date in March 2017. Federal and State entities have until January2018 to release their updated policies and bring their services into compliance.

Thank you for listening to the Blind Vet Tech News Update. The focus on Section 508, WAI, accessibility versus usability, and the ICT Refresh provided an overview of the accessibility menace in the evolving digital world.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.