From The Florida Outreach Center For The Blind: Workshop Demonstrating Accessible Kitchen Appliances: Thursday, February 17, 1:00 PM Eastern Time

The following announcement was sent to me via email.

Hello FOCB Family and Friends,

Have you ever wondered how popular countertop home cooking appliances can operate hands free by just giving simple voice commands using an Amazon Echo or a Google home product? Think how these devices can be used to set the time, temperature, and cooking mode without touching a single button.

Come join chef Jason Goldfield and his assistants along with The Florida Outreach Center for The Blind for our next workshop to learn how you can operate an air fryer, pressure cooker, and a microwave to cook simple and fabulous meals with ease. The workshop will be held Thursday, February 17th from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. (eastern) via the Zoom platform.

A $25.00 door prize will be given out at the end of the presentation.

To join the Zoom discussion, call 1-312-626-6799 using Meeting Code 5616420005

If joining us via Zoom us the Meeting Link is below:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5616420005

Meeting ID: 561 642 0005

Resources For Learning The ChromeVox Screen Reader on Chromebook Devices

Many thanks to Amy Snow who posted some of these resources on the Trainer-talk mailing list including a course which she taught which you can watch on Youtube.

ACVREP AND GOOGLE LAUNCH THE CHROMEBOOK ACCESSIBILITY TRAINING PROGRAM

https://www.acvrep.org/newsitem?id=80

Various Chromebook Accessibility Resources

https://atresources.wcbvi.k12.wi.us/resources/chrome-a11y

ChromeVox: From Basics to Mastery – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOx3a2GKV3ts7mE_zts5Om2smHmZYrPQ5

Chromebooks – A Journey in Productivity | Mystic Access

$39.00

https://www.mysticaccess.com/product/chromebooks-a-journey-in-productivity/

A World Of Chromebooks – Mystic Access Downloads

https://downloads.mysticaccess.com/download/a-world-of-chromebooks/

Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large episode 155,

https://mosen.org/malp0155transcript/

Note: Many subsequent Mosen at Large podcast episodes cover additional ChromeBook features.

Please note that I am not a ChromeBook user and so I cannot answer any additional questions or provide support.

Training Resources For Learning How to Use Microsoft Teams With a Screen Reader

Earlier today I received an email from someone asking if I knew of specific resources for learning how to use Microsoft Teams with a screen reader. I provided her with some resources and thought I would share them publicly in the event that they may be of value to other Teams users.

Brian Hartgen has produced some excellent JAWS scripts for Teams. They are not free of cost but in my opinion are worth considering. He also produced a training course called Winning Teams. The course includes these scripts.

Doug Lee has produced some free JAWS scripts for Teams. It’s been a while since I’ve used them and so I can’t provide any feedback as to the current version since I chose to use Brian Hartgen’s scripts.

Freedom Scientific has conducted at least two webinars on using Teams.

Additional Short Videos From Freedom Scientific:

Navigating Microsoft Teams with JAWS 2021

Chatting in Microsoft Teams with JAWS 2021

Microsoft has more than a few support pages for using Teams with a screen reader. If you search for

Site:Microsoft.com using teams with a screen reader

Using your preferred search engine you’ll surely find many relevant pages. This assumes that your search engine of choice honors the site: prefix for specifying a Web site to search.

Sight and Sound Technology Webinar

Webinar From APH

From Microsoft

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xXkClCHxXk&t=19s

as well as

Accessibility Learning Webinar Series: Using Teams for Remote Work for Blind and Low Vision Users by MSFTEnable

From Dr. Denise Robinson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZLyWuTEB5w

Finally, while I am not able to provide one on one support I own and moderate the Teams-access mailing list where you can ask questions or offer support to other users of Microsoft Teams.

Teams-access+subscribe@groups.io

iOS Bug WorkAround: VoiceOver Says “Underscore” Before Speaking a Character While Entering Text

The following may be of relevance to those who use VoiceOver on iOS.

I recently became aware of a bug in VoiceOver on iOS when entering text on the default

keyboard. Before speaking the character that has focus VoiceOver first reads the "underscore" symbol. Apparently, the workaround is to either disable

the caption panel found under Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver or to switch to a different speaking voice. The bug seems to manifest itself when using the Samantha voice. As I always use the Alex

voice as my default I never noticed this until it was brought to my attention.

AccessiBe Breaks Accessibility of The Focus on The Family Online Shop

Disclaimer

The following post contains my opinions based on my experiences with the AccessiBe overlay. It should be noted that I am writing and publishing this post on my own time. The opinions expressed in this blog post along with all other material found on my Web site are my own.

Introduction

For quite some time I have known about and listened to some of the audio dramas produced by Focus on The Family. Many years ago I was surfing around the AM dial during the Christmas season and stumbled upon their adaptation of “a Christmas Carol.” We all know the classic story of how the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by three spirits and miraculously underwent a powerful conversion as a result of these visitations. In spite of the fact that I already knew how the story was going to end I was extremely moved by this particular adaptation and I nearly had tears in my eyes during the conclusion. I never forgot this adaptation and I fondly remembered it every Christmas since I first heard it. Last week I recalled that dramatization again and decided to visit their online shop to see if I could find it as a downloadable audio file. Not only was it available but it along with other dramas was on sale. I also decided to purchase the complete set of Narnia audio dramas as I previously heard their version of “The Magician’s Nephew” and thought it was fabulous.

Enter AccessiBe

Many of you are familiar with AccessiBe. For those who are not they offer an overlay that an organization can add to their Web site which can supposedly assist in making that Web site more accessible. This product is not free and so organizations interested in using this service must pay for it. I have heard of and read about problems that this overlay has caused. For reference, Adrian Roselli has written a detailed blog post about this service. In addition Episode 105 of the Mosen at Large podcast provides an in-depth analysis regarding the controversial nature of this overlay. While I understood the reasons for the concerns expressed by those who have used this overlay I hadn’t experienced any personal issues with it up until last week. That changed when I was attempting to purchase these audio dramas from Focus on The Family’s online store.

During my first purchase of the Narnia Chronicles I chose to use PayPal to complete my purchase. However, while purchasing additional dramas I decided to try Focus on the Family’s order flow to see what it was like instead of using PayPal. To my shock I discovered that the edit fields for entering my credit card information were not being exposed to my screen reader. For reference I was using JAWS 2022 with the Brave browser. There was absolutely no way that I could complete my order using the credit card form as I could find no way to move focus to the edit fields. I then discovered that what they referred to as “screen reader mode” was enabled. I may have inadvertently activated it but I decided to deactivate it to see if it would make a noticeable difference. To my shock disabling this mode allowed the order form to become accessible to my screen reader. While it wasn’t a perfect experience I was able to navigate through the order form and enter my credit card details. In addition I saw that a few links which were unlabeled when using AccessiBe were actually labeled when AccessiBe was disabled. This wasn’t just a case where AccessiBe made no difference in the site’s accessibility. In this case AccessiBe made the Web site less accessible than it was with the overlay disabled.

My Email to Focus on The Family

On December 21 I sent the following email to Focus on The Family.

“Hello. I just placed an order for the digital edition of the complete Narnia set. There is no problem with the order and I am tremendously looking forward to listening to it in its entirety.

My comment is about your horrible accessibility overlay. I am blind and use a screen reader and I notice that you had the option to enable one of these overlays. I generally prefer to not use them but I realized that it somehow became enabled. This overlay makes the experience worse for users of screen readers. Edit fields for credit card entry are not exposed. This means that by enabling the overlay I am completely blocked from completing a purchase which I don’t think is an experience you want for any of your users. I discovered this as I was trying to order the digital version of the Narnia collection. The workaround, ironically, was to disable the overlay which actually made the order flow much more accessible. Choosing the PayPal option would also work since it allows users to bypass your order flow and use PayPal which is quite accessible. In addition enabling the overlay causes some links to become unlabeled. Disabling the overlay actually made those links accessible. If you want proof to verify my report go through the order flow using a screen reader and enable the awful overlay. You will not be able to complete the order. Please get rid of this overlay. I’m sure that this third party promised that if you allowed them to insert this small amount of Javascript on top of your site that your site would be accessible and you would avoid the threat of law suits. These claims are untrue. Building a Web site that conforms to WCAG guidelines will make your site fully accessible to everyone without the need for Focus on the Family wasting its hard-earned money on an overlay that only degrades and, in some cases, disables accessibility.

For reference I am using Windows 10 Pro 21 H2, Brave 96 for my browser and JAWS 2022 for my screen reader.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have further questions.

In closing I would like to sincerely thank you for producing such excellent audio drama. I’ve known of your work for many years and I’m so pleased that it’s available digitally.”

Response From Focus on The Family

On December 22 I received the following response from Focus on The Family.

“Thank you for contacting Focus on the Family, David.  Your interest in our ministry is greatly appreciated.

We were sorry to hear of the difficulties you faced on our website and using the accessible feature.  Your comments and feedback have been taken into consideration and forwarded to the appropriate department for further review.  Rest assured that we are always looking into ways we may improve our services.  Please be aware that we are limited to what we are able to provide on our website, as we use a 3rd party platform to help us with our ordering and transactional process.  However, our IT department is looking into ways to improve our website to make it more accessible.  Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience and frustration.

Thanks again for your email and helpful suggestions.  Please let us know if we may be of help in any other way.  Blessings and Merry Christmas!”

Conclusion

At this point I want to say that I don’t blame Focus on The Family for what this overlay has done to their Web site. It is possible that they had little or no knowledge regarding accessibility and they probably decided to pay for this overlay because they really thought it would help their Web site to be more accessible. However, it is my sincere hope that they will investigate my complaint and that they will cancel their subscription with AccessiBe immediately since it is clear that the overlay has decreased the level of accessibility on this Web site. If Web developers published sites that comply with WCAG standards there would be no need for these overlays.

Positive Experiences Using The AIRA App

Yesterday I had occasion to use the AIRA app several times. First I needed it to assist me with some accessibility challenges that I was experiencing on the Rite Aid Web site. I was filling out information for my Covid-19 booster shot which was scheduled for later that afternoon. There was a section of the form that I had some difficulty in completing and AIRA was able to come to the rescue, accessing my computer using Teamviewer to assist me. After that there was a section where I needed to upload a picture of both the front as well as the back of my medical insurance card. I was about to give up and tell Rite Aid that I was unable to complete the form and to just let them process my card once I arrived in person. However, an idea came to me. I contacted AIRA again and asked the agent if she could take a picture of the front and back of the card and email those pictures to me with clear titles of Front of Card and Back of Card. AIRA is able to remotely access the phone’s camera and can also email items to the customer as attachments. This was done in less than two minutes. Not only could I then upload the correct pictures but I now have the added benefit of having those pictures if I ever need to perform a similar task in the future, knowing that the images are perfect.

Once I arrived at the Rite Aid to get my booster I used AIRA to assist me in finding the front door, navigating to the pharmacy and then I called them once I had my vaccine to get assistance in navigating back to the front door. It really is a remarkable service and I’m very thankful that we have it available.

I’m equally thankful that I can now say that I’m fully vaccinated (or at least will be in a few weeks) and that I barely have any pain in my left arm.

 

The Tech-VI Announcement List Celebrates Its First Anniversary

I am absolutely pleased to announce that this coming Sunday, October 10, marks the first anniversary of the Tech-VI announcement list. To paraphrase a line from the theme of Babylon 5, which is my favorite TV series, this list is perhaps a dream given form. In many ways I’ve been unofficially providing these announcements for nearly thirty years since I first began working in this field.

My first role was with Blazie Engineering, a company that I’m sure many of you fondly remember as much as I do. Even at that early stage in my career I had a passion for technology and was keeping up with the latest JAWS for DOS updates from Henter-Joyce, what was new with Arkenstone’s OpenBook and updates to this new screen reader from GW Micro called Window-Eyes. Without being asked to do it I began regularly sending emails with these announcements to my coworkers, most of whom were sighted and generally not assistive technology users. I don’t know how many of them read even some of those announcements or how many of them even cared. Nobody asked me to stop spamming them with these announcements even once and so I kept sending them as I received them. When I left the company and began working at AbiliTech providing computer training to children I continued the practice. Many of my teammates were also trainers and users of this technology and so perhaps my readership actually expanded. When I left AbiliTech to work at another blindness agency I continued sending announcements to my coworkers and continued doing so for the 13.5 years I was employed there. Amazingly, nobody asked me to stop. HR never visited my classroom with a warning to cease and desist. Nobody filed a petition to my managers begging them to take action.

During the 1990s I was also delighted to subscribe to a similar list run by Amy Ruell, a service which sadly no longer exists. Amy was performing a similar service, forwarding well-formatted announcements from various mailing lists.

During this entire time I was also sending announcements to mailing lists which dealt with blindness assistive technology. I began to realize that perhaps I needed to launch my own mailing list instead of bombarding other lists with announcements. This would allow those who were interested in receiving them the opportunity to subscribe to such a list and also giving some peace and quiet to those poor souls who perhaps didn’t exactly feel that they had signed up to receive such a large number of announcements. And so the Tech-VI list was born on October 10, 2020. News and announcements are taken from mailing lists, job postings, announcements from relevant Web sites along with a ton of news feeds that I regularly monitor. I am happy and honestly amazed to report that we are now past 750 subscribers and we continue to add more each week. As is expected some people choose to unsubscribe but we’ve lost very few readers. This has made me quite happy as well as humbled that so many of you find this list to be of value and relevance in your life with more members being added weekly. Therefore, whether you’ve been subscribed to Tech-VI for a week or for the past year I would sincerely like to thank you for choosing to subscribe. There are thousands of discussion groups and announcement lists on the Internet. Your time is as valuable as mine and it means a lot that you’ve chosen to subscribe to this list as part of your inbox. Thank you.

You may subscribe to the Tech-VI announcement list to receive emails regarding news and events in the blindness assistive technology field. I also include some occasional how-to articles on how to use certain mainstream technologies more effectively to improve productivity along with announcements for upcoming webinars and accessibility-related employment opportunities.

To subscribe, send an email to tech-vi+subscribe@groups.io

You may also visit the Tech-VI home on Groups.io.