ATFAQ006 – Q1. iPad or dedicated book reader? Q2. Best headsets for Dragon? Q3. Smart phone cord management? Q4. iPad apps for Kindle books? Q5. Liquid level indicators and cup sizes? Q5. Best laptop computers for blind college students? Q6. Will Windows 10 really be the last version of Windows? Panel: Brian Norton, Mark Stewart, Belva Smith, Wade Wingler
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>> BRIAN NORTON: Welcome to ATFAQ, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions. I’m your host, Brian Norton, Manager of Clinical Assistive Technology at Easter Seals Crossroads. This is a show in which we address your questions about assistive technology: The hardware, software, tools and gadgets that help people with disabilities lead more, independent fulfilling lives. Have a question you want answered on this show? Send us a tweet with the hashtag ATAFQ or call our listening line at (317) 721‑7124. The world of assistive technology has questions, and we have answers.
And today in our studio we have three regular guests with us, but we’ll kind of want to make sure I introduce them to you. The first one is Belva Smith. She’s the team lead for our vision sensory team here at Easter Seals Crossroads. Welcome, Belva.
>> BELVA SMITH: Hey.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Mark Stewart, who’s the team lead for our mobility and cognition team here at Easter Seals Cross Crossroads is also here. Welcome, Mark.
>> MARK STEWART: Hey, everybody.
>> BRIAN NORTON: And Wade Wingler, he’s the Director of our Technology Division here at Easter Seals Crossroads and also the host of another popular podcast called AT Update, which brings in the latest news and information in the world of AT. Thanks, Wade.
>> WADE WINGLER: Gosh, Brian. Thanks for the plug. I wasn’t expecting that today.
>> MARK STEWART: No problem, no problem. He’s back there running the board and is going to chime in every once in a while to fill in some gaps.
So for new listeners, I just want to make sure that everybody understands how the show format works. This is a question and answer show. So if you guys have questions ‑‑ without your questions, we really don’t have a show. So please send us your questions. I mentioned the listener line earlier. I also mentioned the hashtag being listed as the hashtag over Twitter hashtag ATFAQ. You can also send us an email at email@example.com. So please send us your questions. We’ll need that in order to continue to have a show. Thanks.
So without further ado, I just kind of want to start jumping into the first question.
So this question is which is better: An iPad Mini with the following apps: Bard Mobile, Audible, LearningAlly, Voice Dream Reader or ooTunes, which is better, an iPad Mini with those apps or a dedicated device like a Victor Reader Stream for reading books?
>> BELVA SMITH: And I see Brian looking at me. I don’t know which is better because it’s going to depend on the individual, and it’s going to depend on the individual’s situation. They’re all good solutions.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Are there any differences between one or the other? Do they all do the same things?
>> BELVA SMITH: Well, yeah. Yeah, I mean, there are differences.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Why don’t we start with what they do? For folks who might not know, why don’t we talk a little bit about what a Victor street Reader Stream is versus an iPad with these apps?
>> BELVA SMITH: Well, a Victor Stream Reader is a book reader where you can download school books or books from Bookshare or LearningAlly. And once you’ve got the book downloaded into the reader, you can bookmark pages in there. You can fast forward or rewind. You have a lot of control with what the book will say. You can control the speed of how fast it’s being read. I don’t think you have options in voices, though. I think you have the voice that you have. I could be wrong about that.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Doesn’t it do music, also?
>> BELVA SMITH: It will play music. I try to not talk about that because Voc Rehab really don’t want to know that they’re going to entertain.
>> BRIAN NORTON: And that’s a major funding source that we have here in Easter Seals Crossroads.
>> BELVA SMITH: Yes. But, yes, it will ‑‑ the Victor Stream will play MP3s.
It will also double as a digital recorder. So if you need to take a phone number down or remember a date, you can do that as well as record a lecture.
I don’t typically recommend using the device for recording a lecture because it seems to, I don’t know, it takes up too much space. As long as it’s convenient for that I don’t think.
>> BRIAN NORTON: How much would it cost?
>> BELVA SMITH: Well, I don’t know. Victor Stream I think is like 399, 349?
>> WADE WINGLER: Yeah, so I’m Googling it here. So 369 seems to be kind of the street price for a device like that. There’s no display on the Victor Reader Stream.
>> BELVA SMITH: No, No.
>> WADE WINGLER: It’s all audio, correct?
>> BELVA SMITH: Ah‑huh. What was the other device that was mentioned in that question?
>> BRIAN NORTON: Just an iPad Mini with a bunch of different stuff, the Bard Mobile, Audible, LearningAlly, Voice Stream, Reader.
>> BELVA SMITH: Okay. I’ve got to be honest and said I have not used the Voice Dream. I think you’ve got more experience with that than I do, Brian. But, I mean, you’re going to ‑‑ the Victor Stream is going to give you virtually a book reader.
The iPad with those apps and with the possibility of adding a lot of other apps is going to do a lot more for you.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Right.
Correct me if I’m wrong, Belva, but it seems to me like even with the Victor Reader Stream, don’t you download it to your computer and then load it to the device itself? Is that right?
>> BELVA SMITH: Well, no.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Different now?
>> BELVA SMITH: Because theyre’ all ‑‑ all of the book readers are now including WiFi.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Okay.
>> BELVA SMITH: Which makes the transition of getting the book from the Internet to your reader so much more simplified. It releases like 20 something steps that you don’t have to do anymore.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Used to be quite a challenge.
>> BELVA SMITH: Right. But now you can put the books directly onto the reader.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Because I’m assuming some of the apps that are mentioned, they allow you to connect directly to their service and make that download directly to the iPad pretty seamless; but now it looks like some of these other things like the Victor Reader Stream, we just had someone in this morning, a vendor talking about the Book Sense. It is looks like those may include some of those things, as well?
>> BELVA SMITH: Right. I think it was with the introduction of the iPad and the apps for the iPad that made the manufacturers of those book reading devices realize: Wow, we really got to get on the ball here and get the WiFi included because they were aware of the additional steps that was required to get it downloaded to the computer and unzip it and move it and get it uploaded and stuff.
>> BRIAN NORTON: So are we kind of talking about the issue of a dedicated device versus an iPad with apps? I mean, we run into this in lots of different places, right? Even back in the older days when you had a dedicated scanning device like a Sarah or some of those devices that were just a box that you push a button ‑‑ you put a paper on, push a button and it reads it out loud versus a computer that does that and more.
I mean, tthis is kind of falling in that same category. Do you want a Swiss Army knife that does everything or do you want a dedicated device that might be more simple and more focused? Cost‑wise, they’re about the same in this case, right?
>> BELVA SMITH: Right. And I think, again, I have to say it goes back to the individual and the individual’s abilities and needs and those kinds of things because with the devices versus the iPad, you do have the tactile buttons where with the iPad you don’t. And for some folks, that just might not be an option.
>> WADE WINGLER: Right.
>> BELVA SMITH: Better I can’t say. I can say they’re all cool, and we’ll just have to figure out what works.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Yeah. A lot of user preference probably goes into that conversation.
>> BELVA SMITH: Absolutely.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Now, I see kind of an apples and oranges issue here, not with every one of these, or it depends on how they’re used, but potentially the Victor Reader Stream, again, without that display capability; and then, for example, Voice Dream, which has the display capability and also the highlighting simplified, but the highlighting type features so you can track and read it as you go.
>> WADE WINGLER: That’s a real good point. We kind of assume blindness in this one, and that may not be a great assumption.
>> BELVA SMITH: Right. That’s what I was getting ready to say. So the Voice Dream, it sounds like I’ve got vision if I’m using that, if I’m highlighting; is that correct?
>> WADE WINGLER: Correct, yeah.
>> BELVA SMITH: Oh, well, then that’s a big difference from the Victor Reader, yeah.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Yeah, folks with learning disabilities use the Victor Reader Stream, as well. That’s a possibility. I would say anybody ‑‑ correct me if I’m wrong ‑‑ but if we went back pre‑iPad, even though we didn’t have the visual display capability and that was lacking a little bit, the Victor Reader Stream was an extremely high tech device where you could control the audio extremely well. And that auditory feedback was very helpful for a lot of folks with learning disabilities. So while it wasn’t the perfect device, in a sense we were waiting for the iPad to come out with an app like Voice Dream. But it was a very handy device for them to be able to listen to things.
>> WADE WINGLER: Right. And I have to say I’m a Voice Dream lover. I use it all the time. I’m finishing up grad school right now, and I have to read stuff in the car, you know. And so although I’m not watching it on the screen as I go, it’s just a nice multimodal tool, I can throw a PDF into DropBox, say “go get it, read it out loud.” It does a really nice job.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Yeah, I agree.
So kind of in a wrapup on that question, it sounds like it really kind of depends on the user preference. What are they trying to do with the device? What are their personal preferences? What kind of current technology do they already have? Like I have an iPhone or I have my iPad already. I may just want to download a fairly inexpensive app to make kind of the Swiss Army thing you talked about, Wade, and make that stuff work for me; or maybe if I don’t have a device, maybe I should looking at both things and figure out which way I want to go based on the different tools and the functionality of each of those devices. So interesting. Very interesting.
>> BELVA SMITH: Before we leave that question, I should probably also add when we were talking about the features, with the Victor Stream or the reader devices, I can also read like my Word documents and my PDF files on that device, as well. So I just want to throw that out there. Daisy format.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Absolutely. Absolutely.
>> WADE WINGLER: Mark is doing sign language and holding up paper.
>> BRIAN NORTON: I’m assuming when Mark threw out apples versus oranges, the iPad and the apps were the apples and then maybe Reader Dream was the orange.
>> BELVA SMITH: And now he’s throwing in daisies.
>> WADE WINGLER: The good point that Mark just went silent, that you can handle the daisy format textbook on these devices, which is the format that’s kind of standardized. Nod yes or no, Mark.
>> MARK STEWART: Hypothetically, I wrote that question on a pad of paper and showed it around silently to all of you guys because I wasn’t completely sure. First I’ve ever said that.
So with the Victor Reader Stream, absolutely. Daisy format. And that’s a wonderful thing, right? The daisy format is targeted for folks with disabilities. It’s been as user friendly as anything that’s out there.
>> BELVA SMITH: What does it stand for? Digital audio?
>> WADE WINGLER: It’s been a long time.
>> BELVA SMITH: Yeah. It’s an acronym for digital audio what?
>> MARK STEWART: Something. Something.
>> WADE WINGLER: :Digital Accessible Information System. And you get the SY out of system. So Digital Accessible Information System. And it’s related, very closely related to the NYMAX standard or the Nimis standard that then is the K12 version of that.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Right. And the purpose is it just makes it easier for people to navigate. You don’t have to listen to a whole chapter and you go back to the beginning of the chapter, the next time you want to listen to it again, you can now go sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph depending on the device.
>> BELVA SMITH: Heading to heading.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Right. Voice Dream, we were just talking about how user friendly it is. But if we lean towards the accommodation for somebody with low vision or blindness, Voice Dream isn’t daisy format; correct?
>> WADE WINGLER: No. It will read Epub, Daisy, Word text, kind of reads almost ‑‑ your common document formats.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Okay. So next question is: What is your favorite wireless noise canceling microphone for Dragon? Are there any new leaders? I’m looking at different wireless headsets for Dragon, and I have a client trying the Office Runner or another one called the Plantronics Savvy. Both have voice complaints of accuracy but are rated highly by Nuance. And so, really, what’s your favorite wireless noise canceling headset to start? And then we’ll kind of get into some of those other followup things after we kind of hammer that down.
>> BELVA SMITH: I know, I know, ask Mark.
>> WADE WINGLER: I know, I know, I just use used the wired Microsoft LifeChat LX 3000, which is my golden standby for everything. Not wireless.
>> MARK STEWART: Yeah. Great, cost‑effective, wired USB microphone.
Yeah, it’s fun, for me, how this question is, in fact, targeted towards me so much. I mean, we all do this, but thanks, guys; but it became a real sub‑specialty of mine traveling the state, working very intensively with folks with significant physical challenges and some of the speech challenges that go along with that, whether it be just breath control issues or endurance issues or their diaphragm’s a little bit affected because of the spinal cord injury. But nevertheless ‑‑ or, for example, cerebral palsy and there’s a related severe speech impediment.
But especially a few years back, voice recognition was one of the main tools that really allowed them to open up and access the computer and the world, frankly. But we would have this hurdle of a relative speech challenge. And Doug spent a lot of time trying to get over that hurdle and literally trying all kinds of different microphones, sometimes being in a different part of the state, running out to Best Buy and temporarily buying different microphones to try and things like that.
So, yes, I’ve been in the trenches doing that.
Jumping right into it, the answer to that specific question is: From that experience I was talking about, here’s the answer: It’s do exactly what the long haul truckers do.
>> WADE WINGLER: What? Buy a bunch of coffee at a truck stop?
Will you talk about mudflaps now?
>> MARK STEWART: You never know.
So the favorite headsets ‑‑ so, really, I’m going to stick with it. So you go meet a pretty sharp career long‑haul trucker and ask them what they’re wearing, and ask a few of them, and those microphones work best with Dragon. And they’re Bluetooth. And I’ve had some of those microphones now for some years, and that just really seems to be the case.
>> WADE WINGLER: That is a study we have got to do. We have got to find some of our university partners and let’s do a study where we go out and survey truck drivers and then rate those microphones and then do some efficacy studies with people who use voice input and Dragon with disabilities. That’s a really cool extended study.
>> MARK STEWART: Yeah, I mean, empirically, or just buying them myself and trying and trying and trying them with folks with disabilities. And unknowingly, I mean, Voc Rehab counselors purchase those for people with disabilities and then I get confirmation that they work great compared to other bluetooth headsets.
I think it makes sense, right?
>> WADE WINGLER: Absolutely, yeah.
>> MARK STEWART: In laymen’s terms, you picture all the noise inside the cab. But they’re a professional and they just need that consistency. But they’re savvy folks with regards to what they do, so if a piece of technology isn’t very reliable or has some noise canceling issues and stuff like that, they’re going to be complaining real fast and getting the word out over CB or whatever it is.
>> WADE WINGLER: And they’re going to be thinking about bang for the buck the whole time.
>> MARK STEWART: Right. Right. And then of course they’re getting out of their truck, keeping their headset on, maybe still taking calls, and the wind’s blowing, and they’re checking their engine, and loading up and all that sort of stuff. So I think it does kind of make sense.
Two headsets, I’ve got them right here. One is the BlueParrott B250 XT. I believe there’s a newer version of this. But this has been around for a long time. That’s “the” favorite, I think.
>> BRIAN NORTON: That’s a great headset.
>> BELVA SMITH: How much is it, guys? About.
>> MARK STEWART: We’ll look it up before the end of the show. I’ve had it for about five years.
>> BELVA SMITH: Yeah, you don’t have to be exact. Are we talking 200 or 400?
>> MARK STEWART: Like 150, 200 thing, I think. Wade?
>> WADE WINGLER: Google says ‑‑ oh, that headset’s available now for $50, $60.
>> MARK STEWART: I’ll bet there’s a new version out, then.
>> WADE WINGLER: There is. The 350.
>> MARK STEWART: It’s an excellent headset.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Yeah.
>> MARK STEWART: And just with amazing noise canceling. And that’s one of the things that we found leads to the accuracy with Dragon is just getting that clean, clean signal in. There’s always going to be some ambient noise and background noise and probably even signal processing, as well.
>> WADE WINGLER: Yeah, the new one the BX350 XT’s in the $120, $130 range.
>> MARK STEWART: There you go, Wade. As far as the truckers aren’t going to just pay exorbitantly. They want their value.
And the other one that it might be a little counterintuitive that it’s actually a very, very popular trucker headset, but again I think it holds to this concept. They’re like well, whatever works. And something that’s much more, you know, mainstream consumer product, but the word is out that it’s great and has wonderful noise canceling is the Plantronics. It was the Voyager Pro and now the latest one is the Voyager Legend. And that has a triple noise canceling wind screen kind of technology with a lot of other software capabilities and a lot of reliability and a lot of battery life.
>> WADE WINGLER: And that one’s in the $70 range or so.
>> BELVA SMITH: I think I’ve seen that one listed as one of the ones on Nuance’s ‑‑
>> BRIAN NORTON: They are on the list, the compatibility list.
I just want to throw out there, too, in addition to ‑‑ sometimes with how good technology is these days, we kind of expect technology to do it all for us. And so with noise canceling microphones, we’re not really taking a step back and really looking at the person’s environment and saying what can we do to kind of just limit the noise itself? Like can we move the person? Can we put them instead of a cubicle, can we put them in a walled office? Can we move them out from underneath the air vent that’s right on top of their head? Kind of a thing.
>> BELVA SMITH: Can we put batteries in their smoke alarm that keeps going off every 30 minutes? That’s one of the things I’ve had to do since I’ve been here.
>> BRIAN NORTON: I mean, technology is going to be great, but we’re also thinking about environmental issues.
And also I would say just working with enough folks that have used Dragon over the years, as well, making sure that it is the noise canceling, that it’s the noise in the background that’s the issue and not maybe affected speech or other issues that are kind of, you know, maybe it’s processing speed. Maybe it’s memory on the computer, those kinds of things, making sure other things are there, too.
>> MARK STEWART: Yeah, all those things are factors, but then like you guys know, I’m a big stickler for recognition accuracy.
I’ve found that with some of these consumers/clients that I work with, when everything else, they just quite weren’t getting good functional results with Dragon. Then this type of headset ‑‑ of course, the headset matters, it’s part of it. But then going beyond just, look, we have a good headset.
For example ‑‑ and this ties right into the question. We have a 5 out of 5 Nuance headset. This person, if they could just get a little bit more recognition accuracy out of Dragon, they’d have that functional recognition accuracy. So what can we do to do better than a 5 out of 5 Nuance headset? This is really where these two came from.
With that specific situation, I might ‑‑ if everything else in the case allows it, I might actually go to a wired headset or I’d go to a specific USB wired headset that would do even better than these. But these are bluetooth headsets that do a pretty good job.
And yeah, I know, Brian, you were going into all the different situations. Can they put ‑‑ these two headsets I think a really good answer to the question that was asked, the particular question. But am I assuming that the person that ‑‑ this therapist, I think, it sounds like it’s a question from a therapist, can their client put this headset on independently? I have no idea. Sometimes we modify these so they can do it independently. Sometimes it’s okay to have somebody else put it on if need be. But just looking at the question, what are good bluetooth headsets?
>> BRIAN NORTON: Let me roll on with one other thing, the thing about Nuance, in the question they talked about Nuance and the little dragons, right? Is it 1 through 5 red dragons that you get. How do I want to describe this? I’ve found that it’s accurate overall, but it’s not very detailed. I mean, so if Nuance says that it only gets 2 dragons out of 5, it’s not going to be a very good headset.
But there’s a ton of headsets that have 4 or 5 and, really, we’ve all found headsets that really should have like a 7 or 8. Or really the 4 and 5 flip. So I think that’s a little bit what this person is experiencing is that rating scale I think is a little soft, in my experience.
>> WADE WINGLER: And in the absence of a rating scale, better day to grab your big coffee cup and go to the Flying J and ask around.
>> MARK STEWART: That’s right. That’s right.
>> BRIAN NORTON: So the next question is interesting. This question is: I have a disability and need to charge my cell phone on my night stand every night, but the cord sure falls down a lot. What can I do?
And we all have that, right? We all probably use ‑‑ I know I do in my house. I have my cell phone on my night stand. I use it for my alarm clock. I use it for my clock in my room. I don’t have my little clock radio anymore that sits up on the dresser. I use for my phone for everything. But, man, if that cord doesn’t fall down behind the back of my night stand or fall underneath my bed or get kicked underneath my bed every night. It’s just kind of really a pain.
What can I do to kind of keep that available for myself so that it’s always there? Because if I have a disability, maybe I can’t reach down to the ground to pick it up every time I need it, those kind of things.
>> BELVA SMITH: Well, that depends on what the disability is. I wish they would have said.
But the first thing that came to my mind is just this sweet, short, Velcro. That was the first thing I thought of when I read the question. But of course there’s lots of different things that you could do. It could be something as simple as just putting shelf liner, that rubber‑like shelf liner.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Dycem?
>> BELVA SMITH: Yeah. Just maybe sitting something on top of the cord to keep it from falling.
So I’m wondering, yeah, I mean is it because they’re having difficulty getting it plugged in that the cord’s falling? Or is the cord just falling because the cord’s falling, so we need to attach it to the tabletop?
>> WADE WINGLER: These days I am all about the cable drop adhesive thing that you stick on your night stand. I love those things. I have them on my desk. I have them on my night stand.
Have you seen these before, Belva? I’m going to hold up my computer here with the picture.
>> BELVA SMITH: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah.
>> WADE WINGLER: One of my friends said that they’ve used them in hotel rooms. That’s where they learned about them.
>> BELVA SMITH: I actually bought those for our client, and we put them up under his desk and bringing the cables under. And they’re cheap.
>> WADE WINGLER: Yes. If you haven’t seen these things, they are about as big around as a quarter and as tall as maybe a couple of checkers stacked on top of each other; but they’re soft rubber and they have sort of a groove in the middle that has two very soft teeth that kind of close the groove. And that allows you to take the cord and stretch it through there and kind of snap it in place so it will just sort of hang onto it and you stick that on the edge of your desk or the edge of your night stand, and it just holds it there for you.
So like when I go to my office, I grab my iPad, I throw it on the table. And the cord is laying right there where my iPad just needs to go and I plug it in. Love it. You’re right, Belva, less than a dollar apiece, they’re cheap.
>> BELVA SMITH: Yeah.
>> MARK STEWART: I wouldn’t put this one they’re going to mention ahead of that, but there’s one that I’ve had worked with a little bit is the Quirky cordless ‑‑ I’m sorry. It’s a Quirky name intentionally. I think the company is Quirky. And they’re kind of entrepreneurial, if you come up with a great idea, they kind of buy it from you and help facilitate that process and stuff like that.
It’s called the Quirky Cordies desktop cable management. I have a couple of those. And that’s worked pretty well. They just simply are kind of weighted on the bottom and they’ve got about 5 slots that you can put cords in.
I would put that second to what you guys were just talking about. For example, Belva, putting it underneath the table? You couldn’t do it with this one. Actually, it helps a lot. The whole thing can get knocked off the table where the cable drops might be a little bit better.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Yes.
>> MARK STEWART: Want to mention what that is?
>> BRIAN NORTON: Yeah. So Dycem is what a lot of people typically line their shelves with. It it just has a sticky nature to it, so when you lay something on there ‑‑ it’s kind of also what they put in dashboards of cars so that your phone doesn’t slide underneath the seat when you pull away.
>> WADE WINGLER: In the 80s, didn’t they make octopuses out of it?
>> BELVA SMITH: I don’t know. When you say Dycem, I think of my new dicer slicer.
>> WADE WINGLER: You guys remember those things in the 80s? Everybody here was around in the 80s. You bought them from gum ball machines and they were these little rubber octopuses. You got them wet and you threw them on the wall and they walked down. They flipped the water and stuck to the wall. They were made out of Dycem stuff. So that’s always think of when I think about Dycem, the octobus.
>> BELVA SMITH: Yeah, Oliver’s got one now. It’s a snake. He got it out of a gumball machine. You get it wet. You throw it at the wall. It walks down the wall, yeah.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Dycem’s a great, great tool. I use it a lot for folks just out in the field for a variety of different reasons, just making sure things don’t get pushed out of their personal space, maybe away from them where they can’t reach them or managing cords and cables, as well.
They have all sorts of things like cable drops that Wade mentioned, flex ties kind of like just rubberized ties that you can kind of wrap around the cords. Kind of like twisty ties but a little bit better for cables and less work.
>> WADE WINGLER: I’m sorry, Belva.
>> BELVA SMITH: No, no, go ahead.
>> MARK STEWART: I’m kind of grinning here because we’re getting pretty close to twisty ties that keep your bread fresh.
But something that’s going to last a little longer and a little more tactile, things like that, just what you were saying, Nite Ize is a company that makes cases and some things like that. And they’ve more recently come out with these reusable, again much more handleable, different sizes of ‑‑ really, I think they just have a wire inside them. But they’re really malleable and you can just tie up all kinds of stuff them. And they’ve got these little tiny mini ones, too, that essentially are just a twisty tie.
>> BELVA SMITH: Another option before we finish up would be some sort of a device, I don’t know, you said you got rid of your alarm clock. Well, I still have mine but it has an adapter. So I can actually sit my phone down on it.
So, again, if getting the plug to plug in might be one of the difficulties that you’re facing, possibly getting one of those little iHome things where you can just walk up and is it your phone on top of it. Then you’re not worried about the cord.
>> MARK STEWART: That’s a great idea, too, yeah, to take away the cord altogether and just the box that has the adapter built into it for sure. For sure.
So where would, just for answers for the person who asked the question, where would they go to find these things? I think you could probably go to any office supply store.
>> BELVA SMITH: Staples.
>> MARK STEWART: You could go ‑‑ just Google it. I’m sure Amazon has many things like that. I know I got the cable drops that Wade was speaking about at the container store just up the road from where we are. You can get them just about anywhere. They are very low cost. They don’t cost much at all. So, really, I don’t think there’s any place very special that you could go find those. You could find those just about anywhere.
>> BELVA SMITH: Yeah, if you’re an online shopper, you can do like the staples or Amazon. You’re going to the store, Staples again, Wal‑Mart. If you’re looking for Velcro, go into the craft aisle.
>> MARK STEWART: Right. And for those listeners who really aren’t associated with computers that much, there’s a whole science called cord management; right?
>> BELVA SMITH: Right.
>> MARK STEWART: Keeping that stuff organized matters.
>> WADE WINGLER: I mean, for me it’s always been technology is not technology unless it looks good. So cord management’s something that I always love about making things look nice.
>> BELVA SMITH: I remember that about you.
>> MARK STEWART: Which is perfect because I don’t care about it. So I go, install something and make a mess and I just go to lunch and Brian comes in and cleans it up and I kind of think curses under his breath the entire time.
>> BELVA SMITH: I thought Brian was going to remove this lady’s carpet one day making sure that the cords were all straight.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Very, very important. Everybody remember that. That’s an important piece of technology.
>> MARK STEWART: There’s some truth to that. I mean, you don’t want to trip on that stuff and it booger up the wheelchairs. So I mean there’s some truth to that.
>> WADE WINGLER: In addition to Brian’s obsession with it.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Yeah, I’m a little OCD about cords, for sure.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Okay. Next question. Are there any apps on the iPad that are like a Kindle? Will any of those apps be able to zoom in on text or read the book back to you?
>> BELVA SMITH: The Kindle app.
>> BRIAN NORTON: That’s the first thing that came back to me. Yeah, there’s a Kindle app. I’ve got it on monitor.
>> BELVA SMITH: Yeah, there is a Kindle app. Actually you will be using the voiceover because the app itself doesn’t have the voice built in, but you will be using the Apple Voiceover to read. But you do have the ability to change the text size. You can change the background color, the text color. You’ve got a lot of flexibility with the visual.
>> BRIAN NORTON: What about zoom? You can still zoom in on it with zoom feature of the iPad for sure?
>> BELVA SMITH: Oh, yeah. Yes.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Well, and I think we mentioned a couple other ones earlier. We talked about Voice Stream Reader. I mean, any text reader. It’s not going to read Kindle books. That’s the only difference.
>> BELVA SMITH: Right. I think this person was specifically looking to read their Kindle books.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Right. So fairly simple, straightforward question. I mean, you can use the Kindle app, which is a free download if you’ve already got a Kindle or whatnot. So, yeah, you can download the Kindle app and zoom in on them using the built‑in features of voiceover or the zoom features, for sure.
>> BRIAN NORTON: So the next question, I just love because ‑‑ and I’ll ask the question and then tell you why. How big of a cup can be used with a liquid level indicator?
And when I first started in AT 18 years ago, one of the first devices that I ever ran across that I just thought what is this quirky little thing? And what does it do? And then one of my coworkers at that point said “it’s a level indicator. It’s a water level indicator, a liquid level indicator.” And so he kind of went through and showed me and filled up a cup of water and stuck this thing on there. It’s just essentially ‑‑ he stuck a 9‑volt battery into it and it had a couple of metal prongs that kind of flipped up over the edge of his cup. When the water would hit the prongs, it would make an auditory sound for me. I just thought that was the most fascinating thing. I don’t think I’ve ever want it in my drink because I was sticking metal wires with a 9‑volt battery on it in my drink. But I thought wow, what an interesting device. And knowing what it’s used for, I thought oh, that’s pretty cool.
But the question again is how big of a cup can be used with a liquid level indicator?
>> BELVA SMITH: It depends on the liquid level indicator that you’re using. The sense level indicator NK2, that one will adjust to the cup size or the mug size. And Rehab Mart, it’s about $32.
Some of the cheaper ones are just meant to like fit on your cup and work like with a coffee cup, a standard coffee cup or a glass. But this one is supposedly it’s going to adjust to the size.
I got to tell you, in all my time of doing this, I have never seen anybody use one of them, never.
>> WADE WINGLER: Why not?
>> BELVA SMITH: I don’t know. Why don’t people use them? I don’t know.
>> WADE WINGLER: I’ve been told because you just stick your finger in the cup. And when the water gets to the finger, you just stop. With super hot beverages, I could kind of see the motivation for using something that might be not your finger.
>> BELVA SMITH: I think it’s one of those things that it’s cool that it’s out there, and if somebody buys you one for your birthday, you’d be like “oh thank you.” And some of them even have a magnet on it so you can hang it on the refrigerator and grab it without having to stick your hand in the drawer to find it. Again, I haven’t seen anybody use them.
>> WADE WINGLER: Is that for the blindness devices that’s for the sighted people? Most sighted people go oh, wow, cool.
>> BELVA SMITH: Cool! Like Brian did, right?
>> BRIAN NORTON: Well, back in the day it was like, man, look at what this thing can do. I thought it was the coolest thing. And then they went on and showed me the light indicator, too. You kind of hold it up and he kept waving it in front of a fluorescent light. And every time you go in front of a florescent light, it would make off a noise. He pointed it away from the florescent light, it would stop making the noise. I thought man, that’s so cool. Absolutely.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Okay. So next question is I’m a blind college student and need to buy a laptop. What should I buy? And I kind of read that question initially as I was kind of putting the show together today and I was thinking well I’m sure there’s lots of college students that ask the same questions. They may not all be blind. This particular one was, but I think it’s probably a good question for just about anybody. Like “what kind of laptop should I buy?”
>> BELVA SMITH: I get that question all the time. All the time people will call me and say “I’m going to buy a new computer. What should I buy?”
Honestly, even the cheapest of your laptops nowadays are good enough to support your screen reader and your screen magnifiers.
I guess the thing is you have to ask yourself what exactly you’re going to be doing with your computer because you want to make sure that if you need it, you’re getting one that’s got a CD/DVD drive because a lot of laptops nowadays don’t necessarily have those. So you have to buy them extra. Wade and Brian are laughing at me.
So, I don’t know. The first question would be: Are you wanting a Mac or are you wanting a PC? And then do you need a DVD drive or do you not? Of course if you can get it without, it’s going to be lighter weight. Weight’s going to matter as you’re carrying around with your books on your back.
And then screen size can play a role. Do you need 13‑inch or 15‑inch or, Heaven forbid, the 17‑inch?
I’d think, yeah. That’s the first thing you have to ask yourself is: What are you going to do with it?
>> WADE WINGLER: And size is a big deal. And I think horsepower matters some anymore. But when you’re talking about running a computer with a screen reader, do they pretty much all run screen readers these days?
>> BELVA SMITH: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, even the cheapest of the cheap. Well, you got to be able to get it installed. So you’ve either got to be able to have a CD drive or WiFi, which I think you’re going to find WiFi on all of them or Internet.
>> WADE WINGLER: Is Jaws or NBDA or Windowize pretty much going to run on most of the laptops you’re going to buy?
>> BELVA SMITH: Absolutely.
>> WADE WINGLER: I mean, there’s some exceptions. But if you buy a solid laptop, are they going to work?
>> BELVA SMITH: Absolutely.
>> WADE WINGLER: Because that used to be a huge deal.
>> BELVA SMITH: It used to be a huge deal. You had to make sure you have enough RAM or your processor was good enough. But it’s just ‑‑ even the bottom line ones anymore are good enough.
Now, with Zoom Text that could be a little different. Because you do want to make sure you’ve got a good video card and enough processing speed for that. But the screen readers ‑‑
>> MARK STEWART: I think specifically for folks who are blind or low vision, it’s less of an issue these days; but I would still say going back to a previous question, what about noise canceling microphones and Dragon specifically? I know there are certain specs and certain requirements that we as evaluators will look for with those particular types of laptops to make sure that they’ve got enough RAM, they’ve got enough processing speed. Because the last thing I always tell people all the time, the last thing you want with the voice recognition software is to say something and wait 10 seconds for it to pop up on your screen because the likelihood is you’re going to forget what you said by the time it gets there.
>> BELVA SMITH: Here’s something I’ll throw in there. I don’t know, Wade, you might decide to cut it at the end. But one of the things that I always tell people when they call me and say “what computer should I buy?” I always say: Really, you can buy whatever computer you feel good about. But don’t let them sell you a bunch of stuff at the end when you go to check out. Because a lot of the stores, they want to sell you this, “oh we’ll set it up for you and we’ll put the antivirus in there for you and we’ll do all that for like $100” and you just don’t need to do that.
>> WADE WINGLER: That’s where they make their money, right?
>> BELVA SMITH: That’s exactly where they make their money. And I’m sorry to say that to them, but the bottom line is when they do that, sometimes the stuff that they put on there is just stuff you’re going to be removing eventually.
Windows has a very, very good antivirus program built in as part of the operating system. Not to say that you might want to add something later, but you just certainly don’t need to be spending that extra 100 or $150 at checkout.
>> WADE WINGLER: You didn’t say Mac.
>> BELVA SMITH: Well what, do we do with a Mac? Do we have to worry about antivirus on our Mac?
>> WADE WINGLER: No, but I’m thinking about for assistive technology. Did we talk about buying a Mac?
>> BELVA SMITH: Well, I think in the very beginning because I said do you want a PC or a Mac? Because if you want a Mac, you better have a lot of money but, hey, you’re going to walk out of the store with a pretty computer.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Well, that’s changed a little bit because you got to think about it a little bit more globally. When you buy a Windows PC, you’re going to spend $300, $400, $500 on a Windows laptop; and you’re going to spend $1,000 on the screen reader unless you do the free version. Whereas that just now encompasses the cost of a Mac.
>> BELVA SMITH: Absolutely.
>> BRIAN NORTON: You can get a MacBook Pro for 1299 and you get screen reading built in.
>> BELVA SMITH: And I’ve got a lot more visually impaired and blind folks and friends and clients that are saying: “Do you know what? I’ve decided I want to go with a Mac because it’s already got the screen reader built in.”
>> BRIAN NORTON: Right. And I’ll just throw in there, too. We’re not ‑‑ again, in our show, we don’t endorse any products or things like that, but as evaluators, we’re out there using different types of laptops and things with folks. And personally for me, I try to stay with some pretty name brand computers: HP, Dell, those kind of things. I’ve had better success. And I have run into issues with other laptop vendors’ brands, with errors or issues with installations, hardware, other kinds of things.
>> BELVA SMITH: It’s the bloatware. It’s the bloatware. Like Lenovo, they just put so much bloat stuff on there.
I usually, when I’m doing a recommendation, do a Dell. I personally prefer Sony. But that’s my preference. Rarely do I ever do that with a recommendation.
And I’ll tell you I do Dell not because I specifically or necessarily think they have better hardware; it’s the support. Because if the thing breaks, I want to be able to know that I’ve got somebody that’s going to be right there to fix it. And, man, I’m telling you, when you’ve got the right warranty, they’ll send a technician to your house the next morning to put a hard drive in there if you need it.
And if you’re doing a business or you’re in college and your computer goes down, you don’t have three days or a week to be waiting. So that’s my reason for going with Dell.
>> WADE WINGLER: And now it’s time for the wildcard question.
>> BRIAN NORTON: All right. So, this question is our wildcard question of the week. And I’ll just kind of read this out here. This is from Wade. Wade gets the pleasure of torturing us once a week with his wildcard question. And this is what it is.
It’s, “What does this mean? Microsoft says Windows 10 will be the last operating system upgrade you will ever need.” What does this mean?
>> WADE WINGLER: Why is this funny, guys?
>> BRIAN NORTON: It’s funny because this morning I brought it out to the group and said I read something over the weekend and or last week sometime and it mentioned in an article I was reading that Microsoft says Windows 10 will be the last upgrade. And everybody looked at me like “you’re an idiot.”
>> BELVA SMITH: No, no. What you said was it was going to be the last version. Yes, Windows 10 was going to be the last version of Windows. And we all said no.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Sounds like whoa. I don’t make the stuff up. I read it. Man, what’s going on? So that’s interesting. It’s a great question.
>> WADE WINGLER: So I popped up a website here. It’s eweek.com. It’s one of the many stories about this issue. And what it says is, very quickly, once the next version of Windows is installed, Microsoft plans to begin a process of continuous updates that will eliminate the concept of next versions.
And I use a lot of software that kind of works like that now. For example, I’m a big fan of productivity stuff like OmniFocus or even Evernote for keeping track of information. And I don’t know what version of Evernote I have. I know that I have Evernote, and every once in a while it updates. And I know that that’s becoming more and more true, especially with software as a service. Not where I buy a program, install it out of the box, put it on my computer and later have to download a patch or update. But I download the program, get it going, and it’s constantly updating, changing, fixing, that sort of thing.
I think the Chrome browser was the first software that I dealt with that I kind of got used of that; and if you look deep in the help files, in the about files under Chrome, you can find that there are revision numbers and they are really, really long with lots of digits in them. But the whole idea of “what version do you have?” isn’t mattering as much anymore. And that’s what they’re saying with Windows. You just install it, it updates, it takes care of itself. And then you don’t have Windows 11 or Windows 12. You just have Windows.
>> BELVA SMITH: Windows. And do you know what? I think as a user, that’s what I want. I don’t want to be notified every week that I have to go update or that this needs to update. Just do it for me and make sure that it’s working.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Right. That’s where I think the issue becomes for a lot of my assistive technology users. The issue has been in the past that a Windows update installs. Let’s go back to Internet Explorer updates whereas with my assistive technology software, I may be ‑‑ it works great with Internet Explorer 9 and for about a year we tell them don’t upgrade, don’t upgrade your Internet Explorer, don’t do that. It’s going to crash your assistive technology.
Well, if we just let Windows do what it wants to do, it’s going to then have a huge impact on our AT users because some of that AT, it takes them about a six‑month lag time to be able to catch up with the latest updates. And if they’re just pushing updates at that point, man that makes me nervous.
>> BELVA SMITH: Well, no, I agree with you. But let’s go back to the conversation that you and I had this morning. Sometimes even when we update our assistive technology, it’s the assistive technology itself that causes things to go haywire. Updates themselves are scary, and especially when you’re not real tech savey. When you’re not tech savvy and your computer continually says to you “this needs to update” or “this needs to update,” you don’t know what to do with that.
I’ve gone to see folks before and they’ll say “oh, yeah, it’s been telling me that for a year.” And it’s their antivirus that’s been saying “I need to update. Will you let me update”? And they’re telling it no, no, no, because they don’t understand it.
So I just wish that things would just update or stay the same. Let me keep it the same until I need it to update.
>> BRIAN NORTON: So smoothing the process out is good for us, good for our clients. But before I believe it, what’s the business model here?
>> WADE WINGLER: Well, this is where it gets interesting. I’m going to pick Microsoft Office to talk about in this situation. If you go buy a copy of Microsoft Office, you’re looking at what? Anywhere from 100 to 300 or $400 to buy a version of Office, right?
But the thing is if you buy a version of Office, then you can keep using that until it doesn’t work anymore. You can keep that same version, never upgrade. Keep using it, keep using it not having to pay $300 or whatever.
The business model for this “New World” is ‑‑ the New World, listen to that, it costs you X many dollars per year. So maybe it costs you 100 or $150 a year to a subscriptions to Microsoft Office, but you always have the convenience of cloud computing. You always have the most recent version. You always have patches.
And so the idea is instead of buying software in a very painful way every once in a while, they sort of maybe nickel and dime you a little bit and you constantly have to pay. And if you don’t pay one month, your software goes away so you don’t have access anymore. So it’s an ongoing business model that brings money into the manufacturer.
But the thing that Brian said scares me to death, too, because when you’re talking about these add‑on products, if Microsoft decides to roll out an incremental version that breaks your screen reader, well, what are you going to do about that?
>> BRIAN NORTON: That’s huge to us, absolutely. And tell me if I’m wrong, they’ve already ‑‑ Microsoft has already showed their hand a little bit. Not that it’s a bad thing, but this is an interesting conversation for us with Office 365.
>> WADE WINGLER: That’s exactly right.
>> BRIAN NORTON: You can still get 2013, but they’re rolling out 365 which probably, come to think of it, does automatically kind of update. But you buy a year subscription. And we all are having the conversations about what to get for our consumers. I think I speak for everybody here that we’re purchasing a stand‑alone on CD Microsoft Office 2013 version right now so that they can have it permanently once it’s purchased by Voc Rehab.
And then I’ll let somebody else chime in here, but it’s not just that; it’s also what you were just referring to with regards to not having control over the updates, right?
>> WADE WINGLER: And if Microsoft does a good job of building accessibility into those little bitty upgrades that they don’t tell you about, that’s fine; but as more companies move that way, are they all going to make sure that when they make the tweaks, those work well with the assistive technology products, or at least the standards that those AT products rely on to kind of hook into and do their thing.
>> BELVA SMITH: Yeah. But I think if the assistive technology developers can’t do that, we definitely cannot rely on Microsoft or any of the other software vendors to do that.
>> WADE WINGLER: But the thing is if Microsoft rolls out a change overnight, the AT vendors aren’t going to have time to deal with that. Right now, the AT vendors get access to these softwares long before they come out so they can be ready for it.
>> BELVA SMITH: I know. What I’m saying, though, is when Freedom Scientific or JW Micro rolls out their updates and it messes up things. So if they can’t stay on top of it and keep my software working for me, how can I rely on Microsoft to do that? I can’t. Clearly. Updates are just scary.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Right.
>> Updates are bad.
>> BELVA SMITH: They are scary.
I’m not going to lie. When I first got into the industry, I told every client I worked with “no, do not do your updates.” And then I realized, oh wow, we have to do updates at some point. They are security patches. We have to do those. Okay. So let’s do some updates but not all updates.
>> MARK STEWART: Right. But then there were things like, you know, I thought it was fascinating when I came in here 8 or so years ago, that was one of the things that you folks were training me up on with regards to the specialty nature of this work had to do with the ‑‑ Brian, you started to refer to it, but to give this another twist, the 64‑bit versus 32‑bit. Well, 64‑bit for the consumers was capable of doing a lot more cool stuff, but it just was a little more glitchy.
And so for your our folks, we ‑‑ not keeping things from them, but with their agreement and those sorts of things with the education, the smart thing was to stay a few ‑‑ Brian, what is it? Was it a few months behind, really, is what you train?
>> BRIAN NORTON: In my experience, it’s typically when a major manufacturer like Microsoft made a change in their software, upgraded their software, it would typically take six months for an AT vendor or AT manufacturer to be able to kind of make the changes to their software.
I think it’s gotten a little faster than it has been in the past. But it usually look took that long and so keeping a person a couple versions back, back in the day, it’s not so much now as it was back in the day, was always helpful because you were able to kind of address that.
I mean, the other thing I just think of real quickly off the cuff, too, when I hear Microsoft says Windows 10, first of all I say praise the Lord because they’re probably hopefully sticking to a platform and sticking with it instead of moving from things that looked more like Windows 7 to a Windows 8 and something like that. Hopefully they stick to a platform and make it pretty consistent and then build on that.
The other thing is when Wade was mentioning, you know, this pay‑for‑as‑you‑go kind of a thing where you’re going to continually have to pay for things over time to be able to have a subscription‑based stuff, that scares me for my folks with ‑‑
>> BELVA SMITH: I don’t like that.
>> BRIAN NORTON: ‑‑ the limited resources with the people that we work with, persons with disabilities who are living on disability income and those kind of things, I think that’s a challenge. I think that’s going to be a real kicker for them to be able to kind of continue with the updates.
Not to say that ‑‑ I think with all the software that I use it has the subscription‑based updates, it still works in its current form; I’m just not updating them. But you’re going to want to stay current. And I think that will become a disadvantage for them over the long haul.
>> BELVA SMITH: Right. And I’m not just worried about the folks that we work with, but I’m worried about me. Let’s face it.
>> We’re all worried about you, Belva.
>> BELVA SMITH: I just ‑‑ on my home computer, I just updated Internet Explorer. It’s been yelling at me. I’m sounding like my client. It’s been yelling at me to do it forever. And I didn’t want to because I like the way everything worked on my Internet Explorer. I don’t want to have to go through that with my operating system and my software or my office suite and all that stuff. When I buy it and put it on there and it works, I want it to just stay that way until I make the decision.
>> WADE WINGLER: Yeah, kids these days.
>> BELVA SMITH: I know.
>> WADE WINGLER: Get off my lawn.
>> BELVA SMITH: No. My cloud, right? Get off my cloud.
>> WADE WINGLER: Get off my cloud.
>> BRIAN NORTON: Okay. That’s it for today. Thanks, everyone. Just want to thank you for participating in the show.
Again, here’s how to find our show. You can search Assistive Technology Questions on iTunes. You can look for us on Stitcher or visit our website. That’s www.atfaqshow.com.
Also, please call and chime in. We’d love to hear your questions. In fact, again, without your questions, we don’t really have a show. So be a part of it. Please use our listener line, that’s (317) 721‑7124. Or you can tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ. Or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, everyone.
>> BELVA SMITH: Thanks.
>> MARK STEWART: Take care.
>> WADE WINGLER: Thanks, guys. See you next time.
>> WADE WINGLER: It seems every week we have at least one blooper. Here we go.
>> Welcome to ATFAQ. Frequently asked questions. Yeah. That was right.
All right. Yeah, that was right.
>> Is that what you just said?
>> I am stopping to acknowledge that was correct.
>> BELVA SMITH: I feel good.
[Singing Rock Music.]
>> WADE WINGLER: That was an excellent start.
>> Reading is not my strong.
>> So today I want to just kind of before we jump directly into the questions that we have for today, I want to give our listeners just information about the show, kind of how it works. So the first thing to know is this is an answering questions show.
>> WADE WINGLER: It’s an answering questions show?
>> BRIAN NORTON: :Ah, well maybe not.
>> WADE WINGLER: Sure.
>> BELVA SMITH: I just realize I’m the only one in a regular chair. Why is that?
>> Because we all took the time to get our own chairs.
>> Excuse me. (clearing throat.)
>> Choked on a hair ball.
>> Bleh. Sorry.
>> WADE WINGLER: Information provided on Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions does not constitute a product endorsement. Our comments are not intended as recommendations, nor is our show evaluative in nature. Assistive Technology FAQ is hosted by Brian Norton, gets editorial support from Mark Stewart and Belva Smith, is produced by me, Wade Wingler, and receives support from Easter Seals Crossroads and the INDATA project.
ATFAQ is a proud member of The Accessibility Channel. Find more of our shows at www.accessibilitychannel.com.