ATFAQ011 – Q1. How do I change the task bar color in Windows 10? Q2. Is there a search engine that works well for the blind? Q3. Need advice for a power wheelchair user who is blind Q4. What devices help mark items in the home for people who are blind? Q5. Are the DirectTV and Honeywell apps accessible? Q6. Can you help me find a way to keep my purse accessible while I’m driving from my wheelchair in my new accessible van?

Show notes:
Panel: Brian Norton, Mark Stewart, Belva Smith, and Wade Wingler
Q1. How do I change the task bar color in Windows 10?
Q2. Is there a search engine that works well for the blind?
Q3. Need advice for a power wheelchair user who is blind
Q4. What devices help mark items in the home for people who are blind?
Q5. Are the DirectTV and Honeywell apps accessible?
Q6. Can you help me find a way to keep my purse accessible while I’m driving from my wheelchair in my new accessible van?
Send your questions: 317-721-7124 | | Tweet using #ATFAQ
——-transcript follows ——

WADE WINGLER: Welcome to ATFAQ, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions with 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 and fulfilling lives. Have a question you’d like answered on our show? Send a tweet with the hashtag #ATFAQ, call our listener line at 317-721-7124, or send us an email at The world of assistive technology has questions, and we have answers. And now here’s your host, Brian Norton.

BRIAN NORTON: Hello, and welcome to ATFAQ episode 011. Today in our room today we have a panel of distinguished guests. Know, are just our regular folks.

MARK STEWART: Hey there.

WADE WINGLER: I feel the love.

BRIAN NORTON: First person over there is Belva Smith. Belva is the team lead for our vision team here at Easter Seals crossroads. Belva, you want to say hey?


BRIAN NORTON: Next one is Mark. Mark is the team lead for our mobility and cognition team here at Easter Seals crossroads.

MARK STEWART: Hello, sir. At least I said that in a distinguished kind of a way.

BELVA SMITH: Did you say Sarah or did you say Sir?

BRIAN NORTON: Excellent. And we also have Wade Wingler here. He’s the director of our technology division here at Easter Seals crossroads and host of the popular podcast AT update. Wade?

WADE WINGLER: Hey, everybody.

BRIAN NORTON: Great. For any new listeners for our show, I just want to go over a couple of quick things just to give you a little bit of information about the show that may not have been in the intro. Kind of how our show format works, it’s questions and answers. Because of questions about any kind of assistive technology needed, please send us those in. I think we listed out our email address and a phone number, are hashtag for twitter. Please submit your questions. We love hearing those, love to be able to play them on the show and provide the feedback that we might have for those. Please send us your questions. Lots of ways to finance as well. As far as frequency of the show, it’s every couple of weeks. The first and the third week of the month we record, and the second and the fourth we release. Keep your eye out for those. We love to be able to do this and glad you guys are here to listen to us today.

WADE WINGLER: And if you haven’t heard the contact information, the listener line is 317-721-7124, the email is, or just need a note out into twitter somewhere but put hashtag #ATFAQ on it any monitor for that.

BELVA SMITH: We like comments and suggestions too.


WADE WINGLER: We like questions that we really like us when we are smart or something.

BRIAN NORTON: If there are answers you might want to also chime in on for pets questions, send us those. We’ll certainly put us on the show as well. We are always looking for good feedback to give better answers for the folks that send us their questions.


BRIAN NORTON: So for our first question today, this actually came in through a tweet. The person’s twitter handle is @james90kor. His question was, how can I change the taskbar color in Windows 10? The default is black and I want to change it to white or at least use the high contrast theme. Again that was sent on Twitter with the hashtag #ATFAQ.

BELVA SMITH: Windows 10.

WADE WINGLER: How about that Windows 10?

BRIAN NORTON: Just released last week? Is that right?

BELVA SMITH: The 29th, yeah. Haven’t seen it yet, but you have the answer to this question.

BRIAN NORTON: Man, you’re good.

BELVA SMITH: All you’ve got to do is go to your settings, and when you open settings, you’re going to click on the personalization icon. I assume this is going to look very similar to the Windows 8 section. Once you’ve got in the personalization area, you’re going to click on colors, and it’s going to be on the left side. You have the option to turn it on or turn it off, and by default it is turned off. So once you turn it on, then you’re given the option to choose from many difference colors; however, this is only going to be for your start and your taskbar. At this time, they do not have any way that you can change the window borders and the title bars. We used to be able to play with us a little bit in XP, I think and 7 as well, but barely that’s not something that we can change at this time.

BRIAN NORTON: Right. It’s always been a fun experience when a new version of Windows gets released or a new operating system gets released and we have to relearn everything that we had gone so use to put our clients at that particular moment, being able to change color contrast for folks with low vision, all of those kinds of things. Now it’s a new learning curve because they moved things around. I can tell you back when it went from Windows XP to Windows 7 and they changed it from the little guy, the blue guy with a wheelchair, to the ease of access center. Trying to figure out where they suck all my controls and my settings back then was a challenge. It sounds like it’s the same kind of thing.

BELVA SMITH: And I like that you are able to find the center personalization because that is kind of where you would expect to find it.


BELVA SMITH: Kind of weird for windows to do something that we would expect them to do, right?

BRIAN NORTON: Has anyone in the room had experience or play with Windows 10 yet?

BELVA SMITH: Now, I’m waiting on you to get me a Windows 10 PC.

WADE WINGLER: I read a lot about it, I looked at a lot of screenshots, but being somebody who natively operates on a Mac, I haven’t done it yet. I’m debating whether to install it in parallels on my Mac.

BELVA SMITH: I know I’m afraid to do it on my work Mac, but I’m also afraid to do it at home. I’m kind of one of those people that I don’t need to be the first one. I’ve done what waits done. After that a lot of research, looked at a lot of screenshots. It looks okay. I don’t want to mess up. I pay my bills of my computer so I don’t want to mess it up till I know it’s going to work.

MARK STEWART: And I know we covered this on another show, but just in a few phrases, I know we all agree that — so if you’re an AT user out there and you’re okay on the upper system that you’re working with right now, but you’re thinking about upgrading just because it is supposed to be even better, as a generalization, probably wait a few months or let some bugs get worked out a bit and see how other people are doing with it. They make the change.

BELVA SMITH: I’m actually probably going to see about getting an INDATA computer and try to do it. I want to see how hard it’s going to be to do the update and stuff.

BRIAN NORTON: For those that don’t know, INDATA is the Indiana assistive technology act here in Indiana. It’s a loan library, folks that we are particularly close to, they’re in the same building that we are. They have a loan library that we might be able to buy a computer from Internet Windows 10. Yeah, it’s interesting.

WADE WINGLER: You should bring that to the staff meeting on Monday.

BRIAN NORTON: The vehicle.

WADE WINGLER: Making more work for you.

BRIAN NORTON: I have heard or seen to me most about JAWS and Zoom text and from freedom scientific and AI squared about some of their software already being compatible with Windows 10. I’ve seen some traffic on the Internet regards to that. I’m not specifically sure if that’s fully reliable or not. I’d have to dig in myself and figure that stuff out to see just how well it does work.

BELVA SMITH: I think what I last heard was you can install the window eyes on 10, keyword in that sentence is install it.

BRIAN NORTON: Right. But maybe it doesn’t work as well as him I wanted to. But maybe there’s only a few things you can do.

BRIAN NORTON: And those are Zoom text and JAWS and Windows eyes, those are screen readers and screen magnifiers for folks that aren’t familiar with those software packages.

MARK STEWART: This is pretty common knowledge for anybody who goes up what’s coming with Windows 10, but the buzz is pretty good. Kind of a better balancing act between the tablet experience and if you don’t want to do touch, then it’ll work better.

BRIAN NORTON: They put the start menu back in. But I haven’t heard anything negative about Windows 10. Has anybody in the room?

WADE WINGLER: Know, I haven’t. And here’s the other thing. Back on the show that I host, assistive technology update, we interviewed Dan Hubble who is one of the guys over at Microsoft responsible for accessibility, and he went into a lot of detail about some of the things that were coming with Windows 10. If folks are interested, go over to the other show and listen to the episode that we did in the middle of February we talked about that. He had some pretty good details. So far I’m hearing good stuff. It’s been a few days.

BRIAN NORTON: Wade, is that your intuition or maybe from some comments from Dan that universal design and awareness about embedding things with regard to access and assistive technology, is even at a higher level with the windows 10 rollout?

WADE WINGLER: What I’m getting from him and some of the folks that I’ve talked to is the behind the scene accessibility, the way the assistive technology interfaces through API’s and stuff, is better, but not a whole lot of stuff on the front end, when you open the ease of access center, the personalization settings, you’re not going to see a ton of new stuff. Cortana is something that supposed to be a big deal with accessibility. Racking my brain trying to remember. I’m not remembering a ton of stuff that made me say, oh, my gosh, it’s a whole new way to access Windows.

BRIAN NORTON: And Cortana, that’s the Siri-esque version that’s a Windows —

WADE WINGLER: It’s a personal voice assistant kind of thing.

BRIAN NORTON: I’m excited about that. I like to play around with that a little bit. We met okay, Belva, that your homework. You have to bring Windows 10 to the next staff meeting.




BRIAN NORTON: So don’t forget, if you do have a question, you can call our listener line. That’s 317-721-7124. The next question that we have here is a really good question. I know these to be some things out there like this. Is there a website that is easily searchable by people who use AT specifically folks with vision impairment or persons who are blind?

BELVA SMITH: A website that’s easily searchable?


BELVA SMITH: I would think that, if you’re good with your screen reader, you should be able to zoom through any webpage by heading or by links or paragraphs. I think just about any website, you should be able to move there it with almost all of the screen readers with ease. They almost all have quick navigation, which means you’re going to use one or two keys, tops, to move through the different objects on the page. And that they are asking about search engines —

WADE WINGLER: That’s what they’re asking about.

BRIAN NORTON: That’s what thought.

BELVA SMITH: If they’re asking about search engines, I’m going to say Google should be fully accessible as well. There’s also one that has been around for years called dog pile. It’s a very clean page. I haven’t done a recent comparison as to how good the results are with dog pile. I know they are pretty reliable with Google. I usually feel that the result I’m looking for is going to be in the top four or five, go beyond that it starts throwing in a mix of other things. But yeah, is one of them and then Google.

WADE WINGLER: And then Google used to have a special version or something?

BRIAN NORTON: They used to have a stripped-down version that was in their Google apps back when those available. In doing a little bit of digging for this question, I wasn’t aware that they got rid of Google labs. It was a stripped-down version of their search engine. What was nice about it was it didn’t include any ads off to the side so it would be just stripped-down. It would give you the results and that was it. I was unable to find that now.

WADE WINGLER: All of Google labs, right?

BRIAN NORTON: Google labs is completely gone. I can find it anywhere.

MARK STEWART: This is Mark. My thought is that the weight of the question with regards to vision, with regards to distractibility and attention deficit disorder and those sorts of things as well, hope this doesn’t date me, but if we go back when there is just kind of Internet Explorer, the complexity of that and a lag time and things that that could be tremendously distracting and really offsetting for people, and then for example, now there’s a battle between Firefox and chrome for who was sort of the leanest and cleanest and quickest. If you put yourself in that mindset all that kind of learning style, so we all like the clean look of chrome, but it’s like night and day for some of those folks. In fact, from a universal design standpoint, what’s good for folks that have some motor abilities might very well be good for other people. Everybody might like it that’s going to replace Internet Explorer, because really Firefox and chrome kind of schooled Internet Explorer with all of its clunkiness.

WADE WINGLER: Absolutely.

BRIAN NORTON: Belva, I was going to ask you, as far as just the ease of use and the fact that, something that I find just a little annoying, and it may or may not be an issue with screen readers, is when you’re using Google Chrome or some of the other web browsers, a lot of them have this auto finish piece to it. Do you turn on or off when you’re working with folks with vision impairment or screen readers? Because sometimes I just find that, man, I just didn’t want to do auto finish what I thought of.

BELVA SMITH: Know. I just let them know that it does not what you want, keep on typing. If it’s what you want, you can quit typing.

BRIAN NORTON: There was one other thing I wanted to throw out there for folks. That’s a text only browser, if you will. It’s kind of a text only display. I found this in my little bit of research I did. It’s called Webbie, web browser 4, and if you type that into Google — if you can get access to Google, that’s kind of what we’re talking about — you can find it. It’s basically an install for a text-only browser, which I thought was interesting, kind of strips out the images and other things that might get in the way of the results you’re looking for.

WADE WINGLER: I’m looking at here. It’s, so it’s a UK product.


MARK STEWART: And actually if your spelling is so poor that a lot of times you simply can’t figure out the word you’re trying to type in, that might be a real limiting factor to be able to type in a trip correctly and have the second and pick up what you need. Mozilla Firefox spell checks by default, so even in the address bar, is going to help you get the spelling correct and it’s good to help a ton as far as going to the site that you want.



BRIAN NORTON: Next question — before I throw that out there, don’t forget, if you do have a question, you can send us a tweet with hashtag #ATFAQ. That’ll give us your question. The next question we’re going to talk about is an email from Jewel. This is an email received. The question is, they are looking for a device for the power wheelchair. This must be an evaluator or a service provider. They mention a student who is blind and uses a power wheelchair as having trouble keeping in a straight line across the driveway or street. She says she doesn’t realize when she dressed because the controls are so sensitive. Is there anything that can help her stop drifting?

MARK STEWART: I’ll speak to that one. So first of all, let me mention the qualifiers. Certainly safety is a factor in this question. This does have to do with assistive technology. We work with folks who are blind. We work with folks who use wheelchairs all the time. It’s not exactly our current niche as far as this team right here, so we’re just speaking to the question generally or from background. A few things. Of course we don’t know what type of controller she’s using, if she has any other secondary physical challenges, but most controllers are highly programmable, so there’s a chance here that maybe this is from a teacher and the teacher just doesn’t realize exactly how programmable that controller is, some may be the simplest, nice fix to this would be to picture the user sitting properly in the chair, yes, the user is accessing the joystick just fine, can grip the joystick just fine, but it is calibrated just right. That’s the first thing and that has to do with safety just a little bit you need to check the calibration, and I’ll mention something on how to get this thing addressed. I’m not saying that this is going to be necessary, but you should be able to lock the joystick so he can only go in an X or Y plane. And you can picture somebody then, if they press it in any direction forward, it’s only going to go specifically forward. If they push it in any direction to the side, then it’s actually going to turn 90° and go only to the side. See you can picture them literally zigzagging at 90° up the street, but that allows much more control. You’re either going exactly forward for exactly horizontal, X/Y, horizontal/vertical planes. That can help while somebody’s training. That can help certain folks at that as far as they get, but they can efficiently use the device only in those planes. Sometimes they can to something called trim or dampening, where even if the person is shaking their hand, some pretty sophisticated algorithms in the software will realize that that’s from the tremor and not from an exact command going that direction. So picture a hand tremoring as the person sort of tries to move the joystick to the upper left, for example, and it’ll simply only go to the upper left because that’s been programmed out. Simply how far you translate the joystick and how fast it moves, that can be controlled. So really, almost on every level with most joysticks these days, these things can be calibrated and figured out through the software. Certainly there are some very high-tech control systems out there that can do all kinds of things. You can toggle between different stages and use it to navigate the wheelchair, and you can make it work as a mouse for the computer instead, things like that. Who would check this? There are two levels there. One might be the person who evaluated this individual for the chair, but then it also might be the vendor who provided the chair and initially train the person. Hopefully they have the contact information and can go that direction. I think that’s the best thing probably to do rather than the teacher trying to fix it. I think it would also be the case is if the person can just ask the student who they got the chair from. Hopefully it’s a reputable local vendor. They can call that vendor up. They may actually have a rep come out who can fix the stuff for them. Again, another level, and just to be so the teacher is empowered, somebody probably did an evaluation on that person, to be a physical therapist or an occupational therapist, who knows all about these things. So even if this does become more complicated or actually is more complicated, maybe they are positioned wrong, maybe the joystick isn’t the best approach, things like that, there are people that really specialize in how the person accesses the joystick in the devices. In summary, I’m very hopeful with this one because the technology is extremely high tech and can be manipulated really quite easily to fix these things.

BELVA SMITH: I think orientation and mobility training can help with that. Am I wrong?

MARK STEWART: Not at all. In fact, Brian, you found a really nice article on this.

BRIAN NORTON: I found a document that was adapted from some other person’s information, but it’s orientation and mobility strategies for low vision wheelchair users. We’ll stick a link to that in our show notes later on. Essentially it talks about sighted guide techniques for folks in wheelchairs, whether it’s actually a sighted guide working with them side-by-side, either operating the chair for them, or maybe walking in front of the person who’s field impaired so they can stay behind them, or just lots of different strategies for working with folks in chairs who may have the issue of how do I really know where I’m going and maybe tailing off to the left or the right when I’m trying to go in a straight line. It may be challenging just giving them some sort of a visual on where to head with that. Again, adapting that sensitivity with the controller and things like that is a big deal.

BELVA SMITH: And I wonder if there’s some sort of feedback as the person is controlling it. Like, if I’m going left, do I get a vibration? Or if I’m going right, do I maybe get a peep or something that would let me know that I feared off of my straight path?

MARK STEWART: Auditory for sure. The vibration probably exist out there, but I don’t know if it.

BELVA SMITH: Auditory would be good, yeah.

MARK STEWART: Auditory for sure. As a taking a look at this question, they’re saying as they go across a street or a driveway. There are no controls on some of these higher-level controllers as well, so maybe picture them on a nice, flat surface inside the school. Maybe they don’t really have issues or maybe they can hear the classmate or the teacher or other amazing things that folks do who are blind to know where they are. Maybe some of that dissipates and/or if there are reference services and things they are not as use to when they’re going across a driveway or street, and maybe then they can totally switch it from a less forgiving but more responses load to a much more conservative and more forgiving mode, but safer and more controllable.


MARK STEWART: Did that make sense?

BRIAN NORTON: I think so. I think maybe just to summarize that for folks, definitely take a look at some of those ONM strategies. Those might be helpful as you work with folks who may have the issue. But definitely look at the different controls. Consider the wheelchair manufacture, whoever did your seating and mobility assessments. Follow up with them, let them know the challenges that you’re having in the chair. There are lots of things out there as you look at the different options that are available to be able to include those.

MARK STEWART: As a rule, those folks are wonderful resources. They are there for you.

BELVA SMITH: And it’s going to take practice, I think. The individuals, if it’s their first time to control the chair, it’s going to be a little bit of time just like everything else. A little bit of practice will make them perfect. Before long, they’ll be doing it without even thinking about it.



BRIAN NORTON: Don’t forget, if you have a question, you can take advantage of email you? Have an email set up where you can send your questions. It’s Take a moment. If you just a question, send it our way and we’ll try to get it on our show. The next question we have today is, a visually impaired clients says I’m visually impaired pick what sort of labeling devices might there be to help me identify items at home or work? Once we tell her about that stuff, she says and how do they work? Just to kind of jump in on the question, there’s a couple of things that I’ve used in the past. Obviously your real basic, low-tech types of assistive technology, 20/20 pens are basically — what’s the type of marker I’m thinking of?

WADE WINGLER: Like a sharpie?

BRIAN NORTON: Like a sharpie marker. They are just thicker markers that you can write on and to print labels for things. You can also get the old oil labeler. I don’t know if you guys have seen those around.

WADE WINGLER: Dymo Labeler.

BRIAN NORTON: Dymo Labeler. They got the dymo that you stick in there and can make braille labels for things practice a couple of options. There are some higher tech types of things that we’ve used around here. Once caught the Pen Friend. In fact, I think it’s Pen Friend 2 where it’s essentially a pen looking device that has special labels or stickers that you can stick on different things. If you position the pen over top of that label, it’ll play a recording that has been set up for that label. And then additionally there’s another one, the ID Mate, which will either use barcodes and you can take barcodes on a variety of different things. I think the last ID Mate which I set up for somebody, which was just last Thursday, they had three different types of product codes barcodes that they could put on different things. Not only does it recognize things in the grocery store, so you can scan a bag of rum noodles and it’ll tell you what that is and how many calories it has in it and what the ounces are and all those kinds of things, but you also stick these generic barcodes in and around your house. This particular one had iron on barcodes seek and stick them on your clothes pick you can stick stickers on different things in and around the house. But you also had ones with little rubber bands tight on them so you could actually tie them around a bottle, those kinds of things. I thought that was just kind of a unique way to kind of get two different things in different types of things that you wanted to label. Essentially you just take the barcode scanner, you scan the barcode, it’ll say item not found and then it’ll tell you to go ahead and make a recording for the barcode. You’ll say this is my blue shirt, if I use one of the iron on markers or iron on labels. Next time I scan that barcode, it’ll say blue shirt. Just a couple of interesting once.

BELVA SMITH: Those are some great high-tech ones, kind of expensive. I’m not sure how much the Pen Friend is, but I know that the ID Mate is wonderful but kind of expensive. Some low-tech suggestions that I have is, especially for your clothing. By the way, are those ID Mate once washable or do you have to take them out before you can do your laundry?

BRIAN NORTON: Well, they are iron on, so —

BELVA SMITH: So they’ve got to be washable. But some of the low-tech things that I’ve seen people do is take the tag of their clothing and cut it. So they’ll cut red one way and blew another way so they can feel the tag and tell whether they are pulling out a red shirt or a blue shirt. Or they’ll use safety pins on things that don’t have a tag. They’ll put it in one way if it’s white and another way if it’s black. Rubber bands, one rubber band, two rubber bands, how it’s put on, something to identify.

WADE WINGLER: Like the shampoo versus the conditioner.

BELVA SMITH: Absolutely.

WADE WINGLER: One for shampoo and two for conditioner.

BELVA SMITH: Absolutely. And even for the medication, one rubber band means I take one in the morning, two rubber bands, two at night, whatever. That’s just some low tech.

WADE WINGLER: I’ve seen people notch stuff before, little triangular, rattail file. You can notch credit cards, or even you can notched stuff like soup can lids around the edge and notch those different ways. Puff paint. A lot of folks have done a lot of puff paint. You can mark anything by putting puff paint on it.

MARK STEWART: Velcro dots. Those on keyboards and stuff like that. You put them on other things. The live scribe smart pen has sound stickers now as well. So if you are with mild to moderate low vision, that would help if the print was a challenge. And actually if I can spin this a little bit, I actually had a consumer a few years back who had very severe dyslexia. That’s a print or a symbolic blindness, if you will. They couldn’t read. Very bright, sociable, well-liked at work, couldn’t read anything in their workplace. We use the ID Mate system and it worked great. There was some real consistency to the things in the workplace and it worked out really well.

WADE WINGLER: ID Mate cop by the way, runs around $1600, and Pen Friend runs around $150 just looking on the web really quick.

BELVA SMITH: Organization is always important. You’ve got to put things back. I live with someone who’s low vision. You have to put it back where you got it from.

WADE WINGLER: A place for all things, all things in their place.

BRIAN NORTON: Or even a strategy of red shirts go with red shirts, blue shirts go with blue shirts, all those things as well.


BRIAN NORTON: If you guys have a question, take some time, give our listener line a call. That’s 317-721-7124. Give us a call, let us know what your question is.

CALLER: I have a question about being more independent at home. I have the DirecTV app and I would like to get a little more information about how it works with the vision impaired and how it works with voiceover. Also I understand there’s a Honeywell app for the home thermostat system. I’d like to know if you guys can check it out and see if it really works and how accessible it would be. Thanks, love your show, keep it up. Talk to you soon, thanks.

BRIAN NORTON: So if you didn’t catch that, the person was asking about two separate apps for and I was app. One’s a DirecTV app and one’s a Honeywell home thermostat app. They’re asking how well it is and what its accessibility features are. Can you get access to it. Just throw that out to the group too.

BELVA SMITH: I’ve played with both of them. I do not have DirecTV, nor do I know anyone that does, but I did download the app and was able to maneuver it just by using voiceover. It did prompt me to get upgraded to the paid version which is only a $1.99, so I’ll be able to do more with it. I did also call it DirecTV just to ask, because I had read on AppleVis that apparently back in 2013 their app is not very compatible with voiceover, and people were voicing their opinion on that. I wanted to make sure that things had changed. I didn’t find any updated information on AppleVis, but in speaking to the customer service gentleman that I spoke with at DirecTV, he assured me that the app is fully accessible. You can also do a spoken search with the DirecTV newest, I’m going to call it the tabletop box. I don’t know what they call it. With the newest box or the Genie box top, you can do a voice search. The same thing with the Honeywell. I downloaded the app, and it had a trial test version that I could go and see all the different things that I would be able to check. It was fully accessible with my voiceover. There wasn’t anything on the screen that I couldn’t get to with voiceover and got good feedback. I again have not had any experience with the Honeywell, only the Nest, but from what I was able to see with it, it worked just fine.

BRIAN NORTON: I kind of looked at it from the physical side of it. I didn’t have any opportunity to — I don’t know if voice control is a really good option for it, but certainly the switch access in the iPad will get you around to the same controls as was over would as well. If you’re looking at those apps from more of a physical access standpoint, maybe using a switch to be able to activate the iPad and use the switch interface with the iPad, that’s an option in those particular apps to be able to move around. Obviously not the most efficient way to access those apps, but maybe using voiceover isn’t very efficient either. I’m not sure.

BELVA SMITH: I want to say that the DirecTV app is not compatible with an iPad. It has to be an iPhone. I thought that was kind of important. There is an app for Android for both the Honeywell and DirecTV.

MARK STEWART: Wade, didn’t you, in one of your more recent AT Updates, do an interview with, was at the head of accessibility at Comcast?


WADE WINGLER: Within the last month or so, we talked to the folks over there.

BELVA SMITH: I’ve also done some tech tips on that.

WADE WINGLER: They were specifically talking about the talking guide and how it is fully accessible to somebody who is a screen reader user. You can only figure out what’s playing and when, but you can get information like ratings and stars in the descriptions and all that kind of stuff. Also the DVR functionality is visible as well so you can set up a schedule and record your shows and watch them back and all fully accessible. Pretty impressive.

BELVA SMITH: And that’s what we use at home. I can say that that does work very well.



BRIAN NORTON: Our next question was also a call in question. But before we jump into that, I just want to mention if you’re looking to send as a question, please do so. You can send it to our twitter hashtag #ATFAQ. That’ll come to us and will be able to take a look and answer the question as well.

CALLER: This is Mickey Cleanser. I’m calling regarding a problem that we were having. My question is, I need to find an app that will let me communicate with my wife as she’s got cancer and she’s going to be having her pallet removed. We need to find a way to communicate. I am blind and so I need to have something that’s easy for her to type on and for me to be able to get the output by braille display or digital. I have an iPhone so I’m wondering if there is a specific app that might be developed that could assist us. That’s basically my question. If any of you could help out, I’d very much appreciate it. Thank you.

BRIAN NORTON: First of all, I just want to mention thank you for submitting the question. We’ll be thinking about you guys as you guys go through that. I think we might have some pretty good answers for you with regard to the question. The kind of brought it up with our whole team this morning in a department meeting, and we brainstormed about that a little bit. It’s certainly a challenging position to be in, but I think if you look at, whether it’s an iOS device or other kinds of things, obviously you’re mentioning braille output and understanding some way to be able to communicate back and forth with her, with her not being able to speak. There are lots of different augmentative communication apps. But maybe something even more simple than that maybe using a memo pad on the iOS device to be able to have her, with the Bluetooth keyboard or some other input option, maybe even different types of input option for that, to be able to then type out a message in the memo and send it to you via text or even just swap it out and move it around back over to you so you can then read it with the braille output.

BELVA SMITH: Brian, I got a question.


BELVA SMITH: I believe I know the answer to this, but can you have a Bluetooth keyboard and a Focus 14 connected to the iPhone at the same time?

WADE WINGLER: Sure. It’ll handle two.

BELVA SMITH: So why can’t she have the Bluetooth Apple keyboard so that it’s not big, it’s a wireless, and type in the notes. He’s going to then people to read that using a braille display or just by having it read back to him.

BRIAN NORTON: Focus 14, Blue Braille Display, kind of back-and-forth?

BELVA SMITH: Right. And then he can input using that braille display if he’s got it. So they lay the iPhone in the middle of the table between the two of them, and they both just have their input devices.

BRIAN NORTON: That’s certainly an option. And then if he would want the information on the screen spoken, there’s also the speak screen option to be able to slip down with two fingers from the very top. You have to turn that on in accessibility settings.

BELVA SMITH: I’m assuming he’s using his voiceover.

BRIAN NORTON: You’re probably right.

BELVA SMITH: So if she’s typing, it’s going to be reading that to them.

BRIAN NORTON: Correct. So you’ll get that audio feedback. I believe that might be able to be done.

MARK STEWART: I’ll be humble. He mentioned braille display. Is it perhaps kind of a learning curve? That he mentioned that kind of — he called in to get help about assistive technology. Perhaps he isn’t fully aware of all the things that are being done with OCR software where it so much easier to get auditory feedback. In other words, he’s blind, she can’t speak, she types, it’s turned into auditory speech, and he’s good to go. I’m not saying in every situation, but —

BRIAN NORTON: At that point, if he’s able to hear, if she typing back with a Bluetooth keyboard in the memo, it would be speaking as she types, and would be able to then hear it at that point.

BELVA SMITH: And if he doesn’t have already a braille display, because we all know they can be quite costly, they could possibly just use two Bluetooth keyboards. Can you only have one at a time connected?

WADE WINGLER: You should be able to have two.

BELVA SMITH: Then they could both have their own Bluetooth keyboard. That’s like a $200 solution.

WADE WINGLER: Maybe we are making it too complicated, because there are a ton of free augmentative and alternative apps out there. For example, one that’s free and works on the iPad that they use a lot is called Verbally. It’s a free version of a paid app. I don’t know that he needs to rely on braille. He mentioned that he is a braille user but he spoke on the call. I’m guessing that any of the free AugCom apps that are out there would allow her to come with a vision, type in her question or her phrase or her statement, hit speak, he’s going to hear it and he can talk back to her verbally like he did on the call.

BRIAN NORTON: That’s what I was thinking.

BELVA SMITH: Duh, yeah!

WADE WINGLER: I think we may be making it a little too complicated.

BELVA SMITH: I was missing that.

MARK STEWART: That’s what I was thinking. But he mentioned braille display. That’s where he thought that answer would go.

WADE WINGLER: I think we may be making it too hard. Brian, you mentioned she could just pop open, if she’s on his iPhone, the note app or anything and then just use the speak screen option. I think you may have mentioned that where she drags two fingers down and it’ll read the sentence to him. Use an app like Drafts or something that’s really ineffective and just gives you basic text. We may be making it too hard.

BRIAN NORTON: I like the option of the AAC apps out there, the augmentative negation apps, because a lot of those will let you put preprogrammed phrases in there. So if you’re saying something all the time, like go give me a glass of water, instead of typing that out every time they want to say that, you just simply choose that phrase and it speaks it.

MARK STEWART: That’s great.

BRIAN NORTON: I do like that option with AAC apps.

MARK STEWART: 10 years ago, OCR software existed, but it wouldn’t have been visible in nearly as many formats and it wouldn’t have been very accurate, or sluggish, things like that. So braille feedback, braille could have been the answer, and perhaps it used to but times have changed, maybe. I don’t know.

WADE WINGLER: I think there’s a lot of options. This encouragement that would give you, is there is a ton of equipment out there and apps that are designed to help somebody who is nonverbal to speak and have a device do that. A lot of them will even save it off to an email or whatever they’ve typed or a text message or something so you’ve got some other options therefore backing up the conversation for later. I would suggest a couple of places. Go to which is a great place to go and look for free apps or paid apps that fall into this category. And also, I don’t have the website, but if you Google “Tools For Life” and “apps”, that’s Georgia Tech’s website that has a bunch of apps there as well.

BELVA SMITH: He’s going to want to look for —

WADE WINGLER: AAC, augmentative and alternative communication.

MARK STEWART: Brian, you’re talking about here’s a couple, this was inherent in the question, here’s a couple who is preparing themselves to move forward in life. Like what you said, phrases that are commonly used between the two of them that create and keep it as simple as possible without having to just type everything out for life.

BRIAN NORTON: I would even say those are two great places to go find the apps, but maybe also reaching out to your tech act project. They’ll oftentimes have a loan library where you can actually get an iPad, try these things out. It sounds like he may have already had or has an iOS device already. A lot of the augmentative communication apps, they have a free version of themselves see you can try them out in their basic form to be able to get a little bit of a test drive.

WADE WINGLER: I don’t know what state you’re in, but if you head over to, it will give you a listing of all the tech projects in the US so you can find your local one.

BELVA SMITH: And hopefully the hospital that’s going to be doing her surgery will have a support team that will be able to help her with some ideas.

BRIAN NORTON: Suggestions.

MARK STEWART: I might be spinning off a little bit too much here, but Voice Dream that we’re all fond of, as far as OCR software and reading things back, there’s a voice stream writer now. You type —

WADE WINGLER: And it’ll echo what you are typing.


WADE WINGLER: And now it’s time for the wildcard question.

BRIAN NORTON: So if you haven’t had a chance already, if you do have a question and you want to ask the question, you can send us an email at Feel free to go ahead and do that as we throw out our next question because our next question is one of our favorite questions of the week. It is the wildcard question, one that we haven’t had a chance to know about before right now. I’m going to throw the mic over to Wade and he’s going to throw that out to us and we’re going to sweat it out while he asked the question and then try to think about what you want to say before we say it.

WADE WINGLER: So the wildcard question this week is kind of like an extra wildcard. I did something that I’ve never done before. Just listen to this.


WADE WINGLER: So for today’s wildcard question, I’m doing something different. You guys are going to hear a voice of one of your coworkers who is not here in the room right now who has a question for you. Before we started recording ATFAQ, I asked Laura Medcalf who is our social media content specialist to come in with a question that she had, because Laura has a big event happening in her life right now. Laura, what’s going on?

LAURA MEDCALF: This past week, I recently received my brand-new van with new conversions, so I can drive independently.

WADE WINGLER: So Laura, you’re a wheelchair user, have been for a while.


WADE WINGLER: And you drive from your wheelchair?


WADE WINGLER: And you’re just getting this car so you’re probably going to need gas cards sent to you and you’re going to be blowing the wheels off this car in the next few days and weeks, right?

LAURA MEDCALF: Definitely.

WADE WINGLER: Absolutely. But one of the questions that you had for me, and at that would make a fun wildcard question today, was a very practical question. Do you want to talk about that?

LAURA MEDCALF: My concern is that I carry my work bag and my purse, which is pretty large, on my foot plates. But when I’m driving, I’m unable to keep them resting there on that foot plates, so I was wondering if there was a solution to connect them to my van safely so I am able to independently remove them from my footplate and back to my footplate.

WADE WINGLER: So the idea is you don’t want to step on the brakes and your purse fall down on the pedals and all of a sudden you’re on the brakes and the gas and everything else. A little bit about you physically, just taking your person reaching over and putting it in the seat next to you isn’t going to work, right? Not enough range of motion and strength to do that?


WADE WINGLER: See you can look it up but really not going to reach very far away from the center of her body? You need to put it somewhere where it’ll be easy to get rid of when you get into the van but easy to get a hold of and get back on your footplate when you leave the van, right?


WADE WINGLER: Good. I know that this group is going to have some good answers to your question, and maybe after the record I’ll have you come back in and we’ll kick that around little bit. Thank you for the question and we’ll see what they come up with.



WADE WINGLER: So that is a different kind of wildcard question we sent you guys this time. I’m just going to sit here and let you guys —

MARK STEWART: I see Laura out of the corner of my eye in the kitchen area.

WADE WINGLER: She’s hiding?

MARK STEWART: Good question.

BELVA SMITH: Do we know what kind of the van Laura has?

WADE WINGLER: Fairly recent model Dodge minivan.

BELVA SMITH: My Dodge minivan is open between the two seats. I’m wondering —

WADE WINGLER: I think hers is too.

BELVA SMITH: So her space here is open? Okay.

BRIAN NORTON: I would assume most fans like that would be open in the middle so that you can then drive from where you get in on the passenger side or driver side, and you have to get yourself up to the steering wheel at that point. A lot of those fans are open in the middle.

BELVA SMITH: And she’s going to be able to reach down and grab her bag and bring it at least to her?

WADE WINGLER: To her lap.

BELVA SMITH: But to her lap. She just isn’t going to be able to reach over to it. My immediate thought, and I know I’m not the one to be answering this question, but my immediate thought is you all know the toilet paper holders that stand on the floor?


BELVA SMITH: You get one of those and you bought it to the floor, and that should be just right about the right height to go from her foot pedal to her lap, put it on the hook, grab down to get the other one and put it on the hook. But you’re going to have somebody bolt it to the floor. Can you do that?

WADE WINGLER: Knowing Laura, this is hard for folks who aren’t here, reaching over to the floor next to her is too far away. She can get it from between her feet on the footplate up to her lap, reaching over to the side, even if it were right next over to the right.

BELVA SMITH: I’m just thinking slide, though. I don’t know.

WADE WINGLER: Not enough range of motion.


BRIAN NORTON: I’m almost also thinking —

BELVA SMITH: Can Artie go with her and just pick it up?

WADE WINGLER: The robot? No.

BRIAN NORTON: I’m almost also thinking, this is me just being my crazy low-tech guy as far as what you might be able to do.

WADE WINGLER: That’s a new show: crazy low-tech guy.

BRIAN NORTON: I just remember going on long trips of my family when I was a kid, and we used to have these clips that used to stick in my door to be able to hold my coffee cup or my pop can and those kinds of things. If there are clips like that that could be able to attach to a wheelchair arm they would hang off the side, maybe you’d be able to move it there and just have it right completely next to you. The other question I would have in the other thought I would have was as any to be up there with her? If it’s between her legs —

BELVA SMITH: So that she could get it picked back up, he probably does.

WADE WINGLER: She goes through the drive-through at Taco Bell and needs to get her purse.

BRIAN NORTON: That would be an issue.

MARK STEWART: I wonder how much space she has between herself and the door. Sometimes there isn’t much space at all, but something could be put on the door, probably would have to be custom-made, but enough of a basket that would secure it so it wouldn’t go anywhere if she stopped quickly but you could also get to her things. This is the last option, but she’s got this awesome new, wonderful van. Sometimes other things become secondary and you need to relook at the size of the purse, with all due respect —

BELVA SMITH: Whoa, whoa, whoa, that’s not an options.

WADE WINGLER: Let him talk, Belva. Let him talk.

MARK STEWART: — I’m thinking about independence here. I’m picturing her cruising all around town. Where you put the purse before you get in to the van in the first place, things like that, it frankly is a tough one without seeing.

BRIAN NORTON: If you can condense it enough, there are side bags for your chair that you can just have that are attached underneath your armrest and things like that to be able to reach around your armrest to be able to find things.

BELVA SMITH: But she’s got two bags too. She’s got two bags. She’s got her work bag, and that’s always going to be big and bulky because we just got stuff that’s got to come with us.

BRIAN NORTON: Let’s turn the tables a little bit. Wade? What would be your suggestions?

WADE WINGLER: I think it’s so funny that it’s the dudes that are trying to answer these questions about a lady and her purse.

BELVA SMITH: I’m wondering too, what about the dash? Is there any way that the dash could be utilized?

WADE WINGLER: Most of the dash is full of buttons though or something.

MARK STEWART: Close to her center of gravity is going to be great, so something in her lap that secures it, reverse backpack types of things. But again, she needs to have total freedom to drive. There’s not much space left.

BELVA SMITH: The lap is it going to work.


WADE WINGLER: My idea is — I’m kind of envisioning the way this works.

MARK STEWART: How long have you had to think about this?

WADE WINGLER: Less than an hour. We recorded this right before you guys came into the studio. My initial thought was she uses the ramp to approach the van. She goes in on the ramp. The first thing that’s right there on the right is the back of the passenger seat. Why don’t we put some sort of a hook on the back of the passenger seat so that, as she’s there, that can be reclined just a little bit as close as it can be to her center of gravity, and she just list it up and puts it on the hook right there in front of her on the back of the passenger seat and then goes on her — Brian is shaking his head no.

BELVA SMITH: She can’t go to Taco Bell.

BRIAN NORTON: You said she can’t go to Taco Bell.

WADE WINGLER: So all you need there is your credit card or a few dollars out of your purse. You don’t have to have your whole purse to pay for something at Taco Bell.

BRIAN NORTON: That’s what I was thinking.

WADE WINGLER: Is that it?

BELVA SMITH: A little preplanning. You get the wallet out before you take off.

BRIAN NORTON: Or you just have it on your iPhone now.

MARK STEWART: Are you guys now talking about shrinking down her purse? What are you thinking?

WADE WINGLER: Just for the Taco Bell run, just the cash for the Taco Bell run. The purse is still hanging on the back of the passenger seat. It’s out of the way that way.

BRIAN NORTON: I like that.

MARK STEWART: Two purses, you’re saying?

WADE WINGLER: Yeah, two purses.

MARK STEWART: Getting it down, I’m picturing now, you drop the weight below a certain level and now it’s much more maneuverable and things like that, that money purse kind of a thing you could do a lot more with.

WADE WINGLER: Most ladies, I don’t know if this is true with Laura, but I assume that you have your purse, and inside of your purse you have your wallet where you have your change purse and your credit cards and ID and stuff like that. She’s going to want to have her ID when she driving anyway so that when she gets a speeding ticket because she’s out driving all over town like a maniac, she’s going to need that driver’s license.

BELVA SMITH: And is not just going to be that kind of thing, but she’s probably going to want to have a phone nearby that she can get to in case of an emergency. It’ll probably be a couple of things the out the purse. Honestly, most of us that have a big purse, means that we have a little purse inside of that big purse that has all of the important stuff, so we can just grab it and go.

BRIAN NORTON: I’m afraid to go into purses. My wife’s purse, I think my arm in there and it seemed to go all the way in. I shake it around, I can’t figure out where the bottom of the purse is.

MARK STEWART: My wife said that I got a couple of big fanny packs that I could get to her. She’d be happy.

BELVA SMITH: So our solution is a hook on the back of the driver seat?

WADE WINGLER: The passenger seat.

BRIAN NORTON: That might do a good job.

WADE WINGLER: We’ll give these suggestions to Laura and see what she thinks and maybe we’ll ask her to report back in another episode or two on what she figured out.

MARK STEWART: That works great. She’s coming straight in, and then she hooks the main bag, pulls out something that’s much more manageable and goes in.

BRIAN NORTON: I guarantee there’ll be four of us walking around her van very shortly thinking, let’s take a look a little bit further at the situation.

MARK STEWART: And it takes time too. You’ve got to go cruising for a while to make sure nothing jars out. You have to go to Taco Bell.


BRIAN NORTON: Take me. I’ll go to Taco Bell.

BELVA SMITH: That’s the thing. I need to go to Taco Bell with you so I can see the environment in action.


BRIAN NORTON: Thanks, everyone. That’s the show for today. For folks trying to find our show, you can search assistive technology questions on iTunes. You can look for us on Stitcher. Or visit Also, again, going to throw one more time out there, send us your questions by calling our listener line at 317-721-7124, sent us a tweet at hashtag ATFAQ, or email us at We want your questions. In fact, without your questions, we don’t really have a show. So be part of it. Love to hear from you.

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 steward 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *