ATFAQ061 – Q1Using the iPhone with head movement Q2 Scholarships for students with disabilities Q3 Remote unlocking of deadbolts Q4 Free smart phones Q5 Switching from JAWS to NVDA Q6 Sit stand workstations Wildcard question: Subscription-based software


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Panel – Brian Norton, Belva Smith, Josh Anderson, Laura Medcalf | Q1Using the iPhone with head movement Q2 Scholarships for students with disabilities Q3 Remote unlocking of deadbolts Q4 Free smart phones Q5 Switching from JAWS to NVDA Q6 Sit stand workstations Wildcard question: Subscription-based software

——-transcript follows ——

WADE WINGLER:  Welcome to ATFAQ, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions with your host Brian Norton, Director of 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 61. My name is Brian Norton I’m the host of the show today. We are so excited that you turned in this week as we get ready to jump into the AT questions you’ve sent in. Before we do, I want to take a moment to introduce the folks in the room. We have a different crowd here. I’m excited to introduce a new guest just for this show. Before we do, I’ll go to Belva, one of our regular contributors here.

BELVA SMITH:  Hi everybody. Brian is in the squeaky chair today again.

BRIAN NORTON:  I got my squeaky chair. I have to sit still today. Belva is the team lead for our vision team here at Easter Seals crossroads. Also here today, joining us by phone because he’s out on the road, Josh Anderson.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Hey everybody. How’s it going?

BRIAN NORTON:  Perfect. Josh is the manager of our clinical assistance technology program here. The person who is new in the seat — Wade Wingler usually joins us and helps us moderate and is our sound engineer most of the time, but he is out this week and enjoying a week of vacation — in the seat today we have Laura Medcalf.

LAURA MEDCALF:  Hey there. I’m so excited to be here with you guys.

BRIAN NORTON: Isn’t that the most beautiful voice you’ve ever heard?


BRIAN NORTON:  Laura is the popular host of accessibility minute, one of our other podcast shows. I’m so glad she jumped into the driver’s seat and is helping us with our audio engineering and keeping us all on track today so that we can get this done in an hour or so instead of spending three hours this week with you. Thank you Laura for being here today.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Good luck Laura.

LAURA MEDCALF:  Thanks for having me. Thank you so much.

BELVA SMITH:  If you guys haven’t had the opportunity to check out Laura’s podcast, you might want to check it out. I find it to be very informative, and it is quick.

BRIAN NORTON:  Quick and easy.

LAURA MEDCALF:  And it comes out every Friday.

BRIAN NORTON:  Accessibility minute, tell me, what is it?  Fast-paced?

LAURA MEDCALF:  60 seconds of whatever is new and current in the world of assistive technology.

BRIAN NORTON:  Perfect. And then you get to listen to her voice which is great.

For folks who are new to our show, I want to let you know a little bit about how our show works. We collect feedback and come across various assistive technology questions throughout the week in a variety of different ways. The first thing that we need folks to do is to know that they can ask questions. If you’re listening to this the first time, we are always looking for questions that we can post on the show and try to sit around and answer as best we can.

We have a variety of ways to do that. You can give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124. Or you can email us at Or send us a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ. I’m happy to say that in today’s show, we do have a tweet that was sent to us. I’m super excited about that. I’ve been doing that double down on asking folks to three us because we don’t get a lot of questions through tweets. We got one as well. If you’re interested in that, it’s hashtag ATFAQ. We monitor that and look for questions that come across that particular channel.

The other thing is we ask folks to provide feedback. As we answer questions, we do the best we can in answering those. If you have another answer or some additional information that might be helpful for our listening audience to know about, let us know. You can still send us your feedback in those same ways, through our listener line, email, or tweet. We will keep an eye out for those things.

Without further ado, we’ll jump into our first bit of feedback. The first one is an Aira update. Aira is a pair of glasses that is like a camera attached to the glasses and there is someone watching and helping folks who are blind or visually impaired navigate the outside world a little bit by giving them information. We went to let folks know that we had found some current pricing and different plans and found out that it is available for folks. Belva, you are going to share some information about that.

BELVA SMITH:  I think it is the greatest thing that has set the technology world for folks that are blind in quite a long time. It is a monthly subscription program. The folks at Aira will provide you with the glasses and an AT&T MiFi device that is what keeps you connected, so it’s your data supply. I guess they also provide insurance for the hardware and training services. Now, I thought they were available 24-7; however, in this recent information, it’s as they are available from 7 AM to 1 AM. The prices start at $89. They go all the way up to $329 per month. I did hear someone say, how much are you paying for your cable?  You know?

The website you can go to to get more information on it is That’s where you can get all of the information and go ahead and sign up if you want to.

BRIAN NORTON:  I would venture a guess, this is bigger than just how I get from point A to point B.

BELVA SMITH:  Absolutely.

BRIAN NORTON:  They give you real-time feedback about what’s around you, who is around you, all the information is all there because they are seeing whatever you are seeing through the pair of glasses and through the camera.

BELVA SMITH:  They train their folks very well. Some of the videos I’ve seen is a person walking through an airport trying to get from gate B12 to D29. They can see all of the directions to get you there and will get you there quickly. There are some great videos on how folks are using it. The people that are using it, I’ve heard no one who is used to complain about it, only speak highly of it.

JOSH ANDERSON:  When we were at ATIA, we met some of the folks that were using it and they had nothing but amazing things to say. Folks were describing everything to them and they really felt like they were much more a part of things then just turn left at the next point. They really had a lot more information. In talking to them, one of their plans was to get bigger and hire more folks to do the directions and everything. They were making a big push to hire folks with disabilities to do some of that stuff, may be some folks that need to be seated at a desk all day but had all the other skills. They were making a big push to do that which I thought was pretty cool.

BELVA SMITH:  It’s my understanding that when you call in for assistance, say you are in the mall, they have access to the mall map. They can tell where you are by what’s around you. If you’re trying to get to a specific store, they can look at that map and tell you every which way you need to go to get where you need to go. Same with the airports. They can pull up the maps of those airports to give you the specific directions.

The only thing I would like to see — the monthly subscription makes me a little nervous. I would like to see a lower cost. I know $89 is cheaper than most of us are paying for our cable bill, but I still think is a lot of money for someone who maybe doesn’t have any income. But the equipment is free. They provide that. It’s got the insurance plan so if something happens to it, it gets replaced.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s great. If you haven’t done so already, check out this new particular pair of glasses. What was the website again?

BELVA SMITH: I think they’re looking at as Aira services, more about the service than the hardware.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s excellent. Check that out if you haven’t done so already and learn more about that. That’s an interesting type of technology that is out and being used.

The next piece of feedback that we have regards the Google Home. We mentioned a while ago and have been talking about it for the past couple of episodes that Google Home is going to be able to make phone calls soon. We have an update on that.

BELVA SMITH:  I think it’s been about two weeks now. I was asking Google Home every day, okay Google, can you make a call. I was hearing, check back soon. Finally a week ago Saturday I was able to make the first call. Now, the amazing thing is unlike the Amazon device, this person I’m calling does not have to be in my contacts. All I have to do is say the phone number including the area code, she will dial the number, I have her in the call by just saying okay Google in the call. I had her call several businesses by just saying can you call Walmart. Based upon my location, she called the Walmart that was nearest to me without my even asking her to do that. Which I thought was pretty nice. She’s not calling the one in Ohio while I am in Indiana.

Anywhere in the United States or Canada, totally free, totally hands-free. The sound is great. I was totally on the other side of the kitchen — I was going to try to bring it in today and set up and do a live call, but I wasn’t sure how that would work with the Wi-Fi and stuff.

We had the caller about eight weeks ago who called in and was looking for a way for an individual to be able to make hands-free calls better than using the Siri. I would have to say that Google will be the answer at this point.

I’m not sure what the price is on the Google home. Is it $129?

LAURA MEDCALF:  It’s about that.

BELVA SMITH:  It’s a little cheaper than the Amazon device. To me, this really does it out in the lead as far as its abilities. I just think the hands-free calling is great.

BRIAN NORTON:  It’s about $130. You can buy in a variety of different places.

BELVA SMITH:  I will say that we are in Indiana, so depending on where you are it may or may not be available in your area. But if it is not, it will be shortly.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent. I’m interested. You mentioned it doesn’t just do what’s in your contacts. You can give it a phone number much like you can say to Siri, dial 317-blah blah blah, and it will dial it. But you can do that. That takes the need away from having a home phone. Do you have to have a Google Voice number?

BELVA SMITH:  If you don’t have a Google Voice number – for example, I don’t have a Google voice number. If I called your number, it would just come in as private caller. If I do have a Google Voice number, then my Google Voice number would come in. I can call by name if I have you in my Google contacts. I could say call Brian as long as you were in my Google contacts.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s wonderful. Thanks for the update.

BELVA SMITH:  I was excited to be able to share that.


BRIAN NORTON:  Our first question today is when we found on the Internet. This person is trying to use the iPhone with head movements to be able to use as a switch, but they weren’t having luck to get that to consistently work for them. They were going to try to use regular switches but wanted to know what the best switch setup would be to be able to use their iPhone completely hands-free using switches that they can press with their head.

I did a little bit of digging on that. There are lots of different switches. We know there are many types of switches out there, thousands of different switches. The one that can work with the head, it really deals with specifically what type of movements that person can use and what kind of movements they can control. Perhaps, when I was thinking about this, I was thinking more in line with what type of Bluetooth switch interface they might be able to use in conjunction with the Bluetooth switch to be able to then position that switch wirelessly on the person’s head control on their wheelchair, so that they can then move their head side to side be able to click to the left or right.

The Blue 2 Switch is one made by AbleNet, about $180. It allows you to connect some switches wirelessly to it, at least two switches to it. It might be an option for the person to be able to connect Bluetooth to their iPad and connect some switches to the Blue 2 Switch to be able to then activate those things wirelessly going back and forth.

A couple of other ones that are out there, some of the things for folks to look at. RJ Cooper has a big Bluetooth super switch. There is also Tecla Shield, which allows you to be able to connect something. It’s about $350. RJ Cooper’s super switch is about $164. There are lots of different options as far as being able to get a Bluetooth interface connected to your iPhone or to your iOS device, if it is an iPad or the device. You can connect those, and interacts with the switch interface in the accessibility area of the iPad or iPhone and will allow you to connect standard switches. Really any type of switch can then be connected into those particular devices which then allow you to be able to activate those to be able to use your device.

Again, as far as working specifically with an individual, there is a lot to do with what that person’s movements are and the two different types of switches. I would suggest working with an OT to figure out what type of switch would be best for them. Then figure out where the best placement would be so that they have as consistent a control of those devices as they can. Then investigate what type of Bluetooth interface might work for them. That’s just what I’ve seen as a completely hands-free option when using an iPhone or iPad.

Those are some things to explore with that. Any feedback from you guys?

BELVA SMITH:  I would suggest two things. I don’t have a lot of experience with switches, but if I were faced with this question, the first thing I would recommend is going to the Apple website. That would be, and see what they have listed for switch control. I think they have the complete step-by-step instructions. It sounds like this person is already aware of how to connect it, but for those that might not be, how to actually connect the switch. And then also I would suggest looking for your local AT Act and find out what switches they might have available to you would be able to borrow and try out. I think the cheapest one you mentioned was $130, so it’s probably not something you want to go and buy without having the opportunity to try it out. I would definitely see if the local AT Act has something to the bar and try to see what feels right.

BRIAN NORTON:  If you are looking for what your local Assistive Technology Act is or who they are, you can go to our website You can plug in the state you live in and it will bring up the organization that runs your state’s assistive technology act. That’s a great way to find the information. I would say for all the questions we try to answer on the show, it’s never bad to be able to reach out to those folks to find out what they might know and what your local resources are with regard to the questions that we are hashing around here in this room. If you ever do need to borrow a device, it’s a great opportunity. We all produce think and think it’s going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, and then we realize no, it’s not, it didn’t work the way I thought it was going to work, and ends up collecting dust in our closet. This is a great way for folks to get their hands on a piece of technology and figure out if it really works for them before they go ahead and spend that money on it. It’s a great way to be able to do a little bit of exploration.

BELVA SMITH:  I would also recommend making sure you have your iOS updated. The latest version of that is probably going to be easier to work with. I had no idea, as I scanned through this website, I had no idea that they had so many options you can do with the controls.

BRIAN NORTON:  You can really control your entire iOS device simply with a switch, being able to do one consistent motion just like switching on the light switch. You are just a step scanning through the icons on your whatever screen you are on, or do the menu systems that are within the programs. There are lots of different options with regard to that.


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next mission is, do you have any suggestions as to the feasibility of a single switch control of the iPod and its library relying only on auditory feedback?  Single switch access with auditory feedback on an iPod as you navigate not only the controls the iPod but also its library.

I’ll start with this one. The first option I found was the AbleNet Hook. I don’t know if you guys have seen this. It’s called the hook and switch interface by AbleNet. It allows you to connect your iDevice. It provides a reliable wired connection to the device itself through the lightning connector. That way you can connect one or two switches to it to be able to then navigate and do single switch step scanning to the controls and through the library and the software that on your iPod. A great device, $185. I thought that fits in with what that technology is going to cost. It’s pretty good.

The other one I was looking at was the Tecla Shield. As we mentioned before, Tecla Shield is about $350. It does allow you to connect some different things to it. You can connect up to six switches, or you can use your wheelchair driving control to be able to operate it as well. It does give you some auditory feedback, one of the built-in things to the iOS device. That’s an interesting one that’s been around for a wild pic I’ve had some experience with it. It works pretty well. Tecla Shield would be another option for you.

Then we mentioned the Blue 2. That’s a Bluetooth interface, a good solid switch made by AbleNet. It would allow for I believe two switches to connect to it, see you can do two-switch scanning or single-switch scanning, whichever you prefer, to then control your iOS device. Just a couple of options out there.

I don’t know if our listeners – again, this is an area where we have some experience. We don’t have a lot of experience with the folks that we typically see day in and day out in our critical program. If you as listeners have some experience with single switch scanning, being able to use those devices, and being able to navigate through the mobile platforms, let us know what your experience is. We would love to provide that back to the folks that are listening. Again, looking for information on single switch step scanning in the iOS environment and what you have found to be a good set up specifically with providing auditory feedback for folks.

BELVA SMITH:  It looks like that AbleNet hook has been around for a long time. I’m finding articles dating all the way back to 2011. Do they even still make the iPod?



BRIAN NORTON:  IPod touch. It looks a lot like the iPhone.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It looks like an iPhone 5.

BRIAN NORTON:  It’s thinner, smaller.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s the only one they are making. As they did have a whole variety of them.

LAURA MEDCALF:  I think eventually they are going to discontinue them.

JOSH ANDERSON:  As far as I know, that’s the only one they are still making. They still might make the little ones.

BELVA SMITH:  Know. The little ones have been gone for a long time. I’m with Laura. The last I heard they were thinking about just –

LAURA MEDCALF:  Completely getting rid of them.

BELVA SMITH:  Right now Apple is focused in on the phone and they are happy with the phone. They’ve even taken a step back in the computers.

BRIAN NORTON:  I think the Nano’s and Shuffle’s are still out there, right?

BELVA SMITH:  Not new.

LAURA MEDCALF:  Not to my knowledge.

BELVA SMITH:  You can probably still find them on eBay or something.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m looking at Best Buy, and there is an 8th-generation iPod Nano for $150. Belmont that’s news to me because I thought those have been gone for a long time. I actually still have one of those with the click rotary dial on it. I’m sure that’s probably worth a lot of money now if it still works.

BRIAN NORTON:  I do still see the Nano and Shuffle – whether Apple still sells those, I don’t know.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Or its leftover stock from whenever.

BELVA SMITH:  I really thought they had been gone for a while. Are you looking on Apple’s website?  Do they have them?

BRIAN NORTON:  They do not. They only show the iPod Touch.

BELVA SMITH:  I think Best Buy must have bought a big stack of them and arts of trying to get rid of them.

BRIAN NORTON:  It just looks like the iPod Touch is out there.

LAURA MEDCALF:  I’m sure those will become obsolete soon.

BRIAN NORTON:  They want to sell more product, right?


BRIAN NORTON:  Maybe you guys have more experience with this type of interface, switch interface to mobile devices, specifically iPods or iPads and iPhones, let us know. We would love to hear from you what your expense has been as for as switch setups for those would be concerned. We would love to hear from you and figure out what you guys know and feel would be the best options for some folks in those areas.


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is a tweet. I’m so excited about a tweet. I think that’s what we should do, every time we get a tweet, we will do a [sing-song] Tweet Tweet!

BELVA SMITH:  We need a tweet sound.

BRIAN NORTON:  Isn’t there a song?

BELVA SMITH:  Rocking Robin?

BRIAN NORTON:  There you go. Jay, a longtime listener of the show, sent us a question through a tweet. I had stopped monitoring it a little bit – or we didn’t end up getting it – so he emailed it to me and said, hey man I’ve been tweeting you. I’m so sorry!

BELVA SMITH:  No wonder we don’t get tweets.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m so glad Jay sent us a tweet. His question is, is there a national database of scholarships for college-bound students with disabilities?  I did some digging in and talk to a lot of colleagues. At least the folks I’ve talked with, there wasn’t really anything specifically related to a national database of scholarships for folks with disabilities, or at least not that I find at this point. I did find some good information from different places that did have sections of their website dedicated to folks with disabilities.

Before I jump into the stuff I had, does anybody have feedback or know of any other places that maybe I didn’t know of?

BELVA SMITH:  We are all looking at you.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I couldn’t find anything that was different school by school.

BRIAN NORTON:  Instead of a tweet, we are getting cricket sounds in here. I ended up looking it up and found a place called, and under their website they have a category for folks with disabilities., if you look under financial aid, and under disabled students, you’ll find some information about specific scholarships for folks., if you go under financial aid, college scholarships, and looking under college scholarships by type, you will find disability scholarships. It’s a great way to find information about other scholarships. There is some crossover amongst of those websites. They list a lot of the same resources.

That is something that intrigues me. I’ll dig in a bit more and see if I can provide more information down the road because I think that would be something that lots of people would be interested in.

BELVA SMITH:  I would suggest maybe googling whatever your specific disability is. I just googled the “blind college student scholarships,” and I got back 25 different suggestions. Maybe just Google whatever the specific disability is and see if there are specific scholarships for that disability. There is also Disability Scholarships — is that what you said, Brian?

BRIAN NORTON: is what I mentioned.

BELVA SMITH:  That comes up under disability scholarships.

BRIAN NORTON:  Great. I would be interested to find out from folks in our listening audience if they know of any place where there is more of a centralized — you would think that would exist specifically in the day and age where folks are definitely are college-bound after high school and looking for scholarships and ways to be able to get their education paid for. As far as I could find, I did not find any good, reliable resources that specifically were devoted to that topic. I’ll be interested if any other folks could find specific information related to that.

BELVA SMITH:  I know that the AFB, American foundation for the blind, always has scholarships. You can find their application online at the AFB website.

CRAIG BURNS:  That is a good point. Either googling your specific disability related to scholarships is a good idea, or you might reach out to your local foundation. United cerebral palsy of Indiana might be a great place to reach out to to find out if they have scholarship-specific information for you, and other places as well, to figure out if they might be able to turn you on to certain resources.

BELVA SMITH:  I know it’s never too soon to start looking for scholarships. You want to start doing that and keep doing that.

BRIAN NORTON:  And apply for as many as you can.

BELVA SMITH:  Exactly.

BRIAN NORTON:  Because you never know what will come back.

JOSH ANDERSON:  If there is a certain the school that you are interested in, even talking to their disability services office might not be a bad idea. They might know some resources that can help you out for that specific school.

LAURA MEDCALF:  That’s what I was going to say. That’s what I did receive a scholarships through Ball State University.

BRIAN NORTON:  Just called up and talk to them?

LAURA MEDCALF:  About disability services, and I was like, what’s available. There were able to provide me with the services.

BRIAN NORTON:  Perfect. Definitely reach out to your university as well. I’m going to dig in a little bit more and find the information, but if you have information, let us know. We would love to share that with folks.


BRIAN NORTON:  This next question is from John in an email form. Do you have a recommendation for an individual to remotely unlock his deadbolt from his bedroom?  He does not have a smartphone. Looking to be able to unlock a deadbolt from his bedroom, probably letting a caretaker come in and out, but he doesn’t have a smartphone to be able to activate some of those other ones. Any suggestions for him?

LAURA MEDCALF:  If you pair certain things like the WeMo, or the other one, it starts with a “W.” it’s another one I have actually used. You are able to just tell Alexa, unlock the door, and she will unlock it for you.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s why I said no, because immediately we say the individual doesn’t have a smartphone. I’m wondering if they don’t have a smartphone, then do they have Alexa or the Google Home?  If they do, then there are specific locks you can get to use with those devices.

LAURA MEDCALF:  I was thinking of the Wink Hub.

BRIAN NORTON:  I don’t really know if you have to have a smartphone. If you have just an iPad, it has to be connected to your Wi-Fi in some way, shape, or form, right?

BELVA SMITH:  Right, but I think if you have just one of the WeMo’s or Wink Hub, and either Alexa or Google home, I don’t think you need to have a smart device period.

LAURA MEDCALF:  Right. You just need the Internet connection and you are able to do it all.

BRIAN NORTON:  There seems to be a lot. Wink Hub, Samsung Smart Things Hub, another one called August Connect; those are all different types of devices that work with quick set and those other locks.

BELVA SMITH:  The most important thing is to make sure you are buying things that all worked together. We still have this issue where some devices work with one and some work with another.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Likely you can find all that online. Luckily there is a guy at the Home Depot down the street from my house that works in that department and knows which ones work with which things.

BELVA SMITH:  He just got flooded with emails.

BRIAN NORTON:  Do you have a name and phone number?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I don’t know if all the home-improvement places are starting to do that, but like I said there is a person there who works around the stuffing can tell you. They have a lot of different items like that at home improvement stores.

BELVA SMITH:  He says to remotely unlock his deadbolt. Does that mean that maybe he’s not even in the home when he needs to unlock it, or does that mean he’s in the home –

JOSH ANDERSON:  It said he was in the bedroom.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m assuming he’s in his bedroom and trying to unlock a deadbolt. Often times they are letting folks like home health aides come in, help get them up in the morning, those kinds of things.

BELVA SMITH:  They might also consider a lock like what I just put on my garage door where you just put in a four digit code. My particular lock will hold up to 11 different numbers. I could have one for the pet sitter and one for the house cleaner.

LAURA MEDCALF:  That’s what I used to help my aides to get into the house if I’m unable to unlock the door for whatever reason. They have a specific door code for specific times of the day I’m expecting them, and they are able to get in.

BELVA SMITH:  And automatically locks back see don’t have to worry about them forgetting to lock the door when they leave. Mine waits about 35 seconds and automatically locks. Those codes can be changed. If you get a new aid, we get rid of one code and create a new one.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s a lot less-expensive.

BELVA SMITH:  Mine was under $100. My specific one is not a deadbolt. It’s just a normal lock.

LAURA MEDCALF:  Mine is just a standard lock. It has been a complete game changer. I’ve been using the same one for over five years now.

BELVA SMITH:  My son does have the one that is a deadbolt. He’s had it for several years as well.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s great. A couple of different options, either using an Amazon echo with a smart lock or even connecting an iPad to the Amazon echo which then can connect to that smart lock. Or maybe even just trying the number the ones where you can put in a special code and let people in and out if they have that specific code during a specific time period during the day. Perfect.

If there are other suggested folks may have with regard to that, being able to remotely unlock a deadbolt without a smartphone, let us know. Or maybe you have had some specific experience with a particular type of lock and really like it, let us know. We would love to hear from you and our listeners know about that type of technology.

BELVA SMITH:  Before we conclude on that, I’ll back up and say the issue with doing any of the iDevices or Amazon echo, if your Wi-Fi goes down, your doorlock goes down. With the keyless entry like Laura and I were talking about, you don’t need any Wi-Fi.

LAURA MEDCALF:  It has battery backup.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I think they actually make one – I can’t member what it’s called. I think sledge makes it that has the keypad as well as the wireless.

BELVA SMITH:  I specifically made sure I got one that did not have the Wi-Fi, but there are plenty of them available that have the Wi-Fi capability as well.

BRIAN NORTON:  Are those battery operated?

BELVA SMITH:  There is a battery. Mine did come with thank you so if the battery ever goes dead, I still get in with a key.

LAURA MEDCALF:  It alerts you if your battery is going dead.

BELVA SMITH:  I think it is one of the watch batteries.

LAURA MEDCALF:  Mine is Triple-A.

BRIAN NORTON:  How long to those last?  What’s your experience?

LAURA MEDCALF:  Probably more than six months.


BELVA SMITH:  I’ve had mine on about six or seven months and my batter hasn’t gone down yet.

BRIAN NORTON:  I wonder what the Bluetooth, if it is always connecting to Internet and Wi-Fi, what that battery life would be for folks. I wonder if that would drink it pretty quickly. Interesting. That’s a great look at that. That would be more reliable than relying on Internet to always be there.


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is from John as well. This is a follow-up question to his first question. Do you know of any resources for folks to receive a free smartphone?  I thought I would open that up. We are looking for a free smartphone for folks who might need one.

BELVA SMITH:  The government issues free phones. Some of them are flip phones, some are smart phones. As I was trying to find where I go to get one, there are all kinds of them, Life Wireless, Q Link Wireless. The problem with those phones is you only get so many minutes per month, and if you run out of minutes then you are waiting till the next month to get refilled. I found Life Wireless, Q Link Wireless, and Safe Link Wireless, all as free government phones and free service.

BRIAN NORTON:  I did the same thing. I found quite a few places that offer some sort of three – again, it’s folks who qualify for the federal lifeline program. I’m sure there are some eligibility requirements with that. I found a place called Life Wireless, Assurance Wireless, Tag Mobile. They all were linked and require eligibility into that lifeline governmental option.

BELVA SMITH:  I think probably what you will have to do is check with them. I feel like I’ve been told if you are getting government assistance, you qualify. So if you have kids that are getting free lunches at school or utility assistance, any of that, you could qualify.

BRIAN NORTON:  So there are options out there. Qualifying for the federal government’s lifeline assistance program would probably be – if you’re receiving some sort of governmental assistance, you are probably eligible for some of those discounted from plants or free phone plans. Depending on which program depends on what kind of phone you get, whether it is a flip phone or a smartphone of some sort. Definitely check those things out. You might type in that lifeline assistance programs and then put in smartphone next to it to be able to find more information about that.

BELVA SMITH:  My concern would be whether or not they would actually – depending on what they need this phone for would be whether or not they get it of data for the month. I guess that would depend on how much they are planning on using the phone.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.

BELVA SMITH:  In our areas, I’ve seen them on the corner, in front of malls, just saying free phone.


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is, I’m looking to switch my screen reader from JAWS to NVDA because it is free. Can you tell me what might be missing in NVDA as I consider this change?  We will turn to our vision team lead who has probably done this a hundred times.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s a lovely question. Honestly, I don’t know. I used to have a lot of things that might be missing. NVDA has really come a long way. At this point – and I really thought long and hard about this question – I would have to say the only thing I think you are going to find that you will be missing is the free tech support. If you got JAWS and it’s between nine and seven, you got a technical support number that you can call and get help if JAWS isn’t doing something he needs to be doing. With NVDA, you don’t have a phone number to call between nine and seven. However, they have recently introduced paid tech support. I guess if you paid – and I don’t know how much it is – I guess it might be a pay as you go type of thing – they do offer a phone number with tech support. It’s just not free. As far as what is NVDA not going to do that JAWS is going to do, I honestly don’t know.  If there is someone out there using JAWS because it will do something that NVDA won’t do, you should let us know pure it seems like every time Freedom Scientific introduces something new with JAWS, then NVDA is right behind them – sometimes even before them – to get it done as well.

I used to have reservations about NVDA, but not so much anymore. It’s an amazing program that does an amazing job.

BRIAN NORTON:  And it’s free. Open source.

BELVA SMITH:  I keep trying to say to myself the only thing I see is the open source piece and businesses. Most IT folks, they get itchy when you start talking about any type of assistive technology. But the minute you say open source, they don’t want that on their network.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They say no.

BELVA SMITH:  Almost for all of my consumers that are in employment, I’m saying do NVDA unless they are already registered JAWS users. As far as students or people who are not in an agency or employment situation, NVDA is perfect fine. And better in some cases.

BRIAN NORTON:  I have some folks who prefer it.

BELVA SMITH:  I’ve got some folks that have both. They primarily use one over the other. The response time that they get from the synthesizers, NVDA can be better than what it is with JAWS, so they have both so they can go back and forth when they want to. Josh got what you think about it?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’ve started using NVDA more. Some of the key commands are slightly different. I guess the voices are a little bit different. Some of the things it says is slightly different. If you are moving from JAWS to NVDA, you’re going to have to change up just slightly the way you do things. Really even not that much. I’ve had folks that really like it. Besides the same things you talked about like businesses not wanting it – they hear that word open source and run for the hills. I will say technical support. I’ve read that you can do tandem with NVDA. I can’t say I’ve ever done it, but I know JAWS tendon is nice to do especially for consumers that are farther away and need some quick help. I’ve read you can do that with NVDA now.

BRIAN NORTON:  NVDA remote is an add-on you can add to NVDA to do remote support, but yeah that is available.

BELVA SMITH:  Most of the things are add-on.

BRIAN NORTON:  It became available in 2015.

BELVA SMITH:  Like OCR is an add-on. Most are add-ons.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’ in the same boat with you, Belva. Most of my folks who are in job search or if they really haven’t used a screen reader a whole lot, I try to – a lot of times they already have a computer. I put NVDA on it while I am there so they can go ahead and work with it and learn it. Even if they do have to move to JAWS in the future because their business has it for business makes them do it, they have already learned a lot of the key commands and can transition quickly. I would say if he’s just looking to find out the differences, there aren’t that many except for tech support.

BELVA SMITH:  I think you did bring a good point to the table. The language is going to be a bit different. The way it refers to certain objects may be different from JAWS. If you are not really experienced with JAWS, you will not notice that as a difference.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You would never know pure

BRIAN NORTON:  If you’re looking for good information, I did find a website,  at GitHub, NVaccess/NVDA-community. There is a whole topical guide about switching from JAWS to NVDA. They do a deep dive into it talking about some of the differences, where JAWS has a particular feature, but there is an add-on for NVDA that can do that. It goes back and forth looking at that. You’ll find some good information about that. Definitely take a look at that.

Maybe you are a JAWS user or an NVDA user and you’ve made that switch or have experienced that before or maybe work with folks that you’ve helped make that switch, let us know. We would love to hear from you and your experiences in helping folks make that transition and what may be different and things to keep in on as you make that transition. Sometimes that can be disorienting when you go to a new program and are looking for a particular part of software cost something you are familiar with, and can’t find it right away. It is probably still there, it’s just in a different place, tucked behind a different menu system. If you had experience with that, we would love to hear from you.

BELVA SMITH:  It’s definitely a smoother transition than trying to go from JAWS to voice over or JAWS and Window Eyes. There is a big enough difference there that you would definitely notice it.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is about sit/stand workstations. It says, sit/stand workstations seem to be all the rage right now. We provide a brief rundown on the different types of sit/stand workstations and what advantages they offer over traditional office furniture.

You are right. I think this particular person is right, sit/stand workstations do seem to be all the rage right now. Being able to stand or sit at your workstation seems to give you more natural posture with things. As you think about different workstations, there are a few different types.

There are ones that will fit over top of your traditional desk and rise up and down. That is either spring loaded or contraption where you can raise and lower it independently of the desk itself. When you think about those types of workstations, there are a couple of different options that seem to come to mind for me when I look at those. Some of those only lift the monitor and keyboard. Some will lift up the whole table top or workstation top, so they are spring loaded or scissor lifts where they will then raise an entire workstation with monitors and everything. I’ve had some experience with both of those.

One thing for me, I guess it’s personal preference for me, I love it when it can lift up more than just my monitor and keyboard. I’m constantly bringing paperwork and other types of things with me and would want those at the same height I am working out so that as I am either transposing stuff on paper to the computer or computer onto paper, I have that all at my fingertips. Hopefully that’s a good explanation of the two different types that can either sit on or attached to a traditional workstation.

Then you have one set our traditional sit/stand workstations, one that will raise or lower the entire work surface. You have power height adjustable tables these days that can go completely from a sit to stand position and allows folks to get up and down to wherever they feel most comfortable. Typically when you’re talking about raising the whole desk, you are also talking about putting a monitor arm. With a monitor arm, you have the monitor that is independently adjustable up and down to be able to get that properly positioned above the work surface so you’re not looking down too much or looking up too much as you use that monitor.

Those are the three that popped into my mind as far as what traditional sit/stand workstations look like. There may be other variations as well. As far as the advantages, I think it’s all about comfort, posture, putting your body into the most natural position so that as you work and as you go throughout your day – really, your body is meant to move. Muscles and bones and all those things, as a person, you are meant to be in movement a lot. That gives you the opportunity to switch positions and to be able to be moving throughout your day and not be stuck in a sedentary position which can sometimes be detrimental to your body and cause unnecessary fatigue and strain in certain areas and muscle groups if you are there for prolonged periods of time.

BELVA SMITH:  I think they have given that sing too much is bad for your heart and puts you at high risk for diabetes; however, I believe that everything in the right portion. I don’t think having a standing workstation is a whole answer because you’re then putting more pressure on your knees and feet. I think you have to do a bit of both. I personally spend so little time at my desk, but I spent a lot of time driving. I’m waiting for my sit/stand driving position.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Self driving car with a bed in the back.


JOSH ANDERSON:  I think you hit on it. The other reason to have the sit/stand work services is for those who do have chronic pain. It’s hard to focus. You probably can’t work the full eight hours. But if you can change positions, hopefully you can minimize some of that pain, minimize residual effects, and be able to work longer and stay focused better. A lot of folks I work with have back problems, shoulder, neck, knees, all those different hip problems, it can really extend the amount of time they can actually be a work just by cutting down on that pain and helping them focus and be able to move and change positions.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely. I’ve seen this sit/stand rage, as this person put it, get more and more in recent years where there are lots of interest, lots of talk, and lots of new workstations and different designs for folks to get into those positions. I would also throughout, ergonomics and those kinds of things, if you do sit and are sitting in a traditional ergonomic chair or even a task chair, if you can just get up from your workstation periodically, move around, walk around the hallway, do something periodically every hour or so just to get your body up and out, that helps with circulation. It can do big things for you as far as being more comfortable and not causing unnecessary strain or stress. There is software where it will actually come up and tell you to do a particular stretch or a particular exercise for a little bit and allow you to do that in intervals throughout the day.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Some of those desks have at on treadmills you can put on as you can walk while you are working at your desk.

BELVA SMITH:  I know people who keep the foot paddlers under their desk so they can ride the bike.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’ve never been a fan of the ones with treadmills. I feel like someone is going to get focused on what they are doing up top and fall and nail their head on the desk as they fall down. I get nervous.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You can’t even talk on the phone and walk at the same time without tripping. I think that is a hazard just waiting to happen.

BELVA SMITH:  What is the average sit/stand desk costs. Is it more expensive for offices to provide those?  I would assume.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It depends on what kind of features. If they are manual, they are not super expensive. If you need one that has all the electronics and has pushbutton raise and lower, they can be higher. They are not that much more expensive from what I’ve seen. Brian it seems to me the ones that attach to the desk will range anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to $400 depending on the size that you get. Anywhere from two to $500 for one that sets on top of the desk. If you’re thinking about an actual desk workstation, probably upwards — The Uplift is a good example of a desk. It is a lower-cost car probably running anywhere from $600-$900 depending on the size you get. It is very quiet, pneumatically adjusts. It is really smooth and easy to install. Not that expensive, like you said Josh, compared to other workstations.

JOSH ANDERSON:  At Home Depot, they have a crank adjustable workbench. I think it’s about $200. It’s a workbench, not a desk, but it can work. That’s really not much more expensive than what a regular desk would cost you.

BRIAN NORTON:  Definitely take a look at those things. Look for sit/stand workstations. You will come up with a full Internet of search results.

BELVA SMITH:  I know several people here that are using them.


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

BRIAN NORTON:  The next question is are wildcard question. This is where I usually throw it over to Wade, but we are so lucky to have Laura in the studio with us running our soundboard. We have to wrestle with this with the Wade being out about what our question would be. We decided that the question would be about subscription software. I think we’ve mentioned before many months ago that a lot of software is moving to subscription platforms. Even some of your tried and true assistive technology is moving in that direction, not to mention the productivity software that is month-to-month or yearly subscriptions for stuff like that.

I thought we would go around the room and talk about what type of software you use that might be a subscription-based software in your work life at this point. Again, I think the impact for people with disabilities is there. As funding sources, typically month-to-month expenses and subscriptions aren’t typically paid for, and yet our funding sources are going to have to be flexible enough in the future to say this is needed by someone who has a disability, so therefore we have to figure out a way to pay for subscription-based software.

BELVA SMITH:  Your question was how much do I use in my work life. Zero. Nothing. If I were, I would expect my employer to pay for it, right?  If I need to present office, my employer is going to put it on my computer.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m like, no.

JOSH ANDERSON:  We will have to talk about that.

BRIAN NORTON:  Talk to Josh.

BELVA SMITH:  Saying that, I wonder how employers feel about that. When they used to be able to go out and purchase Microsoft office one time and put it on a work computer and it would last until they went and bought it again, now every year they are going to incur a cost to keep their employees up-to-date with the office software. I don’t know. That could be problematic. Myself personally, I know you said work wise, but I started thinking about it personally. I’m not using any computer software, but I do pay for Sirius radio. That is a subscription. It’s kind of like software, right?

BRIAN NORTON:  Internet radio.

BELVA SMITH:  I pay for Netflix which is kind of like that too. I guess personally I am paying monthly or yearly subscription fees for different things more than I would like to. If I pay for Office, I know you have a monthly fee or a yearly fee. If I pay for it yearly, I’m more apt to do it. If it is some little bill that will come in every month for 10 or $12, I don’t like that. It’s annoying. I would rather not use it.

BRIAN NORTON:  Josh, how about you?

JOSH ANDERSON:  You said you were going around the room. I’m not terribly in the room. Brian and we will hop out to the car right now to talk to Josh.

LAURA MEDCALF:  We are actually right behind you.

BELVA SMITH:  Surprise.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I haven’t run into it too much. Even talking about assistive technology, especially for students, a lot of them, even though they’ve changed, a lot of them is you can get a perpetual license. I know our vendors, working with VR in the state, some of the vendors they use have actually talked to some of the companies and said the people are going to have to find a different way because they are not going to be able to use your stuff anymore. I don’t know what the heck they said to them, but somehow we can still get perpetual licenses for a lot of those things. That seems to be pretty nice. Who knows in the future how that will move on.

With Microsoft Office, you can still download it to your computer. If you turn off automatic updates – I’m not 100 percent sure how they would still no it is still there. I won’t say you should do that because that might be illegal or immoral, but it might be a way to keep it on for the whole time.

Personally, I don’t have subscriptions except for Amazon Prime. I do pay for that once a year. I really forget about it until September. I just enjoy free shipping all year long and great Amazon stuff on my Fire stick. If it were a good enough program, I could definitely see what it would be nice.

I do know one thing with students we’ve run into a lot, as with Adobe software. Whereas he used to be able to buy Illustrator, Photoshop, all those kinds of things. Now they all use Creative Cloud which is only available through a monthly or yearly cost. I know we run into some pretty big issues with that, just because it is very expensive. Even if you are in school for graphic design, usually the school is not provided at all, but you have to have it. We run into some issues with that for students just because it is very expensive software.

BELVA SMITH:  Can that be purchased like your books?  In a sense, it is like having a book, right?

JOSH ANDERSON:  You would think. I know whenever I first started college, you paid $10 for Microsoft office and got a copy of it. If you wanted Photoshop, you spend $20 or even $50 which is still better than the $1000 or $1400 which it costs. From what we’ve been seeing at schools, no. You go out and pay the $400-600 a year for software. I don’t know if you can use student loans to pay for it or grants, but I know that one has been a big one that has come up lately. It is just for graphic design students. No matter how hard we looked, we haven’t been able to find any kind of perpetual license or anything that could be a one time buy.

BELVA SMITH:  Here is another question to go with that. Why does that benefit Microsoft if I have to pay them every year than them just making a new product. Oh, I know what it benefits them.

BRIAN NORTON:  They have continuous cash flow.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Yeah, so you’re not using Microsoft Office 2002 for the rest of your life.

BELVA SMITH:  It really is about them, not the consumer.

BRIAN NORTON:  They would probably not say that.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Think about Sears that once made a product that would last you 35 years and you had to buy a couple of small parts. There is no Sears anymore. You make something that lasts forever, that’s great one time, but where is your income stream after that?

BRIAN NORTON:  It is about – as far as the end user, you are getting software that will always be the most up-to-date, be the most secure. They will be patching holes and fixing things that didn’t work, providing newest features for different software. That is there as part of the software and that is what you are paying for. It does help software companies maintain and continue to develop and put new things out there. They are making doubly more consistent money. I had office 2003 for 10 years.

BELVA SMITH:  Because it worked.

BRIAN NORTON:  Until they said we are not supporting it anymore. It will force folks to be able to update more regularly. I know I use Microsoft office. I pay for office 365. I use Dropbox, the professional version which is $40 per year. I have a lot of software programs. As far as dropbox is concerned, I need storage I get from anywhere, my iPad, my computer, Windows or Mac. That affords me and is worth $40 per year to store lots of information. Office 365, I get five licenses I load on five different computers. It works really well.

BELVA SMITH:  That is a major benefit. You don’t have to hold onto the software anymore. With a lot of the software, you don’t even have to hold onto the license number because you can always contact them and say I bought it and my computer crashed and now I’ve had to reformat. They will send you to a download site, you download it, install it, and you are ready to go.

LAURA MEDCALF:  The only thing I use is the Amazon prime, which has been a game changer. If I’m unable to go to the store or whatever, somebody is able to deliver something. Especially with Amazon prime, I’m able to get a certain item within a couple of hours such as groceries from Whole Foods. I also use Spotify which I listen to on the way to work. And Netflix.

BELVA SMITH:  You have to pay for Spotify?

LAURA MEDCALF:  I pay for the subscription.

BRIAN NORTON:  She has the premium account.

LAURA MEDCALF:  I like to listen to the whole CDs and not just shuffle songs.

BELVA SMITH:  You pay yearly or monthly?

LAURA MEDCALF:  It’s about $10 per month. It’s definitely worth it for me.

BRIAN NORTON:  That is our show for today. I want to thank you guys for chiming in and listening in today. If you have questions, definitely give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124. You can send us a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ. Or email us at Without your questions, we don’t have a show. We would love for you to be a part of it. I want to thank the folks in the studio with me today.

BELVA SMITH:  Bye everybody.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Have a great week.

LAURA MEDCALF:  Thanks for listening.

BRIAN NORTON:  Have a great week and we will see you in a couple of more.

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

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