ATFAQ072 – Q1 Exporting from Audionote Q2 JAWS commands list Q3 JAWS not speaking results in calculator Q4 JAWS screen shade Q5 GPS tracking for students Q6 Amazon Echo vs Google Home vs Apple Home Pod Q7 Chrome OS and Braille Q8 Digital Detoxing


ATFAQ logo

Panel – Brian Norton, Belva Smith, Josh Anderson, and Wade Wingler Q1 Exporting from Audionote Q2 JAWS commands list Q3 JAWS not speaking results in calculator Q4 JAWS screen shade Q5 GPS tracking for students Q6 Amazon Echo vs Google Home vs Apple Home Pod Q7 Chrome OS and Braille Q8 Digital Detoxing

——-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 72.  My name is Brian Norton and I’m the host of ATFAQ.  We are so happy you tuned in this week.  Before we get ready to jump into the questions you sent in do, I wanted to take a moment and go around the room to introduce the folks who are sitting here in the city with me.  First person is Belva.  She is the team lead for our vision team here at Easter Seals Crossroads.  Belva, you want to say hey?

BELVA SMITH:  Hey everybody.

BRIAN NORTON:  We also have Josh Anderson, the manager of clinical assistive technology here at Easter Seals Crossroads.  Josh?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Hello everyone.

BRIAN NORTON:  And Wade Wingler, the host of the popular Assistive Technology Update and VP of everything here at Easter Seals Crossroads.

WADE WINGLER:  Hey everybody.

BRIAN NORTON:  For new listeners, I want to take a moment and let you know how the show works.  Throughout the week, we receive feedback and come across various assistive technology related questions.  From those who put together a show.  If you are interested in submitting a question, we would love to hear from you.  Our listener line is 317-721-7124.  You can also email us at  Or if you are in Twitter, you can send us a tour with the hashtag ATFAQ.  We monitor that hashtag as well.  Along with the questions, we do receive feedback.  As we go through today’s questions, please let us know if you have your feedback.  We would love to hear from you.

I also want to mention we do have something coming up in May.  We have a webinar for web developers.  If you are a web developer and you put together content or design content on the web, we would love to have you be a part of our webinar.  You can learn more about that on our web page at if you are interested in that, you can go to that page and register for the training.  We would love to have you guys.

Before we jump into the questions, we are going to take a moment and go to the feedback that we received from previous weeks’ shows.  We will pay the first one that came in through our listener line.

SPEAKER:  Howdy team, this is Daniel Ward calling from New Vision.  I’m calling for the ATFAQ podcast episode number 70 where there was a question anything about the Kindle books being read on an Amazon echo device.  Here at our technology center where I serve as an assistive technology instructor, last year with a grant, we placed about 65 Amazon Echo’s with seniors in the area.  About 30 to 35 of those were legally blind.  Just to give you background, the Amazon echo of all varieties can read Kindle books.  That includes first-generation dots, second-generation dots, the original Pringle can, now the new Echo.  I also have the echo show here in the classroom.  You don’t have to be limited to that one to have Kindle books read back to you.  There are limits on how you navigate.  I was just playing with it again.  You don’t have the same facility you might have with an audible book which can also be played where you can rewind 30 seconds or go back five minutes.  You are pretty much  locked in to either starting the book over, or you can say go back one chapter, go to the next chapter to jump around in your Kindle book which is read with synthesized speech.  It is pretty powerful.  There is the whispersync technology which works with some of the publications, which would allow you to have a synchronization between the Kindle book and an audible version of the book.  So if you were trying to read in a low vision fashion on a tablet, your eyes got tired, you can stop and go to your Echo and pick up with a professionally read audiobook, and it would most likely pick up and that general region where you left off.

There are some limitations with the Kindle like uploading your own publications, like using the send a Kindle feature.  The less, it’s still a pretty powerful tool.  I hope that helps.  Take care and I appreciate the show.

BRIAN NORTON:  That was great feedback.  Thank you.  That was good information about the Kindle and reading books from the echo.  Thank you so much for that.

WADE WINGLER:  Dan is becoming a regular, isn’t he?

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.  That’s the second week in a row.  Our next bit of feedback is ironically about the Alexa.

WADE WINGLER:  We spent half hour time talking about it last time and messing with it.

BELVA SMITH:  We are going to talk about it again today, right?

BRIAN NORTON:  I think there may be a question or two about that as well.  We did mess around a little bit last week and used the word Alexa, the wake-up word for those things.  Again, in your offices or home, wherever you might have your devices, I probably turned it on and is listening to me.  We got some feedback from TJ.  TJ is the person who does our transcriptions here for ATFAQ and our other podcast, AT Update.  He provided some feedback about that.  He said, during this episode when Brian was discussing Alexa, my Echo Dot probably went off 10 times. However, with a new setting in the Alexa app called follow-up mode, Alexa will do two things.  One, after acknowledging a command, it’ll give you the option of a follow-up command without using the hot word. And two, recognize when her name is being used in normal conversation and not as a prompt and automatically turn off again.  Just an interesting way to regulate that a little bit so that, if you are talking about the device and you use the wake-up word or hot word, whether that is Echo, whether that is Alexa or whatever you set your device to do, it won’t actually turn itself on.  He did say each time I said her name, but continue to dictate for Brian, Alexa would perk up but that would almost seemingly go back to sleep.  It worked great except for your shopping list gag.

BELVA SMITH:  That was you, Wade.

BRIAN NORTON:  That wasn’t fair.

WADE WINGLER:  I think I said, Alexa, add some fruits and vegetables to the shopping list.

BELVA SMITH:  You did.

WADE WINGLER:  Tried to make everybody healthy.

BELVA SMITH:  I tried to learn to just call her that A Lady.

BRIAN NORTON:  I like that.  That’s excellent.  Thank you, TJ for the feedback as well.  I appreciate that.  As we jump in the questions that we have for today, please let us know if you have any feedback.  We would love to include that in our next show.


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is, I am using an iPhone 6S Plus and have some notes recorded on it audio note app.  My phone storage is now full.  I wish to remove them from the phone and save them to a PC computer.  Please help me know how to move them from the phone to the PC.  I did a little bit of digging.  Audio note is made by a company called Luminant Software. If you go to their support page, they have a way for you to be able to export your audio files to the computer.  There is one for Android, and I know the emailer is using their iPhone.  There is also one for Apple as well.  It will actually walk you through that process.

BELVA SMITH:  So if you just connect your phone and do a backup to the computer, it doesn’t back up those audio notes?

BRIAN NORTON:  Here’s what I do know.  This is specifically using your iTunes filesharing.  When you connect your device to iTunes, you can download your files through iTunes onto a Windows computer.  These are the stuff that it walks you through.  First connect your iPhone or iPad to the same Wi-Fi network as your laptop or desktop.  Then if you go to audio note, you go to the list of notes and hit the Wi-Fi button.  That will bring up a screen with the IP address you can connect to with the web browser and downloaded either audio or the text of a note.  It doesn’t actually bring it all together like you would probably want it, but you can download the audio or download the text of the note using that Wi-Fi connection through iTunes and on Windows to be able to download it to a Windows computer.

WADE WINGLER:  It sounds like it’s possible but maybe a little tricky?

BRIAN NORTON:  Yeah.  I think it does take some steps.  Definitely something to look at.  If you wanted to look up the notes I’m looking at, if you go to, you can go to their support page and they are going to provide you with a variety of different way to be able to get what you’re getting at, want to move those over to either Windows or a Mac computer.  It’ll walk you through a couple of different option to make that work.

BELVA SMITH:  It does look like you can get a free demo version of the Windows, so maybe you can use that long enough to get your backup.

BRIAN NORTON:  The Windows version of audio notes is only $20, so it’s pretty inexpensive as well.  If you needed the full version to get full features, you can do that for about $20 on your computer.  They do break it up.  There is a Mac version, iOS, Windows, and Android version of their support page.  You can simply click on some links to move around to the different types of devices that you have on that support page.  I think there is a variety of ways you can do it.  It may be a little bit tricky to have it port over and be a standardized audio note file where you can click on text and have it play the audio recording like your use to, but it does look like that is a possibility for folks.

WADE WINGLER:  Is audio note the one that allows you to export a document into a zip file, it inside the zip file is either a text or PDF version of the text? And also like a way for MP3? Or is that notability? I know there are several apps in this category that we use.

BRIAN NORTON:  I have some experience with notability and experience with audio note —

WADE WINGLER:  Am I imagining that? It’s possible.

BRIAN NORTON:  To be honest with you, I haven’t tried that.  It certainly something to look at.  Maybe we can follow that up on our next show and see if there is a possibility.

Going to take the opportunity just to open this up to our listeners.  If you have some experience with audio note app, we would love for you to, if you had inexperienced moving files from the mobile device you have to them Windows or Mac computer and may have expected that, we would love to hear from you guys.  I think it’s possible cop but it’s a little bit tricky.  We will leave it at that.  I’ll follow back up with it next week if I don’t hear from anybody else.

BELVA SMITH:  I’m using the iExpand, the scan disk backup. So when I tried my phone now at night, I plug it in, and it’s got a base that has an SD card in it.  My phone gets automatically backed up like my contacts, my notes.  I’m wondering if my audio notes are also being backed up.  I look into that and give you feedback after I pulled the card out and find out what always being backed up.  From that would be great.  I appreciate that.

WADE WINGLER:  I’ve been playing around with this for a second. In audio note 2, which is the updated version of audio notes, if you have a note that has text and audio and it, and in the app — I’m on iOS, the iPhone 7 Plus. In each note, there is a monkey wrench symbol which is your settings.  Under that is a share sheet.  Then one of the options it gives you is export audio.  It will create a dot c-a-f file, which is an Apple audio file that you can open up in GarageBand or any audio editing software.  Then you can export it to an MP3 or WAV file or whatever.  In the newest version of audio note 2, on iOS, under settings, under share, is an export audio option that will allow you to export the audio and a c-a-f file. It will also allow you to export the text as a PDF so that you can have both the text and audio separately.  That may not give you the smoothest collection of exporter stuff, but at least it’ll allow you to get it out of their and into something else.  I’m using a Mac and an iPhone, but it seems like there is always an option.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s going to be doing each individual file, correct?


BELVA SMITH:  I think what he was looking forward to free up some space.  At least that’s an option to get some space back.

BRIAN NORTON:  I just did the same thing.  I pulled up audio note 2 on my mobile device.  There is a way to save your nose not on the device but save it to iCloud or Dropbox.

BELVA SMITH:  There you go.

BRIAN NORTON:  If you just have them all they are, you can get access to them from your computer or your device and just reaching out to those different storage spaces.

WADE WINGLER:  So it sounds like it may be tricky, but at least there are some options.  The other thing you’ll have to think about is if your iPhone is totally full, sometimes exporting is a problem, because if it is a big audio file, it has to make a copy of it before it can export.  I’ve had a situation before when I try to do that, it won’t because the phone is so full it can’t make the copy of the file to that export.  It depends on how full your phone is.

BELVA SMITH:  So moving forward, I would have to look at that option to save it to the cloud rather than save it to the phone.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is, what happened to the commands listed that was in the utilities on the menu system? Belva, you mentioned that this is a question that you might have gone from one of your clients.

BELVA SMITH:  This is a JAWS question.  With the release of JAWS 2018, then moved the commands list — which, if you’re not familiar with the commands list, it is a great way to pull up a command for anything that JAWS can do.  They did have it hidden — I want say hidden — but placed in the utilities menu.  But with the news release, they’ve now moved it to the help menu, and it’s the first thing listed.  But it’s also a good thing to remember that you can bring that up from anywhere anytime with a layered command, which is the insert-space-“J.” it will bring up the commands a list.  So if you are trying to figure out what the command is to copy text, then you type “copy text,” and it will take you to that.

BRIAN NORTON:  So with that command, you don’t have to have the JAWS window open?

BELVA SMITH:  The user interface? No.  The layered command allows you to use it anywhere, anytime, and it just brings up a command window where you type in what you want to find.

BRIAN NORTON:  That almost seems like a better place to put that, because it really is the health.  You are looking for a command.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s why I kind of said “hid it” in utilities, because though I can see why they considered it a utility, it’s really more of a help to me.  I think putting it and help it makes good sense.

BRIAN NORTON:  Perfect.  Our next question related to it is a JAWS question.  Why is JAWS not speaking the result in the calculator?

BELVA SMITH:  That was an issue with the last release.  Again, with the newest one that was just released in March, that has been corrected.  It was reading everything in the calculator just fine except for the results.  Typically you would put into plus two and hit enter, and it would tell you the results.  That has been corrected since the release of March.  These questions all came from the same person who was like, what’s going on? That’s now fixed, and you can go back to using the calculator.

JOSH ANDERSON:  When you say the newest version, do you mean 2018, or do you me the newest update?

BELVA SMITH:  The newest update.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I just wanted to make sure.

BELVA SMITH:  The update that came out in March, maybe a week or so ago, took care of that.  This was all for version 2018.  If you’re using JAWS 18, but he wouldn’t have experienced the moving of the commands list or the calculator not working.

BRIAN NORTON:  Almost seems like a typical new release situation where they have a new piece of software that they are releasing, and they are waiting for people to tell them all the bugs, so they are trying to figure those things out and fixing them as they go.

BELVA SMITH:  If it is okay, I’ll go ahead with the last question, which is what is the screen curtain?

WADE WINGLER:  That’s the “none ya” feature, right?

BELVA SMITH:  Don’t call it the screen curtain because that’s what I will cause it, is the screen curtain —

BRIAN NORTON:  Screen shade?

BELVA SMITH:  Yes.  With Windows, it’s the screen shade.  Basically it’s a privacy future.  If you are a student or a professional, and you are in a public environment and are working on an email or document and don’t want the sighted person sitting next to you or behind you to be able to read what’s on your screen, because maybe you have your screen reader going into your ear directly so they are not hearing it, then you can blacken the screen.  I think it’s been out for about a year now couple people are just really discovering it and getting excited about it.  That is also a layered keystroke.  When I say layered keystroke, I mean it requires three keys.  You start with the insert-space. Almost all of the layered keystroke that I’m aware of begin with insert-space, and you hear a funny sound that lets the computer know that you are going into the layered command.  When you press F11, it will turn off the screen.  Then your screen will be black, and if someone sighted comes to assist you with something, they are going to go, oh, I don’t know; I can’t see anything. But the same command will turn it back on.

BRIAN NORTON:  You can see it at all?

BELVA SMITH:  Know, it’s black.

WADE WINGLER:  Blackened out.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That might be nice for someone using a laptop.  I know on the iPhone, whenever you use on the screen curtain, it cuts down on better usage immensely when the screen is not on.

BELVA SMITH:  Absolutely.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’ve recommended the glare screen, the privacy screens before, but this is basically a turn your monitor off, turn your monitor back on.

BELVA SMITH:  And is going to be easier.  The screen curtain on the iOS devices is tricky to get turned on and off.  At least it is for me.  I’m excited to know that this is a keystroke, something simple to do.

BRIAN NORTON:  It might be a fun game for folks who are blind or visually impaired to do to their sighted coworkers so that they don’t continue to look at them and say what are they doing on the computer, I don’t see them doing anything because their monitor is not on.  I’ve had a situation a couple of times.  They are being there productive right now.  You just can’t see it.  They don’t need to monitor because it’s talking to them.  Interesting.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s a new feature that everybody seems to be pretty excited to get, at least the folks I talked to.  Once they know what it is and what it does, they are pretty excited about it.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s pretty cool.


BRIAN NORTON:  This next question is an email.  Email says, I’m wondering if anyone in the assistive technology/tech department knows of any GPS tracking devices that can be used to monitor students? We currently use Tile, however, they are imprecise.  Any assistance in this matter would be greatly appreciated.  I’ll open it up to the group.

BELVA SMITH:  I don’t really know.  We put the Trackr devices on a couple of Todd’s things that he keeps on the house because the A-lady can help him find them when he loses them.  But I don’t know if that would be a good device to put on a student or not.  Are we talking about trying to keep track of them in the playground or in the building? You have to have Wi-Fi to do it at all.

BRIAN NORTON:  We don’t have that kind of information.  There is always the issue of elopement.  When kids are runners and they run away, where did they go? Can I track them? Those kinds of things.  There are things for that type of issue where you can do real-time GPS with very great detail about where they are.  You can see the moving along the street.  There are devices like that.

BELVA SMITH:  I’ve heard of people putting them on their dogs that are runners.  But they have to be connected to Bluetooth.  Once they lose that conductivity —

BRIAN NORTON:  There are real GPS monitors.  We actually have a couple in our loan library.  Here at, we have some as a demo unit.  We can’t give them out for real loans at this point because I have to be tied to a data account.  It takes about $10 a month free to be able to connect it to your data account.  We have the ones that are called Trax Play. Those come with a variety of different mounting options so you can connect it to your dog’s collar, to the persons belt.  They are really small and insignificant.  Just a great way for us to then connect it to somebody.  Then you can have GPS tracking.  The situation we came across here was tracking a student, but a student was running cross-country.  In the cross country stuff, the coach was hesitant to have them be able to go out there and run the course by himself or with his teammates because if you ever got separated from the teammates, he wasn’t sure if the student would be able to make it back to the beginning points or just starting points.  He wanted a way to do real-time GPS.  Until he had something like that, he wouldn’t let the student run.  We look at this is may be an option to let them connect that to the student, the coach could have an app on his phone and be able to track them wherever he is.

BELVA SMITH:  Couldn’t they have done that with the Apple watch as well?

BRIAN NORTON:  I don’t know.

WADE WINGLER:  Find my friends? Possibly.

BRIAN NORTON:  What I’ve found with find my friends, it is not real-time.  It takes 30 seconds for it to update itself.  When you finally get a location for somebody, you have to wait 30 seconds for it to update itself again.  The maps are not in great detail.  They’ll show you streets.  But if you’re running in the woods, you are just going to be in the middle of a big field.  That can sometimes be a challenge for folks as well.

WADE WINGLER:  A I recently interviewed on assistive technology a gentleman named Adam Sobel. He’s got a company called care band.  We found out about Adam because he’s a recent Indiana University graduate.  He started this thing.  He sort of dealing with this.  His product isn’t ready yet, but it is going to be something that looks like an Apple watch and is designed to be worn primarily by folks who have Alzheimer’s or dementia and who wander.  One of the problems he was trying to solve is GPS is great if you are outside and are not under a tree or some canopy that is preventing the signal from working, but it doesn’t do any good in the home.  If you think about a student who might be in the school but missing or not outside, or what does the GPS signal look like, that’s an issue.  There system is designed so that it has — they call them low-power, wide area network beacons on the property, so at the nursing home or in the home or school or whatever, and it’s good for about three miles of distance from those beacons and also is GPS.  So the idea is that if the person who was wandering is in the home, you can tell based on the position, are they in the bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, on the front porch.  Or if they get outside, then GPS kicks in.  They said it has a three-day battery life and reports back to a family member or a caregiver, and they had an app that is real-time and can tell a lot of things like where are they now.  It also do things like how often did that person go to the bathroom, or how often did that person fix themselves a meal.  Or at least spent time in the kitchen and the bathroom and the amount of time that makes sense for those activities.  They are still doing testing in are not on the market yet, but is their website.  We are going to release that show a little after the time this episode releases.  That’s scheduled form a March 30 release on assistive technology update.  Adam and I spent a lot of time talking about how that technology works.  It’s an almost ready solution that they might want to consider.

BRIAN NORTON:  Did you say it isn’t available yet?

WADE WINGLER:  They are still doing their last round of testing.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It supposed to be this fall, isn’t it? They are testing in Chicago and Bloomington.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’ve heard a lot about, you mentioned beacons.  Blind Square is a GPS app for folks who are blind or visually impaired.  They do a lot with iBeacons.  We went to a conference, ATIA, the Assistive Technology Industry Association.  They were displaying that.  I didn’t get to go to that particular session.  I think you guys were able to.

BELVA SMITH:  I went to one of the sessions.  The new app that Microsoft has just released, soundscape, also uses some of that beacon technology.  That’s becoming more popular.

BRIAN NORTON:  I suppose that’s a little bit of what they are using to figure out where you are in a particular home.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s the underlying technology.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s interesting.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And there are so many different kinds.  Brian, I don’t remember the name, but maybe you can remember, the ones that have geo-fencing built-in.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s part of the Trax Play, I believe, has geo-fencing.  So when you get a certain distance from a certain location, it’ll give you an alarm.


BRIAN NORTON: There’s the Trax devices. Wade mentioned the one for the care band. You can find more information about the Trax Play device at  There is also a blog that’s out there about these GPS tracking devices for 2018 that are specifically designed for kids. It’s  You can go to resources, and under there you will find a wearable GPS tracking devices for kids guide.  They have a list of those.  I think all of which needs — there are different costs points, but they are also tied to your data plan.  I think you have to add those.  There is watches, rectangular things you can attach to folks.  There are a bunch that you can check out. Trax Play is obviously one of those.  There are some different features available for those types of devices as well.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Some of them have built-in microphones and built-in speakers see you can talk to the individual or just listen in.  Kind of spying, I guess, but you can sit there and hear what’s going on around.

BELVA SMITH:  To be able to talk to them would be great.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Calm them down.

BELVA SMITH:  Have them stop wherever they are, tell me what’s around you.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Plus be able to hear what’s around them as well.

BRIAN NORTON:  Definitely a bunch of options for folks with this particular question of GPS and able tracking devices.  If any of the folks who are listening have had experience with something like this, some personal experience, we would love to hear about those but also additional knowledge about other things we didn’t talk about would be great as well.  Let us know.  There are a variety of ways for you to do that.  We have that listener line, 317-721-7124.  We have an email address to send it to,  We love to hear from you.

BELVA SMITH:  I just want to say that whoever this person was, they should definitely catch the podcast that Wade was talking about and get more information.  That sounds exactly like what they’re looking for.

BRIAN NORTON:  You said that in next week’s AT Update show?

WADE WINGLER:  Scheduled for March 30.  A couple of weeks out.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is more of a discussion.  During our last show, we spent a little time talking about the differences between the Amazon Echo, the Google Home, the Apple Homepod. I know there was some back and forth regarding that stuff.  I thought maybe we could hash out some of the differences that are between the Amazon Echo, the Google Home, the Homepod.  I thought I would open it up.

For me, I know a big difference is obvious of the Amazon echo has been around a long time and seems be a more well-defined product where it can control quite a bit of things in your home and whatnot.  Google home is a step down from that because it’s in your product.  But the Apple Homepod is brand-new and doesn’t do much at all.  Other things that make them distinct from the other?

BELVA SMITH:  I think you have to ask yourself what you want to do with your home assistant.  Are you an Amazon shopper? If you are an Amazon shopper, you probably want to consider the A-lady. If you heavily rely on the Google to do your calendar and email and appointments and that kind of stuff, then you probably want to consider the Google device.  You can shop with a Google device as well.  It’s just not Amazon that you’re going to be shopping at.  I think the number of devices that they will both control is pretty close to the same, but I think you will find more skills or apps — I don’t know what skills as what they are called.  You will find more skills for the A-lady then you will any of the other, just like you said Brian, it’s been around the longest.  And its Amazon.  Not to say that that’s any bigger or better than Google, but if you are looking to get more informative use of your assistance, then the Google is going to be the way to go.  I have both of them in the home, and I’ll ask one of them a question and asked the other, just to see who has the better answer.  Oftentimes I’m told by the A-lady I can’t help you with that, and yet Google can.  It just depends on the question.

As far as the HomePod, it’s Siri.  It’s very limited.  But the good thing is it’s Siri.  If you’re using an iDevice already, then you are going to be able to say text to my spouse and let them know I’ll be home at five tonight.  It’s going to do that for you.  Or create a reminder or create a note.  But you can’t make a phone call from it.  With all of them, you do have to have an account.  They all require that.  With the A-lady, you have to have the Amazon account.  With the Google, you have to have a Google home account.  With HomePod, you have to have at least a iPhone 5S or new iPod or iPad-based you have to run iOS 11 to be able to set up the HomePod.

BRIAN NORTON:  The HomePod is not a standalone product.

BELVA SMITH:  None of them really are.  To set up any of them, you have to have an account.


JOSH ANDERSON:  That’s true.  With any of the other devices, you could just do it on your computer or on any cell phone.  But the HomePod, you actually have to have another device, a phone.

BELVA SMITH:  It can’t be a Mac computer.  It has to be a “iMobile,” I guess would be the thing.

WADE WINGLER:  The old Apple watches, you had to have a phone attached to it.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I think that gets into the biggest difference, which is price.  The HomePod — you can outfit your whole entire house with Echo Dots — but you also have to have either an iPhone or iPad, so you are looking at $7-800 at least.

BRIAN NORTON:  $329 for one.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Plus the price of an iPad or iPod or iPhone.  When you put that all together.  Belva, I think you set it.  It’s what you are used to using, what you like using.  The only thing I read about the HomePod that seems to be a little negative is the speaker is apparently amazing, but for the price you could get a pretty good Bluetooth speaker and connected to any of the others.  It works amazing with Apple music.  If you are an Apple music user, it is great.  If you want to use it with anything else, you can’t.

BELVA SMITH:  That will change.  They are going to have to open the door on that.  I think.  They are Apple.  They don’t have to do anything.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They are going to have to, but they are little — a lot of folks that are going to have these devices in their home, probably have them.  I don’t think they were holding out to buy the most expensive one or the Apple one.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s the thing for me.  We don’t have the Apple HomePod couple we have a couple of Echo’s in a Google home.  We got the Google home because they were cheap around Christmas and we got it for a little bit of nothing.  Mostly I feel like one is a Ford and one is a Chevy.  They mostly overlap into the same things.  We homeschool, and we have the Google in the homeschool room.  We find that as the kids are learning foreign languages, it does a better job of translating.  It does a better job of animal sounds and some of the encyclopedia kind of information that could just want to know about.  Honestly, we use the echo a lot more because we had it first.  We are used to it.  We use it for our shopping list and have it tied into our smart appliances and the light switches and the nest thermostat and all that stuff.  I think a little bit of it is inertia.  Josh, to your point, we’ve had echo a lot longer.  There is stuff we use Echo for that Google could do.  I’m not going to take the time to set it up again.  It’s already set up, already works.  I’ve already got my outlets figured out and my programming for that.  Part of it is just inertia and those changing cost.  I’m not ready to change.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You mentioned something else those can do, as far as having different ones in the house, having your own system throughout the house called the bedroom, the garage.  I don’t think the HomePod can link to other ones.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s what I was about to say.  Todd and I both have an iPhone.  It can only other keep track of my stuff or his stuff, not both of us.  At the one person type of thing.  I can’t keep my messages and calendar on it and his do the same thing.

JOSH ANDERSON:  So if it was links to yours, and he was home, and he said call Belva, it would say I can’t let you do that Todd.

BELVA SMITH:  I’m thinking probably not because it can’t call itself.  Also to control your devices with the HomePod, you have to have the stuff that is HomeKit compatible.  Like you, Wade, I started buying everything that was going to work of my A-lady because I knew that was what is going to buy.  What I’m finding is that now most of that stuff will also work with the Google.  I could, but I’m not going to, go in and start searching everything.  I say she does all the really hard work, and Google is just there to entertain me.

JOSH ANDERSON:  There you go.

BRIAN NORTON:  I thought at one point you could set up different accounts with your Echo.

BELVA SMITH:  You can with the echo.  I’m saying the HomePod.  With the echo, you can.

BRIAN NORTON:  With the echo, Todd could get on there and say call Belva and recognize that and make a phone call?


BRIAN NORTON:  I thought there is a joint household where you can have multiple accounts.

BELVA SMITH:  Right.  I’m thinking that again, it’s probably going to be one of the changes Apple will make eventually.

BRIAN NORTON:  I think they’re going to have to in order to stay competitive in that market.

BELVA SMITH:  I want to say they have to, but again, it’s Apple.  They don’t really have to do anything.  They get away with whatever they want to do.  Because the people who love Apple, love Apple.  They don’t already have the Google or the Alexa at home.  They’ve got the HomePod.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’m just looking around at the nine Apple devices in the room.

WADE WINGLER:  You can’t fall down here without hitting an Apple device.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Talking about having the different accounts and everything, Google home recognizes different voices, doesn’t it? As long as it was linked up —

BELVA SMITH:  It says it does.  I’ll tell you what, my son walks in my house and uses mind just like he owns it.  It has never been trained.  I don’t know.

JOSH ANDERSON:  From what I’ve seen, if he would say put something on my shopping list, if you guys have separate shopping list, it knows the difference.  Or if he says call mom, or use a call mom, it would call the different one.  I don’t think it is locked down cop but it will put things in different areas.

BELVA SMITH:  I will say that Google tends to understand — Zoey is two. Google does tend to understand her more than the A-lady.  The A-lady really doesn’t understand her, but Google will.  She can tell it what to do, and it does it, and it is stinking cute.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.  Just wrapped the question up, I know there are lots of different things that all those devices do.  I think, Wade, you said the inertia behind that product.  Obviously the echo has been around a lot longer, has more skills, is able to do a lot more.  Again, depending on what you are using it for and what you use — like you said, Belva, between Amazon stuff like shopping lists, to do list, those kinds of things are separate.  But if you do all that on Google, maybe the Google home would be a good device for you.  I feel like the echo and the Google products are in the same price categories.  There is not a lot of difference between price.  But then when you start thinking about the Apple HomePod, it is very expensive, limited in what it can do.  That may change over time, but again, it will need to catch up with what the other devices do.

BELVA SMITH:  I believe it is so expensive because it is an amazing speaker.  Amazon is a good speaker, Google is a good speaker cop but I’m using the word good, and I’m here in the HomePod is amazing.  It bounces off the walls and comes back at you or something like that.  It is supposed to be amazing.  In the processor is supposedly better.

JOSH ANDERSON:  When you get up in that price range, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just goat — if you are doing it for the music, for the speaker, go with some of the Wi-Fi enabled speakers.

BELVA SMITH:  I absolutely agree with that.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Those are cool and about the same price and give you more sound but won’t have the voice and things like that.

BRIAN NORTON:  If folks are listening and have any feedback as far as those different devices and the different functionality you might be able to find, when it gets down to the different features that things have, what makes them different from another, let us know.  We would love to hear from you.  You can send us a tweet with hashtag ATFAQ or give us a call on our listener line.  We would love to hear from you.  It’s 317-721-7124.


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is, I just read on Engadget that Chrome OS 32 now supports braille displays.  Can you tell me how it works and which displays are supported out of the box and what to expect in the future? There are some answers to it in Google support.  I was looking through there, and from what I found, there are quite a few braille displays that will work with it.  Braille displays from APH, from Balm, Euro Braille, Freedom Scientific, Handy tech, Humanware, Optelec, all of them will be able to be supported by the braille support and chrome.

BELVA SMITH:  But is this new?

BRIAN NORTON:  Has this been around for a while?

BELVA SMITH:  Chrome vox has been working with chrome displays.

BRIAN NORTON:  Maybe 2013 was when this question came along.

BELVA SMITH:  The new news is it now works with Google Docs. they’ve included the support for braille displays with Google Docs.  That’s some good news.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.

WADE WINGLER:  Belva with the value add.

BELVA SMITH:  It is really easy to install your braille display on your chrome book.  You don’t have to worry about getting in entering on the screen reader or anything.  If you just plug in a USB braille display to a chrome book, it will automatically detect that and turn on the chrome vox screen reader.

BRIAN NORTON:  For clarity’s sake, on a Google Chrome device, you can just plug in a braille display.  It’ll load the chrome vox.  But you are not using any third party? You have to use the extension or some sort of screen reader.  Is it only chrome vox or are there other ones? Smith my chrome vox is all I’m aware of.

BRIAN NORTON:  So chrome OS does support braille displays cop but not it supports it within Google Docs which is very cool because it needed to do that.  There you go.


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

BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is the wildcard question today.  That’s where Wade gets to ask as a question that he has thought of and has been shared with us yet.

WADE WINGLER:  What if I don’t share it?

BELVA SMITH:  We are done.

BRIAN NORTON:  We get to go home.

WADE WINGLER:  Dilemma.  Here’s the wildcard question.  Do you ever digitally detox? Do you go to a camper on a vacation where you intentionally have zero access to electronics? Do you do something like this, or would you like to do this? Have you ever had an experience like it and are like, I don’t ever want to go back because being away from electronics has been so good? Do you feel different when you come back? And is this different for people who rely on AT day in and day out?

BRIAN NORTON:  Once a year during the summertime, we go to a family camp.  It’s in Lansing, Iowa.  In the middle of nowhere.  The only way to get a cell signal is to go back to town which is 10 to 15 minutes away.  Go to the highest point which overlooks the big river, the Mississippi River.  You have to hold your phone over the fence to be able to get one bar on your phone.  It is a digital detox week for us.  I will let you know in recent years, they’ve added Wi-Fi at the camp.  That’s dangerous for me.  I answer emails and stuff like that on my phone, under the table, so people don’t see me doing it.  I always have a hard time digitally detoxing because I feel like if I don’t keep up, when I get back, it’ll be a landslide to and it’ll take a week and a half for me to catch back up to where I should be.  I would love to digitally detox, but it’s really hard for an extended period of time.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Does listening to music count?

WADE WINGLER:  Instead of, do you mean?

JOSH ANDERSON:  If I’m just using my device for that but turn off all alerts.

WADE WINGLER:  I guess you have to decide.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It that counts, then every weekend.  If I’m working outside or things like that, I’ll turn on headphones, turn off all alerts, and not even think about anything technology based.  Other than that, the last time we went camping in Hoosier National Forest, I got cell reception and it was one of the worst moments of my life.

BELVA SMITH:  I can’t say that I do.  I’ll go a couple ours without checking my email or checking texts, but no.  Everywhere I go, my phone and watch go with me.  Because I rely on them for more than my email and text, my directions and how much is something, where I can get it, what that means and look it up online.  I’m not really in a position where my technology is necessary for me to do anything other than stuff I want to do, but I never get too far away from any of it.

BRIAN NORTON:  I thought your follow-up question for folks who use assistive technology, can they ever do that?

BELVA SMITH:  That’s what I’m saying.  I can’t imagine.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That makes a huge difference depending on what you are using that technology for.

BELVA SMITH:  Some of the folks that I work with, if you take their technology away —

BRIAN NORTON:  They can’t communicate.


WADE WINGLER:  What does it look like? Let’s pick somebody who is using a device for augmentative communication.  Do you think that person might also want to digitally detox? There are people who go on silent retreats.  I don’t know.  For people who rely on their assistive technology for just the day-to-day communication stuff, is that something that folks would want?

BELVA SMITH:  I think about my deaf/blind consumers.  If you take away their ability to communicate, then they are lost and sad.  Maybe they are not.  I don’t know.

WADE WINGLER:  Maybe you are projecting on them.

BELVA SMITH:  I don’t know.  I guess they could turn theirs off as easily as I could turn mine off.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I guess it would depend on what you were using it for.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’ve had people do that, especially with AugCom devices. They don’t use them all the time.

WADE WINGLER:  At camp, we have kids with all AugCom devices. Sometimes they don’t want to use them.

BELVA SMITH:  How many times are you sitting in a meeting and you hear phones people around you.  You are in a meeting.  Turn them off.

WADE WINGLER:  A couple times a year, I go to a church event that is three days and no phones for that period of time.  It’s good.  It really is a good digital detox.  I’m also an insulin pump user, so that’s basically my pancreas.  That can’t be shut off.  There are also some apps that I use to track my health and wellness and weight watchers is and stuff like that.  I don’t know if I could or word shut them off for an extended period of time.  We are getting more and more where it is not as simple as your computer sits on your desk Monday through Friday, and you leave and don’t own a laptop because we are in the eighties or nineties or whatever.  How much of your life can you legitimately do without technology? It’s changing.

BELVA SMITH:  I’m old enough that I remember when I used to go stay with my mammy, we didn’t have that stuff at all.  No TV, no radio, no running water.

BRIAN NORTON:  You were fetching water from a well, right?

BELVA SMITH:  Absolutely.  I know what it is like to be back in those days compared to today.

BRIAN NORTON:  When I graduated college, they didn’t have email.  It was just coming out.  I didn’t think much of it at that point.  I live or die by it now.  It’s my main method of communication.  It just become so wrapped up.  It’s hard to cut that noise out in people’s lives.  It’s hard for me at my age.  I’m 44.  It’s hard for me, let alone my kids, and that’s all they do.  They are buried in their phones.  They are socializing with all their friends.  We do look at their phones and it is all good stuff from what we can tell.  I think it’s going to be harder as time goes on because they are entranced with these devices in our hands.

BELVA SMITH:  Absolutely.  I remember when the watch came out.  I think, Wade, you and I had the same experience.  I remember saying that’s silly.  It’s so expensive and is so big.  Who want to watch that size? I am so attached to this watch.

WADE WINGLER:  Three out of the four people in the room are wearing one right now.  Josh has a wooden watch.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Mine is made of wood.

BELVA SMITH:  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped in the shower and said, oops, gotta take the watch off because I’m that attached to it.  I would’ve never guessed that I would get that way.

BRIAN NORTON:  The question Wade.  Thank you.

WADE WINGLER:  For the first time ever.

BRIAN NORTON:  As we wrap up the show today, please don’t hesitate to send us your questions.  You can call our listener line at three one seven, seven two one, seven one two four, or you can send us a tweet with hashtag ATFAQ or email us at tech at Easter Seals  We love your questions and feedback.  If you have anything you want to chime in with regarding the question we talk about today, we would love to hear from you and that way.  Don’t hesitate.  Before we go, one final shout out to the folks that are here in the studio.  I’ll let them have a chance to say goodbye to you.  Belva?

BELVA SMITH:  See you guys in two weeks.


JOSH ANDERSON:  Bye everybody.


WADE WINGLER:  See you on the flipside.

BRIAN NORTON:  Take care, have a good one, and we will see you guys in a couple weeks.

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 Josh Anderson 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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