Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
ATU367-06-08-18 – Video gaming basics for blind and visually impaired people – Joe Steinkamp of the Blind Bargains podcast | www.blindbargains.com/audio
ClickList by Kroger Expands Access to Online Grocery Shopping – AccessWorld® – May 2018 http://bit.ly/2JAXkYm
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JOE STEINKAMP: Hi, I’m Joe Steinkamp, cohost of Blind Bargains Podcast, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.
WADE WINGLER: Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Welcome to episode number 367 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on June 8, 2018.
Today I spent the first part of a two-part interview with my friend Joe Steinkamp over the blind bargains podcast. We delve into video gaming basics for people who are blind or visually impaired. We have a little information from Apple’s WWDC and what some of their announcements might mean for people who use assistive technology, and also some information about the accessibility of Kroger’s click list service.
We hope you check out our website at EasterSealsTech.com. Sent us a note on Twitter@INDATA Project. Or call our listener line. We love to hear from you. The number 317-721-7124.
***[1:24] Online grocery shopping with Kroger’s Clicklist
WADE WINGLER: We live in an increasingly online and automated world, and that doesn’t exclude grocery shopping. More and more there are services that allow you to order your groceries online. Some of them even deliver them right to your refrigerator. I was looking at Access World Magazine, and there was a post recently by Aaron Priest about click list by Kroger and how they are expanding access to online grocery shopping. It’s a pretty nice article that talks about the details about how to get started with the service from Kroger and talk about the accessible shopping experience. He goes into the details of using the Kroger website and some of the accessibility features on that, and that he also talks about using the Kroger iOS mobile app in a great level of detail. He talks about the layout of the screen, talks about different product categories and menu options that are there, and he talks about his experience with accessibility and using the system overall. He gets into the details about how you can use the app or the website to pick out the items that you want to shop for and then select a timeframe window for pickup, and when you pull up into the parking lot, he describes the process in which they bring your groceries out to your car. If you ask, they’ll verbally describe any substitution on your order, any changes or those things. His bottom line is that he’s impressed with the level of accessibility that Kroger has incorporated both into the website and the mobile apps, and that the only significant frustrations he experienced were entering text into certain edit fields on the website.
So if you’ve been contemplating such a service like Kroger’s click list, you ought to check out Aaron Priest’s article where he really does get into a lot of detail about how it works and the accessibility of it. I’ll pop a link in our show notes.
***[3:04] Accessibility improvements in iOS
WADE WINGLER: Just this week, Apple did their Worldwide Developers Conference, which is one of the times when Apple makes announcements about what’s coming next. I’m always interested in what that might mean for accessibility, and there are a few things that I think might be important. One of the features that should be coming out in the new version of iOS is Siri shortcuts. Basically it looks to me like a way to make macros with Siri, which could be great for starting programs and doing different things for folks who have difficulty with their hands. Another one is face time group calling. I know a lot of people who are deaf and utilize American sign language for phone calls. The idea that you can do multiple people on the same call is pretty impressive stuff. And also on the Apple watch, watch OS 5, there are going to be ways to automatically track fitness a little bit easier and even listening to podcasts right there on your wrist. Hey, listen to this podcast, right there on your wrist. One of the things that wasn’t mentioned on the keynote but seem to be reported elsewhere is that they are going to be some things that make it easier to do third-party password managers. If you are like me, constantly switching back and forth between your app that you want to lock into and last pass or something like it, it’s going to be easier, which is great, especially if you are a voiceover user. All kinds of new stuff coming out from Apple, and I think a lot of that has to do with accessibility. Hopefully we’ll cover that in an upcoming show. I’ll pop a link in the show notes to a couple of different article you might want to check about some of these new features and how they might impact accessibility. Check our show notes.
***[4:30] App Worth Mentioning – First Then Visual Schedule HD
WADE WINGLER: Each week, one of our partners tells us what’s happening in the ever-changing world of apps, so here’s an app with mentioning.
DERIN OFTRIZACK: This is Derin Oftrizack with BridgingApps, and this is an app worth mentioning. This week’s featured app is called First Then Visual Scheduler HD. This app is extremely user-friendly and intuitive, and is intended for adults to create visual schedules for children to help him or her visually comprehend a sequence of events. We would recommend this app for any parents, teachers, or professionals.
To create a visual schedule using this app, you start by choosing an icon from an extensive library or from Google or from the photo role on your device, or even the camera attached to your device, all without having to exit the application. Schedules can be set up to be viewed either one icon at a time or two icon side-by-side in a first-then set up, or as a multiple icon checklist that you can check off as you go along. Or it can be set up as a virtual Velcro strip that can be manipulated so that the virtual can take items off and put them in a virtual envelope as they work through their day. You can also add voice recordings, visual playback, and a timer to any schedule that you create. This app offers the option to save, print, and share without having to re-create the schedule which is great for larger families or sharing from home to school or vice versa.
First Then Visual Scheduler HD is a wonderful app to add to your library to help any child do a virtual to do list. We have used this app with individual children in a one-on-one therapy environment, in addition to using it in a group environment in a special needs school or by hooking up an iPad to a larger TV monitor to display sequence of events and activities for the day. It’s fantastic for parents to use within their home for daily activities such as getting dressed in the morning, steps in the bathroom, or other daily routines. It could also be great for any new activities that the child is going to be encountering and giving a visual explanation and expectation for a planned event.
First Then Visual Scheduler HD is available for $14.99 at the iTunes Store and is compatible with both iPad and iPhone devices. For more information on this app and others like it, please visit BridgingApps.org.
***[7:13] Interview with Joe Steinkamp
WADE WINGLER: So just a quick editorial note here before I jump into today’s interview. When I sat down with Joe Steinkamp to talk about accessible gaming, it turns out we had a lot of fun stuff to talk about. I’m going to break his interview into two parts. Today you’re going to get the first half of the interview, part one of video gaming basic for blind and visually impaired people. And then next week we will do the second part of the interview and you can hear the rest of the things that Joe had to stay on this topic. Here we go, part one.
Some of you are going to hear a familiar voice today. Some of you are going to say who was that guy? I’m excited today because I have an old friend Joe Steinkamp who is the cohost of the blind bargains podcast and has been on the air and talking about assistive technology for a lot of years, not to make them sound old but I’ll tease him a little bit. Joe and I have known each other to the world of podcasting and assistive technology and all kinds of things. Today we are going to spend some time talking about one of his favorite topics, video gaming, and some of the adaptive approaches he’s taken to that and some of the thoughts he has on that.
Enough of me rambling. Joining me via the Internet, Joe Steinkamp, welcome to the show.
JOE STEINKAMP: Hi, Wade, how are you doing my friend?
WADE WINGLER: I’m doing okay. Busy busy, but that’s always the way it is. How about yourself? How is your world?
JOE STEINKAMP: Take some time out to play games. That’s the greatest thing in the world to do. Oh my gosh. I am here to entice you, bring you over to the world of the pixelated and the amazing things that you can do, especially with accessibility, which is the best part. You actually could be doing things that are work related but really you’ll be playing games.
WADE WINGLER: There you go. Today’s the day of conversion for me.
JOE STEINKAMP: Exactly. Go with it.
WADE WINGLER: It to become apparent today that I am not a game at all and haven’t been for a long time, and that you are. I know a lot of people are just saying, really? Steinkamp is on here? Awesome! And some people are saying, who is this guy? Let’s start a little bit by talking about you. Tell our audience about your background, some of the things you’ve done with AT and podcasting, teaching, those kinds of things.
JOE STEINKAMP: I am congenitally low vision. By that I mean I grew up being low vision in one eye. I never had 20/20 vision. I have glaucoma, but I also didn’t stop there. I also had a retinal tear, a corneal transplant, and a whole host of issues. Also I grew up in the seventies, so I had all those fun calcium deposit removal things. My vision is a mess. I’m what is called a floater. I can start with 20/400 in the morning and could be 20/800 by night. I don’t identify myself always as low vision publicly, because then that answers — it opens one set of questions and answers other for people. I generally tend to identify myself as blind when I’m out in public, or using computers and playing games and the like, I use my low vision where possible. That plays a lot and what I do.
I also had a lot more vision when I was younger. Like any blind or low vision person, I thought I wanted to be on the radio and started to do that. And then in college, I realized that I didn’t want to do that after doing it professionally. I felt into the world of home theater, so I took a lot of my presentation skills that I learned and apply that to direct selling. I was working with Incredible Universe in the early nineties and became a complex trainer for over 450 employees. I actually taught them how to do things like installs and how to sell washers and dryers. And then work and home theater where I did THX.
I moved from that as RadioShack and Tandy imploded over the years and moved into technical support for a computer company where I started to use a lot of my nonvisual skills, being able to do things not visually by helping someone to fix their computer without ever looking at their computer, because it was over the phone. That actually allowed me to accept my blindness in a lot of ways. At 29 years old, I started to be a blind person rather than being in denial and running away from it, so much so that I was a videogame and Nintendo representative for incredible universe. That’s how much it was in my DNA at the time.
Then I fell into government service through working — I was an industry baby, so I had services since I was seven, went through transition, moved into adult VR. I was really with the process. That led them to approach me about taking the employment assistance position in Houston where I worked in the field office for five years of them blind and low vision Texans maintain employment. Then I moved to Austin where I was in the assistive technology unit where I had access to over $275,000 worth of assistive technology that was modern at the time, being from 2005 to 2010.
I left that to come work for assistive technology companies in which I am now kind of a third-party contractor. I just jump from option to option, which give me a lot more freedom, but also gives me the ability to spend more time doing podcasting, which I’ve done for eight years, going to different conferences and speaking to people and not being tied to any particular ship, which is scary but also rewarding when the wind is blowing yourselves in the right direction.
WADE WINGLER: Most recently, you are doing a podcast. Let’s plug that before we jump into our topic.
JOE STEINKAMP: The Blind Bargains Qast. That’s Q-A-S-T. That was decided on by the listeners. The “BBQ” has been around for a couple of years. J.J. Meddaugh and myself who started doing off Android accessibility podcast back in 2010 — we worked together that long — and Patrick Perdue, our amazing engineer who’s been with us every step of the way, started the Blind Bargains show a couple of years ago. Now we are approaching our 100 and fiftieth episode. It’s a weekly show, which we try to encapsulate into chapters. By that I mean you can use the show notes that is in broadcast order and can find things that we talk about in that order and jump to it in case you are not interested in an interview that we are doing.
We mainly focus on blindness and low vision assistive technology. We talk about things that are going on the community as well as new releases that are happening specifically within technology. We will spiral off and talk about other community or social issues, but we tend to stay in two things that flash and talk and plug into the wall.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. And we will pop some links to that show in our show notes that folks can check that out. It’s a great show. So let’s start this process. Let’s talk about gaming. Tell me a little bit about where you are in gaming currently. What kind of platform are you interested in currently?
JOE STEINKAMP: I currently have a PlayStation 4 Pro. I have an Xbox One from the original lineup that I bought in 2015. And I have a plethora of older devices that I’ve amassed over the years. I have an Xbox 360 as well. I’ve been a gamer for a long time, going back to the original Atari’s in 1976 to 1979. I’ve owned many consoles in between. I’m a big fan of Sega and old Sega hardware. There is a lot of older retro stuff that I like. Some of that is because some of the older, bigger, both your graphics are easier to see, but also some of that is it’s like listening to your favorite bands growing up. There is just some titles that I enjoy from that time period. I love introducing them to our teenager in the house because he’s interested in graphic design. He has normal vision, and he’s interested in creating computer games. For me, I get to be the historian and introduce these games to him on the whole another level and then remind him quite grandly that no, we didn’t have the technology we have today 20 years ago. I know it looks like that. It was meant to. Sorry.
WADE WINGLER: You took me down memory lane a little bit, because I started with Pong and Atari, and I sort of dropped out when Nintendo 32 or super Nintendo, one link from the the got tall. That’s about when I dropped out of video games.
JOE STEINKAMP: That’s so true. In the mid-nineties, super Nintendo system of around 1991. I get that. The Nintendo 64 was like the first controller where I just didn’t like the feel of it. It just didn’t feel normal to me because I was used to traditional game pads. That was the first console when I went, I think I’ll skip this one. And then I went and bought a Sega Saturn was, yeah, a great move. I still love my Saturn.
It is interesting because the videogame industry is kind of a microcosm of the assistive technology industry in that you have a wonderful relationship between the hardware manufacturers and software manufacturers and developers of software, so whatever the hardware makers ado, then the software makers have to adapt. If there is a new controller, then those software developers have to go and learn how to make their games work with that, no different from a screen reader or screen magnifier every time there is a new version of Windows. It was always interesting to me that there were parallels between what I did in my day job and what was happening and what I did for fun.
WADE WINGLER: I haven’t looked at it that way before. That’s an interesting parallel. There’s a lot going on.
JOE STEINKAMP: And the big conferences in the summer that take a lot of your time. There is a lot of time where you sit and contemplate your life while someone else is talking, doing a meaningless demo for something that you won’t care about in two years. There is even more beyond than what I just said.
WADE WINGLER: You did mention the family budget and the financial impact.
JOE STEINKAMP: You have to spend a lot of money on your personal pocket to go to some of these conferences and then eat horribly, just like you were on vacation with the family. There was a lot of regret and both of those.
WADE WINGLER: What are some of the basics that people who are interested in gaming might have a vision impairment, what should they know for the basics to get started?
JOE STEINKAMP: I would say that you want to think about the types of games that interest you. If you are a fan of action titles, if you like to have a story, if you like something that is more immersive, or you want something that is super casual, you just want to play solitaire. Believe it or not, solitaire is on the Xbox and works with narrator. There are things that you can do. Or you can immerse yourself in a 40 hour, 150 hour story and get involved in the lives of characters.
I would say think about the type of television you walk, think about the types of books that interest you, that is your fare, and then try to find titles that speak to you that are similar to the things that you already enjoy. This is going to be a very broad assumption, but if you are interested in reality television, you might want something that is more casual, something that doesn’t necessarily draw you in and require a lot of thought or a detailed story that might spend weeks if not years of your life, if it were something like a superhero drama or something that has a long-term story to it that’s been on supernatural and the CW, which has been around for 12 years. Those types of people who like that show really like characters and long story arcs. They might be interested in role-playing games that are 150 hours. You might be a sports fan, see you might be interested in looking at football, baseball, or other games like that. And if you are someone who just likes puzzles, there are simple match three games. Also think about if you have a tablet or a phone, what are the things that you gravitated to, because there might be some simple games that are replicated on the bigger consoles. They do have a tendency to overlap.
WADE WINGLER: That’s a really good point. I haven’t thought about it that way. That sort of explains my interest in games and how they have waxed and waned over the years. They sort of do match my other interests in life. I should’ve thought of that before.
JOE STEINKAMP: There aren’t too many nonfiction games.
WADE WINGLER: I was an early lemonade stand guy.
JOE STEINKAMP: As long as you’re not telling that you were having flashbacks to paperboy and throw newspapers through windows or in the bushes.
WADE WINGLER: I love that game.
JOE STEINKAMP: The weird 3-D, isometric — and for someone who has to the vision essentially because I only have one eye, anything that was 3-D isometric like that just threw me. I understand geometry. I know my desk that I am that has height, width, and depth, but never asked me to draw it because I can’t do anything beyond 2-D.
WADE WINGLER: That’s funny. Other basic that people should be thinking about?
JOE STEINKAMP: I would think about if you are purchasing for others in your family, maybe you are considering this for a holiday purchase or a perk they purchase, think about the age of the family members. If you are looking for something that is more family-friendly, say you have children in the single-digit area and they are not hitting teenagers yet, Nintendo is a great option because I thought of those games are very family-friendly, very color oriented, very bright and usually have great resale value. If you have a Nintendo system and games, people have a tendency to hold onto them and pass them down generation to generation. If there are titles that are hard to come by, they really elevate in price. If it’s a very popular title like a Mario title, then they are a dime a dozen.
If you have teenagers, you might be looking at something that’s a little bit more social oriented. You get on with headsets and chat with your buddies I go around and do things as a group. You might be looking at more of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Those might do a little bit more for what you’re looking for.
Sadly, if you are leaning towards the Nintendo, you are looking right now at the Nintendo Switch and the 3DS and the Wii, or Wii U, you were looking at one of the consoles that has the least amount of accessibility afforded to it, whereas the PlayStation and Xbox have built-in speech and other features that are coming along we are rapidly as the console mature. If you are totally blind parent and want to involve yourself in games, or if you’re looking to at least have more control over the types of games where children play or want to restrict time. Say you want the console to no longer play games at that time during school nights, you can do that with this PlayStation and Xbox, whereas you can’t do that with Nintendo. And the order of accessibility, if you were looking to be a parent with more control — and that’s what I talked about a lot publicly — it’s not just about playing games. It’s about being a part of your children’s life and also have some ability to know what’s going on. Xbox One by far is a more accessible way to do that not visually, or if you rely on speech or low vision. PlayStation 4 is getting there but has some workarounds and might take a little bit of self training. Nintendo currently really doesn’t have much other than the ability to change high contrast and make things a little darker to read in the menus. But the advantage to that is the Nintendo Switch comes with a dock. You get a handheld device copy also have a dock that you connect to a large television. That way you can see some of the games. Some of the games are designed to be that way. You can play them either on your handheld or on the dock on the bigger television. That makes a big deal.
Think about also where the television is in which you wish to play. Is it in your family room? If so, what’s delighting in that room? Can control the lighting? Do you have your television in an entertainment center where you can control the lighting or it’s a darker atmosphere? Or do you have a television up against a very bright wall? You might find that color and contrast play a big deal into whether you can enjoy the games or not. You could actually do an experiment. You can do this with your computer monitor as well. Get a darker towel or blanket and put it behind your television and see if that helps you focus on your television better. If you have glare issues or if you have issues with color, you might find that you are fighting the ability to see the screen versus your wall or even reflections. Close the blinds. Close the curtains. Look into blackout curtains. The simple things can help you see screens a little bit better.
It varies depending your eye condition. There are some people who prefer to have lots of light. Those of us with glaucoma tend to be attracted to it like we were moths to a flame. And then there are some types of low vision or people who are losing vision over time that really fear light and glare. They might actually have to play with the modes on their television to what is called a game mode. What happens to the game mode is that it darkens the television a little bit so that the television has better performance for frame rate, so it should make the games run better visually, but also has the added benefit in sharpening some aspects of the television by darkening the light that is around it in order to make it work. It has the advantage of making that easier for some people to see because it is a darker image.
WADE WINGLER: That’s the end of part one of video gaming basic for blind and visually impaired people with Joe Steinkamp. Join me next week where we are going to finish the interview and get into some more tips and tricks for accessibility, some of those industry trends that Joe things we should be paying attention to, and get under the hood with them about what are some of his favorite games of all time and what’s on his wish list. To invest next week for more.
WADE WINGLER: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to www.EasterSealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find other shows like this, plus much more, at AccessibilityChannel.com. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easter Seals Crossroads, or any of our supporting partners. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.
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