ATFAQ101 – Q1- Taking classroom attendance with a visual impairment , Q2 – Live captions, Q3 – Visual voicemails, Q4 – Remote signaling devices Q5 – Wildcard question: digital versus analog notetaking and planning

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Panel – Brian Norton, Belva Smith, and Josh Anderson – Q1- Taking classroom attendance with a visual impairment , Q2 – Live captions, Q3 – Visual voicemails, Q4 – Remote signaling devices Q5 – Wildcard question: digital versus analog note taking and planning.

—————— Transcript Starts Here ——————

BRIAN NORTON:  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 where 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 let’s jump into today’s show.

Hello, and welcome to ATFAQ episode 101.  My name is Brian Norton and I’m the host of the show.  We are so happy that you’ve taken some time to tune in with us this week.  We have a great lineup of assistive technology questions for you today, but before we jump into the questions, I want to take a moment to go around the room and introduce the folks were with me today.  First is Belva Smith, the team lead for our vision team on our clinical assistive technology team.  You want to say hey?

BELVA SMITH:  Hi everybody.

BRIAN NORTON:  The other person in the room is Josh Anderson, the manager of clinical assistive technology here at Easter Seals Crossroads.  Josh, you want to say hey to folks Cree

JOSH ANDERSON:  Hi everybody.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.

BELVA SMITH:  One of these days we’re both going to go, “No, we don’t want to.”

BRIAN NORTON:  Be nice to our listeners.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Belva, he got my name right.  I’m pretty happy so I’ll be nice.

BRIAN NORTON:  It wasn’t Jeff or Joe or Josh or Justin.

JOSH ANDERSON:  My name is Josh, Brian.

BRIAN NORTON:  Oh, that’s right.  My bad.

BELVA SMITH:  I used to call Brian “brain.”

JOSH ANDERSON:  I bet he liked that.

BRIAN NORTON:  Big stroke of my ego.  Excellent.  For those who are new listeners, I want to take a moment to let you know a little bit about our show and how it works.  Throughout the week, we receive feedback and come across various assistive technology related questions, and we try to put that into a show that makes sense.  We have a variety of ways for you to be able to ask those questions.  The first would be a listener line, that’s 317-721-7124.  Or you could email us at  Or through Twitter with the hashtag ATFAQ.  A variety of ways for you to get a hold of us with your questions.  But I’ll mention that in relation to the questions, we are also looking for feedback.  Josh, Belva, myself, we set around here and try to provide some well thought out answers, take the questions that were asked, but we know that you guys have experience with some of the same tools and technology that we have, or maybe even use it more extensively than we do.  So we would love to hear from you guys as well.  Any feedback that you guys have to the questions, we would love to hear from you.  We really do love feedback, and we usually take time at the beginning of our show to play that for folks.  Again, same thing, listener line, email, Twitter, always to provide feedback and hopefully a well-rounded answer for the folks who are listening or asking those questions.

The other thing I’ll let you know is there is a variety of ways to find our show.  You can find on iTunes or through our website,, through stitcher, the Google play store, all those normal places you find podcasts.  We would love to have you continue to listen to us or share it with your friends in those ways to connect them to us.


The first bit of feedback that I want to play for you was from Tom.  Tom asked a question a couple of shows ago about public bathrooms, and he just had some feedback to share.

BELVA SMITH:  Time was the person who asked the question Cree and he’s also giving us feedback we


BELVA SMITH:  That’s interesting.

BRIAN NORTON:  Here we go.

SPEAKER:  This is Tom Kershaw from Long Island, New York.  I’m doing a follow by the question I had asked about navigating public bathrooms.  I just received an email from Hanz of Be My Eyes.  He mentioned that I could use Be My Eyes to navigate a public bathroom.  He did say teacher it down before I sit down.  Thank you, take care.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent, thank you.  That’s actually great feedback.  I appreciate you getting back in touch with us.  I’m glad someone directly from Be My Eyes reached back out to you.  That’s very cool.

BELVA SMITH:  I love the accent.

BRIAN NORTON:  Definitely from Long Island, New York.  You can tell the accent is there.  Thanks for being a listener.  That is one of the apps we shared and I’m glad someone from be my eyes is listening.  We love your product and we think it’s really great and has a lot of application for folks with visual impairments.  Thank you for that.


[5:33] Question 1 – Taking classroom attendance with a visual impairment


BRIAN NORTON:  So our first question of the day came through a voicemail message.  This is from Joseph, so let’s take a listen.

SPEAKER:  Hello, this question is for ATFAQ.  My name is Joseph.  I am a university instructor in Troy, Alabama, and I was calling to ask if you all might be familiar with any apps that would make it easier for an individual with visual impairments to take attendance in his or her college classes.  Right now, I’m using a traditional pen and paper method of attendance taking, and that can be hit or miss depending on whether the roster makes it to the students.  So I was wondering if there might be a 21st Century solution to that particular issue.  If you can make in your clinicians, I would appreciate it.  Thanks so much.  Live long and prosper.

BRIAN NORTON:  Thanks for the question.  Interesting question, for sure.  Think you for the live long and prosper.  I think that was something from several episodes ago where Wade was talking about the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That was a lot of episodes ago.  Wade has been gone for a while.

BELVA SMITH:  I’m just going to say got on the accent.  That excites me because that means we have people everywhere listening to us.  That’s amazing.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.  Any thoughts on what would make it easier for a person with visual impairments to take attendance in class?

BELVA SMITH:  Because he specifically asked for an app, whenever I hear anybody use the word app, I assume we are talking some sort of an iDevice.  I did go to the app store and look around for some free and low cost app options for taking attendance.  For free, I found one called Teachers Kit.  It looks like it has quite a simple interface but should be worth looking at.  Also easy attendance.  Both of those are free, so I love three, because if they don’t work, then you just get them and get rid of them.  I do believe that both of them were also available in and android application as well.  For low cost, I think it was $4.99, Attendance 2, which is the easy attendance paid for version.  It does offer a lot more features.  Under the thing that I thought of – and I don’t know if you have the opportunity to perhaps make a spreadsheet and put it on a tablet and then the past the tablet through the class and have the kids basically – or the students; I shouldn’t say kids.  You did say it was a university.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Younger than us, so kids.

BELVA SMITH:  And have the kids – students check themselves in, would be another option.  I will say that once I did an accommodation for a low vision teacher.  One of the things we did for him to be able to do his pen and paper attendance is we used a da Vinci that, if you are not familiar with it, is a 24 inch monitor with a camera that can do distance as well as desktop viewing.  We faced out in the classroom so that he could see them raise their hands and then back down to is asked out to do is paper part of it.  

The last thing I wanted to mention in this segment was the Capterra website.  I don’t know if anybody is familiar with is a website full of software recommendations.  Basically can go there and search for whatever it is you’re trying to do, and they will bring back a list of different applications or programs that might help you do what ever it is you’re trying to do.  Searching the website is free.  Now, the recommendations you make it from the website are not necessarily can be free, and it’s also important for me to point out that these are not in any way adaptive.  They are just basic software application that may or may not be usable by a person is using adaptive software.

BRIAN NORTON:  So be careful, because it may or may not be accessible.

BELVA SMITH:  Absolutely.

BRIAN NORTON:  With screen readers are those types of technology.

BELVA SMITH:  So if you find something that sounds interesting, make sure you do your research before you spend any money to purchase anything.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.  What is that again?


BRIAN NORTON:  The other places I’ll send you just as resources, if you’re looking at traditional apps for mobile devices, is a great place to go to be able to ask questions about accessible apps for this particular or any particular need.  They do quite a good job.  It’s specifically looking at apps for visually impaired folks, so either using a screen reader, the built-in was over, or I guess screen readers and the stuff that’s built into the mobile tablets.  They are kind of talking but everything Apple.

BELVA SMITH:  Anything Apple, yes.

BRIAN NORTON:  The other one specifically for apps that I sent a lot of folks to is through an Easter Seals affiliate in Houston, one of our sister agencies across the national Easter Seals network, they do something called  They have a great way for you to be able to search for different apps.  What’s really great about this site is they have parents and other users providing the information about was it good, pros and cons, and those kinds of things.  You are not getting the app provider providing the feedback.  These are actually the folks who use it who rely on accessibility to be able to work for them.  They give you better information and there might be a great way to be able to search for apps through them as well. would be the other one.

Really, for me, I was thinking maybe a little less tacky with a specific app.  Because I’m sure with the apps you are mentioning, Belva, you could use the built-in zoom, the built-in screen reader to read those a lot of times and that’ll work out great for folks.  I was also thinking if it’s an iPad, I know Notes features have checkboxes next to them that you can put in for people to be able to check things off the list.  Obviously for me, thinking about attendance and being a college student at one point many moons ago, you would have to trust if they are going to be checking themselves into the class and providing that back to you.  You may have to trust that they are not signing their friend and also.  Certainly something to think about.  I found that checklist piece built into notes currently to be pretty good and reliable for being able to create those.  And then you can export those to a PDF or whatever.  I think that works pretty well.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I went a different way with this.  I agree, Belva, I’ve used a da Vinci or similar device to look up and see folks and look down at my paper and market off.  What about using seeing AI?  And has facial recognition in there.  I know usually as a professor, at least in most schools, when you get your roster, there is a picture of the person next to it.  I don’t know if you would have to have them sign off or something like that, but you could just stand there at the front of the room as they walk in and there is Stacy, John, Billy, Steve, Frankie, Brian, Belva and see them come in the mark it on a paper or tablet or any other things you guys said.

BELVA SMITH:  A digital recorder.  If you go around and say Brian, Josh, and they respond with a verbal here, and then you could even do your paperwork – usually go do your paperwork after the class.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s probably the most traditional thing you could do.

JOSH ANDERSON:  For sure.  He asked for a 21st Century solution.  I know that Seeing AI has this “Seen” kind of thing and all will say a bunch of people in a meeting.  It doesn’t exactly say how many all the time.  I’ve had it say five people at a table studying.

BELVA SMITH:  Some of the things we did together, remember I trained mine to know you.  The minute I pointed a camera at you, it would say there is Josh.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It did do pretty well. Orcam can do that as well.  Seeing AI, if you are using an iDevice, is already kind of free. Orcam will cost you a little bit more.  I think you can even tell you how many people are in the room pretty well.


JOSH ANDERSON:  Aira could be on the want to do.  It could probably tell you how many people are in the room.  I don’t know if that person would be able to tell you exactly who they work or anything like that.

BRIAN NORTON:  I would be a little concerned with the artificial intelligence piece, justify take my student ID had me with a beard, and I shaved my beard –

BELVA SMITH:  Since you mentioned AppleVis, I think it’s important for us to throw in  That’s another website where if you are in the android world, you can go and search for different apps that might be available for your android device.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I definitely say there is no magic bullet on this one.  You are probably going to have to use a combination of a couple of different things and see what works best.  Always try out the free ones first if you can.  Try out the free versions.  Or as we tell people all the time, if there is something that is a piece of technology you don’t have, I’m sure you have a local AT act somewhere that could but you borrow something that you can use to help you out in the interim.

BRIAN NORTON:  I think there’s a lot of solutions to those, some traditional, some more modern, like some of the things Josh talks about.  Lots of apps.  I think there is a lot out there that you might be able to do in that particular situation to do attendance and a little bit more modern way than just pen and paper.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Some students might lie.  They are probably all good kids that are completely honest, but there might be just the one who would have somebody – you attend class on Tuesdays, I’ll attend class on Thursdays, I checked your name off can you check my name off.  We are all good.

BELVA SMITH:  He calls Belva, and Josh says here.  He doesn’t recognize that it’s not Belva.

BRIAN NORTON:  I used to know someone in college who may or may not have done that.  On occasion I did that.

BELVA SMITH:  I’ve worked with people who have done thatwith the timecard.  Hey, I would be late 10 minutes getting back from lunch.  Clock me in when you get back.

BRIAN NORTON:  Interesting.

BELVA SMITH:  So there’s a lot of different options out there.  Again, it depends on the technology that you have available to you.  Are using a tablet or are using a computer?  I have worked with a couple of teachers that do their attendance, they have a website where they actually have to login to do their attendance so they are actually doing it from the computer at the desk.  If that’s the case that you would be looking at some sort of magnification software for your computers.

BRIAN NORTON:  Here’s what I would love to do.  I would love to open it up to the folks who are listening and have you guys provide some feedback.

BELVA SMITH:  All of our low vision teachers, tell us what you’re doing.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.  I know you guys are doing, provide the information to us.  We would love to share that on our next show and make sure that we get to serve a well-rounded answer with lots of different options for them to be able to tap into.  You can do that in a variety of ways.  The first way to give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.  Or send us an email at  Or send us a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ.  Great ways to get in touch with us.  Looking for feedback on how do you take attendance and class if you have a visual impairment.  We would love to hear from you.


[18:56] Question 2 – Live captions


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is from Eddie.  He sent in an email.  His question is, “Is there a reasonably successful life captioning and/or transcription system, app, or program” — lots of things there.  Basically he would like to give a classroom lecture a microphone, capture the video and audio and then produce or display or save the transcribed text.  He says, “I don’t expect results as accurate as personal voice recognition software, but is there something that works pretty well?”

I think we can start with a few things.  An app I’ve been playing with a little bit is called Otter AI. Otter AI is a pretty capable option.  It takes basically anything it hears and transcribes it.  It’s not user dependent like a little voice input systems are, so it’ll pick up anything that they can hear and will try to transcribe it.  It is artificial intelligence, so the recognition isn’t perfect, but it does a pretty good job.  The one thing I will say is it’s not going to capture your video and tell it to your audio, but you might be able to have it displayed on a monitor and then have the video displayed on a secondary monitor.  I think for the free version, you get about 600 minutes a month free, but if you want more, it is a paid-for app.  Most folks are going to get by with 600 minutes a month, but if you need more than that, you can pay for it.

I’ve been pretty impressed with it.  It does a pretty good job.  It timestamps the different speakers.  These can be labeled by the speaker and more easily say who is speaking and providing whatever speech is there.  It works pretty well, something to check out.  You can find it on iTunes.

I know we also talked a little bit about potentially Microsoft translator or the Google life transcribe for android.  Josh, I know you’ve played with translator a lot, more than I have.  Any guesses onto that?

JOSH ANDERSON:  The only thing I’m not positive about – because I know you can use it, say, while you were giving a presentation.  You can have it on, and other people can log in, but I’m not positive how the captions show up in order to have the transcribed at the same time.  I’ve never used it in that way.  I’ve always used it where other people download the app, they join the meeting, so they get transcriptions right on their phone.  I don’t remember if they show up on the screen.  I’ve never had them show up on the screen.  And also if you are recording the person, I don’t know if you could string all those together later.  But it does a pretty good job, it probably uses a similar AI to what Otter uses.

BRIAN NORTON:  Do you know if it keeps a transcript of it all?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I believe so.

BRIAN NORTON:  I think you’re right.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I believe it does.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s just addressing audio peace.  He’s looking to do video and audio.  If you don’t do them, in my opinion, with the same –

JOSH ANDERSON:  Pretty close together?

BELVA SMITH:  It’s not going to be good.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It’s going to be way off.  Especially if it’s a presenter and they are showing a slide.  The transcription, two ahead or one behind, it’s not really going to make too much sense for the listener.

BELVA SMITH:  He’s looking for one application or device that will allow him to capture both at the same time but then produce the transcription from that.

BRIAN NORTON:  Here at the INDATA Project, we do five full day trainings every year.  During those full day trainings, we provide live captions.  We use ZoomText.  In ZoomText, your able to assign someone to be the caption are.  I think this is what you’re trying to get away from because transcription and captioning can be really expensive if you are doing real CART services.  For a full day training which is usually about seven hours worth of content, we are paying $400-$500 over the course of the day.  What happens with ZoomText is the captions just pop up in the window and everything is neat and pretty right there in front of you.  You can then record it.  We use a program called – what’s the name of it?

JOSH ANDERSON:  You can actually record straight from zoom and it will record the video.

BRIAN NORTON:  It will record the video, but it does not and bit captions.  It’ll only create a text file with the captions that you can then save separately.  It doesn’t embed the captions to it.  That’s why we use another program, I think it’s called Screenflow, to be able to capture the audio and video and the captions altogether.  We kind of use that as a separate program to be able to help do that.  We wish ZoomText would embed it, but it’s not quite and better yet.

The other thing that’s an option, in thinking about automatic captions, is I believe YouTube has something called automatic captioning, so you can leverage their automatic captioning.  From my understanding, it’s quite good.  We haven’t used it here very much with the INDATA Project.  We do caption all the YouTube videos, but usually after the fact we are putting the text in.  My understanding is you can upload the video to YouTube, and you can then auto generate YouTube captions and convert them to a text file, and then you can match it up to the video.  It’s a pretty simple process.  In talking to Nicole who is the person on staff who does that for us, it can get cumbersome at times.  Most of time it’s pretty easy, sometimes it gets cumbersome in trying to match up the text with where the video and audio are at a particular moment.  If you are looking for a great way to find out more about that, you can a website called and you can find out more information about that.  Check out automatic captioning by YouTube.  I don’t believe it’s alive, but it’s after the fact, after you record a YouTube video, you can then put it in and it will produce those captions for you.

BELVA SMITH:  Okay, so Captera can send me the royalties in a little bit, but I just did a quick search on that website that I mentioned earlier in the show,, for audio video captions.  They brought back 1600 results.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Too many, Belva.

BELVA SMITH:  You are exactly right.  But narrow that search down.  Maybe I didn’t use the appropriate keywords.  I’m just going to suggest that that might be worth going just to look and see.  I think what he’s looking for in his solution, there is not going to be a whole lot of options.  He’s only going to have a couple of things to choose from, I think.

BRIAN NORTON:  I think the sticky point is, do you want live captions?  And really, how reliable do you want those captions to be?  Because artificial intelligence is going to do a pretty good job, but it’s not going to be perfect.  Depending on who the audience is, persons who are deaf or hard of hearing are going to want something pretty accurate, because that’s what they are solely relying on when they are using that video.  I think if you’re able to caption at the words and provide the video uplink with the captions, I think that’s much better.  And by using YouTube, uploading your video to YouTube and captioning it there is probably your best bet, your least expensive option.  But really, you might talk around two different caption providers, transcriptionists, and see what they might do for you.  It depends on the volume that you are using, they might be able to discount some services.  I don’t know, but you can certainly look into that.  That would be your best bet because they would be more accurate, able to do a better job and provide that live captioning like you asking for.

Just to through those things out there, look at Otter AI, Google live transcribe for android, Microsoft translator, which is available on android and iOS, and on the computer I believe as well.  You can also learn take a look at YouTube automatic captioning.  It’s quite good, can get cumbersome at times but definitely something to check out as well.

For other folks who may run into this – I know this is a big problem and a big issue for a lot of universities and other folks.  If you are listening, we would love to hear from you what you guys are doing with captioning in your classes and the meetings you are a part of.  We would love to hear from you.  You can give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.  Or send us a tweet with hashtag ATFAQ.  We would love to hear from you.


[28:30] Question 3 – Visual voicemails


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question came through a phone call that I actually answered.  It didn’t go to voicemail so I can’t play on the show.  This came from Ray.  He’s been on our show before.

BELVA SMITH:  He’s a good friend of ours.

BRIAN NORTON:  He has answered some questions, been a panelist, and also submitted questions before.  This question is, “I have a client who is profoundly hearing-impaired.  Is there a way to transcribe voicemails?” This is actually a frequently asked question because we’ve had this question multiple times over the years.

BELVA SMITH:  Frequently asked question?


JOSH ANDERSON:  You could have a show about those.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.  The term for transcribing was most as something called visual voicemail.  A lot of you might be familiar with it as Apple started providing that with their voicemails.


BRIAN NORTON:  It’s been around for a while.  So that when you look at your voicemail, it’s somewhat transcribed.  Again, it’s using artificial intelligence.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It’s very artificial.

BRIAN NORTON:  It doesn’t do a great job most of the time.  But there are other options.

BELVA SMITH:  I think it depends on the carrier.  You could have an iPhone, but if you don’t have a carrier that provides the service, then you don’t get the transcription.

BRIAN NORTON:  I believe most major carriers are providing and now it is.  In fact, I looked it up.  Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all have an option to provide visual voicemails for folks.  But I believe in some of those providers, you may have to pay for it.

BELVA SMITH:  As an additional future?

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m not sure about that, don’t quote me on that.  But visual voicemail, if you using a smart phone, a lot of times that’s going to be available through that particular app or through your voicemail on your phone.  It’s just available to.  However, I think a lot of times, people run into this situation where they are trying to use their best phone and getting voicemails, and they are having difficulty hearing or trying to use that handset to be able to hear what’s being said.  That can be a real problem for folks.  

A few options out there out for folks that I looked up and seemed to have good reviews, there is one called YouMail.  My understanding is it’s $5 per month and it will do basically transcription for your voicemails.  It looks like it’s available in a few different ways.  It might be an app on android.  Again, I think you have to voicemails forwarded to your YouMailaddress, and it will actually caption those for you.  It’s $5 per month.  Google voice does a pretty good job as well.  That’s what we use here for the show.  When we get our group voicemails, it’s doing its best to be able to use artificial intelligence to transcribe it.  There are some nuances and misspellings and something that don’t make a whole lot of sense, like when you say ATFAQ on the voicemail, it puts 480FAQ.  So there are mistakes.  The Google voicemail team to do a pretty good job.  It’s important to note that with Google voice, you are setting up with a separate phone number, so if you are working at a business or something like that, it would necessarily word because they are probably going to provide you a number.  It’s going to go through their truncated phone system to get to you.  Google voice may or may not work, because that’s a whole separate system.  You get a separate phone number.

BELVA SMITH:  Google voice has a lot of different features.  The primary, outstanding feature is that you can literally have one phone number to give everyone, and they don’t even – they dial that number and they could reach you in lots of different ways.  A lot of businesses do use the Google voice, but agencies don’t use Google voice.  That’s the big difference.

BRIAN NORTON:  Right.  Another one is Julio Mail.  This one has two versions, a light version which is $0.99 per month in a pro version which is $4.49 per month.  You can look up that information through, and you can learn all about Julio Mail.  I believe you get your voicemails, and then someone goes in and try to transcribe that for you and send an email.  

Instavoice is another option that can handle multiple phone numbers.  My understanding from learning more about that particular system is it’s not as full-featured as some of the other options, but certainly is something that may be able to provide some assistance with the transcribing of voicemails.  It’s a huge problem, and I get that, because for folks who are hard of hearing, or deaf, you’re going to have a hard time getting access to those voicemails.  Unless they can send you an email or text, those kinds of things, it might be really challenging.

But they are a couple of different options, and I believe all of those may have some sort of business option to be able to tap into your business.  Obviously privacy is a concern and may be able to provide some level of protection and privacy practices.  They probably can work around some of the stuff as well.  But certainly things to be able to look into.  I think federal agencies, you are probably not going to have a lot of choice just because of privacy standards and whatnot.  They are not going to want someone outside of the organization listening into voicemails and transcribing them and sending them back to you.  But certainly something to look into.  Again, YouMail, Google Voice, Julio Mail, Instavoice are just a few options in that particular category of being able to transcribe voicemails or provide legal voicemail.

BELVA SMITH:  So I came up with – I don’t know if we were talking a landline here.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m assuming it’s a landline, just knowing Ray and where he works.

BELVA SMITH:  And there is also Captel, which not only converts the spoken conversation the text, but it does the same thing with the voicemail.  And of course, as you said, Brian, if you’re using a smart phone, the iPhone and AT&T, or most of the major users, it’s going to be part of your features.  Just like Google voice on android.  And the only thing that I found as I was surfing the web, was a place called Grasshopper.  They convert voicemails to emails and/or text.  There is a fee for it.  I’m not exactly sure how much it is.  But they do have desktop and mobile apps available for both iPhone and android.  It says they can do the voicemails and also something about call transfers.  That was just

JOSH ANDERSON:  Grasshopper can do office phones, right?

BELVA SMITH:  Absolutely.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I remember when they came out quite a while ago, just because I know I worked with a few consumers where that was what the business use as opposed to having a local phone company.  They used grasshopper and he did have some extra features that you could get from a normal phone.

BELVA SMITH:  And they do have a free trial.

BRIAN NORTON:  You mentioned Captel.  It’s important to note they work on traditional landline phones.  They also work on Voice over IP phones.  In my experience with those, there is a little bit of a lag with the captioning, so someone will say something and there is every a five second lag between when something gets put onto your screen about what’s being said.  But again, they are really good.  They are useful and helpful. Captel would definitely be an option as well.  I think Caption Call is another option.  I think that’s another company that does caption phones and has different models of their phone available.  I think those are a few options.  If other folks have information on different ways to transcribe voicemails or provide visual voicemails for folks who are hard of hearing, we would love to hear from you.  Our listener line is 317-721-7124.  Or you can send us an email at  We would love to hear from you.


[37:52] Question 4 – Remote signaling devices


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is from Allison.  This came in an email.  She says, “Hello, it was suggested I reach out to you regarding a couple I am trying to assist.  The wife is hard of hearing and the husband want to be able to alert her when he needs something from another room.  Are there any flashing light devices or something similar that they could possibly use in this situation?”

JOSH ANDERSON:  My wife would have to say I would have to get up and get myself.  That will be the way.  There are a lot of different things you can use, but really, for inexpensive – and this is just looking through Amazon and finding the things – they are all kinds of light up doorbells.  There is one I found that’s called Physen Model CW waterproof wireless doorbell.  The reason I like this one is it has four different receivers.  So you could plug these in in the different room, depending on how big the house is, kind of eye level or something like that.  This could also be turned up to really high volume levels, so if she is just hard of hearing, maybe she could hear them.  But it has a 1000 foot range.  The husband could have that pushbutton in his pocket or sitting next to the table or chair in the living room, he could push that button, and all four of these devices would light up.  They are not battery powered.  The actually plug into the wall, so you wouldn’t have to worry about them going dead.  So whatever room she was in, she would be able to see that light and know that she needs to check on him and see what he might need.  The reason I found these is when I was looking these up and doing research, even talked about you could use this as an alarm for children or a caller for a pregnant wife or something like that, if she would need help or somebody.  Or you could use it as a pager for a patient or someone who needs to be in bed and have that.  It’s $50 for the whole system.  You get two pushbuttons as well as the four things that plug-in.  Not a very expensive option.  I know we’ve use light up doorbells for different commissions here before, and they usually work pretty well.  They are pretty helpful.  The fact that this has a loud noise, depending on her hearing impairment, that could help.  Plus if it’s annoying for him, he won’t push the button too many times and get your that.

BELVA SMITH:  That sounds reasonable and like it might be a solution.  What I found was the Bellman Visit Alerting System.  It’s $250.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Go with mine.

BRIAN NORTON:  Belva has expensive tastes.

BELVA SMITH:  It is a lot more extensive.  I’ll tell you that I found it on  Another place I might suggest you look at is the Harris communications.  They always have a good selection of alerting device is.  My simple solution – but I think yours tops it, Josh – is iPods with texting.  I don’t know if texting is a possibility.  But with texting and the vibrating alert feature that you have with the iPods.  And also the smaller ones that used to have, the armband.  People would wear them when they were exercising.  Maybe that would be an option.  I don’t know.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That might help more if he does need something, he knows she’s in the kitchen and he needs something from the kitchen, a light just doesn’t come on where she had to come in and ask him what he needs and go back and get it.  That may be something —

BELVA SMITH:  I’m thinking if she is out in the yard, working in the garden or something like that, and he needs to notify her, having a light in the house will only do so much.  But with the iPod, she could be at the grocery store and he could reach her, as long as it was set up properly.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Or in the house, you could have Alexa and a bunch of app enabled lightbulbs or things like that to do the same thing.  You could say, “Turn the kitchen light on, flash the kitchen light.”

BELVA SMITH:  Now I’m seeing that they have Wi-Fi enabled lightbulbs.  You don’t even have to have this special light switch.  You could just have the lightbulb.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And you could at different colors and things like that.  You could have red meaning I need help, blue just means I need something and have different colors.  You could really almost communicate what you need without her having to hear you anyway or form.

BRIAN NORTON:  I was just thinking, we had a job accommodation where we had someone who was hard of hearing working at a Starbucks.  All of the timers on the Starbucks coffee makers, you have to change the filters and change things out every so often.  We put this little device – I don’t know what it was called.  It was like a vibrating pager.  This little device had a receiver and a transmitter.  The transmitter we attached to the coffee machines, each one of them.  Whenever one would go off, it would then alert and send a vibrating alert to that persons belt buckle where we had the actual receiver attached.  That would then alert her to go over and look at it.  I thought that was pretty inexpensive, but I think it came from here’s communications.  It was just an alerting device.  There are more sophisticated ones like the alert master 6000 or whatever they are called.  You can put sensors and other kinds of things around the room, a lot like what you guys were talking about with Physen.

I would encourage you guys, if you are here in Indiana, our loan library has four or five different options.  If you are elsewhere, you might want to check with your assistive technology act just to see if they might have something available for you to borrow, just to try out.  We always suggest if you have the opportunity to try something out, make sure it’s really going to work in those situations.  The last thing you want to do is buy five or six different systems and realize as you try them one at a time, the first one didn’t work, let me try something different.  You just keep spending money and you spin your wheels on that.  If you get a chance to try it out, it would be a great opportunity to limit what you are spending.

BELVA SMITH:  You don’t want to spend $250 if you can find a $50 solution.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Looking even farther, that’s only if you need the four receivers.  If you need less receivers, it can be as low as $20.

BELVA SMITH:  I think the short answer to that question is yes, there are lots of different alerting devices that are available, both portable – light, vibration – in all kinds of prices.

BRIAN NORTON:  I will mention it reaching out to your AT act.  You don’t know who that is in your state, or territory, you can go to our website, and it will forward you to your local AT act if you are in the United States or one of the territories.  If you were overseas, which we know we have a lot of listeners overseas, you may not have a service like that.  We can direct you back to places like Amazon and other places that sell those types of things to be able to look for remote doorbells or flashing doorbells.

BELVA SMITH:  I know when I’ve had to contact Harris communication before with researching a situation, they are very helpful.

BRIAN NORTON:  They are tremendous.

BELVA SMITH:  I call them and tell them what I’m trying to do and what my barriers are, and they usually have a good solution or good advice as to which way I need to go.  Definitely reach out to them and see what they might suggest.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.


[46:26] Wildcard question – digital versus analog note taking and planning


BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is the wildcard question.  We have a special guest who came to the studio today.  Most of you will probably recognize Wade Wingler.

WADE WINGLER:  Hey everybody.

BRIAN NORTON:  Wade was the host of AT update until just a few months ago – not even a few months ago.  It’s been almost a year.

BELVA SMITH:  Has it been a year?

BRIAN NORTON:  Was it August?

WADE WINGLER:  I call it the Golden year.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It’s true.  I have a lot of gray hair now.

WADE WINGLER:  It’s your show baby.

BRIAN NORTON:  We are glad to have Wade.  Wade came in because he has the wildcard question for us today.  You want to lay it on us?

WADE WINGLER:  Guys, I miss you.  Thank you so much for letting me pop in for a minute and say hi and jump on the show.  I miss being here with you guys.

JOSH ANDERSON:  We miss you too.

WADE WINGLER:  Here’s something I’ve been dealing with in my life that I think might fit the show a little bit.  For the last 25 plus years, I’ve been very much a technology guy and using apps for everything and computers for everything and looking for technology solutions to all kinds of stuff.  As some folks on this show might know, my job has changed a lot in the last year or two.  I’m doing more executive level work, kind of looking over bigger groups of people and bigger part of the organization.  The point is my job is changing a little bit, and I find myself relying on technology less and less all the time.  I find out that when I am in front of people, when I’m with a group, sometimes having technology as part of the interaction makes me a little lesson good with my interaction with people.  Sometimes I’m distracted.  Sometimes I find myself thinking I wish I had that piece of information for this conversation, so I’ll just jump on Google really quick and grab the piece of information – which and a show like this is great, but some of the meetings I find myself in now, that’s not the right answer.  So I’ve been making some changes – and Brian is smiling because he knows about these things.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’ve seen it.

WADE WINGLER:  I’m trying to use a more analog technology than I have in the past.  I’ve picked up a thing called bullet journaling, which is kind of interesting, which is sort of an analog way of keeping track of your priorities in calendar and to dues and all that kind of stuff.  I find that I’ve had to improve my handwriting, because it was always bad.  I find myself doing more handwritten notes and those kinds of things.  Josh, I know you’re going to grin at this because you are probably the most analog among us in this group, although an absolute technology guru.  My question is, are there times in your life, times in your career, when you have intentionally turned away from technology and said, “You know what we I really need to do this in an analog way because it’s the right solution.”  I wonder if you guys have had the in your life and what that does look like.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m like, nope, never.

BELVA SMITH:  I will say that I remember when my family doctor started doing everything on a computer.  I hated going to see him because he – to this day, never looks at me anymore.  He’s always looking at the computer screen.  I find that to be somewhat rude.  I can’t think of anything that I do that makes me think I’m going to do this in an old-fashioned method.  It’s funny that this is the question since we just finished answering earlier, a 21st century question about being able to take attendance.  I will say that I do think that family time – like I have very professional kids, and they have their phones in their hands all the time.  Right when you’re trying to have a family conversation, somebody’s phone is going to go up with a text or a ring, and they have to deal with it right then and there.  I feel like, no, can you do the old-fashioned thing and just visit?  And then deal with that?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I used to get a lot of guff, especially on this show, mostly from Wade –

WADE WINGLER:  The irony is not lost on me.

BRIAN NORTON:  We’ve been much more pleasant this past year.

JOSH ANDERSON:  About taking handwritten notes.  The funny thing is now I’ve found that I do take notes on the computer more often – not completely.  I still do it on notes, but I try to do less.  I realized that when I was cleaning out my office, I found about 12 notepads with notes on it that hadn’t been looked at since the day they were written on.  Kind of the same thing with Belva.  I do try it whenever I am at home – my wife for her job has to be on call all the time, so she does have two.  But she’ll leave her phone in another room with the ringer off and just walk by and check it.  I’ve got to the point where after I get home, I don’t always know where my phone is.  Sometimes I just leave it in another room and I ignore it.  I have a small baby at home and I love to take pictures, but I swear every time she notices the camera, she gives me a dirty look.  So I don’t think she likes having that up.  I’m at the point where I don’t look at it much except to try to sneak pictures when she’s not looking.  Wade, welcome to our side.  I’ve kind of done the same.  I even unplugged my Alexa because I got tired of it talking to me and creep me out.

WADE WINGLER:  I’ve been turning off my email programs during meetings and stuff, just turning them off so I don’t get the notifications, and I’ll turn them back on when I have time in my office to look at it.  But just checking off notifications.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Unless it’s on fire, I don’t answer emails when I’m at home after work hours.  I prioritize them for the morning, and I know they are there.

BRIAN NORTON:  Is that why I get you every time I am on vacation?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Brian calls me twice last week when he is on vacation and replies to my emails, and I yelled at him twice.

BRIAN NORTON:  It’s important.  I’m a fire-putter-outer.  Sometimes you just need to extinguish the fires before they get to be a blaze.  Wade and I have worked together for a long time, and I think back in the day, he had turned me into this techie guy used his computer for a lot of things.  So I’ve been watching him transform himself into this paper and pen type of person with the stylized notes that he’s taking – bullet notes is what you called it?

WADE WINGLER:  Bullet Journal.

BRIAN NORTON:  Bullet journaling and stuff like that.  And just having conversations with you, it’s made me think about just some of the stuff that technology does in meetings and how it can affect the people around you by them thinking you’re not paying attention, that you are distracted, they don’t have the time for them.  You mentioned your Apple watch ringing.  When you look at your watch how they are thinking, “Am I staying too late?  Am I taking your time away from something you need to be doing?” I think that is a problem.  The thing that has changed with me recently as I try to look at the audiences I’m with.  If it’s folks, if it’s with my team here, I’m probably going to bring my laptop and take notes and that way.  But if I’m with some of the other departments around our agency who don’t necessarily have a laptop computer, they are going to bring their pen and paper, I will probably bring a pen and paper just to be more symbiotic inside that room just integrate better with them so I don’t stand apart, I don’t look at different.  I don’t know if you guys have noticed in big department meetings here, I’m putting my dinner together first, and I’m not opening up my computer.  I’m just bringing a piece of paper with me and I’m jotting down notes, just so I’m not distracted.  I am ADHD.  And will get distracted from my email and phone and all those things.  I do think there’s a place for that, but I’m still a techie at heart.  I want to organize, I want to keep things in my computer, my tablet.

BELVA SMITH:  You want everything with you in all one place.

BRIAN NORTON:  I want to be able to search and find something fairly easily.  That’s what I find difficult with my handwritten notes.  What I’ll end up doing is take handwritten notes and transfer them to the computer at some point so I can find them and store them someplace.  I feel like I’ll just lose them if it’s paper.  But I have found some benefits to it.

WADE WINGLER:  A couple of caveats to that.  The first thing is I take photos of my journal pages every couple of days.  I go back and scan them and write the page number of the journal and throw it into a Google drive or something so I’ve got that.  The other thing I’m finding is because my handwriting is slow and bad, he really forced me to slow down and be very selective about what I write down.  I find that I take fewer but better notes.  That, I think, is better.  The negative is can’t search them.  I really can’t go back and search keywords.  It subject to my organization and ability not to lose the notebook in order to have the information I need.  If I need to go back and find something from a long time ago, it’s going to take a while to find.  I’ve got them backed up as images, but are not accessible, searchable.  That’s some of the trade-offs.

BRIAN NORTON:  What would happen if you lost your notebook?

WADE WINGLER:  I’m never more than one day away from it being backed up.  I just got an app on my iPhone – I still carry my phone, I still use my calendar and email and things like that.  But every day, I just take scans of the last pages I used and I just underline the page numbers in the book so I know that page has been scanned and I’ve got it backed up on the cloud in one of my systems.  Anyway, I just thought it was a fun and interesting topic to throw at you, and I miss you guys.  To give me an excuse to stop by.

BRIAN NORTON:  I wonder for the folks listening if they’ve been back and forth between paper and technology and if anybody has any input into that, we would love to hear from you guys.  You can definitely let us know.  The listener line is 317-721-7124.  Or you can email us at  We would love to hear from you.

BELVA SMITH:  I’m thinking about more than just the notetaking.  Getting the weather.  You used to have to wait for the weather to come on the news, or you could dial the 72222and get the weather.  I think you can still get that.

BRIAN NORTON:  Or just stand outside until it starts to rain a new.

BELVA SMITH:  He’s got the forecast in his handwritten notes.

WADE WINGLER:  Belva, in my journal this morning, when I was laying out my day and planning out what I was going to do, I just wrote down the forecast.  Frankly, that’s close enough.  If I hear thunder, I’ll look at my phone.

BRIAN NORTON:  How long does it take for you to put a template together in the morning to prepare for your day?

WADE WINGLER:  Probably 20 minutes for me to sit down and look at everything I did yesterday, plan out my decor and organize and prioritize.  It’s probably a little slower, but I think I do a better job at laying out my day knowing what I’m going to do and not going to do.

BELVA SMITH:  A lot goes into it.

WADE WINGLER:  The mantra is “Do less, better.”  I’m much more intentional, less reactive, more proactive.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.  If you guys are looking for a great way to get organize, it’s calling Bullet Journaling?

WADE WINGLER:  Bullet Journal.  It’s an open source system.  It’s a guy trying to make a living doing it.  His name is Ryder Carol and he’s pretty sharp.  Once you learn the system, you can do it on any notebook.  You don’t have to buy anything.  It’s just paper.  It’s very analog and some significant accessibility issues if you have trouble with written words in a driving.  For some folks because I think it might be the right answer.  It’s been working for me.

BRIAN NORTON:  Thanks for sharing that.  Great question.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Things for coming back.

WADE WINGLER:  Thanks for having me.  Now I have to go off to a meeting.

BELVA SMITH:  We are here every other Monday, same time.  If you happen down the hallway.

BRIAN NORTON:  Same time, same channel.  That’s our show for today.  I want to thank you guys for tuning in.  Please work with us; send us your questions; provide your feedback based on the questions we asked today.  We would love to hear from you to see if you guys could fill in the answers for us any more than what we already have done.  You can give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.  Or you can send us a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ.  Or email us at  We would love to hear from you.  In fact, without your questions and feedback, you really don’t have a show.  If you would like to learn more about our show, you can go to our website  Or you can go to  That way you can find all of our podcasts as well.  As you may know, Josh does the AT update podcast.  You can find more about that there.  We also have a podcast called accessibility minute, a one-minute, very fast-paced information about a particular –

BELVA SMITH:  Is that even a podcast even though it’s only a minute?

BRIAN NORTON:  It really is.  It’s a really great.  Laura Metcalf on our team is our social media coordinator and does a lot of our blogs but also produces accessibility minute.  You can check those things out. Again, that’s, we would love to hear from you.

I want to thank Belva and Josh for being here today, part of our panel.  Belva, you want to say goodbye to everybody?

BELVA SMITH:  Goodbye and thanks for helping us keep our podcasts going.


JOSH ANDERSON:  Keep those questions coming.  Thanks for listening.

BRIAN NORTON:  I can’t stress enough how much we really do need your questions and appreciate your feedback.  We love hearing from you guys.  Please let us know and reach out to us.  Take care.


BRIAN NORTON:  Information provided on Assistive Technology FAQ 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, 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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