ATU logo

ATU495 – WayAround App with Jessica Hipp

Play

ATU logo

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.

Jessica Hipp, Chief Operating Officer – WayAround
20% discount during November: ATIA21VISION
Alexa Show 8 Story: https://bit.ly/2U67X9s
——————————
If you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email tech@eastersealscrossroads.org
Check out our web site: http://www.eastersealstech.com
Follow us on Twitter: @INDATAproject
Like us on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/INDATA———————– Transcript Starts Here —————————

Jessica Hipp:
Hi, this is Jessica Hipp and I’m the COO of WayAround. And this is your Assistive Technology Update.

Josh Anderson:
Hello, and welcome to 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 individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 495 of Assistive Technology Update, it’s scheduled to be released on November 20th, 2020. On today’s show, we’re super excited to have Jessica Hipp, the Chief Operating Officer for WayAround to talk about the app and everything it can do to help out individuals with disabilities. We’ve also got a quick story on some different accessibility features available in the Amazon Echo Show 8. Let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
As I’ve told you before, one of my favorite events of the year is the ATIA Annual Conference. Every year I look forward to meeting with a global community of folks who use Assistive Technology to enhance their lives or the lives of their family, friends, students, or clients. Now like so many other events, this year the conference will be held online. This virtual format means there’s more opportunities for flexible scheduling and registration options. And I hope that means each of you will join me online for ATIA this winter. ATIA 2021, AT connected will be held online January 25th through the 28th and February 1st through the 4th of 2021. The conference will feature the same professional development opportunities we’ve all come to rely on with educational strands dedicated to AAC, Vision and Hearing Technologies, education and learning, and AT for physical access and participation. Plus leading assistive technology companies will be showcasing the latest NAT.

Josh Anderson:
There will be CEUs available on more than 150 education courses. And there are a ton of flexible scheduling options. So you can attend some sessions live and catch up on recorded sessions that will be available through June of 2021. This year, there’s also a range of registration options, including full conference, single strand, one day and even a free option. In addition, you can also join into the daily social activities with your friends and colleagues. Plus for the month of November, you can get 20% off full conference registration with a discount code ATIA21 Vision.

Josh Anderson:
I will be attending and I really hope to see all of you there. You can learn more by visiting atia.org/atupdate. Again, that’s atia.org/atupdate. And I’ll see you all at ATIA in January. Do you find yourself a little bit more time on your hands? Maybe you’re really busy and only have a little bit of time to listen to podcast or maybe listening to this has you thinking, what about this? What about that? Well, if you’re short on time, or if you have questions about Assistive Technology, we have other podcasts that might just fit your needs. The first one is Accessibility Minute. This one minute long podcast gives you a little taste of Assistive Technology and really kind of wet your whistle to gather, you go out and find out more about a piece of technology and how it might help those you work with, yourself, or maybe a friend or family member.

Josh Anderson:
If you happen to have questions about Assistive Technology, we have Assistive Technology frequently asked questions or ATFAQ. The show is hosted by Brian Norton and features yours truly along with Belva Smith and Tracy Castillo. As we all talk about assistive technology with questions that come in from email, phone calls, and other means. We also don’t always know the answer. So it’s very important that we have listeners that can help us out with some of those questions, because while we like to think every once in a while that we may know everything, we’re proven wrong almost daily on that one. So if you’re looking for more podcasts to listen to, if you’re short on time and need a really quick podcast, or if you have questions about Assistive Technology, make sure to check out Accessibility Minute and Assistive Technology frequently asked questions wherever you get your podcasts.

Josh Anderson:
My folks, many of you know how helpful the Echo, the Google home and all these different kind of voice-powered personal assistants can be, how really helpful they can be for all individuals, but especially for individuals with different disabilities. We all know that we can use them to control our home, to ask questions, to take notes, do our grocery lists, so many things with just the power of our voice, or if you happen to have one with a screen, then you even have some other options of using that touch screen. In this time that we live in now with video calls, being able to stay in touch with folks, there’s just a whole lot that these things can do, or what you might not know is that there’s other accessibility features actually built in to these devices.

Josh Anderson:
So find a story over at News Hook and it’s titled Amazon Echo Show 8, extends the power of Alexa to people with disabilities. And I like this article because it’s not really giving you a whole ton of new information or a whole ton of like really new settings, but a lot of things that I’ve guarantee people do not know no are in an Amazon Echo device. So this one talks specifically about the Amazon Echo Show 8. So the Echo Show has some different versions. There’s a five, which has a five inch screen, the eight, which has an eight inch and then the regular Echo Show, I believe has a 10 or 10.1 inch screen. So they kind of go with the middle of the ground one. And these are a little bit less expensive of course, than the large one.

Josh Anderson:
They do feature the screen, the speaker and everything else, and they can do everything that any of the Echo devices can do. But this gets into some kind of behind the scenes stuff, a couple of features that people may or may not know actually exists. So it starts with kind of some accommodations for folks with visual impairments. Now, of course it does start off by saying, it’s a device powered by voice. So that’s pretty darn helpful because you’re not having to read anything. So of course, you can do things, set timers and alarms, check the news and weather, hear stories, order food, of course, listen to audio books and all those different things using just your voice.

Josh Anderson:
But it actually has a screen reader called voice view built into it. And with this voice view, it lets you navigate anything that’s on the screen without having to access it visually. So it will actually give you that audio feedback of anything on there and much like with an iPhone or other touchscreen devices, then you use gestures like swiping left and right, double tapping and things like that to interact with it. It does it whenever you first enable it, it does have a tutorial that’ll help you get up to speed, but I must admit, I did not even know this exists and I do a lot of work with these kinds of devices. Just usually that’s not something that’s really come up, but very cool that you can still access that screen using that voice view.

Josh Anderson:
It has also a screen magnifier, color inversion and other things like that built in. So the chain easily zoom in and out. If you do have some vision loss, but maybe not to the point where you have total blindness and need to use the screen reader, you can use that screen magnifier and the color inversion to still be able to access things visually on the screen. Much like most of the other things on the Echo devices, you can always use your voice to do these or if you go into settings, there’s a whole accessibility part that you can use to kind of help you with these.

Josh Anderson:
For folks who may be deaf or hard of hearing, there’s a feature on it called Alexa Captioning. And whenever that’s on, whenever available, Alexa responses will actually come up with subtitles. So that’s really great because if you still have your voice, but maybe you can’t hear, then you can actually ask it a question and have it come up as text so that you can have that information on there.

Josh Anderson:
There’s also a feature to automatically turn on subtitles for videos. So if you’re watching something on YouTube and it has subtitles, it’ll automatically put them on without you having to access that for all the different YouTube videos that you’re trying to do, or whenever you open it. And I can see how this could help someone with a hearing impairment as well as someone with some different cognitive impairments. You can have Alexa speak slower or speak faster so that it can sit there and talk to you a little bit quicker or a little bit slower. And then of course, probably one of the best things about these devices that have the screens is if you’re deaf or hard of hearing and you use ASL, well, you can visually see the person and have maybe an interpreter kind of between you to be able to help out on some different calls.

Josh Anderson:
And then of course, we’ve talked about before, and I think probably one of the biggest accessibility features of the Echo devices, of course, for folks with any kind of mobility impairment. Because just being able to tell it to turn on the lights, interact with your television, do all these things without having to physically do anything really besides just use your voice is an amazing accommodation for folks with mobility impairments. And then of course, something that’s very accessible about the devices that do have the screen is for folks with speech impairments, who can’t get the words out and can’t actually interact with the device by speech, well, that touch screen makes it a whole lot easier because now you can tap to Alexa in order to kind of get it on there, you can type in questions, you can do other things like that. So there’s tons of different ways to interact with it and still be able to get all the information you need.

Josh Anderson:
So I just wanted to go over that because I did find this article. And as I said, I found some new stuff in there too, even knowing quite a bit about the accessibility features. So we’ll put a link to this over in our show notes so that you can go and check out. Maybe some of the behind the scenes accessibility features for the Amazon Echo Show 8 that I got to admit, I didn’t know about. Listeners, today’s guest actually comes to us from a listener submission. I received a message from a listener stating how much they love the WayAround app and how much of a difference it’s made in their daily life. They thought that someone from WayAround would make a great guest and well, we couldn’t agree more. So today we’re excited to be joined by Jessica Hipp, the Chief Operating Officer for WayAround. Jessica, welcome to the show.

Jessica Hipp:
Thank you so much for having me.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. We’re really excited to get to talk all about the technology, but before we do that, could you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your background?

Jessica Hipp:
Sure. So my background is in marketing and PR and I’ve done that for a lot of different types of organizations, for-profit nonprofit, some education, and about four years ago, the a co-founders of WayAround had contacted me. One of them actually happens to be my father and said, “Hey, I’m starting this new company and I think you should come join us.” And so after several conversations, I said, “You know what? I think that sounds like a great deal.” And the chance to work with my dad was really fantastic and so there goes the rest of the story.

Josh Anderson:
Well, and that leads me right into my big question. Tell us about WayAround.

Jessica Hipp:
Sure. So WayAround is an assistive technology for people with vision loss primarily, although it meets a lot of needs of a lot of different types of people. You need two different things. There’s an app for your smartphone for both iOS and Android. And then we have what we call smart way tags. And those are stickers, magnets, buttons, and clips. And you can attach those to any type of item, whether it’s clothing, food, hobby items, specialty tools, and you can add information to those tags.

Jessica Hipp:
So at the very basic level, it’s a labeling system. So you can identify what is this thing, but you can also add a lot more information, things like washing instructions or board game instructions, if there’s any sort of links or things that you would want to reference when you’re using that item, you can add all those things as well. So it almost becomes an electronic sticky note, if you will, for different items that it’s completely accessible, it works with whatever accessibility settings you have on your smart device.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, very nice. I know in kind of reading about it a little bit, WayAround is able to give you different information kind of at different times for different needs. Can you kind of explain that to me?

Jessica Hipp:
Yeah. So the way we set it up is we have the description and then the details and the description is really the thing that you want to know every single time you scan something. So that kind of what is it? And it can be really short, a word or a phrase, or you can put quite a bit of information in that description, but just know, especially if you’re a voiceover or a talkback user, whatever you have in that description field is what you’re going to hear every single time you scan a way tag. And then we have the details and we have those broken up based on different types of items like groceries or clothing or files. And we have several predefined fields so that if you’re tagging clothing, for instance, you would probably want to know sorting, washing, drying.

Jessica Hipp:
And so we have some predefined options, but if there’s something you want to know that we haven’t thought of like this goes with, and you can actually describe some outfits. We have custom fields that you can enter that type of information. And so those details are things that you might want to know some of the time, but not necessarily every single time. And if you’re again, a voiceover or talkback user, you would simply swipe your finger to be able to hear that additional information.

Josh Anderson:
That’s nice because then you’re not getting all that kind of information dump right there every single time, you’re just trying to find which one’s the red shirt. I can see how that could be very helpful when you actually need to do some of the other stuff you do have that information available, but not getting it every time.

Jessica Hipp:
Exactly.

Josh Anderson:
Jessica, you guys use a little bit of a different kind of technology, you use an NFC technology. Now, why is that better than using just the camera or kind of other methods?

Jessica Hipp:
That’s a great question. So for people who don’t know what NFC is, it stands for near-field communication. And if you’ve ever used Apple Pay or Android Pay where you just touch your phone against something in a store, it’s the very same technology. So it’s a wireless communication. It uses radio waves and it’s activated by close contact. So it doesn’t drain your battery. You have to be really, really close for it to be activated. And for people with vision loss, a lot of smartphone based apps are going to use that camera, which some people are really good at focusing the camera, but for other people that can be a challenge. And so near-field communication does not use the camera at all. So it’s going to save your battery and also it’s very tactual. The tags, you can actually feel where they are and then you just want to touch your phone directly to that tag and it’s a very quick read.

Josh Anderson:
Nice. And I know sometimes in training folks to use smartphone, sometimes that’s the hardest is trying to teach someone with a visual impairment how to use the camera because it’s not that intuitive. It’s not right in the middle, it’s kind of at the top. So that’s great that you can just bring it close to it and it give you all that information without having to try to send other things or do anything like that.

Jessica Hipp:
And since you mentioned training people to use the smartphone, another thing that is great about our app is the interface is very simple. When you first load the WayAround app, you’ll have just two buttons, read and create. And so for people who may not be that familiar with voiceover or talk back, we say, you know what? Get it set up to where you can easily turn voiceover or talk back off and on. And then once you get the WayAround the app open, just turn it on and practice because it’s such a simple interface. It’s not like a big webpage where you can kind of get lost and all of a sudden you have no idea where you are. It’s really simple, just practice some of those basic gestures, get familiar with it. And the more you get familiar with those screen readers, it’s just going to open up a lot of other tools on your smart device for you.

Josh Anderson:
Definitely. And I know that’s something I’ve always kind of heard, “How am I going to use a touch screen device if I have a visual impairment? I can’t see what’s on the screen,” but it’s amazing how accessible they’ve become and how apps like WayAround of course have opened up so much more of the world to individuals. Jessica, with the tags, are they reusable or are they kind of a one-time use thing?

Jessica Hipp:
You can definitely reuse them. You can edit them. You can rewrite the information. A lot of the tags are flexible. So for instance, in magnet, you could actually remove it from an item and put it on another item. If it’s something like a canned good, if you have a can of green beans, you can simply update the expiration date whenever you switch it. But if you decide I’m not going to eat green beans ever again, they’re just not my thing and you want to move it to a can of corn, you could completely rewrite all of the information. The one thing I will say, the stickers, we have two different stickers, one’s round and one square, and they are very sticky. So they’re not something you’re going to be able to peel off and put on a different type of items.

Jessica Hipp:
So we have several different tips on our website for how you can make those stickers really useful. But if it’s something permanent like a glass canister that you’re going to put dry goods, beans, or rice, or a file folder, if you change your file folder from your medical information to your taxes, you could just rewrite that tag and use the same folder.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. You referenced this a little bit, but what all kinds of tags are available?

Jessica Hipp:
Sure. So we have stickers, buttons, magnets, and clips. The buttons are a great way to start. We have two different types when you sew in and the other you would attach with a safety pin. They’re both heat proof, cold proof and waterproof. So you don’t have to detach them whenever you do your laundry through the washer or dryer. The clips are like big plastic paperclips and you can attach them to thin paper or cardboard. You can also use a rubber band or an elastic band to attach them to most items, canned food, bags of food. You can even use them as a way to close like a bread wrapper thing. So they’re pretty flexible and handy.

Jessica Hipp:
The magnet is a magnet, it’s pretty straightforward. And then I mentioned the stickers and I should say that anything that’s square in WayAround can go on absolutely anything. If something is round, it can go on anything but not metal. So the NFC technology metal will interfere with it. And so all of the square things, for instance, the magnet is only square and it has a barrier layer so that that metal will not interfere. So again, if it’s square, it can go on anything, if it’s round, just don’t put it on metal.

Josh Anderson:
Jessica, with this being an app and getting all that information kind of put on, how is that stored? Like if I would change phones, would my information move over?

Jessica Hipp:
It definitely would. So everything is account-based. So if you write some way tags, I’m not going to be able to come over to your house and scan your way tags with my phone. So you have assurance that everything is private to you. So you can log into the same account on multiple devices. So if you have both an iPhone and an iPad, all of that information would be saved to the device, but it also is backed up in the cloud. So if you ever add a device or if you change phones, everything is stored in the cloud. So as soon as you log in to your account on the new device, you just wait about a minute, everything will download and sync to that phone and you can continue using it.

Jessica Hipp:
And the reason we have it set up that way, it’s a little bit different than a lot of NFC companies work with NFC is that some people live in a rural area, or you may be in a dead zone, or you don’t have cell data access or Wifi. So if your phone isn’t in range, because it’s all backed up to the phone, you can still use WayAround. You can continue to read your way tags. You can write new way tags. And then when you’re connected to the internet again, everything will back up to the cloud. So it makes it really flexible for a lot of different types of environments.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, definitely. Or if your internet’s out, suddenly your app can still work and you can still actually access everything. So that’s great. Jessica, could you tell me a story about someone that’s been assisted by WayAround or maybe something that someone has used it for that you never thought would be possible?

Jessica Hipp:
Sure. Gosh, I’m going to have to think of which one is the best. Well, one of our top users is a woman who is deaf blind, and she’s in her mid to late 70s. And she also has some mobility challenges and she has just hundreds of items around her home tagged, clothing, foods, medications, and all sorts of other things. And she’s called a couple of times and said that WayAround is absolutely the technology that has let her remain independent in her home. She has some assistants who come in and we’ll help her make sure everything is tagged and syncing up correctly. But because she’s deaf blind using that smartphone, she has a braille display. And so everything that’s in WayAround and in the phone comes to her through that braille display so that she can easily read it and get that information in a way that’s accessible to her.

Jessica Hipp:
So it’s one of those things we didn’t actually set out to create an accessible technology for someone who’s deaf blind, but Apple and Google have done so much to make the smartphones accessible in lots of different ways, whether you are hearing impaired, if you have vision loss, or if you have some other type of disability. There are so many features available in that phone and WayAround is really optimized to work with all of those features. I’ll tell you one other story. And that’s someone who is by trade an automotive mechanic, and he lost his vision. He’s a middle-aged person and he has a lot of specialty tools. You need a different wrench for this type of vehicle versus that type of vehicle. And they’re very similar. So it’s not necessarily something you can just feel and know which one.

Jessica Hipp:
So he’s tagged all of his tools with WayAround and because the system is so flexible, he can get a lot of very specific information that out of the box technologies wouldn’t necessarily have fields that would allow him to tag that kind of specialty tool, but WayAround, he’s been able to continue working and continue his employment, even with his vision loss.

Josh Anderson:
That’s excellent. When you bring up the individual who’s deaf blind, I know a lot of folks will try to use braille labelers or sort of something like that to label things, but you just can’t get much information just because to put all that information you could probably put in WayAround, you need a book probably for each thing. So that’s really great. And I love it whenever technology can do something that you don’t even think about, but then suddenly someone just takes it and runs with it. So that’s really great.

Jessica Hipp:
It is really exciting. And I’ll say we also have some people who are older, who may have early onset Alzheimer’s or some initial stages of memory loss and WayAround is a great way just to serve as a reminder. Sometimes things are in small print, so you can get it just on your phone in larger print if you don’t necessarily need that screen reader technology. But also if you just need to remember, do I take this medication once a day or twice a day or how do I use this remote control? Those are all things that you can put in WayAround, just as kind of a note to self.

Josh Anderson:
I’m so glad you brought up the remote control because that was the first thing that popped into my head, which one’s for the TV, the DVD player and those kinds of things. Because I know that’s something that my grandparents kind of went through, especially just kind of as they got older of sitting there and yelling at the remote because it wouldn’t turn on the TV when it was really the one for something else. So I can see how that could be a huge help for just all kinds of things around the house. Well, speaking about that Jessica, kind of what’s next for WayAround? Is there anything you’re working on or anywhere that you think it might go here in the future?

Jessica Hipp:
Yeah. Both of our co-founders Darwin Belt and Armand Fisher are architects by training and they’ve also both have vision loss. Armand had lost most of his vision in his mid 50s and Darwin has had low vision most of his life. And so when they created WayAround, they were really thinking about their professional training as architects and communicating all the little details about public spaces. And so after many conversations WayAround was born and we introduced the technology for people to use in their home and office both because it’s a great technology and also as a way for people to get used to how it works. But the initial goal and our focus is still to put the technology in public spaces.

Jessica Hipp:
So it could be things like augmenting ADA signage. Again, there’s that braille there, but there’s only so much real estate that you can have for braille. And so by using a way tag in addition to the braille, you can just get a lot more information about that space and what’s immediately around.

Josh Anderson:
And not only that, but with the way that you can do the description and then the more information, especially, I mean, I think of museums and other things like that, if it’s not something you’re interested in and you don’t have to listen to the entire thing, but if it is something you’re interested in, you could get more information.

Jessica Hipp:
That’s right. And museums is a great example. We do have several data sites. We’ve worked with some museums and galleries, universities, even micro markets that… We’re still in data for developing this technology, but museums just love it because there’s again, with a print sign, even for sighted visitors, there’s only so much information that you can put on that sign and have it work with the space requirements and the aesthetic requirements. But by using a way tag, we can help make it very subtle so it still works with the aesthetics, but someone can get a whole lot of information on their smart device if that’s something that they want.

Josh Anderson:
No, I think that’d be really great. Well Jessica, if our listeners want to find out more about WayAround, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Jessica Hipp:
Sure. You can go right to our website. It’s wayaround.com, W-A-Y-A-R-O-U-N-D. We also have a YouTube channel that has a lot of great resources. We have some overviews and some how-to videos. And we also have recordings of several webinars that we’ve done over the summer.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. Well Jessica, thank you so much for coming on the show today, for telling us all about WayAround and all the great things that it can do for individuals.

Jessica Hipp:
Well, thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about Assistive Technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If you do, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAproject, or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website @www.eastersealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member in the Accessibility Channel, for more shows like this plus so much more, head over to accessibilitychannel.com. The views expressed by our guests are not necessarily that of this host or the INDATA Project. This has been your Assistive Technology Update. I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you so much for listening. I will see you next time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.