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ATFAQ139 – Q1. Websites to teach typing to persons who are blind, Q2. GPS apps to help family know where you are, Q3. Screen reader accessible PDF editor, Q4. Communication with my older parents who feel isolated, Q5. Choosing between iPad Pro 12.9 and 10, Q6. Upgrading iPhones what features should I look for, Q7. Wildcard: What do you use your smart devices for?


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Panel: Brian Norton, Josh Anderson, Belva Smith, Tracy Castillo. ATFAQ139 Q1. Websites to teach typing to persons who are blind, Q2. GPS apps to help family know where you are, Q3. Screen reader accessible PDF editor, Q4. Communication with my older parents who feel isolated, Q5. Choosing between iPad Pro 12.9 and 10, Q6. Upgrading iPhones what features should I look for, Q7. Wildcard: What do you use your smart devices for?

—————- Transcript Starts Here ——————–

Brian Norton
Welcome to ATFAQ, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions with your host Brian Norton, Director of Assistive Technology at Easterseals 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 it answered on our show, send us a tweet with the #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.
Brian Norton
Hello and welcome to ATFAQ 139. My name is Brian Norton, and I’m the host of the show. And we’re 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 in, just want to take a moment to go around the room and introduce the folks who are here with me. So the first is Belva. Belva is the vision team lead for our clinical assistive technology team. Belva, do you want to say hi?
Hello, everybody and welcome back.
Excellent. And then we also have Tracy. Tracy’s our in data program manager. Tracy, do you want to say hi?
Yes. Thank you for inviting me again.
Glad you’re here with us. And then we also have Josh Anderson. Josh is the manager of our clinical assistive technology program, and then also the popular host of assistive technology update, 80 update, which is one of our other podcasts here with the InData project at Easterseals Crossroads. So check out that podcast in addition to ours. But Josh, do you want to say hi?
Hi, everybody. Welcome back.
Excellent. For those that are new to our show, just want to take a few moments to explain exactly how our show works. So we receive various assistive technology questions. We look for those, and we also have folks contribute to the show, and call in, or leave us an email, or send us a tweet. I’ll let you know how to do that here in a little bit. But again, we come across various assistive technology questions, and we pull those together and we try to sit around as a group and answer those the best that we can.
The other thing that we love is we love when folks contribute to the show, whether that’s with the question or with feedback. We’re trying to provide well-rounded answers to folks’ questions that they call in with, and we value your opinion and your feedback, your answers, and want to be able to provide a well-rounded answer to the folks that are calling in with their questions. And so definitely contribute, have a variety of ways for you to do that. You can give us a call on our listener line, that’s 317-721-7124. You can send us an email at, or send us a tweet with the #ATFAQ.
I also wanted to let you know if you want to pass on information about our show, our podcast to friends or family, let them know about that. There’s a variety of ways for you to find our show. You can go to iTunes, we have a website set up it’s You can go to Stitcher, or Google Play, or we also just recently got it loaded up onto Spotify. So if you’re a Spotify user, you can go and search for our podcast there. Again, it’s ATFAQ show, and you can find us there on Spotify. So without further ado, we’re going to get jumped into our feedback and questions for the day.
So we have quite a bit of feedback today. So let’s go ahead and take a listen.
This is Tom, from Lond Island, New York regarding your wildcard question about the new iPhone 12, the pro models have LIDAR in it, which help phones locate positioning of objects in front of them. It actually gives three dimensional positioning. If you go through the camera lens, it can actually tell you if there is a person in front of you and how far away they are. It’s called people detection. At this point, that’s the only thing it can do for you. However, it seems to have good implications for apps in the future to help people locate and get around with the help of their phones. Have a great day. Happy New Year and a Merry Christmas, in case I don’t talk to you soon. Take care. Bye.
Excellent. Excellent. Thank you, Tom, for calling in and talking to us about that. We did have a question in either last episode or a couple episodes ago about the iPhone 12 and some of the new upgrades. And I believe we were talking about, is it worth upgrading at this point? And I do believe that LIDAR option and what the implications that could have for folks with visual impairments down the road is going to be really, really important, kind of, the second to that notion. And we did have a bit of a feedback from Rick as well. And I’ll read his. He said, “During your December 13 programs, so that’s when it was, you were discussing the pros and cons of upgrading, the inclusion of LIDAR technology in certain iPhone 12 models appears to have a lot of potential for visually impaired travelers. While not developed at the current time, the possible applications are quite interesting and exciting.
I have an iPhone 11 and only upgrade every four to five years. However, if I was planning to get a new phone, I would seriously consider having this feature in anticipation of how it might develop in the next few years. You also indicated that facial recognition does not work for visually impaired people. I’m totally blind, and do use this feature. However, I prefer touch ID. If you go to settings, accessibility, face ID, passcode, you may have to set “Require attention to face ID” to the off position. I would assume this probably decreases the security of this feature. But keep up the great work. I regularly download and listen to all your podcasts. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last nine years, and I’ve learned a lot.”
And so thank you, Rick, for mentioning those two things as well. Again, talking about that LIDAR potential and what it can offer folks, appreciate that feedback. And then also that feedback on facial recognition, and how that works for folks who have visual impairments. And so appreciate both pieces of feedback.
The next bit of feedback is about the COVID-19 tracking app. So let’s take a listen.
Hi, this is Tom from Long Island, New York. This is a response to your question about the COVID-19 tracking app. With few exceptions, most of these apps are issued by the state and local governments. You have to download it yourself, and then connect it with the app that comes with your operating system. I hope this is helpful. Take care, stay healthy. Bye.
‘Excellent. Yeah, we had a question a little bit ago just about the COVID-19 tracking app and how to turn that off. And so thank you for jumping in there. And Tom, you also sent another one over about the location tracking app. So go ahead and play that as well.
Hi, this is Tom from Long Island, New York. Regarding app location tracking, in iOS 14, there were two ways of taking care of this. One is in settings, two, many apps, when you launch them, a box will come up and ask you if you want to let this app track your location. You can say yes, you can say no, or you can say general location. This came around when iOS 14 came in. I hope this is helpful. Have a happy new year. Take care.
And I think that’s important too. I think a lot of times when those apps pop up, you have the choice also to tell it, it can track all the time, or only while you’re using the app. And I would always choose while you’re using the app as well. So only when you have the app open, can you do that. And then one of the things that I always find really helpful now on iOS 14 is, now they’ve started to put these little orange dots and blue dots, I believe ,up at the top of your screen to let you know if, and when an app is using your camera or your microphone that maybe it was left on, or maybe you exited an app and didn’t close it completely out. And maybe it’s just sitting there in the background.
It tells you that there are certain apps using your microphone or your camera. And so great way to make sure that location tracking is super important. And then just to make sure you’re maintaining privacy and security while you’re using your phone. So thank you, Tom, again for being a contributor and for providing some feedback, always appreciate hearing from you. Have a great one.
All right. So without further ado, we’ll jump into the first question of the day. The first question is, are there any programs or websites to learn typing online for someone who is totally blind?
Yeah, that’s a great question, Brian. And I have actually done quite a bit of research to try to find those free online typing websites that will allow a person using a screen reader to interact with them. And I have yet to be successful at finding a free online typing tool, so to speak. Now, for individuals who have some vision and are maybe using magnification, I have been able to find some for those situation, but this particular listener is asking specifically for someone who’s totally blind. So as far as free online ones, no, I don’t really know of any, however, a very popular program is the Talking Typer Teacher, but it’s really just Talking Typer, I believe. And it does work specifically with JAWS. But I will say that again, keeping in mind that we usually work with older individuals, not so much like teen or preteen individuals.
And I feel like that program is more focused on a younger audience or user group than it is the adult. And most of the people that I know that have it, have it and don’t use it. They will say, “Yeah, I used it a couple of times, but… ” So what I usually recommend for my clients that are trying to improve their typing skills, or develop their typing skills either way, especially if they’re using JAWS or NVDA, turn on keyboard help and find home row. Put your fingers on home row and feel… with keyboard help on, you press the key, it does not interact with the computer. It just announces the letter that you’ve pressed. So if you’ve got, for example, your left hand on home row, and Pinky’s on A, when you raise that pinky up to the next row, what letter is that?
If you do that enough, you will be able to improve your typing skills by practicing typing. Now, how do you practice typing? When you turn off keyboard help, you open up a word document, and you type of journal. some people are great. Some people are great at sitting down in front of the keyboard and not having any guidance, but just taking off typing and typing a story. I’m really not that person. I got to have something that I need to type. So I say, “Type a journal” and do it daily. Don’t spend hours doing it, just spend 15, 20 minutes doing it. And then also type a list, that kind of thing. And that’s how your typing skills will develop.
I remember, when I first came to Crossroads, it was truly the first job that I had ever had where typing was a key in my job. You’d walk over to a computer and maybe type a few keys in to open up something or to check something, but didn’t necessarily sit and type a two or three page document. And my word per minute was probably awful at that time, but I never timed myself. So I didn’t really know. I just knew that my skills could be better. And they got better by typing, not by using a program. I understand that some people like to use a program. And if you like to use a program, then I would recommend trying Talking Typer if you’re using JAWS, because it’s the best thing that I know of that works with JAWS and truly gives you an application.
And it starts out just having you do like ASDF, ASDF, FDA. And then after you’ve done that for ever and ever, it will finally have you start typing three letter words, four letter words. And that’s often how I will work with an individual. Once you know home row, I promise the rest will come to you.
Now, that’s another important thing for me to say here. I do not expect or require anybody to work off a home row. Just know it. I’m not saying you’ve got to keep your hands and your fingers in home row position, because I work with a lot of individuals that are one or two finger typers, and some of them faster than myself. So I don’t feel like you have to use home row, but you do have to know home row. So that’s what I [inaudible 00:14:24].
A few things, one thing, Brian, you’re muted. Two, you did say that you work with folks on their four-letter words, which I think is very fun, and it made me laugh a little bit. But no, I’ve worked with [crosstalk 00:14:36].
Adults. Adults, right?
Adults. That’s fine. That’s totally fine. And you got to learn how to type some ways, make it fun for them. But no, I’ve had some folks with Talking Typer Teacher, and really it’s folks that maybe are used to using like an onscreen keyboard or an iPad or an iPhone. They really haven’t used the keyboard at all. And they seem to like it and they were using it with NVDA. And if I remember correctly, we actually had to disable NVDA, because Talking Typing Teacher talks on its own. So you didn’t have to have a screen reader on there to be able to use it. I can’t remember how much it is. It’s not super expensive, but it’s not really cheap either.
100 bucks.
Yep, but I’m with you. I have tried all the online ones, because especially when I was in employment, I’d have folks who had to type a certain amount and it can’t guesstimate that. So we would try it. And essentially, even with a screen reader, I would have to read it to them, and they would have to try to type what I was saying. So just because that was the only accommodation we could kind of find, because they just… Even if they are accessible, trying to read to you and then type in the correct box is almost impossible for those. So yeah, the best luck I’ve had with that Talking Typer Teacher, or Belva, like you said, just use it. Use it, use it, use it, use it, use it. I was the same way. I wasn’t okay typing when I first started here. Now I can rattle stuff off pretty quickly.
And you know what’s interesting about myself? I can not look at my keyboard when I type.
Mm-mm (negative).
So I often will have blind individuals say something to me like, “Well, I can’t use a keyboard because I can’t see it.” Well, I always tell them, “I can’t look at the keyboard when I type, because if I do it messes me up.” And why? I think is because I found home row, and I know home row and my fingers just know where to go without me looking.
Yep. That was one of my favorite things. I was working with an individual, who just lost their sight, their usable vision. And as we were talking and I’m like, “What’d you do before?” And they were telling me that, “I was a pretty fast at typing, but I don’t know how I’m going to do that without looking at the keyboard.” And I was like, “Did you look at it before?” They’re like, “Well, no.” I was like, “Well, it’s the exact same then, you’re still not going to look at it. It’s still that. You’re just not going to see what’s on the screen this time. So we’ll work around that.” But I was like, “Put your hands where they were before. Okay. That all works the exact same, so we’re halfway there.” And even if you do use something like a Talking Typing Teacher, yeah, Once you get that ASDS down, then yeah, open up a word document. Play, play, play, play.
And that’s what I think I usually had folks do, even if they did get that Talking Typing Teacher, I’m like, “Okay, when I come back next week, I expect a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and what you did that day. It doesn’t have to be in depth, don’t had to be… just type it out, fix your mistakes. And let’s see where we can go from there.” Like with anything, you just learn it as you use it.
I agree with you guys to a certain extent about just learning on your own. I think that’s important for you to explore things on your own time. I think you can learn a lot that way. There are a couple of programs that I found that did have pretty good reviews online about them, TypeAbility, if you go to, they do a lot of different educational software for the blind. And they actually have, it’s called TypeAbility, they’re on version 4.4. And it’s made to work with JAWS 2020 and Fusion 2020. And so you can download that, and it’s a little expensive or maybe not just a little, it’s a lot expensive if you’re just learning to type.
Maybe would be better for someone who… like in Belva, your situation, when you meet with lots of folks, if they want something to be able to learn and learn with you. This is more of a tutor program for maybe the teacher to have. It’s $150, is the first license fee for it. And so again, TypeAbility 4.4, it’s for JAWS and Fusion, works with both of those. They do all sorts of different educational software for the blind. If you go to, you can learn more about it there.
Then another one that I had found some really good reviews for as well is That’s just a regular, old website, but it’s real simple. There’s not a lot of bells and whistles to it, which I think is really helpful when you’re using a screen reader. So it’s not hard to navigate. It’s real simple, easy to use, but And Belva, I was going to ask you, Hadley, do they do anything Do they do anything with typing courses?
I do believe that they do have some typing courses that they offer. I’m going to say, yes, they do. And they’re online, of course.
Right. Yeah. So yeah,, you might check them out as well. They do a lot of online courses for folks who are blind or visually impaired. And so something also to check out, but [crosstalk 00:19:37].
We might also say those courses are free. But there is a process with [inaudible 00:19:44] that you’ve got work, you’ve got to do to get the free. It’s not a big deal, but you do have to prove to them certain criteria to make you qualify to get their courses for free.
Good point.
Yeah. Well, I would like to say TypeAbility, I have had a little bit of experience with-
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
… and I do think that it is a little bit better in my opinion than Talking Typer. But what I would like to see is for the makers of that product to offer it in a subscription, to where I maybe don’t have to pay them $150, but I could pay them $25 and use it for 30 days or $50 and use it for 60 days.
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Because once you’ve used it, and once you’ve learned, you’re done,.
It’s not a program that you’re going to continue to use, and you can’t give it to your buddy because it’s already registered to you. So that’s what I would like to see is… and especially even with our adaptive software, they are going to licensed versions where you just pay a yearly subscription. I guess I should say subscription versions rather than license. So that’s what I would like to see is where we could maybe just get that for a subscription version. And in two months you’ll be done with it and you won’t have $150 programs sitting on your computer that you’re never going to use again.
Right. Because like you said, you’re going to use it for a couple of months and be done.
Love to open this up to our listeners. If you have any feedback on this particular question, again, programs or websites to help folks who are blind learn how to type, and so love to hear from you. You can give us a call on our listener line. That’s 317-721-7124, or send us an email at Love to hear from you. Thanks.
Right. So next question is, is there a good GPS app to let your loved ones know that you are safe when you are using transportation? Thank you. And I’ll just jump into this one. There’s lots of built-in stuff, Google Maps and Apple Maps offer some options with regard to that. If you’re using an iOS device, there’s Find My Friends. I use that with my family so that I know where my daughters are, and my wife are, and they know where I am, day in and day out. So if they’re traveling home from work or going across town, or whatever, I check in just to make sure they made it to their destination. And so we use the, Find My Friends app on our iOS devices to be able to determine where folks are.
But I think there are a few more sophisticated ones. Life360 comes to mind. I think it’s free to set up, or it may just be a small subscription fee to be a part of it. But that actually gives you real time information. So with Find My Friends, it can update itself every few minutes. So you don’t really get real-time, but Life360, from my understanding is that it provides real time traveling, so you can tell how fast someone’s traveling on the road, you can see where they are in real time. And as they start to drive down the road, it updates you and you can see them progressing down the road. So I think Life360, I have some friends of mine who use that within their family units, and it seems to work pretty well. So Life360 is another one that you might look at.
I mentioned the built-in stuff. So Apple Maps, they have a feature called share ETA. And so as you start to head out through Apple Maps, you can just share with whoever you want to, what the ETA is, when should they expect you to reach there? And if you don’t reach that destination by a certain time-frame, they know, “Oh, maybe something’s up.” And so there’s that. And then I believe again, in Google Maps, there’s that. There’s a share live location feature, which again, is going to give them real real time, following people along as they make their trips.
So Brian, a couple more that are… there’s one called Glympse, G-L-Y-M-P-S-E, that you can use, you can connect with somebody else, and essentially it gives them your exact location as you travel. And this one is talking about using transportation. If you’re using Uber or Lyft, both of them have a share your trip info button. So if you hit that, you can share with one of your contacts, and it will tell them your exact location on a map, give them the driver’s info, the car, basically all the information you get. If you get an Uber or Lyft, you get a picture of the driver, you get the car, you get all that kind of information, their name. You can share that with any one of your contacts.
If you’re using Lyft, right underneath that share ride details, I believe there’s a good emergency assistance where you can call 911, and it’ll send your location straight to them as well. I think Uber might have the same kind of thing, but I’m not positive on that one. But I know that they both do have that share your… so basically you get right in the car, you can share your information, and somebody who’s probably waiting on you at home knows exactly where you are, how far along you are. They can see if you’re way off track or something like that, and be able to get you help. So if you’re using that kind of transportation, those can both be ways to assist as well.
That’s great to know about Uber and Lyft, because you hear stories these days about how things go wrong and some of those situations. And so to be able to share your information, as soon as they come and to be able to get that to someone you know, at least someone has the information about where you’re headed, and what’s going on.
And to give a little bit more on the Lyft version, I told you, you call 911. They even have a way to discreetly get emergency help. So basically I think it’s from ADT. It looks like. But you can alert 911 silently. So after ten second countdown, they send 911, all your information including your location, and can do that without you ever having to actually talk to anyone on the phone. So you can discreetly get that help. And again, they’ll send that location so that as the car moves, they’ll know where you are.
That’s great. Love it. Belva, do you have anything as far as GPS apps, do you guys use anything with your family, or…
No, we don’t. We don’t care where everybody’s at. No.
Brian, it’s COVID, man, nobody goes anywhere, [crosstalk 00:26:21] home, I’m home.
No, but Josh, you did bring up the one that I was going to talk about because yes, when I used to use Uber, I would always make sure that Todd had… he had my tracking. And I know that when Derek was driving for Uber, they use that as well. So that was the one that I couldn’t think of it, but you brought it up. So that was perfect.
Nice, nice. Well, I’d love to open this up to our listeners. If you have experience with a GPS app that lets folks know where you are, we’d love to hear from you. Yeah. You can give us a call on our listener line. That’s 317-721-7124, or you can send us an email at Thanks.
All right. So next question is, can anyone make a recommendation for a screen reader, accessible PDF editor? I’ve tried a couple of free online ones, but they’re pretty much unusable, a lot of unlabeled buttons and the like. So any screen reader, accessible PDF editors.
That’s a really tough question and a good question. I have trouble enough trying to find a PDF editor online that I can use as a sighted individual. Because we are finding ourselves more often than not needing to sign a PDF, and I’m not even sure how to do that. So that’s a tough question.
So there’s a couple of places that I’ve found. That is a really tough question because there’s a lot of great viewers.
So even Adobe Reader can give you access to a document, but to edit that document, there’s not a lot of free ones to start with. The one that I could find that I believe is free is called pdf.abbyy, or So check out that website, I believe it’s free and it should allow you to edit a PDF. The other one is Adobe Acrobat DC. Now this one is not free. This one does require you to pay for it, it’s a yearly subscription. And I want to say it’s a little bit pricey. I want to say it’s somewhere between $100 or $200 to be able to purchase it.
But it allows you to do all sorts of things. You can save them, you can edit them, you can do a form scanner to be able to help fill in forms, sign documents, those types of things. It does everything for you. But again, it’s not free. It’s a yearly subscription. And I think that’s where, again, there’s a lot of readers where you can bring up a PDF and have it read to you, whether it’s using their built-in reader that’s built into that software, or through a screen reader. But there aren’t a lot that’ll let you edit those. And so that’s really the challenge of that question. Thoughts. Any other thoughts on those free?
Some of them that I was looking at Brian, would allow me to sign them or to edit them if I were the creator. If someone else had created the PDF, then I’m not allowed to edit it in any way or sign it.
That’s a good point.
I think that the Adobe Acrobat DC is probably the best option, but I do agree with you, I think it’s expensive. So I wish that they could find a way to bring that down. And this is a question for ATFAQ. What about word? Can you not just convert it to a word document, do what you need to do and then convert it back?
I’ve tried that, Belva. And sometimes the formatting is an okay. I’ve tried different things on that, but it doesn’t always work out.
That’s a good point. Yeah, a lot of times when you convert something or try to do some sort of conversion, the formatting gets all screwed up, and it doesn’t look quite the same. I do know in the Adobe Acrobat DC, I know it’s expensive, but it does keep formatting pretty well intact. I’ve found it to be quite useful, especially, a lot of what we do here with our documents is we’ve got to make sure they’re accessible documents, right? So as we create PDF files and other kinds of content, we’ve got to make sure that they’re accessible to everybody. And Adobe Acrobat DC allows us to not only create PDFs that are accessible to folks, we can tag those documents, make sure that a screen reader can read those.
But also we can check it for accessibility. We can create forms. You’ve got all sorts of tools that are built into it to be able to make those. And sometimes that can be a little overwhelming, to be quite honest. There’s a lot that you can do with those. And sometimes you just want a simple editor. You want to go in and tweak a word or two, and you’re not wanting to pay 180 bucks a year to be able to do something like that. And so I can understand the need for the question. Would love to open this up to our listeners, school us a little bit, and what’s out there as far as helping us know what kind of editors are out there, screen readers that’s accessible with the screen or PDF editors. We’d love to know.
Yeah. I was going to say, Brian, obviously we have a lot of listeners that are using screen readers, so yeah. Share with us, tell us what it is that works for you. Because, again, this is a question that I would like to have a good answer to, sometimes for myself, more often for myself than not. But yeah, let us know.
ATFAQ has a question for you. Well, I can’t believe I said it without stumbling. I did though.
I was also going to say, I will reach out to the folks at AppleVis. AppleVis is a great place to get a lot of questions answered, specifically with regard to Apple products. But they talk about a lot of other things too, and this might be a question to throw their way. And I’ll try to do that between now and our next show, see what we can find out as far as a PDF editors. Because that’s a real practical question that we… in situations that we all run across. And so again, would love to learn more about that. I’ll reach out to AppleVis.
But again, as a listener, if you guys have any information on what you guys might use to do that, school us on it, love to hear from you. Give us a call. Our listener line is 317-721-7124, or send us an email at Again, love to hear from you. Thanks.
All right. So our next question is, I would like suggestions for how I can facilitate face-to-face communication with my mom and dad, who live in an assisted living facility. Since the beginning of COVID, visits have been limited due to facility policies. And we just want to see them more often. Are there tablets or devices that would be simple and less confusing for them to use, so we could communicate with them?
Wow. That’s a horrible situation to be in, especially now during COVID because of the isolation, you’re not allowed to go see them. So yeah, I feel for them. Yeah.
Yeah. And I think this is something that’s a lot of folks are going through. And there’s really a lot of options out there. So if you’re looking for something easy to use, really your video smart speakers. So the Echo Show, which has a 10 inch, eight inch, and a five inch version, or there’s the Google Home Hub Max. But to do two way video communication through it, you do have to buy the max version, you can’t do the smaller version.
But these have a small camera microphone on them. They do have a screen. The screen’s accessible, you can touch screen to do things, or they’re echo devices. So you just say the A word, or echo, or computer, I think are the three words you can do. But then you could just say, “Call Sally.” Or anything like that, and it calls them. And then you to be the person talking to them, don’t have to have one of these devices. You just have to have the Alexa app on your phone, and you can talk to them straight from that.
Does that work like that still?
Yep. Yep. You can do it from your phone, from a tablet, anything connected to the internet. Now, they would have to have WiFi, and pretty decent WiFi to really be able to do this.
Face to face.
Yeah. To really be able to-
Yeah, so ideally, I think what you’re going to want to do is get whatever device you choose to use. Whether it’s a Google, or an Amazon, or a tablet, whether it’s a Samsung, or an iPad, or-
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
… a smartphone, again, whether it’s a Samsung or an i… whatever device you choose to get, you’re going to want to set it up at your home, probably on your account and then take it to mom or dad, and then connect it to their WiFi there.
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
And so, we are using all… so all of the above that I just mentioned as ways for me to keep in contact with my grandkids. My youngest granddaughter now has her own Alexa in her room. And she can actually go to her room and say, “Call Mami.” And then every one of my devices ring. Well, which is good because my phone will ring, and then all the devices in the house will ring, but like the other day I was actually going to the car wash and she was calling, but it came up on my phone. So we were able to have a film. And it’s visual. So I could see her ,and she could see me.
And then I could do things like, just say, “Send Zoe a hug.”
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
And her device will pop up and say that, she’s getting a hug.
Oh, I’m sorry. But I was going to mention, the cool thing about those little devices like the Echo Show, compared to a iPad, they’re so much more cheaper. I think I bought mine during a prime day sell for like $50.
And not only are they cheaper, but for grandma and grandpa, they’re easier to use, because they don’t have to worry about holding the tablet. They don’t have to worry about, “Oh, I can’t double tap. I can’t swipe.”
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
All they got to do is just be in the room with the speaker, and say, “Call, or drop in, or send out.”
I use to drop in one when I’m in one side of my house and I’m trying to get a hold of someone… my son in his room, and I’ve-
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
… run out of voice.
And they’re not overwhelmed by buttons, and icons, and apps. It’s just a little device sitting on a table somewhere.
Yeah. And then on top of that, with that, you would still get your timers, reminders, and such like that.
Yep. You can still do all those kinds of things without having to actually access a screen. And then I know that especially the Echo Show 10s, right? Which is a bigger one right now are pretty hard to get. They’re between versions and new one’s coming out, I think in March or April. So they run out of them pretty quick. So there’s a trick you can do. If you buy a fire tablet, you can set up the fire tablet as you would a normal one. Pull down from the top of the screen, and there’s a little tiny slider that you can say, “Put in show mode,” and it becomes an Echo Show.
Stop it.
It will listen for that keyword. So you just put it on a stand, plug it in, and boom, you have Echo Show. And it costs about $100 less.
Yeah. I was going to say those fire devices are [inaudible 00:38:32]. Would that work with an older fire device, or does it have to have the new operating system?
I think it does.
It works with the older ones too. As long as it’s got a camera and a microphone, it works with the device.
Oh, my.
Now the big caveat, the big difference between that and the show device is the speaker. It’s not half as loud, it doesn’t sound half as good, because you’re using that little tablet speaker, but it’s a decent workaround. They also ask about easy ones. So if mom and dad don’t have WiFi, there’s a few options. Some folks in assisted living facilities, there might be an open WiFi network on the whole place, but it might not be enough to run such a device. If they have Comcast or Cable, whatever they might have there, they may not be able to get that for an individual room. It might be just one wire coming into the whole place.
So if that’s the case, there’s a few different things you can do. One would be, if you have a cell phone, see if you can get them a hotspot that would be used just for this. If they’re just going to be using it for that face-to-face communication, unless they’re talking on hours a day, it’s going to use a lot of data while it’s running. But the rest of the time, it’s not going to use a whole lot. So you might be able to add that to your cell phone bill, or there’s also the GrandPad, which is another kind of way to go. The GrandPad, I don’t remember the actual cost, but it is through consumer cellular, so you do have a bill every month. But that’s your whole internet. So you’re not-
It’s only 25 or $35 a month. It’s not expensive.
Yeah. So compared to 90 bucks a month for cable internet or something, it might be… and it’s got a big overlay over it. So if I want to talk to somebody, it’s got a picture of like a phone, and I just hit it, and I can call the people. Yeah. So it’s pretty simple to use too. And it may be something where… and Tracy, I must steal your thunder.
You can talk to your Local AT acts and you might be able to borrow something, or they might have something set up in their lab if you’re allowed to go in there, and you can check some of these things out and see it. It’s really amazing how easy they are to use. And I will say a lot of folks are like, “Well, I don’t really want to speak, or listening to me, or a camera looking at me all the time.” You can disable those features so that it’s only listening or looking when you actually want them to.
So sometimes those can help folks a little bit, feel a little more comfortable.
You did mention one of my favorite things, Local AT acts. Do you know how to get a hold of your local AT act?
Yeah. I say, “Hey Tracy, Tracy, Tracy, I need something.”
Well, if you don’t know, you can go to Type in your state, put in the program that you want to get a hold of, your state program. It’ll bring you up all their contact information. Grab one of those. Everybody in these programs are awesomely nice. And I can’t say enough nice things about them, but they will help you, and they will get you what you need, and set you in the right direction.
Also just throw in there as well. We also offer demonstrations as a part of the InData project, and we can offer those demonstrations online as well. We can come to your door anywhere in the state of Indiana, but we can also do those online. So if you’re interested in learning more about that, and you do live here in Indiana, obviously other tech act projects probably will offer that same service, but I can talk mainly about what we provide.
So if you are here in Indiana, and you’re interested in a demonstration, you can certainly give us a call or send us an email, and we can help set that up as well. So to learn more about those different solutions. I think this is a timely topic. Social isolation is that buzz word that’s out there. Being able to communicate when we’re separated from other folks, in and amongst COVID-19. I think it’s just so vitally important for us to be in touch with each other, to be able to communicate with other folks. And so all great ways to do that.
I’d love to open it up to our listeners. Do you have different ways or methods that you’ve been able to help facilitate face-to-face communication with your older parents, friends, family members? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you. You can give us a call on our listener line. That’s 317-721-7124, or send us an email at Love to hear from you. Thanks.
All right. So our next question is, thinking of upgrading to an iPad pro, any suggestions on the 12 versus the 11 inch for a visually impaired user.
So visually impaired, I’m assuming then they’re probably going to be using the Zoom and the magnification features. The visual enhancements rather than the screen reader. So all I can say is, I think it’s actually not on 11, I think it’s a 10, but I could be wrong. It could be 11. The size difference is so minute that you probably won’t even notice it. The weight is very obvious. The iPad pro 12 is very heavy, so that’s something to definitely consider. And it’s also good information to know that you can mirror your iPad to your to a TV screen or a larger monitor when you’re stable.
Obviously if you’re remote with your device, you can’t carry the bigger screen around with you, but if you’re primarily using it at home, or whatever, then you can using an Apple TV, you can mirror that right onto a larger screen. So if it was my situation, which this was, just a question in my household recently. Rather than spending the extra money for the very little bit of difference in the viewable space, I would take that money and spend it on the magic keyboard for whichever one you’re going to get, because the magic keyboard is awesome. It’s expensive, but it’s awesome. So that’s my advice
I want to say too, you said stream it to your Apple TV. I have a Samsung… Hold on. Yeah, it’s a Samsung smart TV, and it does the airplay on it, and I had nothing else to buy for it to-
And you’re right, Tracy. There was a time when you did have to have the Apple TV, but I think nowadays you can pretty much do it. on any of the newer TVs.
Yeah. I can’t believe it. Yeah. It’s my stuff.
Those are all great points. I had a couple like three or four questions I would want to know a little bit more about. The device, what specifically are you using it for? Are other folks with site going to have to use the device as well? Is it just your personal device, or other folks using it in your family? Maybe your kids or those things. How much vision do you really have? And are you going to travel? You mentioned the weight, that weight difference is significant. You mentioned, the bigger the device, the heavier it’s going to be. And so that’s certainly something to think about with that. But you did mention the magic keyboard as well. That’s the new keyboard that comes with the newer iPad pros. And you’re right. It is expensive.
No, it doesn’t come with it. You pay [crosstalk 00:45:53].
Yeah. It’s an accessory for it.
You’re right. It is an expensive accessory though, right? So it’s a couple 100 bucks, 300 bucks, I believe.
Stop. That’s another iPad.
It’s super expensive, but man, does it make using the iPad super simple?
It doesn’t have a firm base where when you put the iPad on it, it doesn’t move anywhere. It’s really just snug.
It essentially turns your iPad into a laptop, it will, because it gives you a mouse, a track pad mouse right there with it. And so it’s really, really useful, super expensive. Hopefully, it’ll come down to cost soon. So I’d love to open this up to our listeners. If you have had to make that decision, if you’re a visually impaired user or really anybody who’s had to make that decision, do I go with an 11 or a 12 inch iPad pro. Let us know what your thought process was on that. You can give us a call on our listener line. That’s 317-721-7124, or send us an email at Love to hear from you. Thanks
And now, it’s time for the wildcard question.
All right. So our next question is a wildcard question. This is a question that Belva has come up with, and we haven’t had any time to prepare for. So Belva, what do you have for us today?
Well, this goes back to the question we had earlier. Josh, I believe, and if I’m not mistaken, you are the only one of the three of us who does not have a smart device in your home or has that recently changed?
No. And there’s four of us.
[inaudible 00:47:36] was one of the three of us.
Yeah. Okay. All right. Got you [inaudible 00:47:39].
All right. Yeah, guys, it’s hurtful.
Okay. So actually, I have to Echo dots that I got as gifts. One of them has never come out of the box, and the other one is in my tool chest in the garage. Not plugged in, just sitting there.
So my question was, if you do have a smart device or assistant in your home, do you use it regularly? And what do you use it for?
Ooh, can I answer this? Can I start?
I love my smart device. I am a terrible speller, she’s helping me out with my emails. I’m at home now I can ask her to spell stuff for me. I mentioned earlier in this show, my son doesn’t hear me when I’m in the kitchen. I think he hears me, but he pretends he doesn’t hear me. But you put that Alexa on blast in his room, he hears that ding, dong, “Hey, Chris, get in here.” He can hear that. He can hear that. That’s my new recent one that I’ve just started using. That’s the drop-in feature, I use that one. I can’t even tell you how many times a day. I am just trying to find a shortcut for it, so I don’t have to go through all the steps to his room. But timers, reminders, everything.
And now, this morning we woke up, it was terrible outside. I asked her, “Hey, what’s the weather like today?” And she told me, and I decided to say, “You know what? Just snooze that alarm a little bit longer.” And that was all going on while I was sleeping soundly to my thunderstorms that I have playing for me at night, and my rest is so much better. So I’m sorry, Josh, that you’re not living the high life with your AIs. And if you want someone somewhere to donate them to, I could probably put one right here that would just be used all the time. I’m just telling you. And I would probably get those emails misspellings a little bit better too, because I usually do my emails in here. So that’s what I have.
That’s hilarious. Yeah. I mostly use the devices that I have in my house to play music. I do that quite often. I have a couple of different things I can do as far as lights are concerned. Turn those on and off, especially if I’m on vacation, or that’s just a safety thing for me. So some of that smart home stuff. I do have smart cameras, but they’re not connected really to my echo devices or my smart speakers, if you will, those are mostly connected to my phone. And so I have the app that can connect to… I have a couple of Google nest cams and other kinds of things. It’s really mostly what I use them for, is a little bit of entertainment and a little bit of safety and security. It’s my security camera at home. It’s my security system at home, if you will. So those are what I use them mostly for.
So I feel a little like crazy because I have a 1700 square foot home, and I literally have a smart device in pretty much every room. And when I’m not near one of my smart devices, I’m near my phone, which also can do things for me. But I control my lights, I control my garage door. I control my thermostat, which I still haven’t figured out. It’s going on two years that I’ve been controlling my thermostat. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing because I find that I continually turn my temperature up and down. And before I was able to do that voice command, I didn’t do that. I would set it on a temperature and leave it. But yes. Like you, Tracy, I set timers on a regular basis. I would say probably two or three, four or five times a day.
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
I am constantly asking, “What’s the weather forecast? What’s the traffic?” We also check the lottery numbers.
Ooh, I haven’t tried that one.
Yeah. So I ask general questions pretty regularly. But usually, if I’m going to ask questions, I do go to Google because Google is smarter.
Oh yeah.
Oh, yeah. Without a doubt, Google is smarter. Often, Alexa will say, “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that.” Or “I can’t help you with that.”
She does say that a lot. And I’m like, “Slacker.”
[inaudible 00:51:59] Google right next where to you can ask Google and Google will answer it. So yeah, that’s the way that we use it. We use it, as you said, Brian, for controlling things and a little bit of security, and a little bit of entertainment. I can say, I think Tom probably uses it for entertainment more than I do because I typically don’t ask her to play music. But I do ask for spelling assistance all the time, definitions all the time. I’ll hear a word and think, “I have no idea what that means.” And then I ask one of them, whoever’s closest to me, “What does that mean?”
What does that mean? And then I like when you’re just having a conversation with somebody and you’re maybe talking about a movie, and you can’t remember the name of the movie or the actor, you just say, “Oh, okay.” And that leads into, “Well, where can I watch that movie at now? Let’s go watch it.”
And then not to repeat. But as I said earlier, also it has become the number one way that I stay in touch with all three of the grandkids now.
So I was excited to get our first one. I didn’t think it would be as popular as it has become. And now, I’m actually at a point where if we go away from home, I know we haven’t been able to do this in a while, but when we were able to travel, we’ve both been in a hotel room saying, “Hey, Alexa, what time is it? Alexa, set an alarm.”
Wait a minute, you don’t bring it with you?
No I don’t.
I bring mine with me. I do. We go on trips together.
How do you do that? You just connect it to the WiFi?
You just connect it to the WiFi. And if it’s laggy, you connect it to your hotspot. But for the most part, it works okay. If you’re streaming music, it may cut out. But yeah.
Well, there you go. I guess you can travel with it too.
My Alexa is accumulating frequent flyer miles.
That’s hilarious. I’d just love to open this up to our listeners. If you guys have a smart speaker at home, we’d love to hear what you use it for. Give us a call on our listener line, that’s 317-721-7124, or send us an e-mail at Love to hear from you. Want to thank you guys, Josh, Belva, and Tracy for being a part of the show. Belva, do you want to say goodbye to folks?
See you guys, take care.
Tracy, how about you?
Oh, never. I want to stay right here. I’m not going to say bye. Okay, bye.
All right. You’ll be yourself, Sandman.
No, no. It’s getting dark.
Thanks [inaudible 00:54:45]. Thank you.
All right. And then Josh.
Bye, everybody. See you next time.
Excellent. Excellent. Hey, want to just make a plea to you guys as our listeners. If you guys have an assistive technology question, or any feedback with today’s show and the questions that we tried to answer today, love to hear from you. You can do that in a variety of different ways. You can give us a call on our listener line, that’s 317-721-7124. Send us an email at, or send us a tweet with the #ATFAQ. All great ways to get us your questions or your feedback. In fact, without those, we don’t have a show, so be a part of it. Love to hear from you. Thank you guys. Have a great week, and we will be back with you in a couple of weeks.
And it seems like every week we have at least one blooper. So here you go.
What’d you do in there, man?
I cooking two potato heads.
You got [inaudible 00:55:37]? All right.
So I’m ready. I’m with you too. And I do have a wildcard ready for this one.
Okay. Wildcard question, this is where…
You fell.
Yeah, that’s what I call it too, Brian.
The information provided on assistive technology AFAQ, 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 and produced by Brian Norton, gets editorial help by Josh Anderson, and Belva Smith, and receives support from Easterseals Crossroads, and the InData project. ATFAQ is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more of our shows at
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