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ATFAQ156 – Q1. Documentation Translation Apps, Q2. Handwriting Recognition on Computer, Q3. Neo Smartpen Information, Q4. Transcription for Hard of Hearing Student, Q5. Refresh Rates in Windows 10, Q6. Wildcard: Have you started Christmas shopping? Are things available?

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Panel: Brian Norton, Josh Anderson, Belva Smith, Tracy Castillo

ATFAQ156 – Q1. Documentation Translation Apps, Q2. Handwriting Recognition on Computer, Q3. Neo Smartpen Information, Q4. Transcription for Hard of Hearing Student, Q5. Refresh Rates in Windows 10, Q6. Wildcard: Have you started Christmas shopping? Are things available?

—– 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 to answered on our show, send us a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ. Call our listener line at (317) 721-7124, or send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. 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 episode 156. My name is Brian Norton and I’m the host of the show. We’re so happy that you’ve taken some time to tune in with us this week. We’ve got a great lineup of assistive technology questions for you today. But before we jump in, I just want to take a moment to go around our virtual room and introduce the folks who are sitting here with me. These should all be people you’re very familiar with if you listen to our show. Tracy Castillo is the INDATA program manager. Tracy, would you like to say hi?

Tracy Castillo:
Hey everyone. Thanks for having me.

Brian Norton:
Excellent, excellent. We also have Belva Smith. Belva is our vision team lead. She is on our clinical assistant technology team. Belva, would you like to say hi?

Belva Smith:
Hey everybody. Thanks for listening.

Brian Norton:
And also Josh Anderson. Josh is the manager of our clinical assistive technology program and also the host of our AT Update podcast, one of our other podcasts here through the INDATA project at Easter Seals Crossroads. Josh, would you like to say hi?

Josh Anderson:
Hi everybody, welcome back or if it’s your first time welcome first.

Brian Norton:
There you go. Yeah, that’s an interesting one. How do you phrase that one? Right?

Belva Smith:
Newcomers always welcome, right?

Brian Norton:
That’s right, yes.

Josh Anderson:
There you go.

Brian Norton:
Yes. We’re always happy when new folks join us and hopefully they enjoy the show. Just for those folks who are joining us for the first time, just a little bit of information about how our show works. We come across feedback and assistive technology questions throughout the week, and we have a variety of ways for you to get your questions to us. And so we kind of comb these different ways to get information to us, to be able to come up with the questions that we’ll handle in our show. We have a listener line set up. It’s (317) 721-7124. We have an email, it’s tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. And we have a Twitter hashtag set up as well. It’s #ATFAQ. If you have a question that you’re struggling with maybe personally, or with a consumer that you’re working with, let us know. We’d love to be able to help chime in. We’ll include that question in our show, and then we will sit here and try to answer that the best we can.

Brian Norton:
But the great thing about our show, and I think probably the greatest thing about our show is it’s just not our voices feeding into giving you an answer. We have a whole group of listeners from across the world chiming in too, and they provide their feedback and help give you a very full well rounded answer from lots of different backgrounds, lots of different perspectives. And so that feedback is also welcome. So obviously, we’re going to try to answer some questions today. But if you have anything that you would like to chime in and provide us feedback, or maybe help fill in a gap that we might have left back when we provided our answers, please do that in those very same ways, that listener line, that email address, that Twitter hashtag. Send us that information, we would love to be able to include that in our show as well.

Brian Norton:
If you’re looking for our show or want to share it with other folks, you can find us really just about anywhere you can go find podcasts. You can find them in iTunes. Atfaqshow.com is our website that we’ve set up. You can go to Stitcher or Google Play. You can also find them just at our regular website, it’s eastersealstech.com and or Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play store, all those different places you can find ATFAQ and all of our other podcasts as well.

Brian Norton:
For those that aren’t familiar with our other podcasts, we do two other podcasts here. One is called AT Update. AT Update is a news and information show. I mentioned Josh hosts that. But we are really talking to thought leaders, talking to manufacturers, really trying to help understand what’s next with assistive technology, what’s coming down the road, what kind of products are out there, what would they be useful for in connecting people with some really cutting edge types of technologies through AT Update. And then we have another one, it’s Accessibility Minute. Accessibility Minute’s a great show. It’s fast paced, it’s every week. But we’re handling just really in a minute, minute and a half, a product or a tool. Tracy is the voice currently behind Accessibility Minute. And so she is recording that and posting that. And so would love for guys to connect with those other podcasts as well.

Brian Norton:
So without further ado, we’re going to jump into our first question today. The first question I have came to us through email. And it says, “Hello, does anyone here know if apps like Seeing AI or KNFB Reader can be translated into Spanish? So for instance, if you were to scan something with Seeing AI, could it properly read a Spanish document or translate it into Spanish?” It’s not necessarily for the person who sent the email, but for a student they are working with and trying to help out. Let me just throw in here for folks that aren’t familiar, Seeing AI and KNFB Reader are some apps that do lots of different things. KNFB Reader is really kind of a text to speech program where you can snap a picture of something and have it read to you.

Brian Norton:
Seeing AI goes beyond that. It does barcode scanning, all sorts of things. Typically, I would say for folks with visual impairments, they’re probably going to be using that app, folks who are blind, visually impaired. But I’ve also seen folks who have learning difficulties, dyslexia or really just any type of print disability use a program like Seeing AI, because what it does is on your smart device, it could be a tablet or a smartphone, you hold that device up over text, and it’s going to go ahead and automatically start reading that to you. Or you can snap a picture of it. It’ll bring the text, do OCR, bring the text up on your device and then allow you to then not only have it read to you, but also see it while it reads it as well. And so just want to throw that out there for folks that aren’t familiar with those particular programs.

Belva Smith:
So Brian, I kind of see that question as a twofold question. One, can it read it? Two, can it translate it? The answer is yes and no. So when Seeing AI was first released, it could only read the English language. But they have since added six other languages. Spanish is one of those. Now I went into my Seeing AI app this morning to look to see, oh, so is there somewhere in the setting where I tell it that I’m going to be using Spanish versus English? And there isn’t. I’m going to say the answer, no, it cannot translate English into Spanish. Josh, I think’s going to add some more to that. But if you scan a Spanish document, can it read it in Spanish? Yes, I believe that it can. And I’m not sure that you have to change the setting. Same holds true with the KNFB. There’s at least six different languages that KNFB can do, and Spanish is one of those. So Josh, what do you want to add?

Josh Anderson:
I was going to say so going through it and everything on short text, yes, it’s got quite a few languages. There’s a little tiny button, says English on there and it can do English, Spanish, French, Italian, Netherlands, Portuguese, and a bunch that I can’t read because they’re well in a different language. But yes, you’re right, translation, no, it is not actually made for that kind of thing. In document, I’m with you Belva, I can’t figure out where the heck I go to change that setting.

Belva Smith:
Where did you find it in the short text?

Josh Anderson:
So if you go to short text down at the bottom right hand corner of the actual picture, it says EN. If you click on that, you should be able to get it to change. But you can also change currency and things like that. But again, it will be able to read in the other language, at least the short text kind of part, which is where you just hold it over and it automatically starts reading. But it cannot do the translation as least as far as I know.

Brian Norton:
So so what you’re saying is you can take a picture of an English document, it’ll read it to you in English. You can take a picture of a Spanish document, it’ll read it to you in Spanish. But you can’t take a picture of an English document and have it read it to you in Spanish.

Belva Smith:
Correct.

Josh Anderson:
Not that I know of that.

Brian Norton:
That translation piece. Interesting.

Tracy Castillo:
They want translation. I use Google. Before I learned of the other apps, I would just Google translations for different things. Sometimes they’re not all always proper. But Brian, we did a training yesterday and you showed me something cool. Did you actually have an app that translated something?

Brian Norton:
We talked a little bit about Microsoft Translator built into it. So you can take a document that you have in Microsoft office, in Word let’s say, and you can have that translated into a different language. There is also an app that we find really helpful, and I know we’ve used for different situations with some of our clients before, called Microsoft Translate. That’s a great one. And that’s more for communication, not necessarily for documentation.

Josh Anderson:
Actually it will take a picture of a document and translate it for you.

Brian Norton:
Oh, interesting. That’s great.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. There is a setting when you first open it, there’s a picture of a camera and you should be able to take a picture and have that translated for you.

Brian Norton:
Okay. So maybe that’s something for this particular person and for a question that maybe gets them closer to it. And again, that app is Microsoft Translate. And much like Seeing AI, Seeing AI as a free app. It’s only available on iOS devices, from what I understand. Is that still the case?

Belva Smith:
Yes.

Brian Norton:
Okay. And so that’s only available on iOS devices. Microsoft Translator is available, I believe, either on iOS and on Android devices. That’s a Microsoft app. It’s free, but sounds like maybe that’s a good solution for this particular person, if they’re trying to translate documents for them.

Tracy Castillo:
Can I add something about that? I would only use this as a patch. If you’re trying to get some document in Spanish for a person, I would have a person that actually speaks Spanish translate it document before handing off. This is only a patch.

Belva Smith:
Let’s walk this through. I have an English document that I want my Spanish student to have read to her. So step one would be to scan that into the computer and save that as a Word document. Open up Microsoft Word, have it translated then to Spanish. So then my question is, what is it? Isn’t it read aloud that’s available?

Brian Norton:
You can do immersive reader.

Belva Smith:
Immersive reader.

Brian Norton:
Yep.

Belva Smith:
So would it then read the Spanish? Do we know?

Brian Norton:
I’m pretty sure it does, absolutely.

Belva Smith:
Okay. Okay. Because if not, then we have to take it from Word and get it into Seeing AI, which is not a problem, that can be done. So then we’ve got the English document translated to Spanish and can then be read. A lot of work, but can be done.

Brian Norton:
Right. And I think maybe to Josh’s point with Microsoft Translator, if you can take Microsoft Translator, snap a picture of the document, have it translated, it’s on a device and your device, a lot of those devices, whether Android or iOS devices, have speech controls. So you can read the screen. I’m not sure exactly how accurate the pronunciation of particular words would be and what that speech would do to Spanish or different languages. But again, it may do a pretty good job with that, but that might be also another solution if you’re needing some sort of a mobile solution for somebody. Interesting.

Brian Norton:
Well, hey, I would love to just take a moment and open this up to our listeners. If you’ve maybe had a situation like this, that you’ve dealt with and you’ve had other solutions or had come up with an option for whoever you’ve been working with, or maybe it’s yourself, I’d love to have you chime in. You can give us a call on our listener line. That’s (317) 721-7124. Send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. Send us a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ. Let us know what you have done to address a particular issue like this.

Brian Norton:
All right. So our next question is, “I am looking for a computer application that will convert handwriting on PDF forms loaded in a computer running JAWS. The consumer currently does not have access to an iOS device.” And so I think maybe the first thing is a computer application that can convert handwriting, whether it’s on PDF or any other type of form, maybe that doesn’t necessarily matter, but finding something that can at least convert it. And I think the second thing is there, they’re running JAWS. And so again, visually that’s going to be a complication to be able to see where that is and understand that and have JAWS read whatever it converts to text. And so looking for a computer application that will convert handwriting on PDF forms on a computer that’s running JAWS. And so any thoughts on that one?

Tracy Castillo:
Well, I heard JAWS, so I’m kind of out of the running on this one.

Brian Norton:
For me, this is a pretty tough question.

Tracy Castillo:
Yeah.

Brian Norton:
Hand handwriting in general, there isn’t a lot of great things out there that can recognize it. I think probably the best thing that I have seen is the app that we talked about before it’s Seeing AI. It does recognize handwriting. But again, it depends on how well things are written. If they’re written in print, it’s probably going to do a pretty good job. If you write them in cursive, probably not. And so I think really it comes down to how well was whatever you’re trying to convert that handwriting, how well was it written, how legible is it, and is it legible enough for the computer to determine what those letter, characters, symbols, other things are, to be able to recognize it? I do know, and I haven’t had a lot of experience and maybe I’ll lean into what our listeners might have had some experience with, but I believe OneNote and Google Drive both offer this type of service through their computer apps.

Brian Norton:
And so I found an interesting article about it on the web. It’s from a place called makeuseof.com, and they talk about how to convert an image with handwriting to text using OCR. And I’m not sure if you knew this, but in OneNote, you do have an OCR option and it does a pretty good job. Again, depending on the legibility of that handwriting. That’s going to be the key component in all of this, whether it’s going to really do this. And in order to do that, what I understand in OneNote is you can right click on any picture and you can say, copy text from the picture. And then basically what that does is extracts the letters that are in the image and converts them to text that you can then edit. And so for those that aren’t familiar with OneNote, it’s a part of Office 365, but you don’t have to buy the whole package to get it. You can purchase it separately, or it’s free. Is it my understanding it’s free as well?

Tracy Castillo:
OneNote is. You can use it for free. I used to with the free accounts.

Belva Smith:
I think it’s included with Windows 10.

Brian Norton:
Okay. So it’s either included with Windows or you can just download it and get access to it if there’s a free option. I do know it comes as a part of Office 365 as one of their tools. But the cool thing I think about OneNote is it’s a cloud based program. You can use it across different platforms, smartphones, tablets, computers. And again, I can’t drive this home enough, as with all handwriting OCR apps, or I would consider with a thing that you do in OneNote, kind of an OCR app, it’s only going to be as good as the handwriting that you’re trying to interpret. If it’s not very legible, you shouldn’t expect great results from it. And so definitely think about that.

Brian Norton:
The other one is in within Google Drive and Google Docs, they have a few tools as well, that can turn handwriting into text. And so with Google Drive again, if you have a Gmail account or a Google account, you should have access to Google Drive, you can open the app. And then basically, what you can do is when you’ve got it open, you can hit the plus icon on the bottom corner of the screen and select scan. It basically, I believe, takes a picture of that, of whatever document you have open and then will actually then take that text and work its best to be able to convert it.

Brian Norton:
And so again, you need to scan your note to create a PDF document. And then once it’s open in Google Drive, it basically performs OCR and then hopefully will be able to then read that text to you. So I don’t know, a couple of different options for you there. I think are some other ones. But again, I think the real crux of this situation is how legible is the print. You would never be able to interpret my handwriting because mine’s pretty illegible, it’s not very legible. And so just want to kind of throw that out. Other thoughts?

Belva Smith:
Yeah, Brian. I know that OneNote has the conversion tool, meaning that it can take handwritten textual information and convert it to type text. And the good news is OneNote’s free, so it’s definitely not going to cost anything for the listener to try this. But I’m wondering if it can only convert text that has actually been written within the app. So this particular person is asking if they scan the information into the computer, can they then convert it from handwritten information to text information? And I’m just not confident that OneNote is going to be able to do that. But again, it’ll be easy enough to try. All you need to do is just scan the document in there and then open it with OneNote. And it’s only two steps to try to convert the handwritten information into text, to see if it does work. And hopefully it does.

Brian Norton:
I will say it is my understanding that it’ll take the imported picture that you’ve put into OneNote and try to do that. And so I think it can. If you’re taking a picture that of an item that has text in it, it will try to decipher what that is. And so it doesn’t have to be something that’s written directly within or it’s a part of something that you wrote within OneNote. I think it will actually let you import a picture and then try to basically OCR the text that’s contained within the picture to be able to then read it to you. But again, we had someone on our team work with a consumer recently on this particular task and it did not do it reliably. It wasn’t as reliable as what they had hoped. And so I think the real challenge with that is again, the legibility of the actual handwriting at that point.

Belva Smith:
And this is a Windows PC if we’re using JAWS.

Brian Norton:
Right, right.

Belva Smith:
You can use the Seeing AI app on your Windows PC, correct?

Brian Norton:
Sure, sure. Take a picture of the screen. Yeah.

Belva Smith:
Yeah.

Brian Norton:
So maybe that’s another option too. Yeah.

Belva Smith:
Yeah, you get yourself one of those scan jigs and capture your document and then have it read the handwriting. But again, it’s probably, I’m not sure what the situation is. But I’m assuming this is some sort of form that has been filled out and they need it to stay in consecutive sequence to make sure that answers have been put in the right place or whatever.

Brian Norton:
Right.

Belva Smith:
So tough question. But we’ve given them, or you have, given them some good possible solutions.

Brian Norton:
Yeah.

Tracy Castillo:
Let us know how it works. I want to know.

Belva Smith:
Yeah.

Brian Norton:
Yeah. I’ll open this up to our listeners. If you guys have come across a situation and found a good solution, or if you found problems with the solution that you have, let us know. We’d love to be able to connect with you and provide more information back to this particular person. You can give us a call on our listener line. That’s (317) 721-7124, or send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, or send us a tweet with hashtag ATFAQ. Those are ways that you can provide some more information on this particular question. Thanks.

Brian Norton:
All right. So our next question is, “I recently heard of the Neo Smartpen and RECO device. Any information on how this particular device works? With the Livescribe pen not being available right now, I’m looking for alternate solutions. Any info on Neo or other solutions in the same category would be great.” And so any experience with the Neo Smartpen or have folks heard of it, how it works, those types of things?

Tracy Castillo:
I’ve only heard about it and don’t know much about it. I do know that Livescribe pens were pretty much worth their weight and gold. They’re amazing, but they’re no longer available. So this is a solution to that.

Belva Smith:
So is it no longer available or just currently unavailable?

Brian Norton:
They’re not specific? Yeah, they’re not specific on when they’re going to come out. They’re supposed to be designing a new one and they haven’t updated and given anybody information on when that comes. And so it’s a part of the supply chain issue.

Belva Smith:
Okay. So the Smartpen is something that I have done very, very little work with because it does not typically meet the needs of my consumers. However, this situation takes me back to a situation that we had in the vision world when the Jordy went away. That was a very popular device that was used by a lot of visually impaired individuals. And suddenly it went unavailable, unavailable, unavailable, unavailable. And finally, after about a year and a half or so, they released that there was two little parts that they could no longer get to produce the Jordy. And the Jordy was gone as we knew it for many, many, many years, or as we knew it. It was reintroduced, I’m going to say 5, 6, 7 years later, but did not even begin to compare to what was. So hopefully that’s not the case for the Smartpen, because I do know a lot of folks did rely on that as a tool.

Speaker 6:
How long is it not available before you say it’s never going to be available? But go ahead.

Brian Norton:
That’s a really good question. Yeah. I think in the AT world, technology does come and go. Hopefully it’s going to stay around for a long. You talked about the Jordy, obviously the Livescribe pen is in that category as well. It’s hard to get your hands on one. And if people do get their hands on them, they typically are out there trying to sell it on eBay or Amazon for twice as much as what it was worth because it’s limited quantities and it’s just the economics behind all of that. I will say we’ve been researching the Neo Smartpen and the RECO device for a little while, or at least I’ve been digging into it a little bit, trying to understand how they work, because I do think that they could be a less expensive option when you think about what the Livescribe pen offered folks.

Brian Norton:
And so for those that aren’t familiar with the Livescribe pen, it was a digital recorder and a pen, all in one. And you use special notebooks to be able to then take notes in class. And this pen, not only was it recording the lecture, but it also had a camera on it. And with these special notebooks, they call them dot paper products, you could then with that camera, it knew what you were writing, where you were writing it. And so that if you would then go back after class, you would then be looking at your notes, trying to review what was said in the class. And you would come across maybe a note that you didn’t have, you couldn’t remember the real context behind why you thought it was important and why you wrote it down. And you can just simply take that pen and touch it to the text and then have it start actually playing the audio from when you wrote that particular note from when you were in the class.

Brian Norton:
And so it actually took the audio from the class and your hand notes and linked them together so that you can then kind of fill in the gaps when you got back and were trying to kind of re assimilate all of the information that you had taken down during class. My understanding is that the Neo Smartpens, they have a variety of them. They have one, I think that’s been around for the longest. It’s called Dimo. They also have some newer ones, the M1+, the M1 and the N2. Those are all different smart pens. The difference between the Neo Smartpens and the Livescribe is the Livescribe device had the recorder and the pen all in one. In order for you to do the same thing with the Neo Smartpens, you actually have to have a secondary device.

Brian Norton:
So you still have dot paper products, special notebooks that you have to take your notes in. You’ll have the pen, which will do their handwriting. And it will actually be able to do the handwriting all by itself. You can then take those digital notes and create them and move them over to the computer from the notebook to the computer, from what I understand, those types of things. However, in order to get it to actually link the recording in the class to the notes, you have to have this thing called Neo Smartpen RECO. And so it’s just a external microphone that you can link to the Neo Smartpen through Bluetooth, and then you can place anywhere in the class. And I’ve heard, we have a local university who is using these, and they are having some success with it. They do like it simply because with that remote microphone, you can just put it on the lectern or up in the front of the class with the teacher.

Brian Norton:
And you get clearer audio that way. It’s closer to the speaker. You’re getting better audio. You’re still linking it to your notes. And so the other thing about it is it’s about $80 less than what a Livescribe pen was. I’m not sure I love having two separate devices. I worry about someone losing one of them and then having a device that doesn’t necessarily do what they need. But for the price point and because you can’t get your hands on a Livescribe pen, maybe it is a good alternate solution for folks.

Brian Norton:
They mentioned other solutions. I’ll say there are apps out there that I love. There’s one called Notability, there’s something called AudioNote. There’s also another one called Mic Note. That’s just a Google app, it’s free, that you can then bring up on your computer and you can type your notes. I don’t know about you, but I can type notes faster than I can write notes. And so I’m able to keep up more quickly. These will actually not only link the recording that you’re getting in the class, because they’re recorders, they’re on your computer. But you can also then link it to your typewritten notes as well. And if you’re on a tablet, well you can use a stylist to hand write your notes if you would like as well. So there’s lots of additional options with that. I would also have you look at Notability. I believe it’s 10, $20 maybe, AudioNote, which is maybe around in that same price point, probably less. And then Mic Note’s absolutely free. There’s a couple of other note taking solutions that do some pretty similar things.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, I got to agree with you, Brian. I don’t like the idea that it’s two different pieces. It’s two things to charge or make sure I have batteries with, make sure I remember everywhere. I do like the way that I can put that different microphone somewhere else, because that was always kind of an issue with the smart pen, with the Echo. Just because if I’m not sitting real close or can’t really hear my teacher, I’ve got some issues with actually being able to get it [inaudible 00:31:19]. And we’ll see. I can’t tell if it’s real new or not to see if it’ll stick around, will be kind of the big thing.

Josh Anderson:
And, having the two different devices, think of Livescribe, the Echo pen was the one that’s been around forever and kind of worked. They’ve had 3, 4, 5 different iterations that have come out that require a separate device and just none of them ever stuck. I don’t know. Again, I’d hate to say it’s good or bad. Looking through it and reading it, it’s got some neat features. But as far as just linking your stuff and being able to have those note-taking things, I don’t know if it’s going to offer you the same usability and same kind of ease of use as the Echo pen kind of does.

Brian Norton:
I will say we are in the process of purchasing several of them. We have a local network, university network, that we’re working with to be able to kind of do a remote library with. And we’re going to be purchasing, in bulk, some of these pens, because they have told us that it works at one of their universities and they’re very, very excited about it. And so we’re going to be trying these out and we’ll probably have maybe later, and maybe another episode down the road, we can maybe update folks on our experience with it, to let you know exactly how we feel about it. But from again, the university’s side of things and from the information that they’ve given us, they feel like it’s a great solution. It’s been working really well for them.

Brian Norton:
I do have those same concerns, just what happens when you lose the actual recorder device? Well then it doesn’t do half of what you thought it was going to do. So we’ll definitely have some more information to share on this. So I’d love open this up. If you have had some experience with the Neo Smartpen or their RECO device, their recording device, let us know. We’d love to hear what your perspective. You can give us a call on our listener line. That’s (317) 721-7124, or send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. Thanks.

Brian Norton:
All right. So our next question is, “I have a hearing impaired student that is taking an in-person class in which students are required to break down into smaller groups to practice some negotiating skills. And then when the class reconvenes, after the small group work is done, they get back together to critique the negotiations. Obviously, this can pose a problem for the person who is hearing impaired, I’m assuming hard of hearing at this point. They do have at the university, face coverings, where you have the clear plastic over the front so folks can see folks and read lips a little bit easier, but they’ve only got a limited supply of those. Is there any technology, assistive technology, for speech to text that the student could use while in small group, so they can participate in the negotiations and in the class dialogue, I guess?”

Tracy Castillo:
That does sound like just a disaster right there.

Josh Anderson:
We get this a lot with the consumers we serve in our clinical program. And masks just exacerbate it, but it’s a problem that’s kind of been there the whole time. So usually what ends up being a pretty good accommodation and working pretty well is using something called Otter AI. It’s a transcription services, uses artificial intelligence. So it’s not perfect. You’re not going to have a perfect transcript of it. But other than hiring a person for small meetings, which I don’t even know if that’s possible, it works really well. What’s nice is not only will it transcribe everything that’s said in that small group, it will also differentiate between voices. So you actually know who said what. Depending on how long the meeting is, after a few minutes after that meeting, not only is the transcript fully available, but it’s searchable.

Josh Anderson:
So you can look up by keyword, by maybe something that someone said, so you can easily do that. So you have very, very good notes after the thing. But just to get the real time transcription. So you can look down at your phone, your tablet, your computer, whatever it is you’re using, and see that. One thing that’s very important, while you’re doing that, is making sure that you have a good microphone that can be sat in the middle. And that could just be your phone or your computer or your tablet or whatever it is you’re doing. The artificial intelligence is online. So you do need to be connected to the internet in some way, shape or form, which should, I would assume, be pretty easy on a university or a campus or anywhere where in person classes are. It works really well.

Josh Anderson:
There’s others out there. Otter is just the one I’ve used the most. If this is something that happens, maybe once a week, the free version may actually be enough for them. I think you get 600 free minutes of transcription per month. So if this is just for one class for one hour, each week, then they can probably use the free version. If they go with a paid version, there’s a couple more features and you get 6,000 minutes of transcription a month. So that should probably cover about everything that they would probably need. But it seems to work really well. The other thing is, depending, just because it does say they’re hearing impaired, if they happen to be someone who wears hearing aids, depending on how new those are, how they work, they may connect to their phone, be it an iPhone or Android.

Josh Anderson:
I know iPhone definitely has some settings where you can use your iPhone as a assisted listening device. So they’ll attach to the Bluetooth headphones and if there’s certain ones, you just aim the microphone of your phone at who’s speaking and that information will straight to your hearing aids. So it can make it a whole lot easier. And that’s something it depends on if they’re newer. You can find lists of those different places online and which ones work. Sometimes it’s nice to have both, if they can actually get that sound straight through to the hearing aids at the same time that they’re getting the transcription. And again, there’s other services out there, most of them have free versions or free trial versions. So maybe try out a few different ones. But I’ve had the most luck with Otter AI mostly because of those searchable notes after it’s all done.

Brian Norton:
Yeah. I’ll kind of echo that. I do love the Otter AI app. It’s really intuitive and easy to use and I do love how it converts it to text, you can export it places. It’ll also come up with a list of keywords and other things that were inside the conversation that was happening. Ava’s another one I’ve had a lot of people tell me about. And I think it does a lot of the same things. It is transcription. And it does put tags. Essentially with that one, the real challenge with that one is everybody would have their own device in front of them. And so everybody who’s a part of those negotiations in this particular class would have to have a smartphone or some device with the app installed. And not everybody probably would.

Tracy Castillo:
Did you say Ava, I’m sorry.

Brian Norton:
Ava.

Tracy Castillo:
Oh, okay. Yeah.

Brian Norton:
Then the other thing I would just recommend and maybe, I don’t know, it depends, I know this sounds like it’s an in person class, I would also encourage, just to throw this in here, if you’re on an online class and you’re needing to put people in discussion groups, breakout rooms, whatever they might call it with whatever particular tool you’re using, you may look at the transcription that’s built in. We use Zoom here quite a bit with our agency through INDATA, and our agency overall. We have paid for versions, but it’s my standing that within Zoom, they are going to make their live transcribe feature available for even the free versions very soon, if not already. And what I love about that is if you turn on captions and then you go to the more button you can get the see full transcript.

Brian Norton:
And what I love about that is it does break it down person by person, we’re all on our own devices. We put our names into those devices. And so that when I’m speaking, it’s basically saying Brian, and then it’s got a whole blurb about what I’m saying. And then if Josh would speak next, it would be a whole blurb of with Josh’s name above it. And then if Belva would go, and so on and so forth. And so just a real great way in an online class platform to be able to do some of what we’re talking about, that Otter AI or Ava offers folks as well. I think that’s something that we, over and through this pandemic, have really had to think about, especially for folks who are deaf or hard of hearing and some of the accommodations and some of the things that we do, day in and day out, you never really had to think about a lot of that stuff.

Brian Norton:
And so we’ve had to rethink how we do training and these tools that we use to do stuff have gotten better and better throughout the pandemic to be able to accommodate some of these things. But I would love to open this up to our listeners. If you guys have situations where you’re working with someone who’s hard of hearing, and they’ve got to be involved in group work, specifically when masks are required and it’s challenging to be able to have that person follow along in the conversation, whether that’s small group, large group, or even one on one, let us know the tools that you use, what you have found helpful for those situations. You can give us a call on our listener line. That’s (317) 721-7124, or send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, or a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ. Love to hear from you. Thanks.

Belva Smith:
Brian, before we go to the next question, I want to wrap this one up by saying this person should probably try to reach out to an audiologist to see what devices might be available, especially if they are currently wearing a hearing aid, which they may or may not be.

Brian Norton:
That’s a really great point. Because a lot of times your audiologist, if you are hard of hearing and you have hearing aids, there are a lot of tools that they can give to you or provide to you that may work well. FM systems, the Roger Pen comes to mind, those work I believe with Phonak hearing aids. It’s a little FM system where you can put a pen out on the desk and point it at the different folks that are speaking, and is a pointed microphone that helps you hear what’s being said easier. But that’s a really good point. Thank you for chiming in with that. That’s great.

Brian Norton:
All right. So our next question is, do you know if there is a way to set different refresh rates on Windows 10. Essentially this person had tried it on their computer and it defaults to 60 and doesn’t have any other options. And they are wondering, I guess they work at a business, if this this some thing that the IT department would need to correct or is this something that they can change themselves? And I’ll just throw this out there. I don’t think they mentioned anything about the type of monitor that they have. I think it’s important to note that flat screens still have a refresh rate. You still have something that should be adjustable within Windows to be able to adjust that refresh rate.

Brian Norton:
And I think the difference is if you have an older monitor, and I don’t ever see too many of those anymore, they’re called CRT monitors, they’re the ones with the big tubes on the back. They take up your whole desk if you’ve got a large one. The only real difference between those flat screens, other than the size and then the bulkiness, is that the flat screens can have a much faster refresh rate than the older CRT monitors could handle. So for instance, traditional CRT monitors would typically refresh somewhere around 60 times a second or 60 megahertz, whereas the new monitors are capable of refresh rates way up above 120, 240 megahertz, depending on the quality and the type of monitor that you have.

Brian Norton:
In order to change your refresh rate, you should be able to do that yourself, especially on a Windows 10 PC. You can go to settings, system, display, advanced display settings, and then click the display adapter properties, and then the monitor tab. It’s buried, but it’s way down deep inside some of those settings. But then you should see a list box with some different refresh rates. And I know you mentioned yours, you found them, I guess, because you can tell it’s defaulted to 60, but you don’t have any other options. Well, I’m wondering if that’s maybe a property of your monitor, and as you said, “Maybe that’s something my IT department needs to help me with.” And I would always encourage you to involve IT if need be, but it’s probably most likely related to the monitor that you’re using.

Belva Smith:
That’s my understanding, Brian, though you do have some different, sometimes you have some different options in the settings of Windows 10. It’s truly controlled by the display itself or the monitor itself, because it can only do whatever the monitor will allow it to do. And I think default is 60. So that’s probably why that’s the option that they’re seeing and maybe the only one that they’re seeing. And if that’s the case, then my understanding is it has everything to do with the display.

Brian Norton:
Yeah. I believe with our program in our clinical program, we’ve seen a lot of folks, a lot of our evaluators, move to these BenQ monitors because they have what is called a very low flicker rate. And so if you need something that’s crisp and bright and can really handle a lot of video and other types of things, this low flicker rate will sometimes be a real helpful piece to that. If you’re looking for real quality monitor, BenQs are pretty good. And they’ve got some different models and qualities.

Belva Smith:
Gaming monitors typically are good with different options available for the refresh rate because as we know, gaming can be so flashy and fast paced and all that.

Brian Norton:
Yep. And I do like your suggestion too, Belva, that it’s oftentimes the monitor that controls it, itself. And so you may also dig into the monitor settings, if your monitor has buttons, to be able to get into the menu system. There’s probably options to change it directly on the monitor itself. But it’s my understanding most of the time when you plug those things in, the computer and the monitor figure it out to what’s the best optimization based on what your computer can handle and what the monitor can handle. And they’re going to pick the best option that’s there. Is that right?

Belva Smith:
That’s correct. And if you try to choose something that they know better than, it’ll usually give you a warning-

Tracy Castillo:
And if it really gives it up, it’ll flash it back.

Belva Smith:
Yep, yep.

Brian Norton:
Yep. That’s interesting. Yeah. So I think it is important to look at those warnings. And a lot of times, most of the time, I believe you can choose an option. And then it brings up the warning and says, “Hey, look at your screen, tell me if this is what you want. If you don’t, revert back.” And you can kind of get out of those. I’m not sure that’s the case if you change it directly on the monitor. Maybe that happens more so when you change it within the computer settings and through all those system settings, dialogues, that walk folks through. But if you change it on the monitor, you’re probably stuck with it until you change it back on the monitor.

Belva Smith:
The monitor will warn you just as well. The monitor knows, hey, you’re asking for something that I cannot do very well. Are you sure you really want to do that?

Brian Norton:
Right. Right, exactly. Excellent, excellent. Hey, hopefully that answers the question. I’m not sure if folks have had this issue. Again, I would also say if you’re still having trouble with it and you can’t find a way to change it, talk to your IT department. Maybe they need to swap out your monitor. Maybe there’s something that they’ve locked down on your computer. And so definitely connect with them, have that conversation. But hey, I’d love to open this up to our listeners. If you guys have any feedback on changing the refresh rate and maybe what an optimal refresh rate would be or could be with folks that you’ve worked with, let us know. You can give us a call on our listener line. That’s (317) 721-7124, or send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. Love to hear from you.

Brian Norton:
And now it’s time for the wild card question.

Brian Norton:
So our next question is the wild card question. And this is a question that Belva has thought of, that we’ve had no time as a panel to discuss or come up with answers for. So Belva, what do you have for us today?

Belva Smith:
So I know we’re just a few days away from Thanksgiving. But that also means then we’re just a few weeks away from Christmas. Have you guys started your Christmas shopping and have you noticed that some of the things that you would normally see at Christmas time or get at Christmas time unavailable?

Josh Anderson:
I’ll go real quick. No, I haven’t. I haven’t really went out shopping. Really haven’t went out to do anything lately. But we have done some shopping online. Luckily, we started pretty early and most things were okay. But my wife wanted two smaller Christmas trees to decorate our living room. And we ordered them. They said they’d be here November something. And then I got the email today that said January 6th.

Brian Norton:
Wow.

Josh Anderson:
Which I’m kind of hearing on everything. So we’re trying to get the over under on May on whether they’ll actually be here or not. But yeah, I have heard some horror stories and I know everything I see on the news is if there’s something specific you want and you see it, buy it. Now I did hear also that a lot of retailers, if they get a decent size shipment, they’re holding things back. They’re only putting so much on the shelf and they’re keeping things in the back room to put out as sales come or as that last week before Christmas and things. But I think it kind of depends on what you want and really if you’re willing to wait for it or maybe even pay extra for things.

Tracy Castillo:
So Tracy’s taking a different approach. So we have a huge family, well my husband’s side of the family is huge. And because of Corona and I hate to blame everything on it, but gosh, it’s what caused it, seems like everybody is afraid to get together again. This year for Thanksgiving, I’m having dinner at my house to save money for Christmas. I’m going to start talking politics at the table. And so therefore I won’t have to put up a tree. It’ll be just the three of us. But no, I haven’t. Just also, because Corona made me look at my family a little bit differently, one gift, something that’s going to be subtle and just make a little statement, I’m looking at Fitbits for my kid just to keep track of him. I haven’t really thought about buying people things. Everybody may just get a white mug with my signature on it. Just write my signature on it.

Brian Norton:
Yeah. Family pictures for everybody.

Tracy Castillo:
That was number two, if I can get the pictures back in time.

Brian Norton:
Right. For me, I haven’t started any shopping and I probably should have. We have changed the way we go about shopping. Most of the time, we’re just doing experiences. We don’t do a lot of technology shopping over the holidays. Usually I’m waiting until after the holidays. I’ve heard exactly what Josh has heard. And I know ordering technology, chip shortages are real and they’re here to stay for at least the future at this point. Hopefully that’ll change. I’ve seen things. If you’re buying a PlayStation, the new PlayStation, it’s not really going to be on the shelves until February or March, but you can get in line for one, if you want, or purchase one and get put on that waiting list for it. So anyways, I have not started shopping. I really do need to because there are things. But I think this year it’s just going to be buy what’s on the shelf or find things that are on the shelf that I can buy and be able to give to folks. But I haven’t done that yet.

Belva Smith:
Shame on you, Brian.

Brian Norton:
I know, I know. I know.

Belva Smith:
But I think that’s typical for males. I’m serious.

Josh Anderson:
Hey. Hey, let’s not lump everybody together here.

Belva Smith:
He does his Christmas shopping two days before Christmas Eve, sometimes Christmas Eves.

Josh Anderson:
Now, does he do it at the gas station?

Belva Smith:
Maybe.

Josh Anderson:
See, perfectly fine.

Brian Norton:
That’s different.

Josh Anderson:
Everyone needs lottery tickets, Belva.

Tracy Castillo:
You’re going to get Christmas chocolates.

Belva Smith:
I have started doing my shopping. I’ve primarily done everything online. Brian, I also decided this year for the grownups, it is going to be an experience not buying them a gift. But the grandkids, of course, they need their gifts. Madeline will be 11 in December this year. Every year for Christmas, I have bought all of the grandkids a Teddy bear that says Christmas, whatever year. I’ve always gotten those Teddy bears at Walmart. But this year when I went to Walmart, they do not have the Teddy bears. So I came home, got on the Walmart website and available online only are my Teddy bears this year. I know. I can’t pick them up at any of the stores. So I ordered them online. Several of the things that I have tried to order, and these are not electronic things, these are just toy things that my kids have put on their list, are unavailable. Or as Josh said, will be available in January, will be available in… I can’t go with January. I need guarantee it’s going to be here for Christmas.

Tracy Castillo:
Well the Sharpies, they have plenty of Sharpies. We can just draw people pictures.

Belva Smith:
I have noticed that there is some delay in being able to get things and some things that we’ve wanted to get we’re just not going to be able to get. And why my Teddy bears are online only, I don’t know. I told Todd maybe they’re sitting in one of those things out on the ocean somewhere.

Tracy Castillo:
Or maybe they’re part of the packages that fell to the ocean floor.

Belva Smith:
Right. Who knows? Maybe they’ll come wet. We’ll see. But anyway, just a reminder for those of you who have not started your shopping, probably a good idea to think about getting it started. All in all, I think I’ve got everybody’s wish list taken care of. But there have had to be some adjustments and Christmas will be here before we know it.

Brian Norton:
Yeah, absolutely. And this is a good plug for an upcoming episode of AT Update. We are going to be having our holiday podcast coming out where every year on AT Update, we talk about Christmas gifts. Josh, I don’t know if you wanted to mention anything about that, but I think it’s a good opportunity for folks to hear about some cool things.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, we do that every Black Friday. So we come out every Friday, but our Black Friday show is always the gift giving guides. We just talk about neat things that are technology, are AT, or at least maybe some fun stuff. And this year it’s myself, Brian and Nikol Prieto here from the INDATA Project. And we’ll be talking about all kinds of cool stuff. So definitely give it a listen. Hopefully some of the things we talk about are actually available still on Black Friday.

Tracy Castillo:
That would be convenient.

Josh Anderson:
I thought about just telling my kids they were bad this year.

Brian Norton:
[crosstalk 00:55:56] Yeah. Next year, we might have to do a Christmas in July podcast for you guys so people can still have time to buy them. That’s really good. Well hey, if you guys have anything, if folks who are listening for this wild card question, have any thoughts on gift giving, technology, have you started, those kinds of things, again, would love to connect with you on that. You can give us a call on our listener line. That’s (317) 721-7125. Or send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. Want to thank Belva, Josh and Tracy for being here with us on the podcast today and give them an opportunity to say goodbye. So Tracy, want to say goodbye?

Tracy Castillo:
Nope. I’m staying here.

Brian Norton:
Excellent. Excellent. You’re going to hang on for the next two weeks right here.

Tracy Castillo:
I’m right here, I’m right here.

Brian Norton:
Excellent.

Tracy Castillo:
Thanks guys. I can’t wait to hear your feedback. We give you lots of opportunities to provide it. Until next time.

Brian Norton:
Yep. And then Belva.

Belva Smith:
Thanks everybody. Thank you Brian, for having me and everybody have a safe week.

Brian Norton:
Excellent. And then Josh.

Josh Anderson:
Thank you for listening everybody. Can’t wait to see you back here next time.

Brian Norton:
Perfect. Perfect. Tracy will still be here.

Tracy Castillo:
I’ll still be here. I’ll be waiting here.

Brian Norton:
We do want to thank you guys for tuning in with us this week. Again, send us your feedback. It’s a great way to connect with us. We do love to hear from you. You can do that on our listener line. That’s (317) 721-7124. Send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, or tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ. Without your questions, without your feedback, we don’t really have a show. And so be a part of it, help us continue this great show. And we will talk to you guys in a couple weeks.

Brian Norton:
And it seems like every week we have at least one blooper. So here you go.

Tracy Castillo:
You rearrange things.

Brian Norton:
Always.

Tracy Castillo:
Oh man. Didn’t know that.

Josh Anderson:
If they say technology, they just automatically send them.

Tracy Castillo:
If they say I’m getting a computer, iPad or any other device, they send them to me.

Brian Norton:
See, I got you guys beat. When they say hi, my name ism they send them to me.

Brian Norton:
All right. So the next question is our wild question. Wild question.

Josh Anderson:
A wild question.

Tracy Castillo:
It is a wild question. That’s a wild question.

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 and produced by Brian Norton, it’s editorial help from Josh Anderson, Belva Smith and Tracy Castillo, receives support from Easterseals Crossroads and INDATA Project. The show transcript sponsored by InTRAC, the Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation. To learn more about InTRAC, go to Indianarelay.com. Assistive Technology FAQ is also a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. To find more of our shows, go to accessibilitychannel.com.

 

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