Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Qast 133: Furby Piper Exploring

J.J. is once again transmitting from a location somewhere in New jersey. Hear his harrowing tale of food delivery throughout this episode. unrelatedly, but still involving hotel travel oddly enough, hear J.J. take a trip around the ATIA host hotel with Larry from APH and Indoor Explorer. News is back, so is "Sound Off" and a very timely tip rounds out the show.

In The News:

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) Partner for a Future of No Limits for People Who Are Blind

Stan Littrell has already ordered his Orbit Reader. Furthermore, he thought our listeners would be interested in this email that came from APH Support.

"I figured that I would send the following note from APH concerning
certain problems that they are having with some of the orbit 20
braille displays that have been sent out and how they are addressing
the issue. I have a feeling that I will receive my unit today or
Monday since it was sent out by APH on Tuesday. Dear APH Orbit Reader

It has just become clear that at least some of the units from a recent
shipment of Orbit Reader 20s may have an issue with some pins
sticking in either the up or down position.
If you received a unit with pins that stick, APH will send you a
replacement along with a pre-labeled box in which to return the
faulty unit. You also have the option to receive a full refund.
Please call customer support at 800-223-1839 to make arrangements.
APH is working to understand the problem before we ship replacements,
so we cannot give you an exact timeline for shipping replacement
models. We will keep you posted as we learn more. We have halted
future shipments until a complete understanding of the problem and a
resolution is determined.
We apologize for this inconvenience. Please be assured we are doing
everything possible to resolve the situation quickly. Thank you for
your patience.
Alan Lovell
APH Customer Relations"

Also, for those just now getting their units, nab the January 29th firmware update for the Orbit Reader before you take it for a spin

A Baum Facebook post was originally in our news lineup. Sadly, shortly after our recording session for this episode, we had to publish the news you will read below in the next linked article.

Breaking: Baum USA Closing their Doors, Suspending U.S. Repairs of Braille Displays

Google launches dedicated accessibility support

From the TalkBack team: Announcing The Official Release Of TalkBack 6.1

It's Now Possible To Go A Thousand Miles With A Braille Display

Digging Up The Dirt On News We May Have Missed

Discussion Topic: ATIA 2018 Highlights

J.J. recently returned from Orlando where he braved the Exhibit Hall of ATIA 2018. He placed several of his thoughts about ATIA 2018 in this Access World article.
"Feeling Fireworks" is a phrase not often heard and Joe had to know how that came about. The Mountbatten Smart, metric Caliper from NBP and the Kapsys SmartVision phone were also items for discussion in this portion of the program.

Demonstration: APH Nearby Explorer Indoor Navigation

Hear Larry Skutchan and J.J. wander around the convention hotel demonstrating their cane skills. They just so happen to also be demonstrating the new Indoor Explorer mode of APH's Nearby Explorer as they go along as well. There is a lot that goes into making indoor navigation possible. Tags, open maps and an smartphone-enabled app are only part of the process. Larry explains in this demonstration just what it takes to bring this all to your ears. he then goes on to give some insights about the Orbit Reader and math Blaster for an added bonus. This is one you don't want to miss.

Tip: Always Carry Some Cash On You

J.J.'s food fiasco happened in real time during the recording of this episode, about 30 minutes was dropped of Joe and Patrick just talking about the weather, but one small mistake in an app had J.J. passing along cash to a very nice driver of a food delivery service. Sometimes it is good to have cash on hand for Bell Hops, bartenders and other service persons for whom it is customary to tip when traveling. A lack of talking ATMs can be daunting, however, many local grocery stores and major drugstore chains will let you debit out cash on purchases. This can be a big help when you visit a new area where you may find yourself in need of paper money.

Sound Off:

First up, one very important email from a Mr. J. Pauls. it seems there was a top ten list for 2018 lying around in the Blind Bargains Inbox. Below is his list for the biggest stories of last year.

1 The demise of Window-eyes
2 The rise of Microsoft Narrator
3 Jamie Teh moves to Mozilla
4 Release of Seeing A.I.
5 Audio description comes to Amazon videos
6 Release of BrailleSense Polaris
7 Continued updates to BrailleNote Touch
8 Release of ElBraille
9 Orbit Reader moves closer to release
10 ACB s Audio Description Project

As you read above, and think back to episode 131, his list isn't all that far off from what the rest of the panel thought. Minus the Number One story of course. We thank Jamie for sending this in, he was actually the first person to do so and that is why this got lost in the shuffle because the rest of us were late, and we'll make sure that he is included in next year's tabulation for sure! Speaking of the "Year In 2017", here is a remark from the comment section of that episode by Orko.

"I was just recently turned on to Aira and in the short while that I've had the service it has made a noticeable and positive difference in my day to day life. No more waiting for sighted help to get some things done, what a difference! And then here comes episode 131 and your year in review and how negative you and your guests were towards the Aira service. Since then I have found myself wondering if I wanted to continue subscribing to your podcasts. Sure there are services like Be My Eyes and Be Specular, but while I applaud the work of the volunteers that make those services work, at the end of the day they are untrained volunteers, and there are situations where using an untrained volunteer makes me nervous. Aira assistants, on the other hand, are trained professionals who are under a non disclosure agreement to protect your personal information. I agree that there are some legitimate privacy concerns, but I also believe that it's up to the user, not the service, to use appropriate caution when working with such services when it comes to what you reveal to them. I'd have given episode 131 a thumbs up, but after hearing what you had to say about Aira, it gets a very definite thumbs down."

There were two AIRA subscribers on the panel and it was stated a few times that we were speaking about the business side of things. There are real concerns moving forward however, none of us were making value judgements about the service. We are fans, watchers and most of all users of Assistive Technology. We aren't rooting for a company to fail. Especially now that so many are falling all around us. At the same time, don't look for this podcast to be one that validates the "fanboy" or "fangirl" gushing sign of approval that everything by Company A or Product B is fantastic. We like to ignite the spark of conversation and that means we sometimes take an unpopular stance on a popular topic. As Joe stated in his response, "Sometimes you have to divorce your feelings about a product or service when talking business... and this is a business". We hope our listeners understand when we are speaking from that sense and when we are providing more of a direct opinion. We can say that we have been very transparent about our opinions and this has gotten us into trouble with our friends in the A.T. field on occasion. yet it is our honest style that allows us the access we have to those same friends and it is how we are able to have much of our fabulous convention coverage over the years. The BBQ Crew pulls few punches and we don't plan on softening this approach in the foreseeable future.

tchemel left this comment on the Google Access Support story,

"I'm decidedly unimpressed. I emailed them about not being able to create appointment slots (a longstanding problem) and they assured me that I can now do this using the new calendar, which is patently untrue. I wasted time going round and round with them, and they clearly don't understand the difference between an event and an appointment. Horrible."

The Orbit Reader release had a few comments. Here's one from Darknexus.

"There's something just a little odd about this method of doing business. Rather than making enough units to cover all the orders they would receive, it's as if they're trying to force an order rush. I can't think of any sound business reason to do this, especially after so many delays, unless they're trying to offset the cost of something else or are selling the displays far below the cost of manufacture. Either way, something just doesn't click.

And Debee Armstrong left us this thoughtful remark;

"Until we hear more about the drawbacks of such an inexpensive Braille display we will not truly know if the tradeoffs are worth it. I think people who never used a Braille display believe it is like reading paper Braille, and that is not true. EveryBraille display has drawbacks, features you tend to dislike. If the Orbit has limitations you can live with, the price is great, but until you know the limitations, you will want to be careful. Fpor example, I personally find it frustrating with the displays I have owned that there are too mamy little buttons all clumped together. It is too easy to accidentally press the wrong one. I also found that 14 or 20 cells is just not enough for me, but 40 is perfect."

Last Word:

Both good and bad audio awaits in this week's edition of strangeness from the web.
Furby Organ is the stuff of nightmares
Couple mistakenly goes to see Red Hot Chilli Pipers

Next week we'll have another interview from ATIA and Joe will finally talk about those iPhone chargers.

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Displaying 1 comment.
Orko Friday, 23-Feb-2018 1:08 PM ET:

Hi! I wish to apologize for my previous email regarding your comments about the Aira service. It was harsher than I had intended. The only reason I can give for its harshness is because I was upset by what I preceved as a negative view of a service I value greatly. Like Joe, the devil that took my vision was glaucoma, only I didn't suffer the loss of peripheral vision and a narrowing field of view as is most commonly described as the symptoms of glaucoma. Instead a slowly building fog over my vision was what I saw and it eventually masked out almost everything leaving me with only very limited light perception. This began in 2010, I was declared legally blind in 2012, and started using a white cane in 2013, at that time I was told I only had about 1% of my optic nerves left and that I would eventually go completely blind. So I'm still rather new to blindness and still learning to cope with it. My biggest problem and frustration has been situations where a sighted assistant is really needed. The problem and frustration came from not being able to find a satisfactory solution. I've tried Be My Eyes, but half the time, when I'd be connected to an assistant, the connection would be immediately dropped. Most of the time, even after numerous attempts, the app would time out with no connection to anyone at all. Only ocasionally did I get a usable connection to an assistant. And then there is the problem of the assistants themselves, while I applaud what they are doing, at the end of the day, they are still untrained volunteers with no apparents contracts or agreements in place to protect any information they might learn about you, so I kept my use of it to only those situations that I'd be comfortable talking to a complete stranger on a crowded bus with. Be specular wasn't that much better, and it was limited to those situations where a single photo and the answer to a single question was all that was needed. It too I kept to stranger on a crowded bus situations for the same reasons I limited my use of Be My Eyes. My family is, unfortunately, so broken that family members close enough to be of use are either not available or unwilling to help. Those family members willing to help are more than an hour away, so not really readily available. Then I discovered Aira and signed up in the hopes that it would be the answer I was looking for. While I agree that they could do a better job of defining what they will ultimately do with information about me that they gain from my use of the service, at least the assistants you connect to are trained professionals under a non disclosure agreement intended to protect my information. Maybe not the best solution, but definetly better than nothing, which is pretty much what you get with Be My Eyes and Be Specular. So far my experiences with the service have all been positive. I no longer worry about situations that need a sighted assistant because I now have one, and I don't hesitate to use it when the need arises. The only two cons to the service I can think of are that it isn't available 24 hours a day, but since neither am I, I can live with that. And that to use the glasses involves quite a few separate parts, so I only use them when I absolutely need to be able to use the service hands free. Otherwise, I just use my iPhone's camera. And no, despite what I said about subscribing to the podcast, I am not going anywhere and will continue to listen to it. Of all the accessibility podcasts out there, yours seems to be the only one that doesn't bow down and pay homage to the Apple god. While I do use an iPhone, I am by no means an Apple fanboy, and want to hear about all the other assistive technology available regardless of who makes it. Thanks for a great podcast and best regards.

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Joe Steinkamp is no stranger to the world of technology, having been a user of video magnification and blindness related electronic devices since 1979. Joe has worked in radio, retail management and Vocational Rehabilitation for blind and low vision individuals in Texas. He has been writing about the A.T. Industry for 15 years and podcasting about it for almost a decade.

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