Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Qast 223: Head Scratching Braille Bugs

In late January the BBQ Crew reconvened in Clubhouse to talk about some of the trends they experienced in 2021. JJ, Joe, Patrick, Ricky and Shelly rolled through the year that was, before taking on the daunting task of their 2022 predictions. Tune in to find out if you agree with the viewpoints of the BBQ Crew. And sound off with your own insights in the comments section below or tweet us @blindbargains on Twitter.


The iOS Braille bugs mentioned in this program were finally addressed in a recent 15.3.1 patch. It is too soon to tell if this will resolve the issues mentioned in the podcast, however, the sentiment that there should have been a patch sooner in the iOS 15 release cycle still remains. For those who rely on Braille for their primary form of using the device, this was a devastating problem, not a mild nuisance that could be easily ignored. So, the remarks made are still valid for future iOS releases, and we hope this whole debacle results in stronger and tighter testing results before a future release to the general public.

3:30 COVID

The group talked about their experiences when accessing the sign up pages for vaccines and boosters. Regional differences vastly impacted the Crew as there was no uniformity amongst the various rollouts from the local providers. Test kits were another topic discussed with the group noting the lack of access on that front as well. Visual interpreter services are helpful, but there is no direct way to read your test results privately at this time.

16:31 Supply Chain Issues Everywhere

JJ tells tales of woe on what it has been like to stock, ship and work with his partners over the last year at our sister site A.T. Guys.
Ricky noted the trouble Humanware had with comments on social media regarding meeting demand after the launch of their new BI-x Braille Displays.
Joe echoed that Google ran into the same problem with the debut of the new Pixel 6 line. And sometimes the product might be in stock, yet the Amazon shipping time might be longer than you'd expect. Patrick stated that it was not just an electronics issue because he waited a few months for a specialized part made out of plastic. Shelly relayed that having an alternate choice in mind is crucial when making a big ticket purchase, like appliances, as the most popular option may take a few days after forever to arrive. She adds that luck and research may help when making those kinds of purchases.

22:20 NLS Braille Display Beta

How are Braille Displays and Girl Scout Cookies alike? Well, it turns out that the model of display offered to you depends on your location in the U.S. This is kind of like the naming convention for a famous flavor of delectable cookie. We will not declare whether Zoomax or Humanware is a Samoa though. The conversation then turned to the reasons why someone would still buy a Braille Display in the commercial market if they already have an NLS badged model. Upsell features, like notetaking options and quieter operation, may still allow other models to stand out. Joe said that having familiarity with Braille gives someone better justification for moving up to a 40, or even an 80, cell model to complete tasks in education or at a work setting. JJ pondered if an open model approach may drive up commercial prices of displays as it has in some international territories.

We then move on to a discussion about self-contained devices like the HIMS BrailleSense 6 and the APH Mantis. Ricky says that the idea of using a self-voicing all in one Braille notetaker is still a popular choice for some types of jobs and for students. The easy exporting of materials, along with wireless connections to the internet or a smartphone, are powerful tools to have on hand. Not to mention that having a backup display is incredibly helpful as well when it comes to using another display over the NLS model.

34:50 iOS Issues

Patrick and Ricky go into depth about the problems they have been encountering for months with iOS 15 and Braille Displays. In some cases, the issues are severe enough to freeze or hard reset their iPhones. Joe noted that touch targets have been problematic too as he said that visually placing your finger on a button did not always correspond to Voiceover recognizing the correct focus point. Screen recognition was not a work around method either for interacting with explore by touch navigation. JJ added that it seemed like QA and the core development teams are not catching these things prior to release.

40:00 Windows 11

The Crew admit to who is running the shiny new OS from Microsoft. JJ submitted that there was no real urgency to take on 11, that Windows 10 still has some life left and Shelly mentioned that Microsoft has been signaling that through their upgrade statements so far. Ricky said that her 4 year old system was not compatible and that she was not going to lose sleep about it. Joe, who is crazy enough to have it on 4 computers, felt like there was not a compelling feature that was a must have at launch. But he did say that the OS was a work in progress and new features would be arriving in waves outside the traditional service pack delivery method.

47:40 Accessible Gaming On The Rise

In 2020 Ricky finished her first Playstation game when she beat The Last Of Us 2 . Last year she completed her first Xbox game when she knocked out all the achievements in The Vale". JJ has been playing Harthstone and Wordle through the use of accessible mods. These games join a growing list of mainstream titles that are becoming more accessible by design or by a third party modification. People are playing the Jack Box games with screen readers on multiple platforms. Joe was thrilled that Microsoft was providing audio description in their gaming announcements, and he pointed out that their was a Most Accessible Game category at the Game Awards for the past two years. Sadly, Nintendo is the only mainstream videogame console on the market that does not have speech on board natively.
Yet the most remarkable thing in gaming came from iOS and the incredible support the community provided to the developer of SwordyQuest. It has been seven months since the game launched and there are new features being added as a result of a dedicated, and very vocal, fanbase. A well-deserved Golden Apple from Apple Vis was an acknowledgment of not only the amazing efforts of a developer, but a tribute to a community who rallied around that developer when gamer toxicity emerged early on in the game s life cycle.

Finally, both Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass seem to have no screen reader friendly titles to offer those looking for mobile all you can play gaming.

55:10 The Future

Here are the group s predictions for 2022.
Joe: a flood of new dongles but none will be accessible
Ricky: Resurgence of fewer touch screen-driven devices; people will rethink things and return to more tactile operations
Patrick: parts shortage may affect accessibility and future designs
Shelly: augmented reality/virtual reality/mixed reality products; very expensive and prototypy, not likely accessible
J.J.: A graphics tablet from a new source

JJ is heading off to CSUN in March. And the BBQ will keep playing around with platforms like Clubhouse for listener engagement. But you might find that our little show may take on new topics from time to time. The truth is that the landscape is changing rapidly, but Assistive Technology is consolidating so much that there is not really a wealth of news to cover in the way we used to provide that to you in the past. Therefore, we are going to take the road less traveled and explore stories and things that interest the BBQ Team. We are not giving up our in person event coverage, and the mandatory Apple/Google/Microsoft event thingies, but we want to talk about things beyond our original tech focus. We hope you will find these subjects as interesting as we do and, as always, we appreciate your feedback along the way as we conquer new avenues of information and entertainment content.

Related Links

At-Home Coronavirus Tests Are Inaccessible to Blind People - New York Times (subscription required)
Why many blind people can't take an at-home COVID-19 test - Texas Standard
Sight Tech Global Returns for Year Two - AccessWorld
The Holy Braille : The development of a new tactile display combining Braille and graphics in one experience - Sight Tech Global featuring Greg Stilson of APH and Andrew Flattres of HumanWare

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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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