Full Issue: AccessWorld July 2019

Editor's Page: Back to School

At AccessWorld July is the time of year when we think, "Back to School.” A new school year is on the horizon, bringing new classes, instructors, class projects, presentations, tests, and people. This year you might even be starting at new school or moving away to college.

The thought of all of these challenges might bring about a feeling of uncertainty. But that's not necessarily a bad thing! Expanding your comfort zone, learning new ways of accomplishing tasks, finding and using new resources to your best advantage, upping your interpersonal communication and orientation and mobility skills, and taking it upon yourself to become more independent and responsible can all be very rewarding. This is true now, when you're a student, and will remain true in the future, as you advance along your career path.

This time of year can be exciting, too, especially if you prepare in advance. Pursuing an education can be difficult under the best of circumstances and doing so as a person with vision loss can increase the challenge.

For all of the students in our readership: you must take personal responsibility for your education, and you must be your own advocate. It is very important to prepare in advance, speak to your instructors, and tell those you'll be working with exactly what types of accommodations will best meet your needs. Your education will have a tremendous impact on every aspect of the rest of your life, so it's crucial that you do everything you can to get the most out of your studies.

Good planning prevents poor performance! It's never too early to begin planning for the next school term, whether you're in elementary school or graduate school. Acquiring and learning to use the mainstream and access technology that best suits your situation, registering as early as possible for classes, obtaining reading lists, and searching out accessible formats should all be done as soon as you can. You will also want to contact the student services office at your school to find out what types of support or resources may be available to you. Waiting until the last minute is a recipe for disaster.

With our annual Back to School issue, the AccessWorld team once again focuses on providing valuable information and resources for students, parents, teachers, and professionals in the vision loss field to help make educational pursuits less stressful and more enjoyable. We are excited to bring you the information in this issue, and we sincerely hope you will find it useful.

Be sure to check out past "Back to School" issues from AccessWorld. The July issues of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 all contain information that can still be pertinent today.

We on the AccessWorld team wish you good luck and good planning as you head back to school!


Lee Huffman

AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief

American Foundation for the Blind

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Educational Resources and Tips from the AFB Information and Referral Center

Tara Annis and Lee Huffman, edited and updated by Aaron Preece

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the July 2010 issue of AccessWorld. Because it provides valuable evergreen information, we have republished it here with updates to reflect the significant changes in available technology since the original publication. Note that the Information and Referral department referenced in this article is now housed at the American Printing House for the Blind.

The American Foundation for the Blind Information and Referral Center receives over 250 inquiries every month related to vision loss. Tara Annis, AFB's information and referral specialist, answers these inquiries, which come from people with visual impairments, their family and friends, teachers, social workers, medical and rehabilitation professionals, employers, high school and college students conducting research, and the general public.

The questions cover a broad range of topics, including locating services for people who are blind or visually impaired, assistive technology and daily living products, assisting parents of visually impaired children, books in alternative formats, and assisting seniors who are losing vision as they age.

Tara has a wealth of experience in the field of vision loss, due in part to the fact she has been legally blind her entire life. When she was younger, her visual acuity was around 20/200 to 20/400, and she was considered to have low vision. At that time, she used her limited vision and magnification aids to accomplish tasks. As her vision decreased during high school, she learned non-visual techniques, such as braille and how to use a screen reader.

Tara graduated from Marshall University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. During her college years, she was employed by the Department of Chemistry's Computing Center as an online course designer and traveled for a summer internship at the University of Rochester to work in a genomics lab, studying how diabetes affected the activity of specific genes.

Since her hiring by AFB, Tara has learned even more about assistive technology and has aided AccessWorld authors by helping to test the accessibility of cell phones, notetakers, and GPS software for cell phones.

Because of her broad knowledge and experience, I asked Tara to pull together a list of her most frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to the pursuit of higher education. She agreed, saying, "I would love to share my expertise and knowledge of available resources with as many visually impaired students as possible in the hope they can learn how to adapt their education to meet their unique situation."

FAQs from the Desk of AFB's Information and Referral Specialist

Question: What should I tell my instructors about my visual impairment?

Answer: It is important to speak with an instructor as soon as you know you are going to be in their class. Many students with vision loss fear speaking to their instructors, worrying that, due to ignorance about the capabilities of people with vision loss, the instructor will not believe that the student will be able to complete the course work.

Try to schedule meetings with all of your instructors as soon as possible. It's best if you talk about your vision loss openly and honestly. Instructors may fear asking questions, not wanting to offend you. As a student, you have to be proactive, explaining how you accomplish tasks. It may be beneficial to bring your assistive technology and adaptive products to this meeting, explaining how these devices will help you. For example, you could say something to the effect of, "This is my laptop with screen-magnification software, and this is an electronic magnifier. When I place the textbook under the camera, all of the material is enlarged. I have some usable vision, so I am able to read the textbook, complete written work, and view the syllabus using this equipment. Using my laptop's screen magnification software, I am able to write term papers and use the Internet to conduct research. I wanted to show you this equipment in order to assure you I can handle the material in this class and that I'm serious about doing well."

You could also direct your instructor to the AFB website and other websites on vision loss if they would like further information. You should then ask for an overview of the class structure. Will they write on the board or use a projector? Will they use PowerPoint slides or hand out a good deal of printed material? Will there be in-class assignments or pop quizzes? What is the structure of tests? Will there be off-campus field trips? Knowing answers to these types of questions will help you to better prepare for the class.

Question: What types of services does a Disabled Student Services (DSS) office offer?

Answer: Most colleges have a DSS office, which can vary from school to school in the scope of services offered. The DSS office may offer people who can assist with taking notes in class, be personal readers or proctors for tests, or who can assist you in a science lab. However, personal assistants are sometimes in short supply or are not skilled in the material covered in your particular class. This is especially true for subjects such as music, science, math, and higher levels of every subject, where technical terms are commonplace.

The DSS office may also have some assistive technology for loan, such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) equipment or video magnifiers. The DSS office can also assist with legal matters, such as if a student is experiencing discrimination. They may also be able to transcribe textbooks into large print braille or accessible digital formats, and make tactile diagrams.

In addition to the DSS office, many college departments have hired graduate or teaching assistants who offer student support as part of their job description. You may also want to check with your school's tutoring center. Many tutors are willing to serve as a reader rather than as an actual tutor.

You may choose to find someone on your own and pay for their services. Sometimes the vocational rehabilitation department in your state will give you a stipend for readers. You can advertise for help in the school newspaper, at the career services center, and on bulletin boards in dorms and other places on campus. If your institution has a student-specific social media platform, group, or hashtag, you may also be able to seek a reader using those avenues. You may also want to seek help from volunteer groups, such as local places of worship, the local Lion's Club, women's groups, and campus service fraternities.

Question: Where can I get textbooks in alternate formats?

Answer: The American Printing House for the Blind offers the Louis Database, where you can search for agencies that carry your textbooks in alternate formats. Learning Ally offers textbooks from preschool to the doctoral level. Books are offered in digital audio format and can be played on traditional computers, tablets, or smartphones as well as specialized players.

The Bookshare website offers textbooks for primary, secondary, undergraduate, and post-graduate study. Recently, Bookshare began offering students with documented legal blindness free access to its collection, waiving the usual fee. Bookshare books can be obtained in a variety of digital formats that can be read on computers, tablets, smartphones, and chromebooks, as well as on specialized digital book players.

It is now possible to access Amazon Kindle content on most mainstream digital devices. In addition, Amazon has added support for alt text for images and the ability to read math equations using a combination of the NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) screen reader and the Kindle for PC software.

Project Gutenberg offers a smaller collection of books, mostly classics, which could come in handy for students taking literature or classics classes.

Many works of literature, especially classic short stories and poems, can be found using a search engine. While in college, I was able to locate online versions of pieces such as "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost, and "To Build a Fire" by Jack London.

The Library of Congress' National Library Service is another great place to search for novels and poetry for your English classes. You can find braille-ready electronic files and digital audio versions of the works you need.

You can also purchase the print copy of a textbook, and scan it yourself using optical character recognition software such as Openbook or Kurzweil. If you can't locate a particular textbook, check for earlier editions; usually the changes from edition to edition are minimal.

You can even order a completely different textbook on the same subject. I have done this for Physics classes as most general physics books cover the same topics. Using the accessible textbook I found, I could look up something like "calculating velocity" and learn the same material as my classmates. I have even searched the Internet for topics covered in my textbooks, such as locating boiling and melting points for chemical compounds.

You can also contact the book's publisher and request an electronic version, which, by law, the publisher should send to you. The publisher might require that you verify your disability, which can be a time consuming process, so try to find the names of textbooks you will be using during the upcoming school term as early as possible.

Question: How do I take notes in class?

Answer: Several methods may be employed. You may choose to use a personal notetaker employed by the DSS office or ask a classmate to take notes for you. You could also use a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or electronic notetaker. If you use character echo with your screen reader, you may wish to turn this feature off when taking notes so that the screen reader audio does not drown out the instructor's voice. Students with low vision can use a portable video magnifier. You can use 20/20 pens, which create a bold line or try using bold- or raised-line paper. Another method is using an audio recorder, either a separate piece of hardware, or one that is built into your laptop, electronic notetaker, smartphone, or tablet.

Question: How do I complete in-class work, such as pop quizzes or worksheets?

Answer: You can handle in-class work in several ways. If the assignment or quiz is short, you can stay after class and have the instructor read it to you. The instructor may allow you to use an electronic version on your device of choice. Be sure to bring your portable video magnifier to class if you have enough usable vision to take assignments and quizzes in this manner. Some people with vision loss, even though they can't read print, learn the print alphabet, allowing them to use raised-line paper for short assignments. I've done this for short multiple-choice quizzes. If the DSS office provides in-class human notetakers, having the notetaker read the assignment and act as scribe can be helpful.

Question: How do I handle taking tests?

Answer: You can contact the DSS office and use one of the office's personal readers. Some DSS offices will transcribe tests into braille, convert them to electronic format, or reproduce them in large print. Another option is using a video magnifier if you have enough usable vision. Many low-vision students have difficulty reading Scantron sheets, and choose to write directly on the test itself or on a separate sheet of paper. Some instructors will give a visually impaired student the test on a USB drive or via e-mail, allowing the student to use their device of choice to answer the questions. This is especially handy for essay questions, which can be difficult to answer by dictating to a proctor or writing under a video magnifier.

Question: What about classes of a more visual nature, such as those in the fields of science, engineering, and math?

Answer: Several agencies have created adapted products for the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, including braille and large-print periodic tables of the elements; raised-line drawings of the human body systems; talking and large-font calculators; raised- and bold-line graphing paper; large-print and braille rulers, yardsticks, and tape measures; braille protractors, 3-D representations of shapes for geometry, and raised-line drawing kits.

The color video magnifier is great for viewing specimens, such as the veins on leaves, the wings of insects, and details on rocks and shells. You can label lab equipment, such as measurement marks on beakers and test tubes, with large-print or tactile labels, allowing you to perform lab experiments using this glassware independently. Some lab work may not have a logical way to be performed independently. For these circumstances, students who are visually impaired may choose to use a lab assistant. The instructor knows the student with vision loss is responsible for telling the assistant what to do, such as stating the amount and type of compound to pour into a beaker. The assistant may also describe color changes, temperature readings on the thermometer, and weights on the balance scale.

The lab assistant does not write lab reports, take tests, or do any of the written work submitted for the course. These are the responsibility of the student.

Some adaptive lab equipment is also available, such as talking thermometers, voltmeters, micrometers, color identifiers, and balance scales. The Independent Laboratory Access for the Blind project is one source for such equipment. The Talking LabQuest 2 is another possible option. Some microscopes have the ability to connect to a monitor, displaying specimens under the microscope lens onto the monitor's screen. This allows for much larger magnification and eliminates the need for the student with low vision to focus the microscope lens by looking through the lens, which can be quite an eye strain.

Question: What if I do not have the funds to purchase assistive technology?

Answer: The vocational rehabilitation department in your state may purchase assistive technology, such as video magnifiers, electronic notetakers, or laptops. Your school or a local public library may have an assistive technology room for visually impaired students to use. Check with local agencies for the blind or teachers of the visually impaired to see if you can borrow equipment.

Community groups, such as the Lions Club, may offer grants. The Association of Blind Citizens (ABC) offers an assistive technology fund.

The organization Computers for the Blind offers laptop and desktop computers with assistive software preinstalled at a reduced cost. For more information on the organization and information regarding the included JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion license, see this article. The Used Low Vision Store offers assistive technology for a reduced cost.

Each state also has an assistive technology project. These organizations often have low-interest loans available and if not, may be able to direct you to other sources. To find the organization for your state, see this page.

Question: Where should I look for scholarships?

Answer: There are a vast number of scholarships for college students, and some are geared specifically for people with vision loss. Check with local and national agencies for the blind, such as the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) chapters. Both of these organizations offer national scholarships but most state affiliates also offer scholarships. Local organizations will offer scholarships in some cases, such as the Lighthouse Guild. Another organization that offers scholarships for those with vision loss is Learning Ally.

Though not a direct college scholarship, the company Aira offers scholarships that provide free Aira service to students with vision loss. If you are unfamiliar with the Aira program, you can learn more in our 2 part article series: Part 1, Part 2.

Question: Where can I find useful information about college-related issues?

Answer: You can find helpful information on the FamilyConnect website, which has a section specific to college students on the "transition to independence" page. Here you can read articles such as "Caitlin's Top Ten Rules for Incoming Freshman" and "College Life Begins."

The CareerConnect website also contains a wealth of information about employment. At first glance, this content may not seem suitable for people pursuing an education (as opposed for those looking for careers), but the mentor database in particular will be of great assistance. I know from personal experience because I located mentors in the science fields, specifically chemistry, physics, and biology, in order to ask questions about adapting laboratory material.

The Perkins E-Learning site also has many resources related to education and transition. Examples include 10 Tech Skills Every College Student Needs and 10 Questions to Ask when Choosing a College. Other blindness-related organizations and websites have college related information as well, such as this article from the NFB and this article from the ACB.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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The Accessible Home: Is This Shampoo or Conditioner?

Bill Holton

Sometimes the littlest things can make the biggest difference in accessibility. For example, the tiny dot on the number 5 on phone keypads and on the F and J keys on a standard keyboard. This article looks at a tiny modification that will help people who are blind with orientation and identification, a simple idea from a small division of an international giant we hope will go companywide, and then spread from there. After that we’ll look at the latest addition to the Be My Eyes “Specialized Help” page: spoiler alert—both of these come from the Proctor & Gamble company!

Sumaira Latif is the Accessibility Lead for Procter & Gamble, makers of a wide catalog of consumer products ranging from Tide detergent to Charmin bathroom tissue. Latif sees her job as being threefold.

“We want to make P&G a more inclusive and accessible workplace so we can attract and hire the best employees,” she says. “We also need to ensure our company’s advertising and other communications are as accessible as possible, and work toward making our products useable by the approximately 1.7 billion persons with disabilities around the world.”

Latif acknowledges that accessibility is a work in progress, but the work has begun. For example, “All our reception and security staff are guides for blind people to take them to meeting rooms, cafeterias, etc., if and when the individual needs to so that they can focus on doing their job and not stress about getting around,” says Latif. “We also have a company JAWS cheat sheet so that whenever a new JAWS user comes into P&G we know what settings to apply to the individual's computer and know what tips to give the user to access apps.”

Last year the company implemented a series of audio-described commercials for P&G products such as Charmin toilet paper, Head & Shoulders shampoo, and Bold pods. “Now all US P&G advertising comes with audio description, a first in the advertising industry," she states proudly.

As for packaging, this is a problem Latif herself has experienced first-hand, since she herself is blind. “I couldn’t distinguish among the different age-size Pampers,” she says. “I also like to use Herbal Essence products, only the shampoos and conditioners are packaged in the exact same P&G bottles, so they are impossible to tell apart in the shower without marking them somehow.”

Latif took this problem to Herbal Essences packaging expert, Shane Mayes, and the two decided this was a problem they could fix.

After several failed prototypes that led to leaky bottles, the two were finally able to create a slight modification to the existing bottle design that laser etches four tiny vertical lines onto shampoo bottles and two rows of round impressions on the conditioners. “I think of it them as ‘S’ for ‘stripes,' for shampoo, and ‘C’ for ‘circles,’ for conditioners,” says Latif. “It gets the job done, and it was a lot faster than trying to get braille labeling or shepherding a complete package redesign through the corporate hierarchy.”

The marks are etched into the rear side of the bottle near the bottom edge where the plastic is at its thickest. They are fairly easy to distinguish, especially in the shower when your hands are wet and soapy, and braille reading skills are not required. The bottles can be recycled through the TerraCycle take-back program.

Currently, the tactile markers are only available on the Bio:Renew line of Herbal Essences botanical shampoos and conditioners which includes 15 variants, or “flavors.”

“Maybe one day stripes and circles to mark shampoo versus conditioners will be as universal as the dots on dial-pad fives,” says Latif.

In the meantime, Latif has already brought another accessibility tool from her personal toolbox to the company. Latif is a frequent user of Be My Eyes, the free video assistance app that now features over two million volunteers offering sighted help to over 130,000 people with visual impairments. (We’ve written extensively about this “must have” app; see the linked lists at the end of this piece.)

Today, if you open the Be My Eyes app and invoke the “Specialized Help” option, along with the Be My Eyes support team, Microsoft and Google, you are now offered the option to be connected via video with a trained member of the “Herbal Essences” product support team.

“Perhaps you’d like to learn more about the ingredients, or which product might be best for your particular hair type,” says Latif. “Sighted consumers can easily read the label, or reach out to our consumer hotline, but it’s been our experience that sight-impaired users won’t go through the trouble of tracking down the number. Becoming a Be My Eyes provider offers these consumers an easy way to reach out.”

Latif and Herbal Essences communications manager, Rachel Zipperian, have spent many hours brainstorming possible inquiries to ensure their customer representatives receive the proper training. “Honestly, we don’t know exactly where the users will be taking us, but we look forward to the journey,” says Zipperian.

For Be My Eyes users in the United States, Herbal Essences is the first addition to the “Specialized Help” option that isn't a tech company. In other parts of the world, however, banks have begun to partner, including Lloyd’s Bank and Bank of Scotland and Halifax.

“We are hoping to add several more US based partners in the near future,” says Be My Eyes Chief Commercial Officer Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, who notes that the company is currently negotiating with dozens of online retailers, US banks, telecoms, and even social networks and blindness organizations to offer sighted help to their visually impaired customers and users.

“When we first introduced ‘Specialized Help’ we received user requests to include over 600 different companies,” says Hauerslev Jensen. “The ones that were most popular, such as Google, we approached right away. “We also began to hear from volunteers who introduced Be My Eyes to the companies where they work and told them, ‘We should be doing this, too.’”

Companies do pay to become Be My Eyes partner. “That’s one of the ways we’re able to keep the service free for the users,” says Hauerslev Jensen. “We train some of their regular customer representatives, who use tablets to connect and offer assistance to users.”

Here at AccessWorld we anticipate some pretty remarkable improvements in accessible customer service. It wasn’t too long ago when a silent computer meant waiting until a sighted friend could stop by to help diagnose the problem. Now a quick Be My Eyes session will usually do the trick. Imagine calling your cable company because your Internet is down and having the first question not be, “What color are the flashing lights on your router?” Or having a service department rep help you find and read the number on the broken icemaker you're not sure you've identified correctly?

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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The 2019 WWDC Conference Keynote

Janet Ingber

The 2019 Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) occurred on June 3 in San Jose, California. The WWDC is the conference where new operating systems, new features, and information for app developers are announced. During the conference, developers can attend many information sessions and labs. There were a number of accessibility sessions.

Apple CEO Tim Cook welcomed the app developers, saying, “WWDC is more vibrant than ever, with attendees from more countries and more first time attendees than ever.” He played a clip from “For All Mankind,” a new show that will be on Apple’s new TV Plus, launching this fall. Cook said, “Apple TV Plus will be available on the Apple TV app which is across all of your screens including your smart TVs.” He added that the Apple TV4K is the best way to watch this new content.

tvOS 13

The new operating system for the Apple TV will feature personal profiles and have a new home screen. Each user will have their own Up Next list as well as personalized recommendations for TV shows and movies. Cook explained that it will be easy to switch between users with the new tvOS control center. Apple Music subscribers will also get their own individual “music experience.” Lyrics will be visible on the screen, in sync with the song.

Cook next spoke about Apple’s upcoming Apple Arcade and how it will look with tvOS 13. There will be support for Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 controllers. Cook said that there will be new “under the sea” (underwater-themed) screen savers.

watchOS 6

Cook stated that "Apple Watch is the number one watch in the world” and turned the discussion over to Apple’s Vice President of Technology, Kevin Lynch, who spoke about the Apple Watch’s new operating system.


watchOS 6 will have more faces than when the first watch was released. Some of the faces include the Gradient, which animates with the time, and the California Dial, which is a classic watch face design.

Taptic Chimes

A new option with the watch is that you can have it make a sound or give a Taptic notification on your wrist every hour. The robin song sound was recorded at Apple Park. If sound is off, you have the option to have vibration. You can choose to turn this feature off completely and have neither sound nor vibration.


New Apple apps coming to the Apple Watch include Audio Books for listening to Apple books, Voice Memos for making quick recordings, and Calculator.

Lynch added that Apple is giving developers a new API (Application Program Interface) so that the Watch apps no longer require an iPhone. He added that developers will have a new audio API to create audio content, such as podcasts and music, that can stream directly from the watch. He added, “With new developer tools and a new, native UI (user interface) Framework coming this year, we are enabling a new generation of apps for the watch.”

He announced that the Apple Watch will have its own App Store. He said that the App Store can be searched with Dictation, Scribble, or Siri. Product pages can be read and apps can be purchased and installed directly on the watch.

Health and Fitness Apps

Lynch introduced Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple’s VP of Health, to speak about health and fitness apps. She explained that the Activity app will now feature activity trends. It will compare your activity from the last 90 days to the last 365 days. This will let you know whether your activity level has improved or declined. She said, ”Activity trends will provide you with a more complete picture of what you can do to stay active and even more importantly, give you the motivation you need for long term success.”

She then introduced the new Noise app, which uses the Watch’s microphone to detect the decibel (dB) level of sounds. If the sound is potentially damaging to your hearing, you will receive a notification on the watch. Selecting the Noise app will provide more information about the sound. There will also be a Noise complication for the watch. This will let you measure a sound just by raising your wrist. She added that the app does not record or save any audio.

The final new health app is Cycle Tracking, which lets women track their menstrual cycle. This app will also be available in the Health iOS app. She said, “We are so excited to bring more focus to this incredibly important aspect of women’s health.”

Lynch stated, “The Health app is the best place to see all of your data in one place. We’ve redesigned it to be more meaningful to you.” The app will use machine learning from your iPhone to determine which highlights are more interesting to you. Data will be encrypted and stored on your iPhone or in iCloud. You decide what, if any, data is shared.

iOS 13

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, gave the presentation about iOS 13. He began by saying that iPhones with face ID will unlock 30% faster. Because of the way apps will be packaged in the App Store, downloads will be 50% smaller and updates will be 60% smaller. Apps will launch up to twice as fast in iOS 13.

Dark Mode

Dark Mode, a feature that was first introduced last year for the Mac, will now be available in iOS 13. Dark Mode changes the screen contrast and emits less blue light. Federighi demonstrated how some apps, including Messages, Notes, and News, will look in Dark Mode. He also demonstrated widgets and notifications.

Safari in iOS 13 gives users the ability to change text size quickly. Individual websites can have specific preferences.


Mail will have Desktop-class formatting controls including for Rich Fonts.


Notes gets support for shared folders and a new gallery view.


The app has been completely rewritten. There is support for smart lists. The app is more intuitive.


Maps has been improved. Apple had people fly and drive around the country to collect new data. The main screen will have a Favorites area. The new Collections feature lets you create a group of locations. Maps will have a Look Around feature for exploring an area. Tapping on a label will provide additional information. US Maps will be available by the end of this year and select other countries will be available by next year.


Federighi said, “At Apple we believe privacy is a fundamental human right and we engineer it into everything we do and this year we’re doing even more.” You can have an app ask if you want to share your location every time the app is used. If you choose to share your location continually with an app, Apple will send you reports on what the app is doing. Apple will also block apps from using Bluetooth and WiFi to find your location.

Instead of logging into an app with your social media account such as FaceBook, Apple will have a new feature called “Sign In with Apple.” This will be available on all of Apple’s platforms and on the web. Federighi said:

Sign In with Apple is the fast, easy way to sign in without all the tracking. This simple API allows the developer to put a ‘Sign In With Apple’ button right in their app. You just tap it and you’re authenticated with Face ID on your device, logged in with a new account without revealing any new personal information. If an app wants your email address, you can choose to hide it. Apple will then create a random email address which will forward to your real email address. We give each app a unique email address and this means you can disable any one of them at any time when you’re hearing from that app.

Home Kit

A new feature, “Home Kit Secure Video,” will be included in iOS 13. If you have security cameras, their video will be sent to your device for analysis and then will be stored in iCloud. You will be notified if there is any activity and you can review the videos. Apple is adding 10 days of video clips to your iCloud storage at no cost. When the feature is launched, cameras from Logitech, Netatmo, and Eufy will be supported and additional manufacturers will be added later.

Apple is also adding Home Kit support for routers in order to improve privacy. The first supported routers are from eero, Linksys, and Internet service providers such as Charter Spectrum.


In iOS13, you will be able to share your photo and name with people you message. You can use animojis and Memojis. Apple will be adding more Memoji features including makeup and accessories.

Apple is adding Memoji stickers that can be used in Messages and a number of other apps. A sticker pack will be created automatically for each of your Memojis. Memoji stickers can be used on any Apple device with an A9 chip.

Camera and Photos

There are new features in iOS 13 including adjustable lighting in photos. Videos can be rotated. Federighi added, “We’re using advanced machine learning to remove duplicates and clutter and let you focus on your best shots. We’re taking these photos and intelligently organizing them to create a sort of diary of your life.” This is all done from the new Photos tab. Photos can be browsed by day, month, or year.

Siri, AirPods, HomePod, and CarPlay

Federighi introduced Stacey Lysik, Apple Senior Director of OS Program Management, to speak about Siri, AirPods, HomePod, and CarPlay.

If you are wearing AirPods, Siri can now read incoming messages and you can dictate a response. This feature also works with other third-party messaging apps using SiriKit. You can also share music with another AirPod wearer.

You can handoff content from your iPhone to your HomePod and vice versa by bringing the iPhone close to the HomePod.

Apple is introducing live radio. You can ask Siri to play radio stations from IHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio and radio.com. There will be more than 100,000 live radio stations available from all around the world.

HomePod will be able to learn which family member is speaking and will personalize its response.

The CarPlay dashboard has been redesigned. Siri will also work with Pandora and theWaze app.

Siri Short Cuts has a new feature called Suggested Automations. It creates templates based on your routines.

Apple used neural text-to-speech to improve Siri’s voice. Siri’s voice is now completely generated by software. Lysik said the voice change is most noticeable when Siri is speaking longer or complex sentences. She then played the Siri voice from iOS 12 and then the voice for iOS 13 and there was a significant improvement.

A new iOS13 feature is that you can have unknown calls sent directly to voicemail.


The iPad will have its own operating system, iPadOS. This is a new version of iOS specifically for the iPad. All new features in iOS 13 will also be on the iPad.

The iPad’s home screen has been redesigned. Icons are in a tighter grid and widgets can be placed on the home screen. Multitasking will be made easier with Slide Over windows. Sliding on the bottom will quickly display apps. You will be able to open two instances of the same app side by side. This will also work with third-party apps. The new App Exposé feature lets you view your open apps.

New Files features are coming to iPadOS. There will be a new column view plus file previews, folder sharing, and more.

On the iPad, Safari will have “Desktop-class Browsing.” This means that instead of the mobile version of Safari, the Desktop version of a site will automatically be displayed. It will be optimized for Safari and will have touch input. iPadOS will have a download manager in Safari, 30 keyboard short cuts, and more. New fonts will be available (from third parties) that can be downloaded directly from the App Store. New gestures will make working with documents faster and easier. Latency with Apple Pencil will go from 20ms to 9ms.

Federighi closed the iPadOS section saying, “There’s a ton of new features that take iPadOS to the next level.”


Tim Cook introduced the new Mac Pro. He said, “This is the most powerful Mac we have ever created.” The Mac Pro has a stainless steel frame and all the internal modules mount to the frame. It uses Intel Xeon processors with up to 28 cores, up to 1.5TB of system memory, and has 8 internal PCI slots. To go along with the new Mac Pro, Apple introduced their new Pro Display XDR. Both will be available this fall, as will the stand for the display.


The new Mac operating system is macOS Catalina. Craig Federighi returned to discuss its new features.

No More iTunes

iTunes is being replaced with three separate apps: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. Syncing a device is done through the sidebar in Finder.

Voice Control

This feature will be available on the Mac and in iOS. In order to demonstrate what Voice Control can do, a video was played where a user gave the Mac a series of commands. Although there was no verbal description, it was clear what was happening. The demo showed dictation, editing, activating buttons, selecting emojis, and more. All information is processed on your Mac; no data goes to Apple.


Sidecar is a new app that lets you use your iPad as an additional display for your Mac.

Find My

This app combines Find My iPhone and Find My Friends. It will be available for Mac and iOS. It can now locate Apple devices that are offline. Federighi explained, “Even when it’s offline and sleeping, it sends out a secure Bluetooth beacon that can be detected by other people’s Apple devices nearby. They can relay your MacBook’s location to the network and ultimately back to you; so you can find it. This whole process is encrypted and anonymous.”

Lock Activation

This is the same feature that is currently available on iOS. It only works with Macs that have a T2 security chip. If your Mac is stolen, you can remotely lock it. Your Mac will not even boot unless you reactivate it.

App Updates

Several existing apps have been updated:

  • New photo browsing page.
  • Updated home page in Safari.
  • Gallery view option in Notes.
  • The reminders app has been re-designed.
  • Screen Time will be on the Mac. All Screen Time settings will also be on the Mac.

Third-Party Apps

Apple introduced Project Catalyst. This technology lets a developer create a Mac app from their existing iPad app. The first version of Project Catalyst was used to bring apps including News and Voice Memos to macOS Mojave. The new version of Project Catalyst was made available to developers on June 3, 2019.

Federighi explained that the developer just needs to open their existing iPad project and check the Mac checkbox. Xcode will fill in the necessary information. Then the developer can work with the app to make it better. For example, the native Twitter app will be able to run on the Mac.

Developer Tools

There are many tools for app developers. During the keynote, AR and Swift were mentioned. RealityKit is designed to assist developers who want to use AR in their app, but who do not have much experience. ARKit is getting a major update.

Swift is getting a new framework called SwiftUI. You can now write less code to perform the same function. SwiftUI will also be available for all Apple platforms.

Public versions of iOS 13, iPadOS, watchOS 6 and macOS Catalina will be available this fall.


At WWDC 2019, Apple presented many new and useful features across its operating systems, though accessibility was mentioned only during the Voice Control demonstration. It is hoped that Apple will integrate VoiceOver into these features. Stay tuned.

If you want to learn about material presented to developers during the conference, download the 2019 WWDC app from the App Store.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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BrailleNote Touch Plus or BrailleSense Polaris: Which One Is Right for You?

Jamie Pauls

I have always been a fan of dedicated notetakers for people who are blind. I’ve always used one product or another, even as others have abandoned them in favor of braille displays paired to iOS or Android devices. I have used a braille display with my iPhone and love the portability and mainstream applications available to me with that method, but I still enjoy having a device with a braille display built in.

The BrailleNote Touch Plus

When HumanWare announced the release of their original BrailleNote Touch product in 2016, I was more than happy to review the Google certified device for AccessWorld. I was pleased with what I saw and was in need of a new notetaker, so I ended up purchasing a BrailleNote Touch. After owning it for a while I came to feel that, as good as it was, the Touch definitely fit into the “version 1 product” category. The device was slower than I liked, I had some issues with TouchBraille—the ability to type in braille right on the glass surface of the tablet—behaving erratically at times, and although HumanWare’s own suite of applications behaved beautifully on the Touch, many third-party Android apps did not.

In 2018, HumanWare announced the release of the BrailleNote Touch Plus—a significant refresh of the original BrailleNote Touch. One of the biggest hardware design changes for me was that the Touch’s power button was recessed more than the original, which reduced the chance of the device activating while it was in my briefcase. It was also nice that the accessibility features of the Touch Plus no longer resided on an SD card inside the unit, but were permanently mounted inside the device.

The Pros

I immediately realized that the BrailleNote Plus was blazing fast compared to anything I had used before. It now runs Android 8.1 Orio, and HumanWare says it will be able to upgrade the operating system as a result of the new hardware components that reside in the BrailleNote Touch Plus. You can read all the technical details about the Plus on this page.

In addition to its speed, I find that the Plus works much better than the original with third-party Android applications. HumanWare’s suite of KeySoft applications, such as word processor and calculator, continue to work nicely. I especially enjoy using the BrailleNote Touch Plus’s KeyPlan application for managing my calendar events. Since I have both the Touch and my iPhone synced to Google Calendar and Contacts, I am able to seamlessly manage appointments and contact information across all of my devices.

I like the USB-C connectivity of the BrailleNote Touch Plus, a step up from the micro USB connection that broke on my original Touch.

I have had no problems with TouchBraille on the Plus, and although I still use the hardware keyboard that is built into the Touch’s case, I use TouchBraille in meetings and other places where I don’t want to make any noise at all.

I usually use the notetaker without speech, but when I fire up the Touch plus Acapela Sharon compact voice installed on the unit by default, I find that it works with no stuttering. There are other voices one can put on the device if desired.

I have traditionally not enjoyed using email with any of the dedicated notetakers I’ve owned or reviewed for AccessWorld. The BrailleNote Touch Plus changes that. I still prefer my iPhone, Mac or PC for email, but I find myself increasingly willing to take care of email chores on the Touch when it is sitting on my lap being used for other purposes.

The Cons

It’s a good thing our assistive technology devices don’t have human emotions, because there’s just no nice way to say it: the BrailleNote Touch Plus is a bit on the hefty side, weighting in at about 2 pounds. It is 0.8 inches high, 9.5 inches wide, and 6.3 inches deep. You’d better have a sturdy briefcase with plenty of room for carrying it around. The carrying case includes a long strap that makes it easy to carry in a cross-body fashion for comfort and safety if you prefer to keep it on your body instead of in a briefcase or backpack.

HumanWare replaced the Victor Reader app with a new Dolphin Easy Reader app for reading books. It isn’t as easy to listen to audio files, read books, and do anything else in one app as it was with the Victor Reader app. I expect that HumanWare will continue working with Dolphin to make this app better and more full-featured on the BrailleNote Touch Plus.

I continue to be frustrated by the inability to play music in the background while I’m working with other apps. I’m okay with using Google’s music app to play MP3 files in my music therapy practice, but I can’t quickly switch to the word processor to make a quick note without the music stopping. I’ve not yet found an audio app that I like using that plays music in the background.

As much as I like the new Chrome browser that replaced the BrailleNote Touch’s original KeyWeb application, there are times when the new browser gets a bit bogged down by certain websites. Again, I’m sure this will be improved in future updates to the device.

You can purchase a 32-cell BrailleNote Touch Plus in the United States for $5,695.00, and you can purchase an 18-cell unit for $4,195.00. Don’t expect to shrink the size of the BrailleNote Touch Plus by purchasing the 18-cell unit. You just get fewer braille cells in the same device. The thinking is that you might want to upgrade and add the extra cells later.

The BrailleSense Polaris

HIMS Inc., own Google certified notetaker is called the BrailleSense Polaris. Again, I had the privilege of reviewing the Polaris for AccessWorld.

There were things I really liked about the Polaris. Like the BrailleNote Touch, the Polaris had a 32-cell braille display and a Perkins-style keyboard. Because the Polaris does not have a glass surface for typing, nor does it have a built-in method that allows others to see what is on your tablet, the form factor of the Polaris is much smaller and lighter. It is worth noting that both notetakers allow you to connect to a monitor so that a sighted person can see what is happening on the unit. I also liked the dedicated buttons on the front of the Polaris for controlling applications or playing media, depending on what you want to do. Finally, the ability to lock all the keys on the Polaris made it nearly impossible to accidentally press keys on the unit while keeping it secure in my briefcase.

As with HumanWare’s product, HIMS did a great job of developing apps for the Polaris that worked wonderfully. Like the BrailleNote Touch, I found the performance of the Polaris to be slower than I would have liked, and I was once again not pleased with the way many third-party Android apps behaved on the Polaris.

After the release of the original BrailleSense Polaris, HIMS released the BrailleSense Polaris Mini, a 20-cell braille display with pretty much the same functionality of its big brother. I also reviewed this device for AccessWorld. The Mini is about half the size of the original Polaris, making it even more portable than the original.

I wasn’t particularly bothered by the fact that the BrailleNote Touch was still running Android KitKat while the Polaris was running Lollipop because both companies updated their respective suite of applications very frequently.

The Pros

Did I mention portability earlier? The BrailleSense Polaris definitely has that going for it. The dimensions of the Polaris are 9.64 x 5.66 x 0.74 inches and it weighs 1.65 pounds. If you want fewer braille cells and even more portability, the BrailleSense Polaris Mini comes in at 7.28 x 4.05 x 0.90 inches and weighs 0.91 pounds.

You can purchase the BrailleSense Polaris for $5,795.00, or the BrailleSense Polaris Mini for $4,195.00.

I really enjoy the ability to lock the buttons on the unit when carrying it around, and the media player is the best I’ve used on any product. If money was no object, I would own a BrailleSense Polaris simply for my music therapy practice because of its size and the performance of the media player; I am able to play music in the background while jotting down notes about a session. The FM radio included in the unit works surprisingly well in my rural environment and I found it a pleasure to use. The Polaris products have some word processing functions I miss when using my Touch. I like the ability to set bookmarks within a file, and oddly enough, the ability to easily remove blank lines from a document.

The Cons

The BrailleSense Polaris products are definitely slower than the latest version of the BrailleNote Touch, and this is especially noticeable for me when browsing the Web or using email. I don’t find the calendar and contacts applications as intuitive to use as the Touch’s apps, and I prefer the way the BrailleNote Touch seamlessly gets you up and running on the Net when you set up a new device.

The BrailleSense Polaris behaves more like a traditional notetaker to me, whereas the Touch makes me feel as though I’m using an Android device with a braille display included.

How To Decide Which Product Is Right For You

It appears that both HumanWare and HIMS Inc. are serious about developing notetakers that are relevant in the 21st century. Both products are Google certified, and both companies mention education heavily when talking about their respective products. The BrailleSense and BrailleNote Touch products both work with third-party Android apps, although your mileage will vary depending on the apps you like to use. Both companies have created dedicated applications for common tasks such as word processing and managing contacts and appointments. If you are familiar with the BrailleSense ecosystem, you may want to stick with the Polaris, and the same goes for anyone who already feels comfortable with previous BrailleNote products:you might feel more comfortable migrating to the latest BrailleNote device from HumanWare.

Both companies produce YouTube videos demonstrating various features of their products, although I would personally like to see much more content in this area from both parties. HumanWare has a huge advantage over HIMS thanks to a comprehensive BrailleNote Touch tutorial produced by Mystic Access. An updated tutorial covering the features of the BrailleNote Touch Plus is coming soon. HIMS would do well to consider a similar offering for its products.

I once heard someone ask a blind technology expert which screen reader was the best one. At the time, there were two major screen readers on the market. The answer was “the one that has just released the most recent update.” I feel the same way about these notetakers. Right now, HumanWare has a leg up on the competition, but the company shouldn't get comfortable in the top spot. HIMS has a great product going for it as well, and we can only wait and see what future versions of the BrailleSense Polaris and BrailleSense Polaris Mini bring to the table.

Product Information

Product: BrailleNote Touch Plus

Company: HumanWare

Phone: 800 722-3393

Email: info@humanware.com

Price: You can purchase a 32-cell BrailleNote Touch Plus in the United States for $5,695.00, and you can purchase an 18-cell unit for $4,195.00.

Product: BrailleSense Polaris and BrailleSense Polaris Mini

Company: HIMS Inc.

Phone: 888.520.4467

Email: sales@hims-inc.com

Price: You can purchase the BrailleSense Polaris for $5,795.00, or the BrailleSense Polaris Mini for $4,195.00.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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The ActiView App from Empowered Entertainment Puts Audio Description In Your Pocket

Jamie Pauls

For people with visual impairments, the availability of audio description can be a critical component to enjoying a movie or TV show. Whether you are watching Amazon Prime videos, a Netflix original series, or renting a movie from iTunes, you might rely on an audio description track to tell you what is happening on screen. But what if you're watching with other people and don’t want to ask them to listen to the audio description along with you? After all, the description sometimes jumps a bit ahead of the action in order to make things fit nicely into place, and your fellow viewers might not appreciate the spoiler. For that matter, what happens if you decide to leave the confines of your living room and go to the theater?

Many theaters provide headphones that play the audio description as the movie is in progress, but this equipment is not universally available. Sometimes a theater might have the headphones, but the staff doesn't know how to set it up properly. Sometimes the equipment malfunctions in the middle of a movie. Suffice it to say that accessing audio-described content in the theater is not nearly as ubiquitous or reliable as one would hope.

Over the last few years, a couple app developers have attempted to solve this problem by providing audio description tracks that can be played on a portable device and synced with a movie or television program. Smartphone technology has made this especially compelling, since the microphones on these devices can listen to the movie and automatically synchronize the audio description track. (In the past, you had to listen for a specific cue in the movie, such as a guitar strum, and manually start the audio description track at that point.) Unfortunately, the content on these early apps was quite limited, and they eventually fell by the wayside.

One app that shows promise in the area of providing “portable” audio description, is ActiView developed by Empowered Entertainment. The app is available for free on the Apple app store.

Not only does ActiView provide audio description for people with visual impairments, but it also provides amplified audio and audio description for people with hearing impairments. The app also offers sign language interpretation, closed captioning, translation of the movie’s dialog into various languages, and subtitles.

How It Works

The preceding paragraph might lead you to think that ActiView is a complicated app to use, but nothing could be further from the truth.

When you first open the app, you will find a Search box, a Help button, and a “My Downloads” heading that shows you any movies you have downloaded services for. A service is a file that will play the audio description track, amplified audio track, etc. for the movie you want to watch. More about that later.

The next heading takes you to a list of movies that are currently playing in theaters. At the time of writing, available movies included: Poms, Ugly Dolls, The Best of Enemies, The Upside, Second Act, Mid90s, Wildlife, Pick of the Litter, and Far From the Tree.

Next is a heading labeled “Watch At Home.” At the time of writing, movies under this heading included: Wonder, The Hunger Games,The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, The Hunger Games – Catching Fire, It Comes At Night, Hereditary, Ladybird, The Florida Project, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Pick of the Litter, Far From the Tree, The Man Who invented Christmas, Megan Leavey, Paterson, Eye in the Sky, Denial, Breathe, Logan Lucky, and Danny Collins.

I currently have amplified audio and audio description for the movie “Room” downloaded to my phone, so the movie title shows up in my Downloaded Movies area rather than under Watch At Home. It will appear in the latter section again once I delete it from my device.

I watched two movies with the ActiView app for this review. Unfortunately, nothing was available at my local theater, so I had to get creative. "Megan Leavey," a true story about a woman who joins the Marines and eventually adopts the bomb detection dog that she works with, was available free with my Amazon Prime subscription, so I double-tapped the movie name in ActiView and downloaded the audio description service. I was able to view information about the movie on the app, including a brief synopsis and where to watch it. I could have activated a button from the information screen that would have taken me to Amazon Prime. Since I couldn’t watch the movie on the same phone I was using to listen to its audio description track, I pulled it up on My iPod Touch. I popped earbuds in and activated the audio description option for the movie in ActiView. I received verbal indications that the app was syncing with the movie playing on my iPod touch. In just a few seconds I was listening to audio description. There are only a few controls to deal with when listening to audio description of a movie, including the ability to mute the description without pausing it. I deliberately paused the movie on my iPod touch, and audio description kept playing on ActiView. There is no button to pause the audio description track, but when I resumed the movie on the iPod touch, I was able to re-sync the description. It didn’t take long for things to line up again. Should I have needed to, I could have made adjustments in the app to move the audio description track backward or forward by a few milliseconds to fix any drift issues that might have occurred.

"Wonder" is a delightful story about a young boy who has a disability that causes his face to be extremely malformed. This movie was also available on Amazon Prime. This time, however, I chose to download the amplified audio and audio description track. I still needed to sync the track with the movie as it played on my BrailleNote Touch, but I was able to listen to the entire movie with earbuds. I eventually noticed that the audio in my earbuds was slightly off from the movie playing on my iPod touch, but I was able to easily adjust the audio on the app so that it lined up perfectly with the audio on the Touch.

Final Thoughts

I was very pleased with the experience I had while using ActiView to watch movies at home. I can’t wait until I have the opportunity to try the app out in a theater. The app’s controls are easy to use, the help system is quite good, and there seems to be a growing number of movies available in the app. I hope that the developers are able to continue adding content on a regular basis, and that it will be kept current. I would also like to see some TV series added as well. The app does not work with broadcast television because commercials would interrupt the audio description. I would like to see a pause button for stopping audio description rather than having to either re-sync or back out of the file that is playing.

Since the app can be used with films watched at home, it could be quite useful for a student in a class where movies are shown. Having exact details on a film could be beneficial in instances where an assignment is associated with the film.

It's necessary to set up a free account when using the app, and according to the Website, there may be a subscription model available soon in order to help with the cost of adding content. I personally won’t have a problem paying a reasonable fee for the service.

Product Information

ActiView is a free iOS app available from Empowered Entertainment. You can get it from the app store.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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Shop Independently with Shipt: an Accessible App that Brings the “Store to your Door”

Deborah Kendrick

Consider a few scenarios.

  • You have just moved into your college dorm and you realize that you forgot shampoo, your favorite energy bars, sheets for your bed, or treats for your guide dog.

  • You're in your dentist's waiting room, and you get a text reminder that three friends are coming over for dinner and you don't have time to get the necessary groceries.

  • You just plain find going to the grocery store complicated and time consuming and wish someone could do it for you.

The resounding solution to each of these dilemmas could well be a business called Shipt, a service whose motto is: "We bring the store to your door." Imagine shopping on your mobile phone or laptop for everything from groceries to party decorations to pet food or toilet paper, and having it at your door in as little as an hour.

What is Shipt?

Shipt Inc. was launched in 2014 by chief executive Bill Smith in Birmingham, Alabama. In December 2017, the grocery delivery service company was purchased for $550 million by Target. By the end of 2018, Shipt.com had a cadre of over 50,000 shoppers nationwide delivering groceries, pet supplies, household goods and more directly to customers’ doors, saving busy people the time and trouble of cruising grocery and retail aisles. For those of us who are blind or low vision, this service is arguably a superior method to traditional shopping since it affords us the opportunity to browse products, read descriptions, and compare prices in a way not necessarily available to us when shopping on site.

Shopping with Shipt can be done on a computer or through an iOS or Android app. This article will deal primarily with the iOS version. The stores included in the app vary from city to city, although Target seems to be available in any area in which Shipt has launched, as is CVS. Some locations list 6 to 8 available stores while others offer only two or three. New locations are added every week, however, so the likelihood of it being within the reach of most US readers of AccessWorld is excellent.

The Shipt Shopping Experience

Let's first look at the experience from the perspective of a customer who has already created an account and used the service at least once. Let's say we are in an area where Kroger is the primary grocery store. (Those of you who live in areas served by Publix, Meijer, Winn-Dixie, Lucky's Market, Fresh Market, or a host of others need not worry. Shipt shops at these and other stores as well.)

Waiting for a meeting to begin one morning, I have 15 minutes to spare and open the Shipt app on my iPhone. It immediately shows me my own delivery address and the next available delivery time from Kroger (usually within the next 90 minutes.) Satisfied with my own delivery address and the selected store, I begin shopping.

A number of quick links appear. The first of these is Buy Again. Others include On Sale, Browse, Favorites, and categories such as Dairy, Produce, Frozen, Bakery, and Pantry..

Typically, I start my shopping with Buy Again. Here, every item I have previously purchased will appear. Let's say the first item is Blueberries. Next to the name Blueberries are the words “6 ounces, price $4.69, Open Product Detail.”

Below this item description will be an Add 1 button. To add the item to the cart, simply double tap the Add 1 button. Later, if you change your mind, removing the item from your list is just as easy as adding it. Continuing down the list of items previously purchased — milk, bananas, Swiss cheese, and so on — I simply double tap the Add 1 button for any desired items. To learn more about an item, double tap its name, which includes the Open Product Detail invitation. While not all items have information on this screen, the majority of products do.

I have never purchased Eggo’s Mini Pancakes. The product detail reads, in part, "Eggo's mini pancakes are a great tasting breakfast option ... Drizzle with syrup, top them with fruit, slather on some peanut butter ... or enjoy them for dinner."

Nutrition information appears here as well. For some products, this screen will also include the product directions for microwave and oven. There is an Add 1 button on this screen for quickly adding the product to your cart, and a Close Product Details button in the upper left corner of the screen to return to browsing in the same category or another. In every list, there is a Return to Previous Page button in the upper left corner for when you want to leave, say, the Dairy aisle to start looking for seafood or dessert.

As is true in the brick-and-mortar version of grocery shopping, each of us approaches a store in our own way. You might begin, as I do, with your previously purchased items. Alternatively, you might prefer to go directly to the On Sale list or to a specific category such as Dairy, Frozen, Bakery, or Deli. All lists are presented the same way, with the item name, size, and price on one line, and an Add 1 button below. To move to another category, simply double tap the Return to Previous Page button.

Returning to the original screen, there is always a Search option near the top. Here, you can enter any type of food or brand name. Just entering "avocado" for example, will net several search options:

  • Search for Avocado Fresh.
  • Search for Avocado Bag.
  • Search for Avocado Salad.
  • Search for Avocado Mayonnaise.

And so on.

Choosing Avocado Fresh nets these results:

  • Previously Purchased avocado, 1 ct, $2.19.
  • Avocado bag, 4 ct, sale price, $3.59.
  • Organic avocados, 4 ct, price $7.39.

…And more.

Each item, of course, has the Add 1 button below it. If you were looking for Avocado Salad Dressing, you could select Search again and choose a new option.

Searches also offer several filters for getting more specific results. The avocado search, for example, offers such filters as On Sale, Kitchen, Pantry, and Personal Care. If Personal Care is chosen as the filter, the first option in the product list is Suave Avocado and Olive Oil Body Wash, 12.6 fl. ounces, $2.49. You can Open Product Detail here for more information, double tap the Add 1 button to put it in your cart, or select the Return to Previous Page button in the upper left-hand corner to shop for snow peas or hamburger buns.

The Shipt Shopping Cart

You can go to your cart for review at any time. Once there, you will find the list of items you have selected. Below each item are three buttons: Add 1, Remove 1, and Add Note. If, for instance, you have placed one honey crisp apple in your cart, you can tap the Add 1 button repeatedly to increase that number to 2 or 3 or 4 apples. If you placed a half-gallon of Simply Orange orange juice but later found Tropicana, which is more to your liking, you can tap the Remove 1 button to take the first choice away. If you have ordered bananas and you like your bananas with a bit of green on them, you can select the Add Note button below bananas and type or dictate that preference.

When you are satisfied with your cart, there will be a checkout button, along with your total price, in the lower left corner of the screen. Double tapping this button will bring up all of your final details. First, you can select your delivery date and time. If you want your groceries today, you select Today and then the preferred time range. If ordering around 11:30 in the morning, for instance, your first choice might be from 1:00 to 2:00 PM. From there, you can select any hour up until the store's closing time. You can also schedule delivery for a future date and time. After selecting your delivery time, you will be shown your payment details. This will include the type of card you have on file, along with its last 4 digits, and any fees that might apply. A Place Order button will be in the lower left corner. Once tapped, you will get a thank-you message and, before long, a notification from your personal shopper that they have begun shopping.

Communicating with Your Shopper

It's a good idea to keep your phone with you while the shopping is being done. You might get messages from your shopper asking you if it is OK to substitute one brand for another if the brand you have ordered is out of stock or if a similar product is on sale for a lower price. You can also add to your order until your shopper sends a message that he has completed checkout and is on the way. After your groceries have been delivered, the app will offer you the opportunity to rate your shopper and add a tip, which is done electronically, not with cash in hand.

Creating an Account

Create an account by opening the site in your web browser or by downloading the app and opening it on your iPhone or android device. You will be asked for your name, address, phone number, and your credit card information. You can sign up for an annual membership, $99 annually or $8.25 per month, or, if you are less certain about your commitment, for a monthly subscription of $14 per month. The delivery fee will be waived for any order of at least $35. (On those rare occasions when I need just a few items and am thus falling below the $35, I often add one staple that I know I will eventually use, such as a bottle of wine or box of coffee K cups, to bring the checkout price up to $35. Of course, if you do have less than $35 in your cart, you can still get quick delivery, but you will pay a $7 service fee for that delivery.


I have used Shipt for nearly two years now. I use it regularly for groceries, but I have also shopped for toys, clothing, cosmetics, and other household items. Once, when I needed a holiday themed tablecloth, I used the Add Note field to ask the shopper to call me with descriptions when she was standing in front of the tablecloths. She did so and I wound up with a lovely table accessory.

Shoppers come from every demographic — college students, retirees, working moms, and others. All have been friendly and nearly all have been excellent shoppers for fresh fruit, vegetables, and sales!

Shipt offers a number of promotions such as a two-week free trial and $50 off your annual membership for referring a friend. To find out which stores are shopped in your area, simply visit the Shipt website and enter your zip code.

The Shipt app was somewhat difficult to use in its early iterations, but feedback from blind users has definitely had an effect. Today, it is completely accessible and VoiceOver friendly. I can put in a huge grocery order in probably 15 minutes, and then do other things with my time until a friendly Shipt shopper brings the store to my door.

To sign up or explore, go to the Shipt website or download Shipt from the iTunes or Google Play store.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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The Jitterbug Flip, Continued

Steve Kelley

In April, AccessWorld published A Review of the Jitterbug Flip and Smart2Accessible Cell Phones from GreatCall. That article prompted several emails from readers sharing experiences with Jitterbug that were less than positive.

One of these emails, written by Christine Pentland, was published in May’s Letters to the Editor, and outlined some of the challenges her father has experienced as a long-time Jitterbug Flip user.

Readers of the April article may recall that during my initial activation of a Jitterbug Smart2 (Jitterbug’s Android smartphone), several red flags appeared. Activation required numerous calls to customer service, and ultimately the phone required a “hard reset” with the prompting of one of the customer service agents, before activation could be completed. This was not a routine part of the Smart2 activation process, but a fix needed to get the phone to connect to the network. During this process, we were no longer in the world of Android magnification gestures and Talkback screen reading, we were in the world of command prompts requiring a magnification glass to see. It would not have been a positive experience for a user who was new to this technology, or who was expecting the support of a screen reader to complete the setup process.

To complete activation, several calls were made in February during hours when support was not open for activation. The message on the answering machine repeated upcoming “holiday hours” from 6 weeks prior.

Customer service sometimes required a bit of a wait, but the agents were, without exception, pleasant, easy to understand, and helpful. It did seem, at least during the process of activation, that agents requested I repeat procedures performed previously, and also sounded as if they were heavily referencing resource materials to answer questions and complete what was, eventually, a successful activation that resulted in a fully operational Jitterbug Smart2.

In her email, Ms. Pentland outlines several complaints she has with the Jitterbug Flip and GreatCall service her father uses:

  1. Inconsistent Voice Dial feature.
  2. Microphone periodically cutting out.
  3. Fluctuating sound quality.
  4. Acknowledgement by GreatCall customer service agents that “there is a glitch in the phone…a huge problem with most customers,” that continues on uncorrected.

To learn more about the Jitterbug Flip, I purchased one off-the-shelf at a local Rite-Aid, one of several retailers (also Best Buy, Staples, and Walmart) that stock the phone. Activating the Flip was simpler than the Smart2. On a Monday evening, I called the activation number listed on the Jitterbug packaging and had the option of holding for the next available agent or leaving a number for a call back. I left my number and was called within 10 minutes. I was later transferred to customer service to pay the $35 activation fee and was on hold for 25 minutes (there was no option offered to leave my number). Within 10 minutes we completed the activation information, and I was delighted to learn that because I had recently cancelled my Smart2 service and was reactivating a phone, there was no additional activation fee! Following the agent’s instructions, I powered off the phone, restarted it, and activation was complete.

Voice Dial

Tackling items systematically from Ms. Pentland’s list, the first objective was to test out Voice Dial. Voice Dial is a feature that allows users to say the name of a contact listed in their Jitterbug Phone Book and have that number dialed automatically. I found no Voice Dial in settings or on the menu (it should be noted here that there is no on-board screen reader or self-voicing menus on the Flip).

To get assistance and check out another feature, dialing “0” resulted in an immediate response from a human operator who responded to my request for Voice Dial by connecting me to customer service, where I learned that dialing “0” costs $.99 each time, and that the Voice Dial feature is a free feature that must be sent to the phone from customer service in order for it to appear.

Within minutes, Voice Dial was installed on my Flip. When installed, instead of getting a dial tone when the phone cover is opened, an electronic voice says, “Say the name after the beep.” If the name is in the user’s phone book, the software confirms by asking, , “Did you say …?” If the user replies, “Yes,” the call is initiated without the need to dial a single number.

My experience over two weeks is that the Voice Dial prompt was about 95% accurate. If the voice prompt failed and a dial tone was initiated instead, closing and reopening the phone usually resulted in the Voice Dial prompt. When asked about this inconsistency, a customer service agent suggested that the phone needed to be powered completely off and turned back on at least once a week to maintain software consistency in software features such as Voice Dial. He noted by looking at my account the phone had been turned off and restarted three days prior.

As in my original review, interactions with customer service agents were positive and easy to understand, however, their knowledge regarding service features varied. For example, three GreatCall representatives were asked in three different calls how unlimited operator dialing might be secured for less than $.99 per use. The first reported it was available for $9.95/month. The second reported that no price break for operator assistance existed, although she thought that would be a great service package for GreatCall to offer. The third explained that based on what appears on the GreatCall website, unlimited operator assistance is available with the “Ultimate Health and Safety Package for $34.95/month." A fourth customer service agent clarified this further by explaining that if a customer has a verified visual impairment, unlimited access to the GreatCall personal operator was available at no cost without the need for the “Ultimate Health and Safety Package.” To receive unlimited access to the operator, at no cost, customers with a visual impairment must mail or fax a note from their doctor on the doctor’s letterhead. The phone number or account number needs to be in the letter. The letter may be faxed to: 858-724-2750, or mailed to:

Attn: Care Ops VID Phone number or Acct number PO Box 4428 Carlsbad, CA 92018

It should be noted here that the personal operator service is really a significant feature that GreatCall offers over other mobile services. This human operator can place a call, access the user’s phone book to add a contact or call a contact, look up a number, place a phone call, and more. While the Flip does not offer accessibility features beyond the larger print fonts on the phone and display and the Voice Dial feature, the Flip with unlimited access to the personal operator makes an easy-to-use, powerful communication tool.

Microphone and Sound Quality

I agree with Ms. Pentland that the sound quality of the Flip is less than satisfactory. The microphone consistently worked and, when asked, call recipients did not report poor sound quality from the microphone. Overall, the sound from the speaker was a bit tinny, and the external speaker is located on the back side of the phone so it would most likely be facing away from the caller. I found the sound quality useable, but would certainly understand a user with hearing loss having some trouble with it. The Flip is M4/T4 hearing aid compatible, however, and will connect to a headphone via jack or Bluetooth.

Complaints about the microphone and speakers were shared by several reviewers on both Amazon Reviews and Yelp Reviews. Overall, of the 1,436 total reviews of the Flip on Amazon, as of May 31, 2019, 864 were categorized as “positive,” and 572 categorized as “critical,” with an overall rating of 3.3 stars out of a possible 5.

A total of 33 critical reviews were posted on Amazon from April 1 through May 31, 2019. Eight of those reviews specifically mentioned problems with the microphone, four identified poor speaker quality, four indicated problems with service, and three identified other phone quality issues such as poor battery life. Several reviews indicated confusion or disappointment with the $35 activation fee, long wait times during activation and difficulty with activation.

On Yelp, 78 total reviews were recorded since 2009 for a total of 1.5 stars out of 5 stars. This current rating has declined slightly from a rating of 2 stars in 2015. Of the four critical Yelp reviews between April 1 and May 31, 2019, only one mentioned poor speaker quality. The other issues related to billing and activation, and some were later identified as resolved. It is worth noting that a number of the critical reviews on Yelp were responded to in writing by someone identified as “GreatCall Customer Service or Business Owner."

Hardware Issues

As for the last item listed in Ms. Pendtland’s email, that the GreatCall customer service agents, and presumably GreatCall, were aware of chronic hardware issues with the Flip and software glitches like the inconsistent Voice Dial feature, and that the company is slow to resolve them, she was not alone. Amazon reviewer Dee Ann Douglas reported in her review, “Call to Great Call resulted in customer service rep cavalierly stating they were aware of this software glitch that will be repaired sometime in May. My response was then it’s basically useless in its current state.”

AnAmazon reviewer with the screen name "lostlure again" reported, “Within the first few months the microphone failed. He could hear us but we couldn't hear him. Great Calls [sic] acknowledged this has been an issue and sent us a replacement phone. Three or so months later the exact same failure happened on the new phone. Great Calls [sic] says new software is coming out in a few months, but refuses to replace it again unless we bring it to one of their facilities for debugging.“

I reached out four times to GreatCall to follow-up with the reader response to the April article and ask about repetitive complaints for hardware and software issues. These attempts included an email to pr@greatcall.com, a contact form on the GreatCall website, a phone call and message left on the San Diego, California, corporate office, and another email message. GreatCall's response can be found at the bottom of this article.

The Bottom Line

The Jitterbug Flip phone is an Alcatel OneTouch beneath the Jitterbug and GreatCall logos. It is based on the same hardware as the Alcatel Go phone used by Sprint and T-Mobile. PC Magazine selected the Jitterbug Flip as an Editor’s Choice and gave it a four-star rating (out of five) as recently as the November 2018 issue.

Although the Jitterbug Flip pricing plans and features may seem a bit challenging to figure out at first glance because of the optional “Health and Safety Packages” that may be added to their Talk and Text rates. For example, the unlimited Talk and Text rate is $39.95/month, but unlimited talk and text with the Ultimate Health and Safety Package, which, among many other features, offers unlimited use of the personal operator, costs $54.95/month. Customers who are willing to provide a doctor’s proof of visual impairment, can access the personal operator for free. There is also a one-time activation fee of $35.

It seems clear from comments from readers and reviewers that there are some persistent hardware issues with the Jitterbug Flip phone and the absolute reliability of the Voice Dial feature. For some, this may be a deal breaker. Without question, the Jitterbug Flip remains one of the simplest mobile phones to use, which might be enough for some users to overlook other issues. Clearly, a microphone failure or continued degradation of a feature like Voice Dial, which some users need to rely on to initiate phone calls, are critical issues that customers may rightly expect to be corrected promptly. During my limited experience, I found the customer service reps to be better than most, and certainly comparable to what I’ve experienced with T-Mobile. The overall experience warranted a rating higher than Yelp’s—a solid 3 stars out of 5. If you are interested in purchasing a Flip, I would recommend buying the phone locally in case it needs to be returned or replaced,, completing the paperwork for no-cost access to the personal operator, adding the customer service number to your phone book, and being proactive about possible service issues. The Jitterbug Flip is not the phone for everyone looking for an easy-to-use cell phone, but it's definitely a solid option for some.

Manufacturer Comments

GreatCall understands the issues being brought up in Steve Kelly’s article, and we regret any inconvenience to the users. For the past few months, we have been collecting user feedback like these and have put in various improvements in the next software release. This software release will be available in the next few weeks and will be deployed over-the-air. If any users are having the issues mentioned in this article, we encourage them to call in, and our Care associates will prioritize the deployment of the software to their phone, as soon as it is available.

Best regards,

The GreatCall Team

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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A Review of <i>Format Your Word Documents with JAWS and NVDA: A Guide for Students and Professionals,</i> by David Kingsbury

Bill Holton

If you’ve ever turned in a research paper or work report written using MS Word using a screen reader only to learn that your tables are not APA compliant and, even worse, you accidentally used four different fonts, underlined and italicized random words, and changed font sizes every other page then…join the crowd. We’ve all made “unsightly” errors in our printed work, mistakes that all but leap off the page for sighted writers, but that can be easy for users of screen readers to miss. These days, the big two screen readers, JAWS and NVDA, offer a number of useful tools to help you create letter-perfect research papers and reports.

The goal of a new book from the National Braille Press, Format Your Word Documents with JAWS and NVDA: A Guide for Students and Professionals, by David Kingsbury, aims to teach you how to use these tools. Kingsbury is an assistive technology instructor at the Carroll Center for the Blind and writes in the introduction: “The primary objective of this book is to help you format Word documents that look professional using the JAWS and NVDA screen reader programs.” His second goal is to familiarize students and other professionals with the various ins and outs of the three major academic style standards: the American Psychological Association (APA), the Modern Language Association (MLA), and The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS).

Kingsbury begins with a discussion of these three standards, focusing in on the digital availability and accessibility and learning resources for each. He points out that students can download sample documents that demonstrate each standard, but notes that: “Sighted students only have to glance at these files and mimic what they see. Yet they are useless to blind students because, when using a screen reader program, no formatting information can be detected from a PDF.”

Keystrokes and the Ribbon

Before you can format a research paper or other document, you first have to write it. After the overview of the three style standards, Kingsbury takes a detailed look at keyboard commands both native to Word and used by the two major screen readers. Next he tackles the Word Ribbon, which can be confusing to screen reader users, to say the least. He describes how to navigate the Ribbon using the Tab and Arrow keys, and does an excellent job introducing the user to shortcut key combinations, such as CTRL+E to center justify text, and using the key sequence Alt+S+P to insert a caption or title in the current table. He also discusses how to use your screen reader to navigate a Word dialog box and other tasks, and highlights various differences in the way JAWS and NVDA handle text navigation, spell checking, and other essential tasks.

Advanced users are invited to skip ahead, but before we do, I did notice two omissions I think are worth mentioning here.

First, if there is a command buried deep inside the Ribbon that you use frequently, it is possible to add the command to the Quick Access toolbar, which displays at the upper left of the Word screen, just above the Ribbon’s File tab. Shuffle these commands into your preferred order, and you can then use ALT +1 to invoke the first custom command, ALT+2 for the second, and so on, much the same as you would press CTRL+Alt+1 to create a level-one heading and CTRL+Alt+2 to create a level-two heading. Learn more about adding features to the Quick Access toolbar.

You can also create a custom keyboard shortcut for any Word command, macro, font, style, or frequently used symbol, and then press a that key combination instead of navigating deep into the Ribbon to access the feature you need. Get started at the Office Support Customizing Keyboard Shortcuts page.

I do not count it against the author that he did not mention either of these Word features, as they require the user to have the permissions to change Word’s normal.dot document template, which you may not if you are using a work or university computer. That said, there is one other Office feature I was surprised Kingsbury did fail to mention. It’s called “Tell me what you want to do,” and it’s accessible by pressing Alt+Q. Type in a word you think is in the command you want and press enter. For example, typing “Comments” into the search field summons options to go to next and previous comment, insert a comment, a “show markup” submenu with options to display insertions and deletions, formatting, other authors, and another nested submenu where you can choose to show these elements in balloons or inline. Pressing Enter on any of these invokes the command directly. This method is handy for finding those seldom used commands buried deep inside the Office Ribbon.

Formatting for Success

It’s in Chapter 4 where Kingsbury gets down to the true meat and potatoes of this book. He begins with a thorough overview of fonts, including how to change them and, more importantly, how to check to make sure you haven’t added inadvertent underlines or bold text, or changed the font size or color. This section alone can save the reader considerable embarrassment. The author highlights the different formatting requirements of APA, MLA and CMOS,, and describes how each handles fonts, margins, headers, footers and formatted lists—useful information, even if your instructor or boss doesn’t require strict style guide adherence.

In Chapter 5 we learn pretty much everything there is to know about how to create, edit, and navigate Word tables using a screen reader. Chapter 6 discusses footnotes and endnotes, along with Word’s citations and bibliography tools. Feel free to jump forward to this chapter, since as we all know, creating footnotes and bibliographies is always the most enjoyable part of writing any research paper (ironic smile.)

It’s always good to get a second, third, perhaps even a fourth opinion on your work before you turn it in. Or perhaps you are collaborating with fellow students or coworkers on a project and you need to chime in with a comment or two. In Chapter 7 Kingsbury covers creating comments, and how to access, review, accept and or delete both comments and the tracked changes others have added to your document. Again, the screen reader tips and tricks are well placed and welcome, especially in the sections that discuss the JAWS Text Analyzer, JAWS sound schemes as a proofreading tool, and NVDA document formatting tool and how to set it up for maximum proofreading assistance.

Kingsbury ends the main text of the "Format Your Word Documents with JAWS and NVDA" section with a few “Additional Considerations” to help add those essential final touches on a research paper or document: title page, abstract placement and formatting, section breaks and tables of content, pictures, and lists of tables and figures. I am not sure why this chapter comes after the proofreading information, as you're going to want to redo your proofreading after performing any of these enhancements.

The book concludes with four useful available keystroke appendices covering Word, Jaws, NVDA, and Windows.


This book is an essential resource for people with visual impairments who are starting high school or college, but others will also find it useful. Whether you’re writing reports at work, chugging away on that first novel, or just want to ensure your business and personal correspondence are letter perfect you will benefit from the author’s bulleted, step-by-step approach to many of Word’s advanced features. Take note, however, that there are many features not covered in the book. Two I wish had been included are Word’s “Feedback with Sound,” feature and the Accessibility Checker. Desktop publishers may also be disappointed with the lack of information regarding text column formatting and hyphenation. Granted, these are not features often used in research papers, and any serious desktop publisher is likely using a Mac, in which case I suggest you take a look at A Review of My Mac Pages: A VoiceOver Guide to Word Processing, by Anne and Archie Robertson from the April, 2016 issue of AccessWorld.

I did appreciate the discussion of both JAWS and NVDA, but I think subsequent editions of this book should include at least a command list for Narrator, which seems to be growing in both popularity and functionality. The author also needs to explain, at the very least, why he chose to omit any mention of Word for the Mac.

Minor quibbles aside, this old dog learned a few new tricks from this book, and I do believe you will, too.

Where to Purchase

Format Your Word Documents with JAWS and NVDA: A Guide for Students and Professionals, by David Kingsbury is available from the National Braille Press bookstore in Braille, BRF, DAISY or Word.DOCX downloadable files for $18. You can add an additional $2 for any version preloaded on a USB drive

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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<i>AccessWorld</i> News

Envision Names Jing Xu Next Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Low Vision  

Envision announced today that it has awarded a new fellowship for postdoctoral research studies involving low vision and blind rehabilitation to Jing Xu, who will explore how to help adults with vision loss continue to drive safely. Beginning in July, her research will be based out of the Gigi and Carl Allen Envision Research Institute (ERI) and sponsored by Bosma Enterprises.

“Breakthrough technologies such as Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles (AVs) can minimize human error and greatly improve driving safety for people with vision loss,” said Ronald Schuchard, executive director of the ERI. “To our knowledge, however, no driving assistance system has been specifically designed or evaluated for drivers with vision loss, nor has there been any systematic investigation of the effects of ADAS or AVs on the safety of drivers who are blind or visually impaired. We are therefore delighted to offer Dr. Xu a postdoctoral research fellowship and to facilitate her investigation into the potential benefits and risks of these driving technologies.”

Dr. Xu is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University. She completed her Ph.D. in industrial engineering in August 2017 at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Alexandra Bowers, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School who specializes in mobility enhancement and vision rehabilitation, and Rui Ni, an associate professor of psychology at Wichita State University who specializes in aging, driving and autonomous vehicles, will serve as her mentors. Dr. Xu’s research will focus on:

  • Designing and evaluating a collision warning and assistance system to support hazard detection and avoidance for drivers with vision loss due to AMD
  • Using a simulated driving experiment, investigating the effects of different levels of vehicle automation on hazard detection for drivers with vision loss due to AMD

Dr. Xu’s fellowship is being funded by Bosma Enterprises, an Indianapolis-based manufacturer and provider of job training, employment services, rehabilitation and outreach for people who are blind or visually impaired, and a sister agency to Envision through National Industries for the Blind based in Alexandria, Virginia.

The ERI has established Envision as a hub of low vision and blind rehabilitation research and attracts fellows from around the world. It was created by Envision in 2013 to raise the standard for low vision and blind rehabilitation patient care and to remove barriers by investigating the functional implications of vision loss, early screening and access to treatments, optimizing rehabilitation therapies and developing accessibility technology. Postdoctoral fellowships at the ERI provide an educational and research environment where appointees identify solutions to improve the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Dr. Xu is part of the fifth class of fellows to conduct studies at the Envision Research Institute. She joins Susanne Klauke and Marco Tartantino, the fourth class of fellows who are in their first years, as well as Güler Arsal and Rajkumar Raveendran, the third class of fellows who are both in their second years.

Dr. Susanne Klauke’s project, sponsored by Pitt Plastics in Pittsburg, Kansas, investigates “Developing rehabilitation for interactions between visual impairment, voice recognition, social impairment and depression."

Tarantino’s project, sponsored by National Industries for the Blind in Alexandria, Virginia, studies “Experiences of Blind and Low Vision Individuals at Different Stages of the Employment Cycle as These Relate to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Regulations Implemented in 2014.”

Dr. Arsal’s project, sponsored by ibMilwaukee in West Allis, Wisconsin, centers around “Navigation and Wayfinding Expertise of People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired.”

Dr. Raveendran’s project, sponsored by LCI in Durham, North Carolina, focuses on “Non-Invasive Brain Stimulations & Visual Rehabilitation.”

Additional details about the ERI and its postdoctoral fellowship program can be found online here.

Recipient of The San Francisco Lighthouse's Holman Prize Launches Website for Blind Travelers

In June 2019, Holman Prizewinner Stacy Cervenka launched the Blind Travelers’ Network, an online platform to connect blind and visually impaired people with information and resources for non-visual accessibility in countries around the world. The platform hosts blog posts, reviews, discussion boards and event listings to help users expand their horizons, leave their comfort zone behind and explore new places. To learn more, visit this page.

Now in its second year, the Holman Prize was launched by the LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco as a means of enabling legally blind people from around the world to make their dreams a reality, and to demonstrate to the public at large that in an accessible world, blind people are capable of doing anything that their sighted peers can do. Visit the Holman page for more details.

US Department of Labor Announces Funding to Support Employee Policy Development for Youth with Disabilities

The US Department of Labor announced the availability of approximately $4 million for a four-year cooperative agreement for a youth-focused disability policy development center. The solicitation is a re-competition of an existing cooperative agreement. The deadline to apply is July 23, 2019.

Administered by the Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the funding will support continued work on ODEP’s National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth). This youth policy development center will conduct research, engage with the workforce system and its partners, identify effective policies and practices that support youth with disabilities, and provide resources and training to help support the transition of youth with disabilities to employment.

“Like their peers, youth with disabilities should grow up expecting to work and succeed. We must ensure they are supported in meeting this expectation at every turn,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, Jennifer Sheehy. “Our youth-focused disability policy development center will play a key role in helping educators, service providers, family members, employers, and others support youth with disabilities as they transition from school to adulthood and the world of work."

Letters to the Editor

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

My name is Randee and I am a blind woman from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I just learned of the AccessWorld app no longer being supported on a blind podcast. I am truly upset to learn that it is no longer around. I started using the app because I didn’t have to use a computer to get to the website. I liked the mobile app. I could sit in the comfort of my living room or wherever and access the news. Now, I am forced to go to the site.

This can be cumbersome on a mobile device. Also, I know about blind people who rely solely on their mobile devices. They do not own any type of computer.

I know that I have had my own problems trying to keep a site bookmarked on a mobile device.

I became more engaged in reading the AccessWorld news articles because of the ease of the mobile app. Now, I don’t know what I will do.

In my heart I feel that not staying on a mobile platform is taking a step back in our modern society.

Thank you for reading.


Randee Boerboom

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

In your June issue Editor's Page you stated: “Jamie’s words demonstrate how being able to switch among screen readers and Internet browsers, for instance, can make a world of difference in whether you achieve access, or you don’t. Being able to move to a mobile version of a website can dramatically simplify browsing that site or purchasing its products or services.”

I have spent hours listening to a tutorial of Goldwave and it has been painful going. I can use Chrome, a bit, but wish I did not need to have to learn several speech software packages, several browsers, several other software packages. I enjoyed learning in the past when I had more support from friends. As I get older, I find the playing field changing so rapidly and support from blind trainers hard to locate, that I dread new tech changes.


Dear AccessWorld Editor,

Thanks for Janet Ingber’s June 2019 article about Verizon Fios’s “improved” accessibility.

Is there a way to get a hold of the documentation the author referenced?

While I agree that being able to find a lost remote control and having the ability to turn features such as TTS and SAP on and off through a voice command is a good improvement, there is much that Verizon’s TV offering could do to improve accessibility, starting with making documentation available through its support channels. As the author observed, Verizon’s website and customer support offer no such documentation, and I’d venture to say that the author’s ability to find a representative who was able to find the documentation was a matter of pure good luck.

I have been trying to find the little bit of information Janet published in the article for the past couple of months, escalating my request through their so called disability support line, all the way to their executive relations team, and the best I could get was that an update to their TTS is going to be out in August, presumably of this year.

Other areas where Verizon’s TTS falls short is its inability to read help text, read the Verizon FIOS Home Screen, apps and notifications and the inability to control the speech rate, to name a few. Hopefully some of that will be fixed in the August release, but we will see.

Thanks and keep up the great work.


Dear AccessWorld Editor,

This message is in reference to Deborah Kendrick's August 2014 article, Walt Disney World Provides Accessibility for Blind Guests.

Thank you. I’m getting ready to go in November 2019 and was wondering about the tools available to the visually impaired.