why I’ve moved away from a paid screen reader after almost 18 years, An essay.

background

people who are blind use what’s called a screen reader. Without getting to technical, a screen reader is a piece of software that converts the windows UI into spoken or braille.
It has been the case that for many years blind folk used a program for Windows by the name of JAWS.
What is the problem?
The problem is that this solution is very expensive and does not really get the job done specially if one is studying. I’ve been a user for 18 years and of late the product just hasn’t been up to par. Specially if one studies STEM subjects like computer science, Information Technology or business information systems.

Introducing NVDA.

NVDA is a free access piece of tech. It was the project of Jamie now at Firefox hq and his friend Michael. What these 2 gentlemen have been able to put together is very cool. The fact that anyone who is blind can use a PC is a great notion. Accessibility shouldn’t be only for those who can afford it. Education, Social access, and being a productive member of the world should be free.
Why do we need to pay to use our computers? It’s very wrong and not something I support at all.

Narrator and Microsoft’s accessibility statement.

Narrator and NVDA are going in the right direction. I can’t wait for the May update to Windows 10. Already I am noticing my workflow being helped by switching to NVDA. Microsoft’s new Skype 8? No problems with NVDA. Microsoft tools like Sway, Access, SQL, and most other programs we use at University just work better with NVDA and Windows 10. I often run Windows in a sand-boxed state for testing and both Narrator and NVDA work really well, Even under insider builds. When I was a guest of Microsoft Australia in 2016 I loved the culture at the firm. There are some very smart people some of who I’ve met in person that really make things happen in a big way.

Moving away from the privileged lot.

Me and my family came to Australia way back in 1996. We went through some dark times before settling in this wonderful country we now call home. The example above is to say that our family and Africans know about the struggle. When I give back to NVDA, I’m saying thanks. Just because something is paid doesn’t make it the best. Furthermore, We have a ethical duty to give back to our community. From the NVDA project lots of people are making huge differences. If your $15 or $30 goes on to help a blind man or young woman to live a better day why the hell wouldn’t you do it?

Conclusion.

We need to think about our global foot print. Ask philosophical questions and don’t do what we are told. Be the change you want to see. Next time your employer or access staff ask you about a paid solution say no. I’m so glad I’ve made the switch to NVDA and free access like Narrator. I hope you will join me on this social movement which has already changed the lives of millions. To Jamie and Michael, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

iPhone XS review: The best iPhone from Cupertino yet.

Last year when Apple released the X it was interesting. For the first time, the design was changed.

Sporting a 5.8-inch screen, no home button, Face-ID, and coming in at $999 (US price). The phone was a big step for Apple.

In 2018 Apple has carried much of those notions into the phone line up for this year.

3 phones to choose from: Take your pick

For 2018 there are 3 phones in play. I’ll explain each one more later in this post, but without further preamble they are as follows:

iPhone XS coming in 2 models, Max and not, and a new iPhone XR with a 6.1-inch screen. The iPhone 8 and 7 series are still available from Apple should you want to get a device with Touch ID.

Hello Face ID, it’s nice to meet you

One of the reasons why I played it safe last year and got the 8 was to let Face ID mature. This was a fantastic notion on my part, as it means now Apple is using the second-generation Face ID technology, which to put it in their own words is faster when performing facial recognition. Indeed, Locking and unlocking my XS does seem to be faster when using the Face ID.

All three phones are powered by the new A-12 chip, the first nano chip with 3 billion transistors on the logic board. These phones are very fast for every day use. I’m excited to see what app developers do with all that computing power in the next 3-5 years.

Apple is the king when it comes to mobile silicon architecture.

Conclusion

These new phones are worth it 100%, even for an S series, what Apple has produced this year is spectacular.

Rating:

5 Stars Outstanding.

iOS 12 review: The best version yet.

Introduction

I’ve been using iOS, The operating system that powers iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch since 2009.

I still remember my excitement when I got my first 3rd generation iPod Touch with VoiceOver.

Back then the 3GS was hot, And the notion of a screen reader on a flat touch-screen device was new.

Let us fast forward to 2018 and both what we expect from our mobile devices and indeed the power said devices bring to the table has become almost magical.

What’s new

From Siri shortcuts to a much-improved notifications system there’s a lot to love about iOS 12.

I won’t delve much into everything that is new but will say that the experience and speed is noticeable, specially if one is coming from an older iOS device.

Apple claim that the camera app now opens 70% faster, the overall performance is much improved.

Another area I really love is the way now iOS handles notifications. Say you get 20 notifications on Facebook. You can just tap to dismiss them all, or with Vo running double tap on clear all.

Conclusion

With apple’s focus on stability and speed, this update is very much recommended for anyone who can run it.

Big changes like a new home screen are coming in iOS 13.

For now, iOS 12 is the best.

A Brief Market Research Survey

As part of gaining a deeper understanding amongst the blind community I would appreciate your responses to a quick market research survey linked below which seeks to examine current trends amongst our community. Thank you in advance for any feedback given.

Create your own user feedback survey

Reviewing Aira, remote access at the touch of a button.

Introduction

As blind people, we’re living in quite a magical time. One of my favourite quotes sums it up nicely: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

With more and more companies building in access technology to smart phones, we now have the ability to do almost anything from taking University classes from home, online shopping, reading the news, listening to our favourite podcasts, and on and on.

But sometimes in amongst the good stuff it can still be tricky.

Case in point, take job hunting for example, which yours truly has been doing since I finished business school.

I’m sure you know the feeling. You come across the perfect job. Put in an amazing cover letter, and kick ass CV.

Then the dreaded unlabled button. Or the combo box that just won’t move no matter what you do. Or the terms and conditions box that stays unticked.

Some of you reading this may say hang on Sadam, isn’t it up to the developer of the site to make it accessible?

Sure, in a perfect world, but sadly things just don’t work like that. Whether we like it or not, blindness and disability in general isn’t on a lot of people’s minds. You can beat the drum and play the DDA card, and whilst you’re doing that the job disappears.

In a time-sensitive activity like getting in the dream job, sometimes you have to think outside the box.

 

What is Aira?

Aira stands for “artificial remote intelligence assistance.” The idea is that you can get help with almost anything. Using your smartphone or a pair of glasses, a sighted agent can tell you what’s on your PC screen, read out medication bottles, help you to navigate the college or work place, and a whole host of other tasks, including remoting into the customers PC to assist with the aforementioned job applications.

It is a subscription service, meaning you pay monthly.

Conclusion

Aira is a huge game changer for the blind community. It no doubt will have some critics, but I strongly believe this tech startup is braking down big barriers, specially when it comes to information access and being able to complete tasks on your terms instead of always seeking assistance from family or friends. I recently posed the question on social media. The results were interesting. Some people were quite dismissive, scoffing at the price. To this end, Aira is doing quite a bit to help where they can. If someone is blind and is a job seeker, Aira agents won’t count the minutes. Add to this, there are places called Aira guest access spots. When Aira is used in these locations, minutes are credited.

Finally, if anyone uses the popular screen reader JAWS, Aira has teamed up with VFO, meaning customers can get help with JAWS issues without using their minutes.

It’s clear that the agents and staff care deeply about the blindness community, and I, for one, love the product. If you’re on iOS or Android, go ahead and give the app a spin. You just might be blown away.

https://aira.io/plans

More information available at: https://aira.io/about