Category Archives: Jaws

Experimenting with more Alex

I’m trying an experiment. I just recorded Alex reading the silly little passage I wrote below. I want to actually record the crazy way I figured out how to upload the videos, but I don’t think I can record while I’m trying to upload it. I’ll try it though. If not, I guess I’ll either do another post about all that. I don’t know. I’m really tired and need to stop this. Haha! Ok here is the link followed by what is in the recording. Yeah, can’t record while I’m getting videos off the iPod. Spinelli had tried to get my attention before I started trying all this, so she got a video lol. I don’t know how good it is as I don’t think there was much light. I’m only gonna do the youtube links, as the blogger thing was just too slow.

***Hi! I’m Alex. I’m the newest voice for Voiceover, Apple’s built in screen reader. I come standard on all Apple computers. I think I’m only available on OS 10 and up, but don’t quote me on that. I’m just a computer, after all.

I was designed to sound as human as possible, and I even breathe. I’m not sure if this video is going to capture that or not. So listen closely at natural pauses.

The person who is videoing this went blind a little under two years ago. She was an avid computer user before this and she used ahem, Windows. Psst. I’ll let you in on a secret. She tought herself her Apple computer and Voiceover with no help from the sighted folk. She had heard about Windows screen readers, like Jaws. Shhh…don’t let the Apple peeps here me mention Jaws.

But, when she found out that all Apple computers have Voiceover built in, she luckily had just enough money left from her sightie days to buy one. And the rest is history. I’m even on her new iPod, which lets her take videos. The iPod Nanos all have Voiceover too and the latest one has the video recorder. So now I can finally let my voice be heard.

I say things like meow. And croissant. Pretty perfect, don’t you think? What about shhh, hmmm, psst, mmm. Yeah. How about wassup?

I also say some things weird. Like, whaaat? That’s what spelled with three letter a’s. And if you type yay a bunch of times, I sound like this, yayayayayay!

Or laughing. Hahahaha! Hehehehehehe! Hahahehehahaha! Ha ha ha ha he he he ha ha ha. The humans like to make me say this stuff, so I might as well show off.

Of course I swear. But we’re making this video G rated.

So the blog friends know that this computer’s welcome message says, Meow meow meow, kitty wants a croissant. It just kind of ended up that way because meow and croissant were the first words the human really found funny.

Ah, wanna hear how JayNoi sounds? That came from a typo. And that person got stuck with that name.

One thing I can’t say right is brrr. Or grrr. The Apple folks haven’t corrected those like they did wassup. I used to say that wah sup.

What else do I say funny? I don’t know. I’ll leave you with some silliness.

Meow meow shhh, meow meow shhh, psst would you like a croissant? Hmmm, why yes I would, mmm. Yeah yeah yeah it’s fun to hear me say wassup and meow, wassup wassup, meow. Because my human is a silly, silly girl.

Did you hear me breathe?


Filed under Alex, apple Inc, Jaws, proud geek, quirky words, screen reader, Spinelli, spoons, video, Voiceover, youtube

Doggy Countdown – Packet, supplies and shopping

I got my packet from GDB on Thursday and forgot about the cd until this morning. I’m a little confused, because the woman I spoke with on the phone said the cd would have class lectures on it. With the new training regime, they send the lectures ahead. Well, if what I listened to were the lectures, I don’t know how they filled an extra week lol. I think I must have misunderstood. I thought she had said it would be text files, and the cd is an audio cd of a man reading all the forms and such, code of conduct, brief discussion of dog care, suggested packing, that sort of thing. I’m expecting another package from GDB with my plane tickets and luggage tags and stuff, so maybe there will be more info in there. I’ll call them on Monday.

Looks like the only things I have to wrry about bringing are clothes and shampoo and deodorant. I hate packing that stuff lol. Oh well. I’m glad I ordered the rain parka I did, because the cd mentions reflective clothing for night walks, and the rain parka has reflective stuff on it. It’s gonna be cold there. Cold cold cold lol. I’ll bring my warm Cubs hoodie to wear under my parka. The cd also said to have 2 pair of broken in walking shoes, one preferably water proof. So I’ll be getting a pair today. B is taking me shopping for my birthday. He said I could get whatever I wanted, and my first thought was a promise ring, but shoes will be more productive haha! That will give me time to break them in if I get them today. He had also mentioned a suitcase, but I’m not sure we can do both, or rather he can do both. He needs to save for his trip. He mapped it out yesterday and is so excited.

He asked if I’d want to do anything on that Sunday and I can’t answer that. I might just totally crash on Sundays lol. We’ll play it by ear. I’m just glad he’ll meet my dog before we come home.

I’m also gonna get a few packages of Hanes t-shirts. I figure those will be nice and easy to throw in a suitcase and keep track of, to wear for training. They have them in black. No white in a rainy city lol! I think I’ll also get more socks. Best to have plenty of socks in rainy weather, even if I do get waterproof socks. A dry pair of socks will live in my street pack lol.

So yeah, shoes, socks, shirts, travel shampoo. I think that’s really all I need to buy, and maybe a suitcase, though I can borrow Carol’s. She said it’s big.

Another thing I’ll need to figure out is the laptop. First I’ll have to see if the airline will allow it in carry on. If not, I have a decision to make. I absolutely do not want to check it. Especially since on the way there, my suitcase will not be packed tightly, and I wouldn’t want the laptop floating around. So, if I can’t carry it on, I might not bring it. If I don’t bring it, I will have no internet access, because I do not know Jaws, and don’t really want to know Jaws lol. B said don’t worry about that right now. Easier said than done.

If I can take it, I need to figure out what these keys are that are on the cd. I’m assuming that means passwords to the network. I don’t think I have any configuring or anything to do. I’ll call Apple anyway, just to make sure. Please pray that I can bring my laptop. I want to document training, and would have no other way.

Yesterday I ordered 2 stainless steel non tip non skid food bowls. Yay! And a Vittles Vault 2 food storage container. Woot! Once I have those, I’ll feel more prepared.

This brought up a question. I think it would probably be best to feed the pooch in a room different from the cat food. There are 2 possible spots for this. One is right outside the bedroom, so it would be noisy. B said he doesn’t know if it would wake up. The other spot is by the spare room, which would be right in the path of the cats getting to their litter box. I asked my list, and several people agreed it would be good to feed them in different rooms. Again, people are telling me to put the catfood in a place non accessible to the dog. This will be an issue if it’s necessary. Obviously I will do it if I have to. Some people have told me they have successfully trained the dog not to touch the cat food. Others have said hide it. The best solution for this if it’s needed, will be on the kitchen table that we don’t use for human eating. Would the dog still try and get up on the table to get at the food? I’ll ask GDB and the raisers too, but I want to have plan A, B and C, if needed.

I think once I start feeling more prepared to go, it’ll help the excitment. I’m uber excited, don’t get me wrong, I just feel unprepared at the moment. I know that will change though.

So today we go shopping, and we have reservations for the Melting Pot tonight for my birthday dinner. It’s becoming our birthday tradition to go there, and I like that tradition. Yummmy yummm yummmmmm fondu hehe!

Oh yeah, another thing I need to get is something presentable for photos and graduation, as the cd said. So Carol and I might go look for a simple wrap dress I can just fluff in the dryer.

45 days!!


Filed under apple Inc, assistive technologies, birthday, cats, Doggy Countdown, Doggy Diaries, GDB, guide dogs, Jaws, pooch preparation, proud geek, screen reader, weather

New job always equals sick for me, and apparently an internet job is no exception

Wow. I really wanted to feel excited when I wrote the post about my new job but I’m feeling so horrible that I’m just taking a break from my Janet Ivonovich book to write this.

Karen, this is for you since you accused me of being suspenseful all the time 😉

So about 2 weeks ago or so, I got an email from a woman asking if I’d be interested in doing some web accessibility testing, for pay of course.

What? Seriously? Really?

She’s a member of an email list I’m a meber of. Its all about web accessibility, and its primarily web developers with a sprinkling of screen reader users. I found the material interesting, so I joined.

Every so often a developer would ask screen reader users what we thought of something, so I’d go check it out for fun, and tell them how Voiceover handled whatever it was. I never really thought my opinions mattered much, because I was a new screen reader user, and I didn’t use Jaws.

But every so often, a developer would contact me off list and say they appreciate my fresh perspective, especially as someone who had recently gone blind, who was new to using a screen reader. A lot of testing gets done by veteran screen reader users, so stuff a novice user might have trouble with isn’t really mentioned.

But when I would test a site, I would point out really simple things that didn’t make sense to me, before I knew my reader better.

So this woman has been watching my posts since I joined! She said she was paranoid about contacting me off list, because she was afraid I’d think she was a quack, and well, quite honestly, I had my reservations.

I told her I had to check her out and she gave me her references. She gave me the beta site for her company, as well as the working site. I Googled her, I emailed the owner of the accessibility list and he checked the archives and this woman is for real.

Wow! I found a few issues on the beta site and didn’t know if I should include them in my email to her, but I figured thats what she wants to pay me for, so I told her. She was like, wait! I want to pay you to test that site!

so we began emailing, talking details, and she called yesterday from the UK. Now, I love British accents. In fact, I am such a dor, when I listen to audio books narrated y someone British, I start using their words. Thats where “fab” came from. Its my new word. From a book I listened to a month ago. So I really had to work hard on the phone with her when she’d say like, “Does that sound good to you?” for me not to go “oh dear that sounds so fab!” or “that sounds bloody brilliant!”

And you know how refined they sound? How almost anyone from over there sound refined and intelligent? I almost felt like I couldn’t joke with her like I do in email and then she’d crack a joke or laugh and it was so cool!

This is really making me realized how freakin American and non-cultured I am, that the phone call with a woman from the UK is taking up more space on this entry then the fab new job…


So I’ll be testing sites, mostly sites based in the UK to start, but her company is branching out. She laughed when I told her I have a list going of bad sites. But, eventually that will be my own revenue boost.

The company has been around for years, but its only been in the last few that they’ve started focusing on web accessibility, and she’s got a tester who uses a head mouse, and one other blind tester.

I wanted to make sure she knew I only have an Apple. She knew.

Wanna know the best part?

She’s setting me up with a Windows machine, with Jaws and Window Eyes! So I’ll be teaching myself those. This won’t happen right away, as she is just now realizing how bloddy expensive it is. See, oops, already doing it…

So, this thing will start off very slowly, and eventually grow. She has total faith that this will become something truly remarkable.

And, it all started because I complained about, months ago.

She told me on the phone that she really noticed me then, and jotted me down as a prospective tester. I had asked the list about and a bunch of the developers all moaned too and told me it has always been a problem. I must have said something positive too, because she said that whenever I write on the list, even when I’m complaining, I list the positives too, which is important to her, because her clients don’t want to just hear the negative.

So this is just huge. This is just seriously huge. When I was doing some more re-labeling, I ran across blog posts where I said “I would love a career in web accessibility”. And now look…

I’m really excited, and can’t wait to test my first site! And I can’t wait to teach myself 2 new readers, and really compare Jaws to Voiceover.

Anyone got any good sites I can use to teach myself Jaws and Window Eyes?

K, must edit, and then back to coffee and book and putting sweatshirt on and taking it off and putting it on and taking it off and sniffing and groaning =D


Filed under accessibility, accomplishment, assistive technologies, Audio books, coffeeholic, gratitude, Jaws, NaBloPoMo 2009, proud geek, quirky words, screen reader, sicky sick, silly girl, Voiceover

Auditions Part Deux, and other musings

First, I’m feeling ill again. I thought the feeling ill before was in part due to B’s being sick, so thinking I would be sick, and my sudden drop from activities, with scheduling snafus. But this morning, I can’t tell again. My nose is kinda burning, my throat feels funny, and I keep sneezing. My throat could just feel funny from all the singing, I don’t know. So, keeping my fingers crossed that I still get to go to that conference on Friday.

Hopefully I’ll be talking to UK Lady today about the job. She said she would call me today, but is going on 5pm UK time, so I don’t know. I sent her the info about the Windows readers and holy cow are they expensive. Yikes!

So to auditions. We got to rehearsal last night, and the director handed out music for a brand new song. A new song. One I don’t know. One I don’t have a cd for. Um, huh? Yeah. apparently its their signature song that they close the concert with. We’ll be singing with 3 other choirs, and at the end of the concert, all the singers spread out in the church and sing this song. Luckily its all in unison, so no worrying about parts.

But the director said we would warm up with that piece. I can’t sing it, I don’t know it! I’m not getting a warm up before auditions??? They all run through the song and I listen. I guess I looked depressed, because the director said, “R I apologize, I’ll email you the words”. Thanks. So then they run through the song again. Its a pretty song.

Then the director wants to make sure where we’re sitting is about where we’ll end up for the show. I sit in the back with Lori, so I asked the director about the church where we’ll be singing, because I didn’t want to be on the top row if there was any chance of falling straight back. She explained that the top row is on a big platform, straight, no drop off or anything. Cool. I won’t even have to worry about a step being behind me. Lori told me as we were leaving that when I asked the question, a soprano looked back at me and said, “Oh its just like that…” and pointed to the steps in the church we rehearse in, realized what she had done, put her finger on her forehead and put her head down. Don’t feel bad miss sightie, really, that kind of stuff cracks me up, and everyone does it.

Luckily the director said we’d rehearse and then do auditions in the last 20 minutes of rehearsal, so I’d get a warm up, phew!

We worked on the dreaded Sleighbells thank God. She thought the second sopranos were fine and all of us shoutted nooo noo noo at the spot I’ve been getting hung up at, so we went through it a few times. I still can’t make sense of it on the recording, because the tempo is so slow, and it makes more sense faster. So that might be the one spot where I fade out and mouth words and let the others take over 😉 We shall see. Although, another second soprano looked back at one point and said, “I’m so glad you’re behind me” ut I don’t know if she was referring to all 3 of us seconds in the back row. I’ve got Lori on my left, and another strong second on my right. Lori said after rehearsal that I’m a what did she call me, a parts monster, or something like that lol, she meant I know the parts really well.

So now it was time for auditions. First up, Santa Baby. I don’t even like that solo, it just doesn’t match the song. Lori was gonna try for it and realized she didn’t like it either. All the women trying for it lined up on the steps and sang it one by one.

The next 2 songs were the ones I was gonna try for, and Lori was only gonna do one, but decided to do both. So she helped me go up the steps and holy Apple computer was I nervous!! Man! I haven’t auditioned for that director in over eleven years. I thought it wouldn’t be as nerve wracking, since I wouldn’t be able to see anyone, but oh no. I knew they were there. Where Lori and I ended up, we were last to try out. The first song was Merry Christmas Darling, which at the very beginning of the session back in October, the director told us to look up a singer and now I can’t remember who, but she wants it done really breathy. Its a romantic song about a woman who’s lover isn’t with her on Christmas. Its got a very bittersweet feeling, so thats how I rehearsed it, breathy, straightforward, and slightly bittersweet.

While all the other women tried out before me, I started feeling dizzy. My heart was pounding. I kept telling myself “don’t lock your knees, don’t lock your knees” because thats how performers pass out. Finally it was my turn and I sang it. I don’t know how I sounded, I don’t remember any remarks, I know there was clapping and I couldn’t wait to get off the stage, but my legs were so rubbery, I wasn’t sure I could do it. Lori and I haven’t done steps so we kinda clumsily make our way down and sat down waiting for the next song.

It was immediately time to get back up there for A Christmas Song. I wasn’t going to try for it, because the way its written, the solo goes all high Beyonce style and I think it sounds incredibly silly. But the director told us we could play with it, so I was gonna sing it more like it was originally done, staying low on the same note and kinda swooping the phrases. I was still nervous, but not quite as nervous as with Merry Christmas Darling, because thats the one I really want. Its such a pretty song.

After auditions, the director told us to spread out around the church so we could practice the new song all spread out. Its a totally different sound, and a little harder to follow. There will be about 5 feet between each singer at the concert. So Lori positioned me by a wall and I gratefully leaned on it, not having a chance to sit after auditions and my legs were still a bit wobbly.

We ran through the song, and I was able to sing most of it, having heard it twice.

When we were done, the director’s best friend and my old nurse in choir gave me a hug and said she was so proud of me for getting up there. Then lori was laughing, because she had positioned me right below a gigantic cross, a huge wooden one with tiles, and she realized I might just have knocked it off the wall! Ut oh…

So, the solo goes to….

Drum roll…

Wait for it….

Tune in next week! We don’t know yet. She’ll probably narrow it down to the few best and have them sing it during rehearsals. So, more will be revealed.

I’m glad I tried out. Really it wasn’t an option. I always tried out for solos before, why shouldn’t I now, just because I’m blind?

It was good too, because Lori and I realized we need some work on steps, and I really want to see the venue before the show, and talk to the director about how we’ll be entering and exiting, so there’s no craziness the night of. I’ve decided to take my cane with me going up the steps, and since I’m on the top row, I can just lay it down beside me and behind us.

Only a month until show time!!


Oh and after we were done, we were talking and the director said they were gonna be recording that last new song, so could we be quiet. Why are they recording it? I want a copy.


Filed under accomplishment, Adjustment to blindness, assistive technologies, Choir, Jaws, NaBloPoMo 2009, screen reader, spoons, white cane

Funny words with a screen reader

I use Apple’s Voiceover screen reader, a less common one, as it seems that most people I meet use Jaws or other Windows readers. I’ve blogged before about what I consider to be great benefits of Apple when it comes to money. If you click the Voiceover tag, you should find it somewhere.

I don’t have a lot of comparison to Windows readers, other than the way my phone sounds, and it just doesn’t compare.

One of the best things about Alex, VO’s latest voice, is that Apple made him sound as human as possible. He actually breathes at natural pauses! In my months of listening to Alex, I’ve discovered some favorite words, words he pronounces perfectly, that are actually really cool and funny at the same time.

Examples of fun words he says perfectly:




And of course I’m going to blank now. With those three words, he sounds just like a human, and just like a frenchman saying croissant hehe!

I love the way he says meow. He has an inflection that is just too cute. I actually have him saying the following when my computer starts:

“Meow meow meow kitty wants a croissant!”

Yes, I’m a dork.

I’ve corrected some words that I didn’t like how he said. Like, a lower case “lol” sounded like “lull”. So I taught him how to just say lol like he did in all caps.

Man, I can’t think of the other words I corrected. Mostly last names. He said a lot of my friends’ last names wrong, including mine. He also said my Mom’s name wrong, and a few other first names.

I had to correct him in saying sighties, because he used to say “sight ties”. A few others in that vane I have corrected, like “hottie” so it didn’t sound like “hot tie”.

Every so often, words are suddenly pronounced differently after an update. Apple must get emails or something, because they’ll correct words.

For the longest time when I typed “wassup”, it sounded like WAH sup. Then suddenly, “wassup” sounded like the cool guy on the corner saying “wassup” to a pretty girl hehe!

Oh, and the laughing. Haha or hehe sounds perfectly fine. But when its multiple ha’s or he’s its hilarious, almost maniacal.

It’s really funny if I do this:

Hahahaha haha hahahaha heheheheheheheheehahahaha heheh hahaha ha, ha, ha, he, ha, he, ha, ha ha ha ahahahahahahahahehehehe.

Oh and all the smilies sound different too. A colon and right or left parenthesis just gets a “smilie” or “frown”, a semi colon and right parenthesis get a “wink”. But an equals sign and a D just sounds like, equals D. Or an equals sign and a right parenthesis just gets an “equals”. He doesn’t say “right parenthesis.

For awhile, people would do a colon and an O. And I just thought they were writing, Oh!

Teeeeeeee heeeeeee heeeeeee sounds like tee hee wee. I don’t know why its interpreted that way lol.

Or “awwwwwwwwwwwwww” sounds like “oh woo”.

Of course I’ve played around with swear words, and my friends get the biggest kick out of those lol!

Oh and its especially funny when I’m chatting. For some reason in Yahoo, in the text edit field when I’m typing, I don’t have my key echo, so I don’t hear myself type. Sometimes I’m on the wrong keys without realizing, so I send the message and hear something like:

U dudb;t reakuze U was ib tge wribg heys

I just typed “I didn’t realize I was on the wrong keys” with my right pointer on the H instead of the J.

I kinda wanted to kill some time but didn’t want to write about anything serious. In a reply to another blogger, I shared some words and thought it would make a fun post.

Screen reader users, what are some of your favorite words?

Oh, and be careful, if you typo your name and it sounds funny, I will forever call you that. Just ask JayNoi 😉


Filed under apple Inc, assistive technologies, Jaws, proud geek, quirky words, random stuff, screen reader, silly girl, Voiceover

Continuing rant on CAPTCHAs

Should I shut up about these? Maybe. But no.

When I was in the market for a new cell phone, I wanted an accessible one. After going blind, I missed the internet and texting the most. I asked the women on my ACB email list about their phones. They almost all used a screenreader called Mobile Speak, which needs a compatible phone and a program installation. Being the quick fix kinda girl that I am, I found out about “off the shelf” phones that had some speaking features.

One of the women on the list all but reamed me when I talked about this phone. I will paraphrase here. She said something along the lines of, if I accept this phone because its off the shelf, and it will allow me to listen to my contacts list and maybe even text message. Then she said something like, if you accept this phone, you are telling them that blind people only need the bare minimum. She said, do you really want a phone that will only do a little, when a sighted person can do it all?

I live by her words today, not only because she’s right, but I admire her. She has her own business, and does not take no for an answer.

This is how I am feeling about word verifications. I feel excluded. Especially since I have run across these on other blind people’s blogs!!!!!! I feel like, maybe they don’t want comments. I think maybe I should let it drop. Maybe I should listen to all the people who tell me Jaws is the only good screen reader. Maybe Jaws can handle the stupid things on blogger. Well, I love my Apple. The main issue with these things is, I click on the “listen” link, and 95 percent of the time, my cursor doesn’t end up in the box where I must type the letters. Not only that, but if there are any distraction going on, I have to try and decipher numbers after garbled evil sounding talking. Why should I have to try and do this, listen a million times only to get frustrated and quit?

There is a service that will interpret the things if I take a screenshot of the image. But I still haven’t managed to make it work. My only other option is to wait for my sighted boyfriend. So, I find a blog, I like a post, I want to comment, I wait until evening and ask him to read the thing for me? No. Not freakin fair.

There are 2 sites where I have had success with their CAPTCHAs. when I voted for the Allstars, and which is a list of blind bloggers, where I found the last 2 blogs with inaccessible CAPTCHAs.

I am on a web accessibility list from the web developers at We have had countless discussions about accessible CAPTCHAs and they have actually found some examples of some that work.

I am here to say that those on blogger do not. Maybe for some, but not for all. And I hate feeling freakin excluded, especially, especially, especially from other blind bloggers. I have to laugh that so far, minus one, all the sighted bloggers do not have these things…irony? The blind are supposed to be all discriminated against by the sighted. Yet, my puppy raiser friends sure don’t discriminate. In fact, I really have yet to feel discriminated against by anyone “out there”. It all seems to happen online. I find this interesting. And I’m all riled up. And I need to work through this resentment. THIS is why someday I hope for a career in web accessibility and advocacy.

Ok, I’m done. Really. Tomorrow I’ll write something light-hearted again. Hopefully. As for now, I’m done trying to find new blogs, at least until I’ve eaten something and can get over this dissappointment.

A BIG thanks to you bloggers without CAPTCHAs! *hugs*


Filed under accessibility, advocacy, assistive technologies, CAPTCHA, Jaws, plugs, proud geek, puppy raisers, rant, screen reader

It all started with an iPod

I have always been a bit of an internet junkie. I learned about computers from the internet, after I had gotten a laptop for high school graduation. I still remember my first computer; it was a tiny little Mac that worked well enough for word processing and games, but that was before the internet. I remember my Mom playing Kino on one of those old paperweights with the green screen, and printing grocery lists on the old dot matrix printer. My how times have changed!

As I got older, I got more into trying to build websites, and I discovered chatrooms. I’m still friends with a guy I met back in 1997 I think was the year. We would lose touch and then find one another again. Over the years I found new internet haunts and have lost count of all the people I became friends with.

In 2004, I was in the pits of an alcoholic depression, and I found a mental health website, a full scale community of forums and a chatroom. I used to sit in the chatroom and drink. What a life! After I sobered up in 2005, I kept visiting the site, and in 2006 when I was diagnosed with MS, I spent even more time there, and was made a moderator.

Imagine the shock of going blind and suddenly having that all ripped away. Gone were the chats, gone was my internet friend, gone was Google when interested in something. My boyfriend posted to the forums and several people called me during that first month of the blindness, then it was down to 2 people who kept in touch, and kept the forums apprised of my situation.

In November, a friend asked me if I had an iPod, and I did not. He said he had one, with tons of stuff on it, music, books, speakers. He asked if I wanted it and I told him I didn’t know how on earth I could work it. He insisted on bringing it over, and he handed this huge iPod to me and showed me where the wheel was. He said I could just memorize the clicks to navigate it. While I was very touched by this gesture, I was thinking this thing was next to impossible. he could sense my uncertainty, and that was when he said, “Just kidding!”

He then handed me a tiny little thing a little bigger than a stick of gum. He said, this is actually your iPod. He hooked it in to small speakers and moved his hand over the wheel. What I heard took my breath away.

A voice came out of the speakers, saying things like “iPod music, playlists, books and spoken” etc. I don’t think I moved. Then he played music, all of it coming from the tiny little speakers. He handed me the iPod, an iPod Nano, and I started playing with the wheel. Every single menu was spoken, every artist, every album. I could pick what I wanted to hear. I could skip and pause. I was mesmerized.

I had a talking watch at that point. My Grandma had gotten it from Saavi, before I was a client there. I knew there were talking gadgets. But this…this was an actual piece of technology, my kind of technology, that I could use. I knew about screen readers for computers, and was on a waiting list at Saavi to get training on one called Jaws, for Windows. I had been a Windows user since that first little Mac computer I had once owned. It was going to take forever to get the training, and get it funded. Jaws is expensive. They have funding for people to be able to get it.

After a few days playing with the iPod, I took it back to my friend’s to put more music on it and burn my cds onto it. Something was wrong with his cd drive though, so we were unsuccessful. He held on to my cds for awhile but we never went any further with it. One day I got to thinking. If Apple made this iPod accessible to the blind, what else might they have? I called them up and the sales guy didn’t know of anything. he put me on hold to ask another, but they still didn’t know. I was disappointed, and was telling him my ideas for a computer when he said, “Let me transfer you to an engineer and you can tell him your ideas”. So I spoke with an Apple engineer and he said, “Well, all our computers come standard with a screen reader.” I was like, what?? “Yeah, its called Voiceover.” And it’ll access websites? “Yeah it’ll do all that. Go to the Apple store and give it a test drive”. Wow, ok, thank you, I will. I called the friend who had gotten the iPod and told him what they had said. He was more than happy to go. He had thoroughly enjoyed playing the joke on me haha; he’s a good guy.

He had called the Apple store and set up a personal shopping appointment, so when we got there, the salesman had a computer all ready for me, with Voiceover turned on. He showed me the basics and when I heard the computer talk, I was floored. It was loud in there, but I could still hear it. I managed to get to my old website, log in, post, and then “look” at my post. I was sold. I was lucky enough to have just enough money to buy the cheapest laptop. He showed me the laptop and I called and left myself a voicemail at home with the commands I would need to get started, in case I forgot. My friend and I brought it home and he helped me set it up. I had him bring up the forums before he left, because I wasn’t sure i could do it alone.

I left those forums up for a week, and was afraid to turn the computer off. What if I shut it down and then couldn’t work it again? Working with a screen reader is so different than pointing and clicking. I don’t use a mouse. I use Voiceover command keys, or VO keys, in combination with the arrow keys, to get around. The computer reads everything the VO cursor encounters, and when there’s a link, it says “link”. I read the forums and posted a lot, and learned the keyboard again in my posts. At first I couldn’t find the exclamation point, so when I was enthusiastic in a post, I actually wrote, exclamation point haha!! I started finding keys and marking them with little pieces of tape, with my boyfriend’s help, which has since been replaced with bump dots. Eventually I ventured away from the forums after being confident I could get back. Somehow in my searching around, I found a page dedicated to web accessibility, and joined an email list of web developers and screen reader users. From there, I found a Google group of blind apple users and it was there where I learned just about everything I know about my Apple.

They told me to forget everything I knew about Windows. After all, not only was I learning how to navigate with a screen reader, I was learning a brand new operating system! Its been since December that I started learning this computer. I’ve since mastered web browsing, learned all the VO keys with the help of the keyboard help feature on the computer, mastered iTunes for the most part, uploaded all my cds, found podcasts on Voiceover, eventually figured out how to add to my iPod without losing what my friend had put on it, started a blog and found out everything I could about Guide Dogs for the Blind. I guess the blog comes right after that hehe.

Now I download audio books, music, movies, keep in touch with friends, email, oh and I’m back in touch with my internet friend of 12 or so years.

Shortly after I got the computer, we took our trip to West Virginia. After returning home, I discovered the American Council of the Blind, or ACB. I couldn’t find an email list in my area, so I joined the West Virginia list. Those people are some of the first blind people I started talking to, and they helped me so much on my journey. I’m still a part of the web accessibility list, and sometimes even get to look at websites and tell them how Voiceover handles them. THAT is sooo cool. I’d love some kind of career in web accessibility.

I’m still on the waiting list to learn Jaws. Can you imagine if I hadn’t found the Apple, how long it would be? The really awesome thing about Apple is, Voiceover is on every Apple computer of the later versions., as well as speaking menus on the Nanos and above. I can go to any Apple computer, hit cmd F5 or cmd fn F5 on a laptop, and it will talk to me. I can also save my VO settings to a flashdrive and import them onto any Apple in the world. And, since it comes standard, when the OS upgrades, VO is included. With Windows, when the OS upgrades, you must wait months for the new version of Jaws, and then you have to buy it separately. I’ll be upgrading my OS soon, for only 39 bucks, compared to whatever Windows upgrades cost, plus the additional screen reading software.

And Apple’s voice, Alex, was designed to sound as human as possible. He even breathes at natural pauses!

I’ve since upgraded my cell phone and installed a screen reader on it too. Its a Windows phone, and man does it not even compare to Alex. Not to mention, the phone has all the quirks and tendency to freeze, just like Windows. About a month after I got it, I found out that the iPhone is accessible. Yep, a touch screen, accessible to the blind. I didn’t believe it until I read the article, and its even got Alex! Oh well, maybe someday I’ll switch, though i don’t like AT & T 😉

So, it all started with an iPod. Everything technological I do these days started with the little red iPod Nano, and a practical joke.


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Filed under accessibility, Adjustment to blindness, Alex, apple Inc, assistive technologies, gratitude, iTunes, Jaws, mom, proud geek, screen reader, Voiceover