Updated, My thoughts on the Serotek announcements

I’ve been thinking a lot about the events of the last few days over at Serotek. First let me say that I have the utmost of respect for Ricky,Lisa, Buddy, Rich and Joe. I know some of them better than others but I consider them to all be my friends. Lisa and Buddy have sent customers my way on several occasions. Richard has helped me out on several occasions to get my system access functioning after blunders on my part. Ricky has bent over backwards to help me out whenever she could. Joe also has been a friend prior to and during his time at Serotek. I’m very sad to see all of them suddenly no longer with Serotek. The messages on Twitter Friday at first were not believable but as I saw 1 by 1 each of them announcing that they were no longer with Serotek my feelings went from disbelief to outright shock and sadness.
All 5 showed absolute professionalism and class on Friday. People started asking serious questions of Serotek on twitter throughout the day and things apparently boiled over leading to a rather embarrassing set of tweets from the official Serotek Twitter account towards several of them. The comments were all deleted but I’ve managed to see a few of them and must say that Serotek could learn a lot from how Ricky, Lisa, Buddy, rich and Joe handled themselves.

I don’t think that BGZ has the clout or importance in the community to say that we should or shouldn’t do business with Serotek. I will say though as just 1 person in the grand scheme of things, that I have serious doubts about Serotek’s sincerity. the fact that 5 major players there left in the last two weeks and now a cryptic message out on a Sunday evening saying that all is well there just doesn’t come across as believable to me. This community will pounce on deception in a heartbeat so Serotek, it’s in your best interest to not treat us all as people that will believe anything that you tell us.

Will Serotek die as a result of the recent events? I do not know but I have no doubts that Seroteks reputation in the blindness community is at this point largely in shatters. I wish all 5 of my friends that left Serotek for whatever reason last week the very best in each of their futures. All are very, very talented and will land on their feet and move forward quickly.


I can now add another friend to this continueing story, Jamie Pauls has now also departed from Serotek in addition to the 5 others thad already left previously. I also consider Jamie to be a friend, we worked together on ACB’s main menu as well as ACBRI and the Legend where we both had radio shows. I originally met Jamie via his very popular email list back in 2006. I would like to also say here that I wish you the best of luck in what ever it is that you decide to do now as a result of leaving Serotek.

I have to scratch my head and wonder what will become of what at one time was a very innovative and impressive company. It’s hard to see how Serotek comes out of this and still have any standing in the blind community. It’s all very sad and again I wish everyone that has left there the absolute best of luck in your futures. Also, I’d like to wish you all a good Thanksgiving and a very merry Christmas and new years.


How To Install WordPress

For those who have questions about installing WordPress, here’s some information that might help.

There are two ways of installing WordPress.

Option 1: the manual way.

  • Download the zipped archive containing the WordPress files.
  • Extract the files and upload them to the FTP account supplied by your web hosting provider.
  • Log into the control panel for your web hosting account and create a database and a user.
  • Assuming that those files were installed in the root, go to


    Replace sitename.org with the actual site address.

  • Follow the instructions.

Option 2: Most hosting providers, if not all, offer a way of installing WordPress or another content management system, using a script. Some people believe that this method is less secure. As someone who uses WordPress, my advice is as follows:

  • Your username should not be admin.
  • Your password should not be password.
  • Change the table prefix. By default this is set to wp.
  • After installing WordPress, install and configure a security plug-in such as IThemes Security.
  • Back up. My favorite plug-in for creating backups is Backup Buddy.

Updated Post: Response To WP Beginners Article on Starting a Podcast with WordPress

The folks at WP Beginner have published an

article about starting a podcast with WordPress.
In this blog post, I want to communicate some things that weren’t communicated in the article and would be helpful.

1. The article assumes that you’ve done the work that needs to be done before you hit record. To learn more about what needs to happen before you hit record,

Check out this getting started guide for podcasting.

2. Regarding web hosting, the companies that I have firsthand experience with are



A2 Hosting.

3. Regarding media hosting, another option, recommended by podcasters, is


Here’s the point. Do not put podcast media on the same server as your web site.

For a firsthand account from someone who made that mistake, click here.

The portion of the recording I’m directing you to starts at 33:34.

4. Regarding microphones, I’m hearing positive comments about the

ATR 2100.

5. On the recording side of things, some podcasters use a digital audio recorder either instead of software or addition to software.

6. As for converting to MP3, don’t do this until all editing has been done. Also, for best results, if you use Audacity, export your audio as a wave file and convert using ITunes.

I hope this article and the original article were helpful. Want more information?

contact me, Christopher Wright.

Missing BCT podcasts I’m looking for

Missing BCT podcasts between BCT80 and BCT1576:
Last Updated Monday March 30 2015

1477 – 1478
382 – 383
312 – 313
278 – 279
274 – 275

many podcasts before BCT80 don’t have a specific BCT sequence number.

My 4 year struggle with AT&T Uverse

Uverse and my 4 year struggle with AT&T and why I gave them up:

Updated, June 9 2014:

Social media is very powerful today and in sometimes very good ways. After I raised a fuss on Twitter AT&T social media services got in touch with me via Twitter and asked me if they could be of assistance in resolving my problem with them. After speaking with a very nice woman on the phone, they determined that they should send my information up to another department that could assist me. The next day I was contacted by someone in customer support that could make a decision as to whether or not to refund my early termination fee that I was charged after canceling my Uverse service in mid April. After some discussion, they said that they would research my account and get back with me on Monday which is today as I write this. They did indeed get back with me and gave me the good news that after checking the records that I should be refunded the $150 early termination fee that I was charged. So in this case the story does have a happy ending.

I appreciate AT&T reaching out to me and helping me resolve my problems with them. Also, if you have a problem with a company, don’t be afraid to say something about it on Twitter or Facebook as you may find that that company will be there and may be willing to help you resolve your problem just like AT&T did with me.


Original post:

This is my tale of a fateful trip… Oops that’s Gilligan’s Island. Well ok let me tell you another tale about my 4 years as a AT&T Uverse customer and why I finally had to go elsewhere. Back in early 2010 I was a happy Dish network satellite subscriber of over 10 years and a somewhat happy AT&T DSL and landline phone customer of about 14 years for the phone and 6 years for DSL. So, one day my mom comes home with a nice new 46″ hi definition flat screen television and that’s where the fun started! You simply can’t have a nice fancy new television without HD content and at the time I only had standard definition content so I called up the nice folks at Dish and said that I wanted to get HD content for the nice new tele here. No problem Dish says, we’ll be right out and install a new dish for you and only charge you $100 for our troubles. Well after a couple of hours in discussion with the loyalty department, it was decided that they didn’t care if I left them after over 10 years to go find another provider that wouldn’t charge me big bucks to get HD content.

I then went to Time Warner Cable and said that I’d like to once again get service with them after being away for a decade and they said no problem. They gave me a decent price for the new service which included lots of HD content. All was well until the installer showed up and said he couldn’t do as we asked due to some kind of line problems to my house. So long story short I cancelled my service before it ever got started. I was told that AT&T had their fancy Uverse service here in the Akron area, so I called them up and finally got all that groovy HD content my mom wanted for her nice new television and I got phone and internet in addition for less than the cost of Dish and my previous phone and DSL combined. So, life was good…

Skip forward about 9 months to the end of 2010. I started having service outages with the Uverse service where phone, internet and TV would all just go out for seconds to minutes at a time. No problem, I’ll just call up AT&T and they’ll get it fixed and life will continue happily ever after. Not so fast, as many of you know dealing with AT&T support is like juggling cannon balls, something that isn’t very easy to do right? I get a service person out from AT&T and he says well the problem is not in the house and he’ll have to get a outside man out to find the problem. Outside man comes out, sits in truck for a couple of hours and declares the problem is inside and not outside! Well like your shampoo says on the instructions, rinse and repeat… I do this several more times over a couple week period with inside person coming out and clearly demonstrating to me the problem is outside and the outside people coming out doing very little and proclaiming that the problem is inside. After a dozen or so appointments the supervisors and regional managers get a wee bit ticked off and tell the outside people to get the problem fixed pronto or heads will roll! Problem solved, the problem was with a v-rad switch and wiring up the road ways. Problem solved. Umm well not so fast.

About every 3 to six months after this the same problem would start happening again. Same routine, call AT&T over and over and over. Inside and outside repairmen out the behind for weeks and weeks until management becomes involved. I find out that from the inside guys who are very honest and decent people that this is the routine that AT&T forces on them day in and day out! Any ways the problem each time is indeed outside and not inside. This routine continued until February of 2013 when the service finally seemed to be repaired and I was able to go a year without any issues. At this point you’d think ok story over and I’m a happy Uverse customer today. Well, that’s not how the story ends sadly and this is where I find out where AT&T has became a very dishonest company to deal with.

My mom passed away in February from cancer, she was the primary television consumer here so basically I didn’t need hundreds of channels and premium services any longer and wanted to reduce my bill from the nearly $250 to something less expensive. So, I call AT&T to reduce my television service to just basic channels and this is where things get really interesting. I’m told that AT&T doesn’t have basic Uverse TV any longer but they do have a service for $70 a month that will work for me. I reluctantly take them up on the offer. Later in the day I get a email from them saying to go online and check my plans and so on to be sure I’m getting what I want. I get online and to my shock, I find that AT&T does have basic TV service for $20 a month. Clearly I was lied to and the next day I call AT&T back to demand that they give me the service I asked for in the first place instead of something that was expensive and would get more expensive after the 6 month promotional offer was up. Long story short, I did get my $20 TV for $60 a month! Wait you say, how can they do that? Well my friend this is AT&T double talk for you at it’s AT&T best! $20 is correct, the service is $20 a month plus $10 for HD content, $15 for a DVR that was supposed to be free for life, $7 each for 2 additional boxes and finally a $6 per month equipment fee!

Again I reluctantly do this for a week or two and decide it’s just non sense to pay $60 for over the air channels I can get for free.

One thing I didn’t include is that I also bumped up my 18 meg internet service to 45 megs since I went from a house of 2 people living in it to 7 people all consuming internet. I get one of AT&T’s wonderful promotional offers that took $15 a month off the bill for 12 months with the warning that early termination may result in up to a $180 early cancellation fee. First thing I notice after the service is that I’m not getting anywhere near 45 megs down with the service, in fact I’m not even getting half of the 18 megs down I had been extremely happy with before the upgrade. SO again lets call AT&T support and again let’s get the inside repairman out here to fix the problem. Simple right? Wrong, not so simple! The guy comes out on a Sunday morning and says nothing is wrong and I say Mr. serviceman why am I getting only 7 meg download rates? He says well you won’t ever get 45 megs on this plan! Huh, I say? This is the same thing the person installing the service told me when they were out here and I didn’t think that they could possibly be right. AT&T sales tell a lie? Never, well remember the lie told about the TV plan not existing as well. Well I am finally fed up completely at this point and the next day I start looking for new service. I decided to go with time warner cable and this time was able to get the service installed and have been using it for a month or so now. So a few days later I call up and cancel my Uverse service completely. I explained to the person that I talked to that I was un happy with the service and wasn’t getting the same internet service as I received before the upgrade. She noted that I had had a tech out and she noted that I was not satisfied with my service. She told me that I was paid in full and had a one day credit coming, she also said after I told her about the $180 termination fee that I wouldn’t be charged anything because I wasn’t happy with the service and was experiencing issues. Ok I send the router back and all the other goodies and think ok end of story. Well again not so fast…

I look at my bank statement yesterday and find a $122 charge from the nice folks at AT&T. Not surprised are you? Well I wasn’t. So I called them up today and talked to a person in the billing department that explained that it was a $150 early termination fee for canceling my internet service during the promotional plan. I explained that I canceled due to service issues and that I wasn’t getting the service quality that I was getting before the upgrade. Sorry no can do Rick says the billing person, there are no notes in your account saying any of this! So, I request to speak with someone that can drop the charge to the account and he puts me on hold to talk to the supervisor. A minute or so later he comes back on the line and lets me know the supervisor is on the line and ready to talk to me. I say thank you and he transfers me over. The phone rings several times and instead of talking to the supervisor, I get their voice mail. Gee, another lie told! Long story short, I’ll probably never get my credit and will chalk it up to a lesson learned about big business in the 21st century.


My journey: 9 years of blindness

On September 15th 2004, I walked out of my eye doctors office knowing that only 3 months after my6th and final eye surgery in 40 years that my days of seeing the world around me were gone. My remaining vision consisted of being able to tell light and dark only and over the course of the next years even this faded to total loss of vision and total darkness. I couldn’t read a book, watch television or use my computer any longer. Visions of family and friends were all gone, never to return again. My life was turned upside down. Some would have given up, some may have done much worse but not me. Almost immediately , I began to try to find answers as how I could continue to live a productive life being blind. At this point I still thought maybe, just maybe my vision could be restored still and blindness would just be a temporary inconvenience that I could get through soon and be once again able to see the world around me.

In late September I found Microsoft Sam and narrator on Windows XP which is a very minimal screen reader . Yes all I had between going nuts and using my computer in any meaningful way was the lowly narrator and the un bearable voice of Microsoft Sam. Some would say this was worse than the sentence of blindness itself! Knowing no better having never used a screen reader before, I was thrilled, at this point I knew there was a way to use my computer and there was a way I could try to connect back with the world. So for the next 8 months or so I used narrator to keep myself from going completely nuts and going nuts is what would have happened if I couldn’t use my computer. It’s safe to say without this first step that I wouldn’t have been able to cope and may have even contemplated worse things that would have led to me not being here today writing to all of you 9 years later.

Still hoping that somehow my vision could be restored as it had been 6 times before, I decided to see another eye specialist in December just 3 days before Christmas still hoping that somehow someone out there had the skills to give me another chance at sight. I had at this point moved up the ladder a bit on the computer front. I used narrator to get demo’s of both Jaws and Window Eyes screen readers to see if I could use them or not. I had no idea in the world how I would come up with the nearly $1000 that these things cost. Back in late 2004 the free screen reader we know of today really didn’t exist that i knew of. My first attempts at using either of these screen readers in demonstration mode was very disappointing to me as it was difficult to nearly impossible to do much in the 30 to 40 minutes either program would function before you were forced to reboot the computer and begin again. I couldn’t figure them out and all the commands to get them to do anything made me want to tear my hair out in clumps! Fortunately my friend Don came to the rescue at this time and gave me IBM homepage reader as a early Christmas gift. A gift that changed my life and gave me hope. I found that I could easily use homepage reader to get on the internet and have it read the pages to me and allow me to easily navigate the web. I was able to go out and by my mom a music CD for Christmas which at the time I thought was the feat of the century. The doctor visit was on a cold snowy day, traffic could hardly get around but my mom got me there to see the specialist. My hopes though were quickly dashed. After looking at me for a bit with all the lights, lenses and gadgets they use to look inside the eye, he told me that there wasn’t anything that could be done and I would be blind for the rest of my life. Not the gift I had hoped for on the eve of Christmas but none the less what I had to deal with. I really wasn’t overly surprised as I had done some research online as to what ROP or retinopathy of prematurity was and found out that my prognosis was very bleak. So on this day, I decided that I was going to be blind and I had better get to dealing with it and go on with my life.

I called my local blind center and asked about what they offered as far as computer classes that could help me use the computer a lot better than I currently was but was pretty much told they didn’t offer much and what they did offer in terms of other classes didn’t interest me in the slightest bit. I had no interest in beading or knitting classes. Also at this point I decided to call my state rehab agency and se what they could do for me and was given an appointment for early January of 2005. I had dealt with rehab back in 1984 while attending the University of Akron were I was trying to get my computer science degree. Rehab back then was a complete total joke, they suggested that I become a diesel engine mechanic after some testing. I told them that they were nuts and walked out of the office and didn’t come back again. I really hoped that 20 years later the outcome would turn out differently but I didn’t have a lot of hope at that time that they would be able to help me in any meaningful way.

I met with my counselor and after discussing all of my options to me, I was able to make decisions that led to a good outcome with rehap this time around and in May I received Jaws 5 and 6 along with Open Book 7 and a Epson flatbed scanner. With a few hours of training, this time I was more confident about using Jaws on the PC and was starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel metaphorically speaking.

At this time I also was assigned a mobility instructor and given my white cane to work with. For me mobility training was much more difficult than any of the learning to use the new assistive technology I was given was. Learning to use my white cane effectively was a slow and awkward process. I met with Judy my mobility instructor for roughly an hour or so each week to learn a new piece of the puzzle and then to practice what I learned. Being in a residential area here in south Akron without any stores or places of interest less than about a mile to walk to made this process more difficult since I just didn’t have enough goals to reach for. All in all, I received about 40 hours of training and learned just about enough to be considered dangerous! To this day my mobility skills leave much to be desired and are my biggest thing that I still today struggle with. That in no way was any fault of Judy’s, she was fabulous and I’m thankful to have had someone like her working with me. I was also supposed to get some assistance that would help me around the house and to see what items there I might need to get things done easier. Basically this part fell through the cracks. I was promised a few aids for the kitchen but never got anything at all. Fortunately, I do reasonably well inside the house. I can do my own laundry without any real difficulty. I can run the vacuum without sucking my cat or anything else up in it that shouldn’t be. While I don’t cook much, if I had to I think I could do at least the basics without burning the house down. I’m pretty good with learning the layout of a new place quickly and know the layout of the local blind center like the back of my hand. I can get around there without even using my white cane if people aren’t around for me to run in to.

My 2 biggest phobia’s though are stairs and bridges / walkways or open places high off the ground. I found this out during mobility training when I froze completely terrified on a flight of open stairs downtown while doing a training session and again when walking over a highway bridge with my mobility instructor on another lesson. This continually causes me problems when out with people or visiting friends. It’s very embarrassing but I’ve found no way to really get over the constant fear. I do try from time to time to face the fears and can force myself to an extent to do the stairs. While at the ACB convention this summer, I walked up 5 floors of narrow confining stairs to get around the mass confusion at the elevators one evening early on in the convention. I did this only 1 time however and couldn’t make myself try it again. I’m also constantly afraid of falling over the side of things even though I know it’s not possible. I had this fear several times on the escalators and up on the 3rd floor of the hotel at the convention as well. I doubt that I’ll ever over come these fears short of going through psychotherapy or some form of hypnosis!

I spent all of my free time basically throughout mid and late 2005 learning to use Jaws more effectivly and to seek out other blind people. This wasn’t happening locally since the blind center here basically blew me off at the time that I contacted them for possible assistance. I did make progress online and I started to find mailing lists that were specifically for the discussion of using Jaws and I joined several of them. The JFW list was where I met a lot of you that I know to this very day still and where I learned from a lot of Jaws users the things that helped me to become proficient on the computer as a blind person. Blind tech was another great list where I learned a lot and met a lot of new online friends. In late 2005 I found a literal goldmine of information we knew at the time as the blind cool tech website. I became acquainted with what is called the audio podcast. I had never before heard a single podcast and suddenly I find this website just full of these dealing with everyday issues being faced by blind people along with demonstrations of gadgets used by the blind to do all kinds of things. I thought I had died and went to blind heaven at this point! I spent most of November and December listening to various podcasts soaking up all the wealth of knowledge. My first new toy from the list I purchased was the LG VX4650 cell phone by Verizon that actually spoke a lot of the features of the phone. BCT was a turning point in my journey through blindness like no other I’ve had so far. For the first time I really knew that I could learn to live a productive life as a blind person after listening to all of the podcasts done there by other blind people not all that different than myself.

Larry Skutchan the founder of BCT was one of the people in the blind community that really made a difference in my life, I listened to podcast after podcast of Larry’s that he recorded on his way to work. I liked his bookport podcasts so much that I purchased one from APH. This little device allowed me to listen to podcasts, audible books, text files and so much more. It was another one of the early tech gadgets that I purchased after finding BCT on the web.

In January 2006 I decided that I wanted to give this podcast thing a try and I recorded my first podcast for BCT. It was a demonstration of the voice it all money reader, voice note recorder and color identifier I had recently purchased from Maxiaids.

my first podcast

Boy, all that I had back then to record with in those days was a cheap little stick microphone and a cheap recording program for windows, wow how I’ve changed since then here with mixers, better recording programs with much more expensive microphones. I received quite a bit of favorable comments on my first podcast and soon began recording others for BCT. My first major effort was recording a multi part series on Nero burning ROM which I received tons of praise for then I recorded the ever popular Goldwave series, that I continue to receive positive comments on even today after 7 plus years. Things like this make me feel very good about what I was able to accomplish in my early years of blindness. I continued to record many more podcasts for BCT throughout 2006 on many other programs and several different gadgets that I had purchased.

In November of 2006 I decided to start out on a very ambitious project that I named the blind geek zone. Seeing that blind cool tech was so very successful, I wanted to see if I could create a place where not only could I share all of my podcasts with everyone but get others to contribute as they did on BCT. I soon found out that people weren’t just going to go somewhere else with BCT going as strong as it still was at the time. It would take another 6 years and the demise of the BCT website to make that happen. BGZ did soon become a great place to find the ever growing list of podcasts that I recorded to share with everyone in the blind community along with some other podcast that friends of BGZ recorded and placed there as well. Even now, I still have most of these podcasts archived on the website even though many of them are quite outdated now.

In February 2007 I started to offer paid training services on the BGZ website. Since June 2006 I had been volunteering at the Akron Blind Center then called Vision Support Services as a Assistive technology trainer. After doing demonstrations and tutorials for BCT, I approached my rehab counselor and told him that I had decided that I wanted to become an assistive technology trainer instead of getting back into programming as I had done a lot of for a living when I could still see. I decided that I could do a lot more being an assistive technology trainer than I could ever do as a programmer. SO I was told to go out and interview several persons in the field so that I could find out what it is that I should be doing in order to seek employment in the field. I interviewed with someone in the AT field at the Cleveland sight center as well as a friend in Cincinnati Ohio and finally a person at VSS who ran the computer lab there. After speaking with Dave at VSS, I decided to volunteer as an instructor at the center in order to gain valuable experience from trained professionals in the AT field. After interviewing with the head of the department there, I was approved to join the staff in the computer lab as a volunteer trainer. This is where I got my first real taste of working with blind people and man what a eye opener that was! Dave and Kathy quickly showed me what I needed to know and to give me additional training that I was approved to get from rehab here in Ohio. Dave had evaluated me earlier in the year to determine what my skill levels were. He had reported back to rehab that I could use some word and excel training but as far as Jaws was concerned, I knew nearly as much as he did! He rated me at a high level intermediate to low level expert using Jaws. I had obviously done quite well in my first year of learning to use Jaws, about the only thing at the time I didn’t know how to do was how to write scripts that enhanced it’s usage in programs that it couldn’t directly support by normal means.
Dave and Kathy were great to work with and are friends with me still today. The year I spent down there in the lab gave me tons of valuable experience that I couldn’t have gotten on my own. So after all of this, I decided to start Offering paid 1 on 1 services through the BGZ website in February 2007. It was a slow start but I soon began to get customers all over the world that needed various types of support and training. One of my first clients was a blind woman in India, this was quite a learning experience as I had to work around things like power brownouts that regularly happened there as well as how to get paid for my services. Things worked out well and I’m still offering services today. I currently usually have at least 4 to 6 people at any given time to work with. It’s not a huge amount of money but it helps a fair bit. Also I get to meet more and more people all the time and that’s been great as well. Every person I’ve worked with has helped me to grow and improve in some way here as to how I work with others. Even today I’m still learning things from working with my clients that I can apply to someone else.

In 2006 and 2007 I became more and more part of the blind community. I was approached in 2006 by Accessible Worlds Pat Price to give a presentation demonstrating the Hamilton Beach talking microwave oven and soon after that I was invited by my friend Robert Acosta to become part of their technology committee where I remain today. I also started appearing on ACB’s main menu in 2007 with Jeff Bishop and Darrell Shandrow who soon became friends of mine. I made regular appearances there in 2007 and 2008. I was part of the ACB main menu team as a contributor in 2010 and 2011 but was forced to leave as I just couldn’t keep up with everything I was volunteering to do. I was definitely on a wild roller coaster ride back then. I was involved in more and more things around the community. In the spring of 2007 Mike Calvo from Serotek approached me after hearing me on main menu about potentially working for Serotek in some capacity. Unfortunately during this time the nice folks over at Freedom Scientific decided to sue Serotek which caused a down sizing there and my job opportunity was gone with the wind shortly there after!

In 2009 I decided to get involved more on a local scale. I decided to join my local chapter of ACB Ohio and also became a board member at VSS during it’s litigation between the board and it’s membership that had started in 2007 which resulted in it’s closure for nearly a year and a half.

I spent most of late 2007 and all of 2008 on the other side of the fence in a battle at what is now the Akron Blind Center. I was part of the staff there at the time and had became employed as the communications director after Dave left there in October of2007. I was in charge of keeping an ailing old network and a bunch of junky computers up and running there which was no small task. I also was on the side against the membership who in late 2007 sued the center to remove what it considered a hostile board that in their eyes was trying to kick them out of their center. I’ll not get in to the politics here as far as I’m concerned is the past and needs to be left there. Needless to say I wasn’t a popular person there for a long time as it was assumed that I’d be on their side. Unfortunately I hadn’t been there long enough to know much of the history at the center and my main concern at the time was that I now had a job that people were trying to take away from me. This probably clouded my vision greatly at that time. Looking back, lots of wrongs were done by both sides in my opinion. Anyways two of my friends on the board at the time were Marilyn and Lynne. Marilyn was part of the NFB and Lynne was part of ACB and boy what interesting times those were as you no doubt can imagine. Lynne talked me into joining ACB of Ohio as I fit the philosophy of ACB more closely than I do with the NFB. Both places have their merits and this post isn’t a place to debate any of the differences in the two organizations. Marilyn called me in January 2009 and told me a member of the board was leaving and that my presence on the board would be beneficial, something at the time I couldn’t imagine of being true. Marilyn also taught me Braille back in 2009 which I blogged quite a bit about here in earlier blog posts. So both of them played important roles in my life as well and continued to steer me down the road of blindness so to speak.

After attending a board meeting in January 2009 where I told everyone there my goal was not to help close the center but to find away to re open it, I was elected to sit on the 11 member board. I will say that few there at the time believed that such a thing was even remotely possible but In the summer of 2009 I was part of a 4 person mediating team for the board that sat down and hashed our differences with the membership team out over a 3month period. In September of 2009 both sides came to an agreement that allowed the center to re open. I was also 1 of the 3 old board members designated to sit on the new board of the Akron Blind Center, where I still sit today, nearing the end of my 2nd term.

As I said earlier, I also joined the Summit county chapter of ACB of Ohio in January 2009 where I am still a member today. I’ve done lots of fun things there and have began this year to become more involved at the state level. I currently sit on 2 committees, the technology committee and also the website committee. In July 2012 I attended my first ACB national convention in Columbus Ohio where I was involved in recording many of the workshops there.

IN 2010 I got to do something that I had thought would be kind of a cool thing to do since I was a kid. When I was 16 years old, I was in high school and was working at a local haunt for Halloween called the haunted school house. One day while I was there the local AM radio station was there broadcasting from the house. I was briefly interviewed on the air as to what I did there and how I liked being a monster! Afterwards the broadcaster told me that I had a great radio voice and since I really loved listening to music and the radio back then I always thought it would be interesting to be a DJ and play music and talk on the air to lots of people. Well that dream never really went anywhere until I was approached by Jeff Bishop and a couple of others in August of 2010, they asked me to join ACB after hearing me play around with some streaming software I had just purchased in order to do live events on BGZ. I thought about it and Larry Turnbull of ACB Interactive gave me a spot on ACB Radio Interactive after auditioning for him in early September. Three months later I also started doing shows on the world wide legend that’s ran by Bill Sparks. I do 3 shows a week now and play a wide variety of music. On Friday’s I play pop and rock from the 1960′s through the mid 1980′s, on Saturday nights I do a request show where I play pop, rock, folk, country and so on from the 40′s through today. On Sunday’s I do a classic rock show where I play classic rock from the mid 60′s through the mid 80′s. I’ve had a lot of fun over the last 3 years doing these shows and I’ve learned a lot about music and presenting live, I’d like to think it’s also improved my presentation of my podcasts on BGZ as well.

So what have I been doing over this last year? In November 2011 I completely re created the BGZ website with the help of Justin Romack and others. It’s a great new site that I’m very proud of. It’s taken several months and quite a few dollars to make the site what it is today. I am able to accept podcasts from anyone wishing to contribute something with a very easy to fill out form and a few moments of time on my part here. Also the resources page has the ability for you the contributor to submit links that you like and want to share with others. All of the pages were professionally re written by Justin Romack so that the new BGZ is a great place to come visit.

I spent several months early in the year working with Fedora Outlier, an Apple services company out of Georgia that specializes in teaching blind clients various Apple devices with voice over. Unfortunately we parted ways in April.

Next year will mark an entire decade of being blind for me, I have no idea what this next year holds in store for me but if it’s anything like the last 9 then it sure will be interesting.

You might read this and wonder if I would still like to be able to see and the answer to that is a huge YES! I will say however that I don’t let my blindness bring me down and consume me at all. I’d love to be able to see again but if that day never comes then so be it. I’ve met tons of wonderful people that I would have never met if I hadn’t went blind and I cherish all of these new friendships very much. I deal with my blindness very well, I don’t consider it a disability, just a hindrance. I can do most anything any sighted person can do out there. Maybe it takes a little longer and a bit more effort for me but I get it done. When someone sighted says that I’m some how different or special because I seem to live a normal life, I say nonsense, we are all special in our own way regardless of being blind or sighted. I’m not special because of the things I can do being a blind person, I’m just well adapted that’s all. Believe me, I’m not afraid to admit when I can’t do something because of my blindness. That’s not a weakness either, each and everyone of us blind or sighted needs help at one time or another in our lives.

If you are reading this and maybe you’ve just lost your sight and are wondering if you can cope with being blind and don’t know where to turn for help, well the answer is yes you can deal with blindness just like I have. Don’t give up or give in. Seek out people that can help you. If I can do it so can you. I hope that this article helps at least one person out there in some way. See you again next September with another years report on how I’m doing.

If you would like to read a bit more about my history prior to 2004, you can read about it in another blog post here that I wrote back in September of 2008.

Four years of blindness


Sharing a e-mail from a BGZ fan

I get nice emails here from time to time from people that really get something of value from BGZ and I thought I’d start sharing them on the blog for everyone to enjoy. This one is from David Lepofsky.

Just wanted to drop you a quick note to say a huge thank you for the time and effort you put into your excellent goldwave series. i know you did it some years ago, but it remains really really useful and helpful.
also enjoy your tweets. I am on twitter @davidlepofsky

I advocate for accessibility including accessible tech, here in Toronto Canada.

You are great at clearly and methodically explaining things step by step. I could not have figured out goldwave so quickly without this great resource you created.

Thanks for the kind words David, I love hearing from people that have learned how to use Goldwave from my tutorials. I remember back in early 2006 when I was trying to learn Goldwave and really couldn’t find any good resources in order for a blind person to learn and use the program. So once I learned how to use Goldwave here, I decided I’d create something that I hoped would be useful for people and boy has it ever been a success! It has been one of the most popular tutorial series that I’ve done and 7 years later I still get emails from people letting me know how valuable it still is.


Senderro Seing Eye GPS 1.1 for iOS

Dear Registered Seeing Eye GPS User,

Start looking for this new version in your app update list any day.

To give thanks to all of you early adopters of the Seeing Eye GPS, we have a gift. All subscriptions will be reset to begin August 20. Hence, your use of the app so far has been free. Thank you for your confidence and for your suggestions.

The following 9 improvements have been made to Seeing Eye GPS version 1 in addition to a few technical changes under the hood.

1. You can now select 3 conditions for automatically hearing intersections and POIs announced, based on 15 MPH or less, 40 MPH or less or announced no matter the speed. The default is set for intersections at 40 MPH and for POIs at 15 MPH. You can also turn off both of these LookAround items.

2. When a route is active, the two most important pieces of information are the distance and direction of the next turn and the distance and direction to the final destination. This information is better organized and is now at the top of both the Location screen and the Route screen. You have the option to shake the phone to get these announcements as well. The Shake feature has been improved so it won’t activate as easily when not being held in the hand.

3. An Auto Repeat function helps to ensure that you hear important information automatically. This applies to the next turn and destination information. As you get closer to your destination, the turning announcements automatically repeat more frequently based on the same parameters as the Getting Warmer function. This is every 15 seconds under 500 feet, every 30 seconds from 500 to 1,000 feet, every minute from 1,000 feet to 5 miles and every 5 minutes beyond 5 miles. The destination information is also repeated under 1,000 feet. An On/Off selection is available under the Settings Routing menu for auto repeat.

4. A vibration has been added to indicate turn now, and arrived at destination. There is a Vibration On/Off selection on the Settings Routing screen.

5. The POI LookAround announcements are now tied to your POI content source.
The default is Foursquare, which used to apply only to searches. If the default Foursquare POI content is chosen, this will apply to both POI searches and to the LookAround POIs you hear automatically announced. A maximum of 3 Foursquare categories can be manually selected for POI searches. The default is to have the All Categories button selected. Navteq POI categories are a bit different from Foursquare and have not been changed.

6. The POI search distance has been expanded from 50 miles to 200 miles. You will be prompted to search further if no matching POIs are found within 50 miles and every 20 additional miles thereafter. In less populated areas, the search may go up to 200 miles without prompting.

7. Improvements have been made in the handling of turning announcements when the network is lost. The next turn and destination as well as the ETA will update even when there is no phone service. It will not recalculate if you go off-route but if you stay on the route, the information is nicely updated.

8. OpenStreetMaps, OSM, are now an option for Location Information and creating of Routes.

9. Here are some small but helpful changes.
Some wording changes have been made to improve clarity and brevity.
The Subscription button now identifies the email account name.
Distances to the route History items are now relative to your current location and not just where you first created the route.
The items in the Settings Routing menu have been reordered.
There is a link to the updated version 1.1 Seeing Eye GPS manual from inside the program. You can find it at http://senderogroup.com/support/supportseeingeye.htm

There is no phone support for Sendero phone apps, however, you are welcome to send suggestions or questions to iPhone@SenderoGroup.com

Note: Thanks to everyone who voted on features for this app. The two leading features are not in this version but they remain a priority for another release. We have taken down the voting page but will reinstate it again after we have made sufficient progress on the features you have already requested.

Kim Casey, Marketing Manager
Sendero Group
Developers of accessible GPS

Phone: 888-757-6810
Fax: 888-757-6807
Email: Kim@SenderoGroup.com
Sendero web: http://www.senderogroup.com
General GPS Web: http://www.AccessibleGPS.com

Comments on the project Ray cell phone for the blind

Here is a comment I recieved after my recent post about specialized cell phones for the blind. I’ll post the message below for everyone to read and comment on.

Hay Rick,
My name is Adi Kushnir and I am a 15 year old blind person from Israel.
Yes, I’m only 15 years old, but I do a lot of things for the community here such as localizing big screen readers such as JAWS from FS to Hebrew and trying to give the community the latest and greatest, without getting paid, yes, I am a geek and I want to change people’s lives with what I can!
I love technology and I don’t want for Israel to stay behind.
I am also applying in programs such as Apple developer where I can test the latest things happening in iOS and so on, and my opinion is very strong with the community here, and the big assistive technology companies.
First of all, I would like to thank you for the great content that you’ve been providing us for years now, I always love to listen to you and if I had some money, I would even donated to your website, I just can’t do that because I don’t have a lot and I do everything I do from just the wanting to help everyone here.

I want to explain to you a little bit about this smartphone for Project Ray and what I think about it, and you can feel free to share it with the community in the US, in every place you like to.
I feel comfortable talking about it because I’ve used it, and tested it for over and over, and herd so much about it, and I don’t want people to make a wrong choice.

The device named Ray was first introduced here in early 2013, with the following title in the press:
“the first touch screen phone for the blind that was ever made in the world – a great Israeli development that can revolutionize people’s lives – no one has done something like this before!”
This was the title in all around the press.
The founder of Project Ray, Mr. Boaz Zilberman, said that with his phone, a blind person can have a fully functioning smartphone, including the most basic services such as SMS, calling, contacts and a little bit of email.
He said that before, blind people in Israel and in the rest of the world, can only call on their mobiles, and not more.

Before his job, we had great Symbian phones with Talks and a Hebrew TTS, and of course the iPhone, which still unfortunately doesn’t have Hebrew TTS although it may change in iOS 7, I’ll explain later why because I’m under NDA and can’t share that much.

So for the first time, all of us here were criticizing Mr. Zilberman for saying that he is the first to bring other things then calling to our mobiles, and that he is the first to bring an accessible smartphone, and an accessible touch screen device.

Later on, we’ve decided to give him a chance and test drive his product and we were shocked!
It’s so un practical to use this device and let me explain why:

First of all, just to tell you about the phone itself, and what It contains, inturmes of hardware and software:

The phone is a generic sluggish old Android phone that is manufactured by a not known phone vender, probably some ware in China.
It has a very slow CPu, and doesn’t have much ram, and you can get it in 8 GB and 32GB storage capacities.
The OS it runs on is old, sluggish and un powerful inturmes of touch access, Android 2.3 gingerbread, which is not as good as newer versions such as Jellybean, 4.1 and 2.
The special talking and quote and quote “accessible” quote and quote Ray apps, are just a simple special Android home screen, that can be easily accidentally dismissed, and then you get an inaccessible Android 2.3, without even talkback installed so you are stuck until someone will come back to this home screen for you.
The speech inside his special interface, is sometimes prerecorded, and sometimes TTS spoken, this is the case at least with the Israeli version.

Now I begin the problematic concept:

His concept is based on that where ever you put on your finger, it acts as the number 5, and then moving your finger up, down, right or left does different actions, depending what you want and where you are in the phone, and the number 5 position acts like your center.
Now, if you accidentally get your finger up and then put it again, you will have a different center position.
It’s very hard to type things such as SMS and even dial numbers to do voice calls!
And, his touch mechanism doesn’t always work right, and sometimes it doesn’t detect your finger and you can easily find yourself doing un wanted things in your phone.
Now to the contacts:
The actual contacts app isn’t really usable, so you have 2 options:
The first one, is to call Project Ray or the provider in the US so they will add these for you via a phone push service, and the 2nd option is for you to add them from a special website.
Mr. Zilberman says that a good contacts app will be added in future versions, and here as another aspect:
There are no updates!
A different version means buying a totally new phone each time!

Even those apps like color identification and camera capture aren’t accessible.
The only reasonable thing you can do are the books services, and even that is hard.

All of the people here in Israel that have bought this device have returned it within a week, and told him that they will prefer an English iPhone or even Talks then his work.
People don’t want to hear about him anymore, and we knew that the Ray devices come to the states and we are so much unhappy.
But, that’s up for the people to decide.
I just don’t want blind people buy things that they will not make good use of.

Nuance Communications has released a new generation of Vocalizer TTS, called Vocalizer Expressive with a good Hebrew voice inside, so we hope to have Hebrew access in iOS 7.
No one from Israel will buy ray!

I just wanted to share with you the real facts about this phone, and yes, it’s not different for the US, it’s just an English user interface.
Again, feel free to share it every ware including your podcasts, and if you want to be in contact with me so,
My skype is adi.kushnir
And of course keep my email.

Thank you for such a great content, and sorry for my bad English! I do my best!

Adi Kushnir.

Please feel free to comment on this post.


My choice is right, yours is wrong!

Here is a press release that has been going around the web since yesterday, give it a read and I’ll comment below.

America’s First Mobile Smartphone & Service for The Blind and Visually Impaired.

June 5, 2013.

Project RAY Ltd., developer of the first smartphone specially designed for eye-free operation, and Odin Mobile, the nationwide provider of cellular service dedicated to providing mobile communication services to the blind and visually impaired, today announced America’s first full mobile service for the blind and visually impaired.

“This collaboration will provide the blind the ability to access smartphone technology through a unique user interface that emphasizes simplicity and ease of use,” said Robert Felgar , general manager of Odin Mobile. “Odin Mobile is excited to partner with Project RAY to make advanced mobile technology more accessible to the blind.”

Features of America’s first full mobile service include:

. Odin Mobile’s full telephone service including voice, text and data, with customized eye-free setup and services.

. Affordable smartphone developed by Project RAY specially for the blind, from its unique operating system & eye-free operation to specialized built-in apps and content.

. Multiple built-in services for the blind and visually impaired within a single affordable device and one unified user experience – including voice calls, email, messaging contact list services, calendar, GPS, advanced WEB remote assistance, voice recorder, panic and emergency services, color identification, pictures transcription, banknote recognition, and more.

. Advanced communication and lifestyle services such as book and magazine subscriptions built into the off-the-shelf device.

. Unique operating system and user interface specially developed for eye-free operation including single gesture access to frequently used numbers and functions, one-hand operation, homogeneous interface across multiple system functions and services.

“Together with Odin Mobile, and with the initial and invaluable support of Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach program, we are excited to bring the affordable, lifestyle changing benefits of smartphone technology and services to millions of blind and visually impaired people throughout the United States,” said Boaz Zilberman , Founder & CEO of Project RAY. “Our RAY smartphone combined with Odin Mobile’s full-cellular services for the blind and visually impaired, will finally bring to this important community the same services available to the mainstream full-sighted community.”

Project RAY and Qualcomm Wireless Reach collaborated on the first trial and commercial launch of the RAY device in Israel in early 2013. As one of the project’s primary funders, Qualcomm provided technical advice, support, funding and in-kind contributions in support of the development of a device that successfully promotes independence and social inclusion for people with disabilities.

“We are proud to work with Project RAY and support their objective of bringing a mobile device to market that supports blind and visually impaired people so they can access resources and information independently,” said Kristin Atkins , Senior Director of Government Affairs for Qualcomm. “Our team at Qualcomm Israel worked closely with Project RAY on the operational and product efforts of the first RAY device enabling independence and a richer social life for users by providing an all-in-one, independent-living companion capable of eye-free input, text-to-speech, access to content, navigation, label recognition, augmented reality and integration with social networks. This is a great example of how working with partners, we can help improve people’s lives with the latest technology.”

America’s first full mobile service provided by Odin Mobile, including RAY, the world’s first mobile device specially developed for the blind and visually impaired, will be officially launched at the 2013 M-Enabling Global Summit organized in cooperation with FCC and ITU on June 6-7 in Washington.

About Odin Mobile:
Based in Rockville, Maryland, Odin Mobile is a T-Mobile MVNO focused on providing unparalleled mobile service to the visually impaired. Every aspect of its innovative service is designed to make it easier for the visually impaired to take full advantage of mobile technology. Its mission is to narrow the gap between the extent to which the visually impaired and general populations use mobile services. For more information, please visit www.odinmobile.com.

About Project RAY:
Project RAY Ltd. develop and market breakthrough accessibility solutions for blind and visually impaired people. The flagship product, the RAY smartphone, is an integrated mobile device developed especially for eye-free usage. It features a common user interface across all system functions, apps and services including voice calls, email, messaging, calendar, GPS, advanced WEB remote assistance, voice recorder, panic and emergency services, and more. RAY leverages cutting edge mobile technologies to afford all blind and visually impaired people the lifestyle improvements we all take for granted in today’s smartphone world: greater independence, spontaneity and mobile accessibility to services we use daily. For more information, please visit www.project-ray.com

While this clearly isn’t going to be something that I’d go out and purchase. It might be something thats right for you. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you. You can also check out the audio page and look for BGZ podcast 69 for audio comments on this article.

I really get tired of reading over and over that someone is saying that what they use is right and if you’re not using the same thing that some how your wrong at the very least and at worst a utter and complete idiot for not using what the person is using. Get a life already and get a clue!


Advocacy Update

As some of you know, I am involved in a series of ATM accessibility lawsuits here in Akron, Ohio. Ever since I lost my eyesight in September of 2004, I’ve had a desire to be able to continue to do my banking as I did when I could still see. Sadly in June of 2013 there are still lots of ATM’s out there that are not accessible to blind users, even though the Americans with Disabilities Act states that ATM’s have to be usable by the blind where ever they choose to do their banking. This law, and the specific regulations pertaining to ATM machines, went in to effect in March of 2012, thirteen months ago.
I have been working with the Blind Ambitions, an organization committed to challenging banks to make their ATM’s accessible to the blind across the entire country. I have consulted with Blind Ambitions about my inability to use many bank machines in the Akron, Ohio area due to the machines either not being accessible at all or certain aspects of the machines operations not being accessible to me. Consequently, I have filed a number of lawsuits in order to make sure that the banks in question make their entire networks of ATM’s accessible to blind users in their communities.
I can’t go in to specifics in this blog post but I can say that some of the banks I’ve dealt with have been more caring about their machines being accessible than others.
As a sighted user of ATM’s before late 2004, I commonly used ATM’s to do my banking all the time and I desire and demand to have that opportunity today as a blind user of these machines without any assistance from a sighted person. This is why I am currently challenging my local banks to make their ATM’s completely accessible to not only the blind but all disabled people that desire to use their machines with all the freedom that sighted users enjoy.
I have been an accessibility advocate for several years now. Since January of 2006, I’ve been doing various things to help blind people to lead more independent lives. One of the ways I’ve done this is to produce hundreds of free podcasts demonstrating programs and devices of great interest to the blind community. In November of 2006, I created the Blind Geek Zone website in order to have a place to allow blind users all around the world to download these files as well as a place to go to find other useful information. In June of 2006, I became a volunteer accessibility trainer at my local blind center for more than a year. Today I am a board member at the center and I still continue to give my volunteer assistance to the center. In 2009 I joined a local chapter of the American Council of the Blind in order to further help to advocate for blind people around the country. Over the past 7 years, I’ve spoken up many times for people in the blindness community. When Freedom Scientific sued two of it’s competitors I blogged about the potential negative impact that this would have on the community. When Amazon refused to make their Kindle book reader accessible, I was one of the people that contacted Amazon and expressed my concerns. When other companies made applications that became inaccessible to blind users, I have contacted them to voice my concerns.
In the future I will continue to advocate for the blind community. These ATM lawsuits are just one phase of my continued efforts to help others and myself be able to lead productive and independent lives with as little assistance as possible. Too often the blind are left out and not able to use devices or programs. ATM’s are just one thing that is currently being focused on. Hopefully efforts by all of us in the community will make inaccessible ATM’s and other devices a thing of the past in the near future.


Abbott and Costello, Who’s on first modified for the computer generation

I Recieved this nugget from Dan Thompson and if you’re to young to know who Abbott and Costello were, then look them up on Google.

Abbott and Costello, For those of us who sometimes get flustered by our computers, please
read on …

If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch, ‘Who’s on First?’ might have turned out something like this:


ABBOTT: Super Duper Computer Store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: Thanks I’m setting up an office in my den and I’m thinking about buying a computer.


COSTELLO: No, the name’s Lou.

ABBOTT: Your computer?

COSTELLO: I don’t own a computer. I want to buy one.


COSTELLO: I told you, my name’s Lou.

ABBOTT: What about Windows?

COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?

COSTELLO: I don’t know. What will I see when I look at the windows?

ABBOTT: Wallpaper.

COSTELLO: Never mind the windows, I need a computer and software.

ABBOTT: Software for Windows?

COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?

ABBOTT: I just did.

COSTELLO: You just did what?

ABBOTT: Recommend something.

COSTELLO: You recommended something?


COSTELLO: For my office?


COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!

ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.

COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let’s just say I’m sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal.
What do I need?


COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: Word in Office.

COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?

ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue ‘W’.

COSTELLO: I’m going to click your blue ‘W’ if you don’t start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: That’s right. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?

ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.

COSTELLO: What’s bundled with my computer?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?

ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.

COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my
computer? How much?

ABBOTT: One copy.

COSTELLO: Isn’t it illegal to copy money?

ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.

COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?


(A Few Days Later)

ABBOTT: Super Duper Computer Store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?

ABBOTT: Click on ‘START’ .

This made me chuckle.

It’s Words Like These that Encourage Me

Have you ever wondered what inspires me to manage a community like the Blind Geek Zone? I received this letter a few years ago, and it so deeply touched me that I wanted to share it with you all.

Hi Rick,
My son Wyatt has been writing you. I wanted to let you know that I appreciate you taking the time and writing him back. Wyatt is only 12 years old and has really been on the internet only since this summer. The Texas School for the Blind tech instructor came out and set up a screen reader for him. Wyatt is a big fan of yours. For Christmas he got an iPod Shuffle and I spent all Christmas day downloading and synching just about every podcast you have made. Through your podcasts you have given Wyatt information that makes him feel confident enough to try out new things. I am learning right along with him what is out here for the visually impaired community. We try out differnt software programs and Wyatt has even figured out how to download and install them himself. With your help he has introduced me to a whole world of technology that even as a parent of a blind child I didn’t know existed.

I guess I just wanted to say kudos to you for taking the time to create your website and all those podcasts. You really are in inspiration to Wyatt who is turning into something of a blind geek himself.

Thank you for helping me transform the Blind Geek Zone into a community that helps people, like Wyatt, with their tech needs!

A great contest that you don’t want to miss


Justin Romack, Fedora Outlier, LLC
Phone: 817.727.8542
Email: justin@fedoraoutlier.com

ATLANtA, Georgia (Feb. 27, 2013) — In conjunction with the release of the first ever multimedia ebook created for the blind, by the blind, Fedora Outlier, LLC, is offering an opportunity to win a free 16GB iPad Mini to those who enter the giveaway and answer the question, “What was your biggest challenge when learning to use your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch?” Anyone interested in entering can find a registration form and official rules by visiting http://www.oldhatguide.com/giveaway.

The book, “The Old Hat Guide to iPhone Accessibility,” is slated for release sometime next month, and the winner of the iPad Mini will be announced during the company’s first Twitter chat, #AccessChat, held on April 2nd at 8:00PM EST.

“Our team is beaming over the opportunity to share this book with the community,” Scott Rumery, a senior partner with the company, said Tuesday. “This release is part of the direction we’ve wanted to head for a long time, so it’s exciting to finally release the book and giveaway to the public.”

Fedora Outlier, LLC, is a nationally-recognized teaching and support firm based in Atlanta, GA, and is one of the first agencies to focus on support and education for the array of accessible devices made available by Apple Incorporated. #AccessChat is the first blindness-oriented Twitter chat committed to highlighting accomplishments and innovations by mainstream developers, assistive technology vendors and educators working with blind and low vision students.

For more information about the upcoming book release, the iPad Mini giveaway or Fedora Outlier, LLC, please contact the company’s president, VaShaun Jones, at (678) 404-2635, or via email at excellence@fedoraoutlier.com.


How many screen readers does it take to delete a blogger blog?

So, I decided to delete the blind geek zone blog that I had previously created over on blogger.com. One would think this would be a simple task right? Well for a sighted person probably so but for a blind person using one of the various screen readers out there, not so easy. Let me tell you the steps I had to take here in order to delete the old BGZ blog off of blogger.

Ok, my primary screen reader of choice is JAWS, so I started there. I went to the dashboard at blogger and began looking for a way to delete the BGZ glog. I found a options button by each blog that I assumed had to go in the right path to my goal. I pressed the options button with JAWS and nothing happened. I did a quick google search to be sure this was the right button to be pressing and after a bit of looking at a help article on blogger, I found that I was correct in my assumption. So ok, JAWS 14 does nothing here at all. I then bring up Serotek system access to see what it could do for me.

I was able to activate the options button with SA and get to settings, which is the first step in the path to deleteing the blog. The first thing I noticed however was that SA was dog slow on this screen! It was like swimming through molasses. It took a couple of seconds to move from element to element and I was getting no where quickly. I was in a basic options area but needed to be on other options which SA was not able to get to here. I found a tree which had the option to get to other but SA could not activate it at all. Ok, next step lets get out NVDA and see what it can do with this page.

Well it’s getting better I think, NVDA can see all the links in what SA called a tree. I find the other options link and click on it and hear a sound NVDA makes when entering something but nothing else. I tried it a couple of different ways but no success. Do I give up at this point? hell no! I click on the options link with NVDA and close it and bring back up JAWS.

Success, I was in the right area now and could use JAWS to find tools and then delete blog on the page and after another few minutes, the BGZ blog over on blogger was history. Phew, it’s tough being blind somedays! I confess that I didn’t try this with Window Eyes on the PC or with Safari on the Mac or iOS, so I don’t know how they would handle this job. Maybe someone can tell me here with a comment.

My first blog post here

Hi everyone, This is my first post here to the new blog. I’m in the process of converting my old BGZ blog from blogger over to wordpress. Everything is here but not entirely in the right category to show up on this page just yet. I have about a third of the old posts placed in the blogs category to show up here and will be getting the older posts converted over as well over the next few days.

I’ll try to start posting new thoughts here and if things go well, maybe I can set something up to allow other people to post articles here as well.

Stay tuned…

Do you beg for money on your podcasts?

This morning I awoke to the following email message:


One of the most worst visually impairment contents I have seen online is the people asking for money or donations by the manner which gives the listener a negative impression about the blind people.

Instead of encouraging the listener to be determinedly optimized, you’re keeping on showing that’s the blind person is just an online penniless.

We’re not a people of online solicitation as I may identify it, duh, we’re a truly honored and dignified people.        

Best Wishs.
It’s always hope that gives meaning to life.

The message was from:


Mostafa almahdy




and here was my email that I sent him in reply:


If you have a problem with me asking for donations on my podcasts and my website then I respectfully ask you to give running a website and doing hundreds of demonstrations yourself a try. It costs a great deal of money to do this.  Since the recipient of this email is solely addressed to blind geek zone I take great offense to your assertions here, I don’t beg and if you and others don’t like the fact I ask for donations to keep BGZ running then I suggest that you find other websites to get your free resources and information from in the future.


Rick Harmon

Owner – BGZ






After this I recorded BGZ podcast #50 and uploaded it to the BGZ website:




Where I went off on a bit of a rant and  said what I thought about people complaining about donation requests from people like myself to help keep new free content  appearing on my website.


I hope those of you who don’t feel it’s necessary to donate and expect things totally for free understand it’s very expensive to purchase new things to demonstrate on the BGZ website.  I never expect anyone to donate because I ask for a donation, I hope that people will donate because they got something out of the content I produced and felt it worthy of a donation.









A new Notetaker!

I couldn’t resist posting this.  This comes from my BGZ mailing list.  Not sure whether to take it seriously or as a complete joke!
Help wanted:
  Hi my name is Alexander Kaiser. I need help with developing a 100%
  completely pocket sized braille notetaker running under a windows version
  called windows zoom hyperstorm a new version of windows mobile
  designed for the blind and Visually Impaired And on a version of linux
  called Linux ZZt a linux version specifically built for the Blind and
  Visually Impaired. Can you please call this note Taker the thunder bolt
  pocket? Help is greatly appreciated with developing this notetaker. Please
  develop the Thunder bolt pocket wwith the following features: a pocket
  80 cell braille display with tiny thumbkeys, an 8 terrabyte internal hard
  drive, an 8 key perkins style braille keyboard including an enter key six
  braille keys, a spacebar, and a backspace key, speech output, with
  additional features including access to XM satellite radio with a
  mandatory Xm radio subscription with the best of sirius subscription
  required, a word processor, access to aim 7.5, internet access , access to
  email, ameture radio connection via program encoding using morse code,
  access to citizen band radio transmitions via an audio posting program,
  Citizen band radio connection for CB radio calling and receiving live
  comunications with other CB radio users, access to klango, access to NOAA
  weather radio stations, access to asterisk telephone chatline development
  software,, access to netscape instant messenger, access to ICQ messenger,
  access to skype, a phone dialer, a media player for music and speech
  a memo recorder, a full dictionary in english, Belgin, Portuegese, latin,
  hindi, yitish, Danish, German, Russian, Spanish and Dutch, an FM radio, a
  Theasaurus, a book reader, a newspaper reader, a built in wireless
  card for network stability, wireless internet modem for secure web
  browsing, Unlimited access license for ID vault, hotspot shieled,an
  advanced securety system for file protection, a built in function where
  braille keyboard can be used as a keyboard for the computer, a function
  where the braille keyboard works as a keyboard for bluetooth ready cell
  phones, a wireless syncronization setting where the braille keyboard can
  function as a keyboard for non-blutooth capable cell phone devices, a
  bluetooth printer connector, a bluetooth Braille embosser connector, a
  serial port for printers a serial port for braille embossers, a paralell
  printer port a paralel embosser port active sync data Syncronization
  with windows and linux based computers , an advanced scientific
  an address book, and a database manager?
Wow! Anything else you would like while someone is at it!






On Monday, April 18 2011 Rick Harmon will demonstrate installing and using Windows Live Mail 2011 that is part of the Microsoft live essentials package for Vista and Windows 7 users.  Windows 7 doesn’t come with any email program installed and this has presented many challenges for blind users out there.  Windows Live Mail 2011 is just 1 of the possible email clients that can be used on Windows 7.


Rick will talk about installing and configuring the program for use and then will discuss in detail the ribbon that the program uses instead of the old style menus used in the earlier versions of the program.  He will also let everyone know the pros and cons of using the newer version of Windows Live Mail.  afterward, Rick will answer questions from the Tek Talk audience.


Presenter:Rick Harmon

E-Mail: rickharmon@sbcglobal.net


Date: Monday, April 18,  2011


Time: 5:00 PM PDT, 6:00 PM MDT, 7:00 PM CDT,  8:00 PM EDT 

          and elsewhere in the world Tuesday 00:00 GMT


Approximately 15 minutes prior to the event start time; go to The Pat Price Tek Talk Training Room at:




Or, alternatively.


Select The Pat Price Tek Talk Training Room at: www.accessibleworld.org

Enter your first and last names on the sign-in screen.


All Tek Talk training events are recorded so if you are unable to participate live at the above times then you may download the presentation or podcast from the Tek Talk archives on our website at www.accessibleworld.org


If you are a first-time user of the Talking Communities online conferencing software, there is a small, safe software program that you need to download and then run. A link to the software is available on every entry screen to the Accessible World online rooms.


All online interactive programs are free of charge, and open to anyone worldwide having an Internet connection, a computer, speakers, and a sound card. Those with microphones can interact audibly with the presenters and others in the virtual audience or text chat with the attendees. To speak to us, hold down the control key and talk; then let up to listen.


Accessible World uses News Wires, like this one, to inform people of the topic and times for the many Discussion Groups on Accessible World. The lists are announce only to keep the traffic to a minimum.


You can join the Accessible World Announce List, the Tek Talk Announce List or the Sports Talk Announce List by completing the form at: www.accessibleworld.org/mailinglists


Accessible World also provides a Tek Talk Discussion List. This list is intended to give you an opportunity to ask computer related questions, suggest topics to be used in the weekly Monday training programs, or just to interact with others interested in using assistive devices to access computers. You may sign up for this list by selecting the Tek Talk Discussion link on the same page and completing the form.


Accessible World Contacts:


Robert Acosta, Chair

Accessible World


Email: boacosta@pacbell.net

Web: www.helpinghands4theblind.org


Marcia Moses, Events Coordinator

Accessible World


Email: mgmoses@comcast.net


Steve Hoffman, President

Talking Communities

Email: steve@talkingcommunities.com


The Accessible World, a division of Helping Hands For The Blind, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, seeks to educate the general public, the disabled community and the professionals who serve them by providing highly relevant information about new products, services, and training opportunities designed specifically to eliminate geographic and access barriers that adversely affect them




STS 133 Audio

Here are my links to audio recordings from the recent shuttle mission STS 133.  These links will be available to April 18, the day before the STS 134 mission is scheduled to start.
Day 1:
Day 2:
Day 3:
Day 4:
Day 5:
Day 6:
Day 7:
Day 8:
Day 9:
Day 10:
Day 11:
Day 12:
Day 13:
Day 14:

Rockin’ with the Rickster Friday Jan 21

Hi Everyone,
Hope you will come join me for my weekly show on ACBRI and The Legend today at 5p EDT, 2p EDT or 2100 UTC.  I have a 3 hour show where I play a mix of classic rock and pop from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.  I take your requests via twitter and e-mails.  It’s a great time and I hope you’ll join me there.  Go to:
and look for the listen links.

BGZ Livecast 4 show notes

Hi Everyone,
Here are the links as promised for todays show.
This is the link to the blog posting where developers are asking for your donations to help keep NVDA going.
Here is the address where you can purchase and download Hope the accessible interface for Pandora radio.
Amazon Kindle reader application for the PC:
This is the link for the program itself.
and here is the accessibility notes for the reader.
If you missed todays live show, you can listen to the archive here:

BGZ Radio Today


Hi Everyone,

Join me today at 3p EDT, 12p EDT or 1900 UTC on BGZ Radio. I’ll be demonstrating hope the accessible interface for Pandora radio and I’ll also be demonstrating the Amazon Kindle application for the PC that was just made accessible.

I’ll also take questions via twitter where I’m RicksterTheGeek and by email at mailto:rharmon%40blind-geek-zone.net

I hope you’ll join me there. The listen link is:




On Tek Talk this week Rick Harmon will tell us all about the program Qwitter
used by blind individuals that use the micro blogging service Twitter.

Rick will walk us through using Qwitter to do several things with the
twitter service as well as discussing other services that Qwitter has to
offer such as searching with the Bing search session.

He will also discuss many of the great things this program can do on your PC
from inside any program as Qwitter has no program window that you have to
Alt – Tab to in order to use. Ease of use is what has drawn so many blind PC
users to this wonderful program that continues to be developed. The current
version of Qwitter is 4.5.1 and can be downloaded via:


Qwitter runs on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 with all major screen


Presenter: Rick Harmon

Email: rickharmon@sbcglobal.net

Date: Monday, November 15, 2010

Time: 5:00 PM PST, 6:00 PM MST, 7:00 PM CST, and 8:00 PM EST

and elsewhere in the world Tuesday 01:00 GMT

Approximately 15 minutes prior to the event start time; go to The Pat Price
Tek Talk Training Room at:


Or, alternatively.

Select The Pat Price Tek Talk Training Room at: www.accessibleworld.org

Enter your first and last names on the sign-in screen.

All Tek Talk training events are recorded so if you are unable to
participate live at the above times then you may download the presentation
or podcast from the Tek Talk archives on our website at

If you are a first-time user of the Talking Communities online conferencing
software, there is a small, safe software program that you need to download
and then run. A link to the software is available on every entry screen to
the Accessible World online rooms.

All online interactive programs are free of charge, and open to anyone
worldwide having an Internet connection, a computer, speakers, and a sound
card. Those with microphones can interact audibly with the presenters and
others in the virtual audience or text chat with the attendees. To speak to
us, hold down the control key and talk; then let up to listen.

Accessible World uses News Wires, like this one, to inform people of the
topic and times for the many Discussion Groups on Accessible World. The
lists are announce only to keep the traffic to a minimum.

You can join the Accessible World Announce List, the Tek Talk Announce List
or the Sports Talk Announce List by completing the form at:

Accessible World also provides a Tek Talk Discussion List. This list is
intended to give you an opportunity to ask computer related questions,
suggest topics to be used in the weekly Monday training programs, or just to
interact with others interested in using assistive devices to access
computers. You may sign up for this list by selecting the Tek Talk
Discussion link on the same page and completing the form.

Accessible World Contacts:

Robert Acosta, Chair

Accessible World


Email: boacosta@pacbell.net

Web: www.helpinghands4theblind.org

Marcia Moses, Events Coordinator

Accessible World


Email: mgmoses@comcast.net

Steve Hoffman, President

Talking Communities

Email: steve@talkingcommunities.com

The Accessible World, a division of Helping Hands For The Blind, a 501(c)(3)
not-for-profit organization, seeks to educate the general public, the
disabled community and the professionals who serve them by providing highly
relevant information about new products, services, and training
opportunities designed specifically to eliminate geographic and access
barriers that adversely affect them

Robert Acosta, President
Helping Hands for the Blind
Email: boacosta@pacbell.net
Web Site: www.helpinghands4theblind.org

You can assist Helping Hands for the Blind by donating your used computers
to us. If you have a blind friend in need of a computer, please mail us at
the above address.

acb-l mailing list

Todays BGZ LiveCast #2

Hi everyone,
Todays BGZ Livecast will begin at 2pm Eastern US time or 18:00 UTC.  Today I’ll be talking about my experience voting the other day, I’ll be talking about the BGZ websites moving to a new web host, I’ll be talking about a troubling trend with Freedom Scientific and Jaws ILM’s and I’ll be talking about the online backup service called carbonite, also I’ll interact with you via twitter and email.
On twitter you can tweet with me, the name is @RicksterTheGeek and as far as email you can reach me at:
You can listen live at:
Unfortunately the stream only seems to be working with winamp or compatible players for some reason right now.  There will be an archive of the show as well, so if you can’t listen live then hopefully you can listen to the archive.  Look for it on the main BGZ page later today or tomorrow if you can’t tune in live.
The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.