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EBU Access Cast

EBU Access Cast 33 transcript

Oct 5, 2021

Transcription of EBU Access Cast – episode 33




This programme is financially supported by the fundings from the European Commission.


You are listening to the EBU Access Cast. The official podcast from the European Blind Union about assistive technology for blind and partially sighted people.


And here is our host.


(Hlynur) Hey, there, everyone, and welcome to the EBU Access Cast episode 33. My name is Hlynur Þór, calling you from Iceland. And I'm not here by myself, even though I am here by myself, but with me are three wonderful people. So with me here is Mario Perčinić from Croatia. Hello, Mario.


(Mario) Hello, sir. How's it going?


(Hlynur) We're going good, I think. How about you Pawel Masarczyk from Poland?


(Pawel) Doing all right over here in Austria as well.


(Hlynur) Yes. And last but certainly not least, Tanja Kleut from Croatia.


(Tanja) Hello. And based in Luxembourg.


(Hlynur) Based in Luxembourg. So how are you guys doing?


(Tanja) Fine


(Mario) Uh, yeah. I finally had my summer break. So yes.


(Pawel) So did I, it was nice. Well, it's nice to get out somewhere different for a change.


(Hlynur) Yeah, somewhere over the rainbow.


(Pawel) I've been to Italy and it was quite nice. It was just a couple of days, but we really liked it. My my parents were here and we enjoyed it.


(Hlynur) Awesome. Some of us here in Iceland have had a wonderful summer. You know,0 Iceland is kind of a small island, though.


(Mario) Oh yeah.


(Hlynur) But but in the northern and the eastern…


(Mario) Did you have more than eight degrees?


(Hlynur) Yeah, we had like 12 here in Reykjavik, an average something like that.


(All laughing)


(Hlynur) But it was kind of unfair this time around because the northern and the eastern part of Iceland had what in the. If you look at like June, July and August, they had like 70 days out of those 90 days with over 20 degrees. Well, we I think we had around four here in Reykjavik.


(All surprised)


(Mario) Holy.


(Hlynur) So kind of unfair if you ask me. That's why I'm never asked, of course. But so how are we pandemically doing?


(Mario) Oh, I'm fine.


(Tanja) Well, we were not sick. So this is the most important.


(Hlynur) Yeah, none of us.


(Pawel) Nothing on my side, either, fortunately.


(Hlynur) Oh great. Great to know.


(Mario) The Croatian coast was quite packed, I have to say.


(Tanja) With tourists.


(Mario) Yeah, with tourists.


(Tanja) Not with the virus.


(Mario) Well, we didn't see the virus. But speaking of the, you know, coast being packed with people, uh yeah. So we could see that, uh, the vaccine is working so.


(Hlynur) Yeah, so it seems. So it seems. So good. It's good to know that everyone is feeling well.


(Mario) Even though we had some, at least I had some weird situation with my COVID pass. But yeah, we will talk about that.


(Hlynur) Yeah, we will definately talk about that one. So just going over what we will be discussing. Of course, we have the news and we have the gadgets. As always, Pawel, you are our guy with the gadgets, of course.


(Mario)Inspector Gadget.


(Hlynur laughing) Inspector Gadget.


(Pawel) Coming back again.


(Hlynur) Coming back again. Yeah, we have also taken a look at a new thing called Tweesecake.


(Mario) I thought cheesecake.


(Hlynur) Kind of like it.


(Pawel) Like a tweeting cheesecake.


(Hlynur) If you would consider a cheesecake, a lightweight, multipurpose, robust software suite which allows users to easily use keyboard commands to control Twitter and Telegram, navigate your file system and much more than, yes, it would be a cheesecake. We were also wondering if there's an easy way to create a digital copy of your COVID certificate and safely place it in your phone wallet. Well, we took a look at a new option called, which claims to do exactly that. But does it work and how does it work? Well, you’re gonna have to listen to find out. There was also Apple hosting a conference on September 14th with the catchy title California Streaming. But what did they reveal? A new iPhone, AirPods or a new watch maybe? We will also be going over some of the new features in the latest Beta version of the Android 12 that we will share with you. And we will have some discussions about... well from my part, I was talking at a conference in Iceland for a company called Siteimprove, where my topic was about how in the digital world, accessibility is a choice for companies and institutions. But what does that mean and where are we today in regards to accessibility with both public and privately owned websites? So definately some discussions will take place there, and we will also have an interview with Gleb Zevkov CEO of Voxmate and Pavel will be handling that interview for us. Voxmate is a self voiced launcher with many audio first interfaces for services like YouTube, Reddit and Telegram and some of their own apps as well. So we have a jam packed show for you guys, but let's start up with the news.


(Mario) Neeeeews!


(Hlynur) And we have the jingle there, I guess?


(Mario) Yes, we do.


(Hlynur) Ok.


Accessibility in the news.


Accessibility in the news.


European Commission survey on digital accessibility


(Hlynur) Ongoing European Commission survey, where the objective is to seek feedback to improve public sector websites and mobile apps accessibility. We of course, know that since June 2021, all public sector websites and mobile apps in the EU have the legal obligation to be accessible to people with disabilities. The last step and the step now is to just see how it's going and they are searching to civilians, especially those with disabilities, but also businesses, online platforms, academics and more, just to kind of. Yeah, in real world, just let them know how you feel things are going. It has been open since June 23rd and everyone can deliver until the 25th of October.


(Mario) So there is still some time left.


(Hlynur) There are still some time left, so please, we ask all to share their opinions. A nice feature that the online consultation will have itself. Of course, it will be accessible to screen readers and translated to all EU official languages and available in a shorter, easy to read version for people with cognitive disabilities as well. So, a nice touch.


(Mario) Mm-hmm.


(Tanja) Yes, it is important to give feedback because the results of the this consultation will surely be good input for future policy initiatives and revision of the Web Accessibility Directive. So please take some time and fill out this survey. It is important.


(Hlynur) Agreed. Agreed.


(Pawel) Yeah, I also think it's a good opportunity if you feel that all that the EU does is too little. If you think that all these directives and acts are not enough and that basically nothing is changing, it's also a good way to voice that, because you see somebody seems to care and somebody seems to at least issue the surveys and somebody wants to make these publications. So let your voice be heard and write to them, even if you feel completely dissatisfied that you think this is not enough and you think that it looks nice on paper, but in reality, nothing has changed or very little has changed. Maybe differs from country to country. Some countries take this EU initiatives more seriously, some a little bit less. But well, this is your space to do it and you can do it in your own language. So it's also a good opportunity to let them know what you think.


(Mario) Yeah, I would compare those surveys, as you know, the same obligation for voting. I mean, yes, in some countries it's obligatory. In some countries it's not obligatory. But if you do it, you're going to change the global picture. And that's what people with disabilities eventually can do, because after you sign up those surveys, there are people who are going to read this information, and some things probably will change. So, yeah, go ahead and do it.


(Hlynur) Yeah, hopefully to the better.


Blizzard accessibility game


(Hlynur) So a mob that allows blind players to enjoy the popular card battle game by Blizzard


Hearthstone. Pawel, that is something that you came up with.


(Pawel) Yes, and I'll try to explain the best I can.


(Hlynur) Elaborate


(Pawel) So, Hearthstone is, if you know, if you heard of World of Warcraft, it's a very popular game. A lot of my colleagues, my school friends used to play it back in the day, and I think a lot of people still do it.


(Hlynur) I’ve heard, but never played.


(Pawel) Yeah, exactly. It's one of these games, like many games for blind people, but not with this one. In World of Warcraft, you have this whole world fantasy world of different races like, I guess there are elves, dwarfs, humans, of course, and other fantastic creatures. And you can of course, develop your character there and do a lot of things, but Hearthstone is this in miniature so you have all the characters from World of Warcraft, but this is a card battle game, so it means you start with some basic cards. You build your character and your character has some cards. Each card is a sort of move that you can make. It's an attack or defence or whatever. It's a bit like playing Uno, except the cards are very powerful and they inflict damage or they heal you or they give you some advantage over your opponent. And your goal is basically to overpower your opponents with your cards or overpower their set with your set. And these are very popular kinds of games, and they are also very accessible to the blind because you don't need to make any moves. You don't wield a sword and you don't jab it at your opponent. You just pick a card, and this card already does the whole job. So depending on what card you pick, so strong is or so weak is your move. And surprisingly, very few of this game seem to be accessible, even though technically they seem quite easy to be done and Hearthstone is one of the most popular, it's so popular in fact, that it's being played at international gaming competitions, so you could actually become an e-gamer and playing this alone.


(Hlynur) Mario there's your chance.


(Mario) What, For another job position as a card gamer?


(Hlynur) No, to be a European champion, for example.


(Mario) No thanks.


(All laughing)


(Pawel) Ok.


(Mario) That's for, that's for Pawel, man.


(Pawel) I don't actually play as much, but I have a lot of friends who do and I find out about these things. And this is a very big deal because, as I said, the game is very popular. There was already a game before that was also accessible by using mods. It's called Slay the Spire. It's an indie game, so it's not so popular or at least as popular as Hearthstone. But it's still, I know some people who aren't blind and who know this game. It's somewhere on Steam, and it was also quite playable. You could just use some commands on or later even actually navigate with your arrow keys and you could play it. And now we have a mod that actually makes Hearthstone accessible. All the installation steps are provided on the page that we'll link to in our show notes, but once you get it running, you should be able to navigate the menus and complete a couple of the campaigns there. It's not fully done yet, it's constantly developing, and I think the multiplayer mode isn't accessible yet. But this is definitely the plan and I believe if the author keeps on going, we will have a really nice piece of gaming that we could do with our sighted family and friends in due time. It's also quite interesting to play because it has a dubbing in, I think most languages. Definitely. I heard there is really well done dubbing in Polish. So apart from basically playing another card and another card, another card, you will hear some dialogues that are very well narrated and acted out and the cards themselves. There are plenty of cards, very extended offering where you can also combine this card somehow, and they will produce different results if you do. So it's a very complex game. It's not just picking a card and playing it, and it's gone. You actually can plan strategically while fighting your opponents, and you can go pretty far with this world. It's quite big and there are updates coming up with new characters and new cards, and new moves that you can take. So it's definitely something that will be developed and it's good to keep a watch on it. This brings me to the point where I actually see that many games become accessible thanks to modding. Basically, modding is usually done to introduce some new characters or to make something that already is in the game, look a bit different or sound a bit different. Or also to build in some functions that weren't there, they were a bit like plugins. But I see that also the game developers usually allow the votes because they want the players to be creative to. But I also see that the mods have started to being used as a means of accessible housing the games. And I think it's great because if a company doesn't feel the responsibility to make their games accessible, at least somebody who does can take up from there and create a mod. And I have heard of so many examples. I can think of three or four games right now, which will become or are becoming accessible because of modding and the results are really great. Like somebody is really thinking there, contacting the blind players, asking what they need, what are the challenges and testing it afterwards and so on. And because of this, we start to be included in the gaming. It's not going probably as fast as we would like to, but it's definitely not stale. Something is happening in there, and I'm really happy to see that maybe I don't know in 5, 10 years I will just come to my friend's house and we will have a nice PlayStation party playing something.


(Hlynur) And we have, I mean, just look at like The Last of Us. I mean, a huge game changer there in in accessibility for what, Playstation?


(Pawel) Yeah. Exactly, so you're thinking this and then actually there is this nice Web page now that I think about it. Can I play that dot com? They usually do like accessibility oriented reviews of games that are coming out, and they also interview the studios that make these games to see what kind of accessibility is implemented there. Who can exactly play which game. Mostly, it's sadly concentrated on partially sighted people and other disabilities because it's obviously easier to programme for these target groups. But from time to time, you're very likely to come across some heads up that there is a new game available for the blind as well.


(Pawel) We will link that page in the show notes as well. Yes. Can I play


(Mario) Sounds, sounds geeky,


(Pawel and Hlynur laughing)


(Hlynur) But still, still not. What I kind of liked about this. They take you through the whole step, it’s not just some mod that they do to make the game just accessible. They kind of take you from the start as a beginner, they take you through the tutorials step by step, levelling up and accessible all the way. They have on the page that we're linking to as well those six pointers just from the beginning. And I think it's a, it's a nice project. I really do.


(Mario) Jesus, man, I'm really becoming old. I remember at the time when I was lot into the gaming and like audio games when they started to emerge. But that was like I was in my early 20’s. And now it's like, Yeah, well, OK.


(Pawel)I think the meaning of gaming has changed too, because it used to be entertainment for geeks so like your parents would tell you, what are you doing playing these stupid games all day long? You would go to study otherwise or something. Get your lessons. And now it's a sport. It's a legitimate sport art that people are playing and actually becoming professional at. It's also a nice way to tell a story because you can watch a film, you can watch the TV series, you can read the book, you can listen to radio drama, but you can also play a game and learn about, I don't know, the history of Europe or the world or, you know.


(Mario) I agree they can be educational.


(Pawel) Mm-hmm.


(Mario) There's no doubt about them. But yeah.


(Hlynur) I would never, never be able to thank Football Manager enough for initially teaching me English. I think most of my initial English I learned through the Football Manager PC games.


(Mario) Is it something like FIFA or whatever?


(Hlynur) Yeah, but much calmer. So you are like the manager, so you kind of choose the team, choose to line up, buy and sell and renegotiate. So it's none of the like, oh, hurry up, press that button, shoot. None of that. So just kind of, it's probably the best waste of time I've ever tried in my life.


(Mario) Ok, so that's where you trained your skills for your other profession. Ok. Ok.


(Hlynur) Yeah, yeah, totally. Totally.


(Pawel) And there is Hat-trick, which is also a Web based Football manager, and this is as far as I know, accessible. So if you're blind and you would like to manage some fictitious football team, you can do this too.


(Hlynur) Yeah, I already tried it with the football manager and that was not exactly accessible at all, even though I think it's around, what, two children ago, the last time, I had some time to actually play video games.


(Pawel) Yeah, now, but it's good that we are included in this as well, it's important not to fall behind socially.


(Mario) No, no, I absolutely agree. I was just, you know, saying from my perspective,


(Pawel) Yeah, sure, sure.


(Hlynur) And we are moving in the right direction.


Yeah, yeah. I think


(Hlynur) And Mario will be playing in a few years time.


(Mario) Probably with some more instruments, though.


(Hlynur) Yeah. Yeah. Perhaps.


Sunu app update


(Hlynur) But Mario, you have also some news for us with the Sunu app.


(Mario) Yes, the thing is that, at least from the Android side, there was a long, long silence of not getting the updates for the Android users of the Sunu app. And then we started getting the updates for the last, uh, let's say, three weeks. So right now, the app should be kind of by the features, the same as the iOS app. And if you look into the features of the app, you can see that these bottom screen contains little more tabs, and all of those tabs have some more features and they make they make sense like they improved. They added some extra customisations for the sonar, for the angles. And for that, you can also configure how do you want your Sunu to be used like which preferred model you want to have. So for instance, if you want to have like the sonar and the compass at start-up or you want to have something else from their feature, you can now configure what you want and select it with the secondary button, so not the home button, but the second one for the sonar. What do you want to use which of the, let's say, sub apps. However, uh, I had, uh, very weird situation with my Sunu band until I didn't discover what's happening. I thought that my Sunu band had died and why it happened. Well, because. I had the update and my Sunu band was discharged for a few weeks, so I charged it and I wanted to get it up and running, then I get the notification that there is a new update which happens from time to time. There is a new update for the Sunu band itself, and it asked me, do I want to install the update? So I said yes. And then it went to upload the update and after it would upload to Sunu band, would die like completely. It would not react. There was there was no reaction to the tabs. Nothing and even the resetting of the Sunu band didn't help, and I was like, what the hell is happening? So I was plugging and unplugging from the charger, trying this and that. And after some time it would come back and then I would try again, and it would, it would happen again. Unti lI did bring the Sunu band to one of my colleagues at work who is also using it. But he is the iPhone user. So I ask him, Could you just connect the Sunu band to your phone? And that we can see what's going on. And he connected just right away and it was running fine. And so then I said, OK, well, what's happening? I'm going to uninstall the app and reinstall it again. So after I uninstalled the app, the Sunu band started behaving normally. And then I discovered like, Oh, this is not the app thing. It's the Bluetooth related thing. And sometimes it happens if you are on Android 11 and you want to connect to some other Bluetooth device, sometimes you are not able to connect properly and you need to turn off your Bluetooth on your phone and turn it on again. And after you turn it on again, everything runs as normal as it can be. So, yes, it was the Android and Bluetooth thing related. Fortunately, nothing, nothing wrong with my shoulder, and now it's running just fine. So it's OK if you have if you're on the Android side and you're using Sunu, yeah, make sure that first you try to turn off your Bluetooth. And turn it off, turn it on again, and then you should be free to go.


(Hlynur) And the moral of this story is that patience is a virtue.


(Mario) Yeah, probably.


(Hlynur) Were there any new features in this update as well?


(Tanja) Did you did you receive, Mario, the Sunu Academy, because this was one of the features, well, one of the updates that I received. So now you have modules for all the features in the Sunu band, even before you run it, you can go through all of that through the application.


(Mario) Yes. Yes, yes. Yes, it's it's there. It's good for the new users.


(Tanja) I think it's much more detailed from what it was before.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Tanja) Before it was rather basic instructions. Now it's much more detailed and I think it's important because you want to be safe when you walk with the Sunu band.


(Mario) Sure.


(Hlynur) That's the whole point of it, right?


(Mario) Yeah. Especially because the learning curve for that…


(Tanja) It takes a bit of time.


(Mario) Yeah, it takes some time, even though I really think that it's a very good gadget. But if you don't learn how to use it properly, you can get confused very quickly and then people can start saying the device sucks and that it's not doing what's supposed to do. But no, everything is fine, but you really need to spend some time with it.


(Hlynur) I see, there were some new navigation features like Where am I, places, search, categories, my favorites and street pointer.


(Mario) Yeah, that's also being added. Although those features were coming like gradually. They started appearing in, you know, each update had something. So but right now, they kind of grouped them and it looks much more polished, let's say like that.


(Tanja) And they partnered with Lazarillo.


(Mario) Yes. This is something that I’m really looking forward.


(Tanja) Me too.


(Mario) Because maybe for the last two years, two and a half years, from my point of view, Lazarillo is the app that I'm using the most from the navigational apps. So now since Sunu and Lazarillo made a partnership, Yeah, now you can use Lazarillo from the Sunu itself by going to this navigation tab. And then when you use it with Lazarillo it's giving you vibrational instructions as well, like where are you facing what's, what's on which side and et cetera, et cetera. So that's also something that didn't exist before.


(Hlynur) Anything else you would like to add before we move on?


(Tanja and Mario) No.




(Hlynur)  So next up are the gadgets.


JBL bluetooth and wi-fi speaker


(Pawel) Ok, so there is something I got because it's my birthday coming, and I've thought for a while now I haven't had a Bluetooth speaker because my previous one, which was quite a cheap one actually from some company that isn’t very well known. I guess it's basically stopped working. So I thought, I'll go for something that is more known. And after searching wide and far, I came up with the idea of getting myself a JBL Link Portable which is, of course, a Bluetooth speaker, but it's also a WiFi enabled speaker and it's Google Home compatible. So from the start, you can turn on the Voice Assistant on it. Of course, the Google one. And it also supports both Chromecast and AirPlay. So no matter what device you have, if you are an Apple user or Android user, you can stream directly to the speaker from the apps that support it. And yeah, it was an interesting experience. I set it up by myself, everything was pretty clear from the start, and now it's here next to me and I'll try to turn it on. It's pretty much work similarly to all this Google Home speakers. You set it up and it starts using the assistance straight away. I tried to play some music with it so far, but sadly I don't have any Spotify or YouTube music subscription, so I could only play some YouTube music stations, they are called, like radio stations made by other people, which is the only thing you can do for free.


(Speaker beeps)


(Pawel) There it goes.


(Speaker) By the way, the mic is off right now. To turn it back on, press the button that controls the microphone.


(Pawel) Yeah, exactly, I keep my microphone muted because, well, I don't want Google to listen to me all the time. And I must say I quite liked the sound of it from the start, even though I just had limited capabilities to play music. I also tried calling somebody on Duo, and this is a feature I really, really liked. I didn't think I would need something like this, but now I feel like I have a landline phone because there is just the speaker standing here and people can reach me anytime on Duo and I can just pick it up on the speaker. It's almost like I had an actual phone at home.


(Mario) No, this is this is one of the things which I'm also using with my Google Duo quite often. And it's it's really, really handy, especially because I don't know how it is with your JBL, but Duo has various sets of mikes which are really catching up the noise. I mean, your voice from quite far away so you can be moving around your room and you would still be heard enough from the other side. So yes.


(Pawel) I think, yes, I think, I don't know how many microphones the JBL has, but what my friend told me when we spoke was definitely that he could hear me well. He could hear me with very high quality for a speaker and he could hear me. I don't know if as well, but definitely he could hear me from some distance apart and he could notice that there was some echo, as you probably can, but that's the fault of the room. And other than that, we were talking for a bit, for a couple of good minutes before we disconnected and I was basically going around my room and he could hear me all the time. He never complained, like, what did you say, nothing like that. So it's really good and I really liked it and he called me back and I could pick it up as well. The thing it suddenly somehow doesn't want to do, and I don't know why I think it’s some political stuff between Google and JBL and TuneIn. I can't play any radio stations by Google Assistant.


(Mario) Like none of them or some of them?


(Pawel) None of them. It's whenever I say play and it comes the name of the station. And even if I say with TuneIn or without TuneIn, it doesn't matter. He will try to play stuff from YouTube Music as if TuneIn wasn't there.


(Hlynur) So if you say play the radio, it just gives a command directly to YoutTube.


(Pawel) Yes, this AR. It tells me that YouTube TuneIn doesn't support playlists, but if I try to ask it like, could you play some radio? It will basically tell me all the help page for TuneIn. So it sort of has it there, but it doesn't react to any of my radio requests.


(Mario)I don't know what's going on with the TuneIn anyways, because what I noticed on the home device. Is that it seems like that the devices which are supporting the tuning have like TuneIn free version.


(Pawel) Mm hmm.


(Mario) And it seems that TuneIn, for whatever reason, started making some changes or whatever. I would say maybe these are also the bugs, I don't know, but what I'm currently seeing with, for example, a few Croatian stations is the fact that the same station will play on my tuning on the phone, but. If I give the same comment to the home device, it will announce that the station is playing, but I would never be able to hear the station. And you can check out if this is happening when you start, for example, you start streaming the station from your home. No, from here from your phone, I'm sorry.


(Pawel) Mm hmm. Mm hmm.


(Mario) And then. If you, if the station starts playing on your phone, you can press the cast button.


(Pawel) Yes. that works.


(Mario) If the station starts, if the station starts casting, then it is 90 percent chance that it will work on the home, but there are situations when you press cast and nothing happens. And this is the situation, for example, with those few stations which I am encountering that they start playing normally on the phone. But when I press the cast button, I just hear the silence on the home device.


(Pawel) Ok, I heard my station fine when I casted it, and this is the thing that I wanted to come to. I Googled this a little bit, and it seems like people are having these problems too. And Google even knows about it, and Google is recommending as a workaround to cut from your phone. But that's not the point.


(Mario) Yeah, sure. That doesn't make sense to have the speaker then. Right?


(Pawel) Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's it's comfortable to have it casting. I mean, good for you. You can use your screen reader do anything else on the phone, but you have to keep the app open at all times and it's stupid.


(Mario) And it's draining your phone's battery.


(Pawel) That too. Yeah. And so I don't know. I can't do this, but I guess it could work with the with the podcasts, I hope.


(Speaker) The mic’s back on.


(Pawel) Ok, Google Play the latest episode of the EBU Access Cast podcast.


(Speaker) Okay. Here's the latest episode of EBU Access Cast EBU Access Cast 32, playing on Google Podcasts.


(Speaker playing) This programme is financially supported by the European Commission.


(Pawel) Ok, Google, stop. Ok, there we go


(Hlynur) And then to the most important question of all, how is the bass?


(Mario) Bass!


(Pawel) Didn't you hear it? I thought it came through in the recording.


(Hlynur) I think it sounded good to me, though.


(Pawel) Yeah, that's why I picked the podcast because we have a nice intro for testing speakers. (laughing) Anyway, yeah, I'm quite satisfied. I wasn't, let's say, courageous enough yet to turn it up very loud because I also mind my neighbours quiet and peace and my flatmate too. So I haven't really gone really to do 100 percent with it, but I had the chance to play with similar speakers, also from JBL at the MediaMarkt last weekend, and they can be quite loud. I think it will get the party started if you need to.


(Mario) And it's a stereo set of speakers, I suppose.


(Pawel) Sadly, no. It's one mono speaker, sadly, but it has this live… How is it called 360 degrees?


(Hlynur) It is 360 degrees so you can basically place it anywhere. I have a Samsung 360 degree speaker at home also and I don't mind that it's not a stereo.


(Pawel) Yeah, for music, it's not as important. And mostly, I think I'll be listening to either music or spoken word on this. So I was able… I was ready to sacrifice the stereo.


(Mario) But if it's not the stereo speaker, why didn't you go for the home device?


(Pawel) Ah, it was actually funny coincidence that I picked this one. It turned out that because of where I'm working right now, I am eligible for some discounts with some shops and there you can only pick from the brands that they have. And initially, I just wanted a Bluetooth speaker.

I didn't think I would need a smart speaker. I just thought, Well, I primarily need a Bluetooth speaker. So if I go somewhere or I just want to play some music a bit louder than my phone speakers or just listen to something in the background, I will need this. And then I started looking at what JBL has, and they had regular speakers. They had speakers with DAB radio receivers with the digital radio receivers, But consulting some friends of mine who know their stuff. It turned out that these receivers aren't very good, so I just dropped the idea and then I saw this portable link and it wasn't much more expensive than the flip. Flip is like a one hundred euro speaker. It's a standard speaker. I think mostly you will get this if you want to just have a Bluetooth speaker for just listening at home or parties or anything. And this wasn't much more expensive than that with the discount that I had, and it had the smart functions. So I thought, OK, if I can have both and it's not so much more expensive, why not go for this? And I just was initially thinking, Well, I only need the Google Cast and the Chromecast and AirPlay. That's nice that it's there because then I can just cast anything, anywhere around the house. But then I also saw Google Assistant and I started playing with the calling, with the weather, with other things, and I'm like, OK, I will not keep it on all the time, but it's useful. It's there. If I have it, it's good to have it, and I'm quite satisfied with the quality here and I can also remove it from the docking station. I can totally run it on battery and take it anywhere with me in the backpack. It's not that big and turn it on somewhere at the lake and just keep playing some nice music. So I think it's both in one and I quite like this approach.


(Hlynur) Sounds like a happy birthday to me.


(Pawel) Yeah, I'm satisfied. I just need a bit more time to play with it still. But I, for example, don't know what the docking station is for. I thought it's for charging, but I don't see any cables going into it or from it, so I don't know how to operate.


(Hlynur) It looked like from the pictures I saw on the website that it was for charging.


(Pawel) I thought so too, but the cable part is on the front of the speaker.

And I can put the Usb in there and the USB C, by the way, and I don't see where I could put the other end, and I don't see where I could put the power cord. So I still have to figure it out. And suddenly the manual is mostly pictures.


(Mario) So that's what I wanted to ask. Have you checked the manual?


(Pawel) Yes, I have, and it's mostly pictures from what I could gather. So I'll just have to ask somebody to explain it to me.


(Mario) You know, sometimes when you encounter such things with hardware, what might help is to get through few reviews on some websites, because those reviews go through all the details and they can mention these kind of features there, so you can get the clue.


(Pawel) You're right, you're right.


(Mario) I had the same situation. I mean, it's a similar situation with the one of my very small Bluetooth Guitar Practise amps, which I purchased last year, which is also having its… OK, it's quite simple to use, but still there are some features which you need to press and in order to get to different functions. And the manual from that amp was completely in pictures or in some spoken words, but nothing, nothing understandable for a screen readers so I watched some YouTube reviews and then one of the guys explained all the features, what I need to do. And I was like, Ah, OK,


(Hlynur) Reading a bit here. It says that it is a charging station. The bottom of it. But of course, that will need to be plugged in.


(Pawel) Aham.


(Hlynur) I am of course not sure, but sometimes things do not work while they're charging. So if it's being charged on top of the docking charging station, then it might not be able to work while it's there. But you should be able to. You should be able to charge it with the bottom of it.


(Pawel) The bottom at the bottom, I have like a round field, it's like a circle in a circle.

Aaaah! you know what? I think I see it. There is a tiny teensy Usb port at one of the walls of the circle in the middle.


(Mario with a low voice) Yes, dear listeners, this is what's happening when you give a gadget to the blind person.


(Everyone laughs)


(Pawel) Yes.


(Hlynur) Merry Christmas.


(Pawel) Good. I play with this some more. And I also haven't paired it in Bluetooth mode yet, so that's something also I'll have to explore. But what I have tried, and this is also quite a nice tip. If you own anything that supports Chromecast, not just the JBL, there is a piece of software. Actually, it turns out there are two pieces of software. I just found one yesterday, the day before, that lets you stream anything you want over Google Cast the Chromecast, if you will, from your PC with Windows and the first one is called Desktop Chromecast audio streamer, I think. I think that's how it's called - Desktop audio streamer, simply. That's how it's registered on my Start menu. It's a Windows software. It's accessible and there you can pick any sound card you have on your system, Be it input or output, so you can even use your microphone or mixer, anything, and you can stream any sound that comes through it onto your Google compatible speakers. So I could choose my JBL easily and I could stream. I use the virtual audio cable, which is a virtual sound card for streaming from one software to another. And I just used it as an empty sound card to stream the Fubar Music or audiobook. I was playing with the Fubar 2000 onto my speaker and it worked. It had a bit of a delay, sadly, but it worked in the end. And I must say I'm very happy it did because now I only my imagination limits me. I can play radio, I can play anything from the web, I can play any music, just anything I want, I can play on. The speaker wouldn't use it for meetings or for webinars or for anything where I need to interact, because the delay is quite severe, it's a couple of seconds, actually. So it's not good for talking with people, for example, but at least if there is any content, I want to listen anywhere in my house. As long as my Wi-fi connexion keeps up, I can just stream it. And it's very comfortable. There is also a second software called Music Cluster, which lets you also stream the sound of your sound card. Sadly, you cannot choose which one, so probably the default one. But also any music file you give it, any playlist you give it, or any URL. So I suppose radio or any audio stream you give it. So there are tools, and this Music Cluster is especially quite it's neat because it just sits in your system tray. And whenever you need to cast something, you just go to your system tray, pick the icon, go to the menu. You choose the speaker, you choose the thing you want to play, and off it goes. So there is software to do this, and I also saw that there is something for Mac. And of course, there is plenty of apps you can stream from on your iOS or Android device. So this kind of speaker is really useful, and I thought I wouldn't need it, and I didn't think I would buy a Wi-Fi enabled speaker by chance. But I came across this model and now I don't regret it.


(Mario) There we go. Dj Pawel in action.


(Pawel) Yes.


(Everyone laughs)


(Pawel) Now I just need a mixer.

Well, Christmas is…


(Tanja) That’s the next gadget.


(Everyone laughs)


(Hlynur) Looking forward to hear about that in the next episode.


(Mario) Oh yeah, Christmas is coming soon.


(Hlynur) Yeah.


(Mario) Or Black Friday.


(Pawel) Mm hmm.


Minimize to tray app


(Hlynur) Tanja, you had something to share as well, didn't you?


(Tanja) Yes, actually, I had the need to minimise some windows while working since this option was not available inside these programmes.


(Mario) You needed to minimise some windows?


(Tanja) Some windows. And some programs.


(Mario) Aha.


(Tanja) So I found Minimize to Tray which does what the name says. It minimises programmes by pressing a shortcut. The shortcut is just alt F1 to minimise a programme, and you can retrieve it by pressing alt F2. It is a portable programme, so it doesn't start automatically. You have to start it every time. But what I did, I put a shortcut on my desktop, so if I need it, I just activate it and then I need to use those shortcuts. So it's. So it’s simple and it works.

And, actually it is sad that Windows already as operating system doesn't provide this option because it's very handy to have programmes in the System tray.


(Mario) Yeah, it is.


(Tanja) but well.


(Pawel) There was also NVDA plug in. I don't know if you tried it, the Windows Wizard or something like this. When a wizard lets you hide any window, you have open into a slot. So if you press, I think it's NVDA Control 1 or something, then you hide the currently focussed window in slot number one and then you can hide it with the same shortcut and you have unlimited stacks of these windows so you can keep hiding and hiding.


(Tanja) Ok, good to know. Even though I'm always changing screen readers all the time because some screen readers read something, some other read other things, like NVDA reads better something, JAWS some other programmes. So in my case wouldn’t work, but is good to know.


(Pawel) Mm hmm.


(Hlynur) But what about us who have nothing to hide?


(Tanja) Then you have all the windows shown.


(Mario) Yeah, you're exposed then.


(Hlynur) Yeah, pretty much.


(Hlynur) So. Thanks, guys. Some lovely gadgets. And again, we're looking forward to hearing about Pavel's mixer on the next episode.


(Pawel laughing)




(Hlynur) Next one is a thing that I personally I Don't use a lot of myself, but I do know and I have heard that the Twitter hasn't always exactly been an accessible friend. We were taking a look at this thing called Tweesecake. Mario, not cheesecake actually.


(Mario with disappointed voice) Aaah.


(Hlynur) Pawel you were taking a closer look at what this does. I can see it's kind of a way to be able to use keyboard commands on what Twitter and Telegram, even though I don't use Telegram myself, navigate file systems and much more.


(Pawel) Yeah, probably a lot of our completely blind listeners will know this Twitter client fashion that is still very much the standard that your favourite Twitter client is the client where you turn on the programme, the keyboard commands are there, and the only thing you ever get is a feedback from your screen reader so you can handle all of the Twitter operations without ever leaving any of your existing windows. You can be in Word and reading something. You can be on the web browsing something and you just or that keyboard command and you are reading 2 or 3 further Tweets and replying to one and writing a new one on your own. We did use even TWBlue and I think the cube at some point, even on the EBU Access Cast Twitter account. It's just so easy to manage that way. And, well, Tweesecake started off as another one of these clients. We also had Quinter in the last month or two and. Tweesecake started out like this as well, but then the author decided, you can do so much more with this concept. You don't have to limit yourself to yet another Twitter client, which will make probably no difference because there are so many of them. You can create new interfaces for new things. And so he, apart from Twitter, he also made a Telegram client, a File Explorer in which you can of course, browse files, copy paste, move around. It's quite easy. You can. If you remember the Twitter buffers, you had buffer for the home timeline. You had the buffer for dimensions for direct messages. In the Explorer, you have a buffer for each folder that you open for all your hard drives, and there is also a buffer for shortcuts where you can place all your favourite Folders and files a bit like your desktop, really.


(Hlynur) Hmm.


(Pawel) And the good thing about it also is that you can open text files in it, so you can. Open a text file in a separate buffer and you can read invisibly line by line. What is there in the file? It's not very comfortable for books, I guess, but for tiny notes or for documentation or change logs, things like that. It's actually quite neat. I, for example, Read the theTweesecake changelog. You can also preview multimedia files, which is quite practical for. Let's say you have a bunch of short files like some ringtones, notifications or some samples. You would like to use some sound effects and you quickly want to browse them. You go over the files and just press one shortcut and anyplace. And it's quite interesting that it gets it gets all these functions because it expands further. You have a radio feature in there as well where you can just search for a radio station, add it to your favourites and play. It straight from this invisible interface. So this is also quite practical. You just have your radio in the background. You can start and stop it or find a new station. You can check what song is playing right now, but will I use the most is the Telegram feature because it also has a Telegram interface, and this is really my favourite way to communicate now because you just switch over to the Telegram session. It's still invisible. You navigate through all your chats or if you want to, you can open your contacts and there you see your contacts sorted by last online parameter and you just pick one person. You open the buffer with the chat and or you don't even have to open the chat. You just press Windows Alt N and you type the message. You press enter and it's gone. It was sent. Everything is gone. There is no window. The job is done. You can get on with your things. And then when somebody responds, you just find the chat again and or even leave it open the buffer with the individual chat and you just navigate up Windows alt up arrow, Windows alt up arrow and you can read the message. You can listen to it. If it's a voice message, you can download the file. It's a file that somebody sent you. And with Telegram offering all this groups, channels and bots, this has a really great potential because especially the bots, they let you exchange files with different services. They let you check on different things. I even found an Android app where you can register for yourself, a bot to exchange your SMS messages so you can even, buy this sort of gateway, send and receive your SMS messages from an invisible interface on your PC. And I think this is pretty great. The implications are countless. Again, your imagination chooses, and I'm also quite curious to see what is going to happen to this in the future. Like, what kind of sessions are we going to have supported in the next releases? The authors have some ideas. I think what they're considering right now is Mastodon, which is this decentralised Twitter where you can have your own server and your own instance and you choose with which other servers you want to be in touch. I think they also thought of an email Client. That would be interesting, too, especially for all this mailing lists with lots of messages on them.


(Hlynur) Yeah, it would be.


(Pawel) And I think they want to expand more into the player scene. So at least to the point where you can comfortably listen to audiobooks. That's what I heard so far. People have been also asking about possibly opening some kind of API for developers to code their own sessions, and the authors said they wouldn't say no, but they have to think it through, how to best approach it. And yeah, basically you you have a lot of possibilities now. There is also an ability to open a window like a physical Ui window where you can navigate with your regular screen reader commands. This is especially handy for people who use braille I suppose, but maybe not only maybe some people just prefer a simple, window based interface. You have some more windows to hide. And yes, I'm quite curious to see how it develops. For now, it's free of charge, but the authors don't hide it from us that it will be paid in the future. And I sort of see why, because if they want to offer different services, especially a lot of services that have require access to paid API, I guess you will need at some point to have your costs returned. And also you probably like to have your time recovered in money if you're developing such a complex, complex piece of software. So I sort of see why they want to go this way. I hope it will be very expensive. They mentioned they want to keep it below five dollars or something or five euros. I think they said five dollars, although one of the developers is from the U.k., as far as I know. But well, let's not speculate. Let's wait and see what happens. At any rate, I keep my fingers crossed. And I don't know, has anyone else of you maybe Tanja or Mario? Have you tried it yet or…?


(Mario) No.


(Tanja) Actually, not because I'm not using Telegram and for Twitter… if I'm using, because last period I was not really checking Twitter much. But if I'm using it, then I'm using the website.


(Pawel) Ok.


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Pawel) I hope it will develop to the point where it will offer something interesting for you as well, because I think it has potential this kind of interface. And now let's see what happens.


(Hlynur) Mm hmm. Definitely.


Get Covid Pass


(Hlynur) And I'm guessing you all have your COVID passes up and running and ready to go. (Mario) Yes, we do.


(Pawel) Mhm.


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Hlynur) Because there is this service,, which allows you to create a digital copy of your COVID certificates and safely place it in your phone wallet. What did you guys think of this? This is not an official EU operation of any kind. This is the third party invention.


(Pawel) Yes, but it's made by a company in the Czech Republic that specialises in generating passes like this four mobile Wallets. And apparently, this company is providing services for insurance companies. They said AXA, they said Allianz, so really big names on the market.


(Hlynur) Yeah, major players. Yeah.


(Pawel) And I guess if you trust them and the suppliers they choose, you can also trust this service. Yeah, but ultimately, it's it's your choice, what you do. I was also hesitant at the beginning, but eventually I tried it and I'm really happy I did. I.


(Mario) Actually, I wanted to say that I'm really happy that I found out about this because it seemed at the end of the day that this is the most accessible solution so far. So if you go back into our previous episode, you will remember that we talked about various Pdf readers for our smartphones where we could see our certificates. Well, it turned out that in practical situation, it's not working as it's supposed to. So even if you would open the certificate in the Google Drive as we suggested or Chromebooks, PDF, UI or whatever, it would still be small and it would still need to be zoomed. And I had a practical situations that people on the checking points had troubles with getting it on my screen and et cetera, et cetera. Which wasn't the case with this Covid pass EU. First of all, the whole experience… I initiated the whole experience from my phone and that was great because you can do all the stuff from the browser. Everything is 100 percent accessible and eat at the end when you get your COVID pass ready for your wallet, in my case, it was a Google Wallet for Android. It's accessible and it's visible right away when you click on the… Basically your card that gets imported into the wallet. So it's really, really it's reasonable one hundred percent and people can scan it and you are ready to go if your pass is valid. I found it the best choice so far because it turned out to be that every country has their own kind of system of generating those PDF files. And for example, I found out that in Croatia, people are able to import their PDF certificates into the Croatian version of the app, but then they have some passwords, which they need to enter, and that password is only available on their certificates. So, for example, I could not import my Luxembourgish certificate, even though they say it's valid for all EU, but I could not import it into the Croatian app and its whole mess around with, you know, going from country to country. And discovered Get COVID pass, you solve that situation, you know, at the end you get something that's decent for whatever platform you have and as long as you have your basic QR code, which needs to be scanned, you are ready to go.


(Hlynur) Well, I'm not in the EU, actually, but I tried this out with my Icelandic certificate and it worked like a charm, in, like, 2 minutes.


(Pawel) I think it works with EU plus the European Economic Zone area where Iceland is taking part. I think…


(Hlynur) Could be.


(Pawel) Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein…


(Hlynur) Switzerland if I remember correctly.


(Tanja) I think you in Iceland, you also have EU Certificate. I mean, the COVID EU certificate, as far from what I remember from the commission’s website. But for me, it worked perfectly, also with the Apple Wallet. It was fully accessible. I open the page from the mobile phone, uploaded the Pdf on the website, agreed to their privacy and it was just important to the Apple Wallet. And it works and I can see all my data in in the COVID Pass. So it's really accessible and it works.


(Pawel) Same here, I didn't have a PDF, sadly, so I had to ask for help scanning the code of the paper. I guess maybe if I tried it on my own, it would have worked because it's live scanning, it's not taking a photo or anything. It's just you have to point the camera and it has to scan. So maybe I would have had luck, but I didn't Want to bother so much, so I just asked somebody to help me. And it also imported fine. I needed to install this Your Wallet app on Android.


(Mario) Me too.


(Hlynur) Me to.


(Pawel) Which is good for the future because it's compatible with this Apple style passes. Sadly, they aren't very popular in, I Think, neater Poland nor Austria, so I can't get my train tickets in there, which are my tickets for concerts or any events. But I think some airline tickets are available this way too. So it's good to have this app.


(Mario) But my understanding is that you are able to make your own that you're making. So you can scan your whatever you have. Let's say you purchase the card or your ticket and you can scan the ticket from the Wallet app and then it makes the version for the wallet.


(Pawel) Oh, I need to try that.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Pawel) That'll be quite cool, actually.


(Mario) Because there is the option that you… There's the button where it says ed card and then you can basically scan whatever you need to scan and then it's there.


(Pawel) Ok. I quite liked it to that. The whole experience there. And I think it's it's good to keep it that way, as you said, Mario for like full screen operation and anything. It's also quite easy to do, as you said, universal, and you can read all the data, which is also important.


(Mario) But yeah, actually, actually, I just remember the thing that I tried uploading the certificate from the computer and the app said that it has the problem with recognising my certificate which was bizarre. So I said, Well, OK, maybe it's better if I do it for my phone. And eventually it worked fine.


(Tanja) Yes, probably because that process, as soon as you upload the PDF, to convert it to The wallet cannot be done on the desktop.


(Mario) True.


(Tanja) Probably because of that it was stopped or blocked. OK, it makes sense that you do it directly on the mobile phone because anyway, you will use it on the mobile phone.


(Mario) Sure. Yeah.


(Pawel) Yeah, it generates, I think, a tiny file. I think…


(Tanja) Amhm.


(Pawel) This passes have some p, whatever p g, whatever format.


(Hlynur) Yeah. There are two options here in the Your Pass app. You can add a digital pass, which says “Add non payment card in the PK pass format by scanning a QR code or you can digitise a card.” So you digitise your own non payment card, for example, plastic or paper board, so I guess a concert ticket or a library cards or anything like that.


(Mario) Right.


(Pawel)I need to try with something else. Next time I travel, I guess.


(Hlynur) Awesome. So everyone is happy.


(Mario) Yeah. This was great, I really hope that this service stays as long as the Covid stays.


(Hlynur) Yeah.


(Mario) Because so far, this really is solved, the problem that we had and it was I was really looking for something fully digital because I don't want to, you know, drag papers around.


(Hlynur) Yeah, before we were also trying, trying out many different PDF readers just to see which one would open it up with not zoomed in, then just too much work. So it's very good that it is working as it is.


(Mario) Even though I also had one weird situation with my certificate. And it turned out that for whatever reason, iPhones are the best if they have to scan my certificate because if some other Android phones are scanning, I'm not able to get green. (Laughing) So yeah, it's bizarre.


Apple „California Streaming“ 2021


(Hlynur) Talking about Apple, they were hosting an online event on the 14th. Awesome name, though. California streaming. Love that one. So what is now the iPhone 13?


(Mario) That's unlucky number.


(Everyone laughs)


(Hlynur) only if you buy it on a Friday.


(Mario) That's an unlucky number. Those iPhones are going to break.


(Everyone laughs)


(Hlynur) You heard it first here, on the EBU Access Cast.


(Pawel) The 13 gate.


(Hlynur) So, Tanja, what will you be shopping for?


(Tanja) Well, my iPhone X still works well, but from what I read, the iPhone 13 will have a bigger battery, which is maybe something I'm looking forward. There is also a better camera, a smaller notch. I don't know whether this is really of interest to us. Maybe yes. For some applications that use the camera.


(Hlynur) But the price is going down. That is of interest to everyone, I guess.


(Mario) The prices?


(Pawel) Yeah, I think what's happened is that they are dropping the sixty four gigs model altogether. So what happens then is, I think, but I'm not sure to some extent, the capacities will sort of slide at least the 128 should cost more or less as much as the 64 used to cost before. So for now in the US, the iPhone 13 Mini 128 gigs was capped at 700 dollars. I'm just trying to look up how much it will be in euros.


(Tanja) Do you think that the prices will stay just… Because normally in Europe it costs a bit more.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Tanja) Always.


(Mario) And now how is the situation with the all chip out shortage.


(Hlynur) Yeah.


(Tanja) Mhm.


(Hlynur) The global prices of aluminium and all those materials going up.


(Mario) I don’t know man.


(Tanja) Mhm.


(Hlynur) I think I've heard that aluminium is going up for around 80 percent increase.


(Mario) Yeehaw!


(Pawel) Oops.


(Hlynur) Yes, ups, definitely ups.


(Pawel) Mm hmm.


(Hlynur) What did you say it was in dollars? 700 US. So that would be around 600 euros.


(Pawel) But converting it, I don't know if it's a good idea because usually they will agree on some different pricing for different regions. Yeah. So I wanted to just look it up. Maybe I'll have it in a bit. But yeah, it's definitely means that the 64 is gone and 128 is now the default cheapest option.


(Hlynur) Ok, so we're getting getting pretty much more for the same if you're going bigger than 32.


(Pawel) hopefully. Hopefully, hopefully, yeah.

But what really made me happy is the fact That apparently the iPhone 13 Mini is getting All  the sensors of the 12 Pro Max, so I will really hope there will be a lidar in it.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Pawel) Yes, that would be quite good, because the reason why I thought, I think iPhone 12 mini great phone, but no lidar andlidar, maybe it's maybe not yet, but maybe in the future, quite essential for blind people.


(Mario) Oh yeah, Pawel is going to the architecture. He's going to construct the houses.


(Pawel) Yeah, no. Actually, you already have some apps like the seeing eye, which is able to tell you the distance from objects by using lidar, so it's could be quite a deal breaker in the future. I know we've had this for a year now and there hasn't been a major breakthrough yet with this, but this is already used for some things like that.

So yeah I'm quite curious to see what happens to it, of course. Also the bigger battery, slightly faster CPU. So slightly that they don't compare it even to the older models anymore, they just compare it to the competition.


(Mario) What about the fingerprint sensor? Is it still there on the mini or not?


(Pawel) Good question, I heard that somehow the face ID is gone somewhere on the iPad. Now


(Tanja) I hope they will drop it because it's so annoying with the mask,


(Mario) Even though you have the profile to make the I know that now you have the profile in the face ID That you can make if you have a mask, so it's somehow able to recognise you.


(Hlynur) Or if they choose , I would rather have the world could drop the masks, then


(Mario) Yeah,


(Hlynur) And drop in the face detection.


(Pawel) Anyway, hopefully, anyway, apparently this faster CPU, it has some new AI capabilities on board, and it should be possible to recognise text in real time better and to recognise objects and buildings. So this could be also quite something for us. Also, there is the new Apple Watch series seven, which is a bit bigger, I think, by a millimetre. The screen is bigger by a millimetre, but it's the difference is already big enough that you can apparently, according to Apple, put the whole keyboard on it. So finally, you'll be able to type somehow on the Apple Watch.


(Tanja) Can you imagine typing braille?


(Pawel) I was, yeah, I was wondering about that too. But no, they would have to think of someone one hand system. They tried this with some Android braille keyboards that you split it into two halves and the first you type the first half, then you type the second four four five six dots. I think it's kind of tedious, but I can't think of anything better.


(Hlynur) Maybe we could just go back to Morse.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah. Mm hmm., maybe we could go back to slate and stylus


(Pawel) Dot by dot.


Who knows? We will see what what happens.


(Hlynur) Also, it will be interesting there were a lot of new a lot of news. Let's call gadgets like the word gadgets.


(Pawel) But the impression generally is that not much has changed. And I guess if you look at the 12. The change is not significant, but I think these kind of events or this kind of years where they don't really innovate hard core is good for people who are thinking of get on board. Switch from something different


Because you don't regret like oh, my God. I could have got the cheaper model, which offers so much less or the more expensive model that offers so much more here you just choose. Ok? Maybe if the newer model doesn't offer so much more, really, the older one will still do and it will drop in price.


(Mario) So yeah, so the 2020 SE is even going to get cheaper. So for those of you, those those of you who want to get the iPhone? Well, maybe that's still something to go.


(Tanja)  like Mario.


(Mario) Maybe you never know. I'm just waiting for Croatian Siri voice. That's what I said. (Pawel) Oh, I would first wait for VoiceOver the Siri. We don't have Siri in Polish either, although we have a Polish VoiceOver voice and we're still waiting. There is even this, I think web page when Siri will be available in Polish or something like that. And now is Siri available in Polish, but something like that. And if you go there, it just says no, that's the whole point of the web page, And they're going to update it as soon as something new turns up


(Everyone laughs)


(Pawel) And it'll be updated to yes, maybe or maybe never.


(Hlynur) I guess I will not be holding my breath for the Icelandic Siri then. Well, I don't know the.


(Mario) Yeah. Speaking of those Voiceover voices or Vocalizer, their voices, which are being built into the iOS, I really don't get it why Croatian voice is not integrated there because we have it for 5 years, even though it has many quirks, but its Vocalizer as a voice. So. Yeah, why why? Google doesn't integrate Croatian to the list of languages, even though it's funny, because now this is this is really bizarre like Google is able to talk Serbian, if you ask it to to use it in the interpreter mode, it's using this neural Serbian voice, which sounds quite OK. But that neural voice is not available in the offline version for the Google TTS yet.


(Hlynur) Only the online translator.


(Mario) Yep, yep. And Croatian is still who knows where. Yeah. And, you know, at the same time, Croatia is part of the European Union and Serbia is not so.


(Tanja) But I think Google doesn't care aboutEU.


(Mario) Yeah, it seems like that.


(Hlynur) Maybe you should just switch over to Apple and see if they love you more.


(Mario) No, no, not really.


(Hlynur) Oh, OK. But since Mario doesn't seem to be switching over to Apple, then maybe Mario, you're willing to discuss the newest Android 12 beta four release, which is


Official Android 12 Beta 4 release update


(Mario) I don't have it


(Hlynur) As though you don't have it, but you might be able to discuss it.


(Mario) I could say


(Hlynur) Different things.


(Mario) Well, it seems for the beginning that, uh, from what I was reading about and further from what I heard from the people who have the beta They really optimised the devices, and it seems faster than the previous version, which is good to see, and it's using much less resources. So it's also people who are like you could you could see that on the Pixel devices. People are having much more battery power than before, which is good.


(Hlynur) Oh, it's always good.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah. However,


(Hlynur) it's like gold.


(Mario) Yeah. However, in regarding to the accessibility information. well, there is not much information about it for now, and I don't think that we will see so much. Even though Google can surprise stuff, I've. Well, I've heard some stuff that are being in the pipeline for Talkback, but TalkBack is Always a kinder surprise. You never know what to expect


(Pawel) Comes out once a year, you mean?


(Mario) Oh yeah, that's that's one of the things. But another thing is that, uh, well, you know, you might get some features that you


Never wanted to have or, you know, some features that work or used to work, no longer work. Yeah,


(Hlynur) usually not as expected.


(Mario) Yeah. or yeah, maybe one of those, maybe some more languages pop up. But for this, I'm kind of very low optimistic. But well, we'll see.


(Hlynur) Yeah, I could see four new features that I find interesting. But again, like you said, Mario, nothing in regards to how accessible it it is or will be, but we have the with the scrolling screenshots. So if you're taking like a multiple screenshot of a web page or anything that doesn't fit entirely into your screen, well, now you will be able to screenshot and yes, scroll it down outside of the range of the screen so you like so you can maybe take one screenshot instead of five or six or seven. So that is something that people have been waiting for of, also the change of the display. I myself have been waiting for this for a couple of years because always when I'm using my phone while lying in bed and turning on to the side, the damn thing, always switch over to landscape. So now they're offering you to use the front camera so it can detect how your face is oriented against the phone So they can lag more in a more smart fashion, know when to when to go to landscape, or change the orientation of the screen because they know how the phone turns. And they also know how what your face is turning as well. The in-app search is something that I find interesting as well. So you can search for things that aren't only apps, but you can search for things that are inside the apps as well, like calendar events, things on your to do list and and many more. No apps have started using this yet, but this definitely sounds like something that will grow popular and in a short time. And privacy is, of course, the new fashion. So you can now see,


(Mario) like always, privacy!


(Hlynur) yeah, privacy. So now you can in a new privacy dashboard, see detailed information in a dashboard and you know what dashboards are like. We have no idea how accessible that will be once we get a look at it.


But you can see how many and which apps have access to your location, camera and microphone in the past 24 hours. You can have more overview of of your your privacy on your mobile phone, which is, I guess, a good thing step in the right direction. But since we are an accessibility podcast, there is not much we can say at this point.


(Mario) Yeah. And you know, keep in mind that both of us are running Samsung devices. So some, Samsung will for sure add some of their features into the there scheme.


(Hlynur) Definitely. Hopefully, if we want to take a look, maybe by the end of this year,


(Mario) maybe, maybe not. Maybe. Yeah, well, I've seen the post that. How it looks so far. All my phone and your phone will get Android 12. So that's good. However, when it will come, nobody knows the earliest what to expect is at the end of the year. However, I'm more looking into the first 3 months of 2022. So, yeah. But yeah, it's a Android 12 is behind the corner, as they say. Yes.


Discussion digital accessibility matters – Siteimprove conference


(Hlynur) There was a conference in Iceland held by a company called Site Improve. I don't know if you guys have heard of it before, have you?


(Everyone) Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yes, yes.


(Hlynur) So we, the Association of the Visually Impaired in Iceland, is in collaboration with Site Improve. Where we are just helping each other out. We're there,


(Mario) you're kind of neighbours know, yes, they're in Finland, Denmark, Finland,


(Tanja) Denmark,


(Hlynur) and they have Icelandic employees in Denmark which who are focussing on the Icelandic market as well. So those are mainly those who we are cooperating with. Yeah. And of course, they are just in business and we are in the business of making Icelandic websites more accessible. So kind of a win win situation for us both. I held a small discussion on the conference and my topic was called Accessibility is a choice. Which means, of course, in the digital world, accessibility is kind of a choice. For companies and institutions, I was talking about what I was meaning behind that, and I was I would like you guys to discuss also because what we have been seeing for the past few years is. that a new app, a new website, a new anything comes out and people have still not started looking at accessibility from the get go and through the whole experience, it kind of feels like. accessibility is still being looked at more like a destination when it should be looked like a journey. If you would. And also because they are having the. European Commission Survey, I think it would be interesting to discuss a bit. Have you guys noticed any changes just If we just talk in general.


(Tanja)  a bit a bit of changes, but I think it depends on the country also. I think in the countries where there were some laws on accessibility before it progresses more quickly. But in countries where you didn't have any laws, anything requiring the public sector to have the continent accessible, I think content is quite inaccessible. And what I have noticed is that the first tries to make the content accessible are really basic. What we have seen 20 years ago like increased contrast option on the website and switch To Screen reader mode. But then you switch to Screen reader mode and nothing really changes because then the click here links that are like 20 times per page remain. Click here doesn't change for the Screen reader, so it's it goes really in the wrong direction for for, I think, for the countries where they're just starting with accessibility.


(Hlynur) Just like, as you said, they are just 20 years behind. They were 20 years behind when this thing came into place and they still are.


(Tanja) Yes. But also what I noticed is that, for example, here in Luxembourg, when you report a problem first to the organisation, then Most probably they are. They do not know what you're talking about. And then you report to the accessibility responsible person in the country,


(Mario) It's a service.


(Tanja) Yes. Well, it's a service. So then they they really take it into account and it's looked after. It will be improved in in a shorter or longer period if it is about a public sector. At least this is my experience in in Luxembourg, but I did not have this experience in Croatia, so I believe that also there are different experiences in different countries. But then when we go outside of the public sector, things get worse because then we are still waiting for the European Accessibility Act to enter into force and to be obligatory for them too. because now the Web Accessibility Directive is only for the public sector. But it is true there are new websites, new mobile apps from the public sector that are launched and that are not accessible. And then when you reported, they're just surprised that you're reporting this issue. I think accessibility is not still considered as it should be, but probably it's a it's a long process. I think they also need to include much more testing with users with disabilities because sometimes they see that a very often automated checkers are used only if and that is already considered deep accessibility testing. And I don't think this is complete. It's it's of course, a great tool, but it's not complete. So


(Hlynur) you can't you can't exclude the manual labour.


(Mario) well, for Some people, that's that's something that they wish they never have to do, unfortunately.


(Hlynur) yes we can agree on that.


(Tanja) Unfortunately, yes. But this is a mind set, I guess.


(Hlynur) But it's just Not the case.


(Mario) No, no.


(Tanja) Yes, this is a mind set that has to change. But I think by having the Web accessibility directive, by including people with disabilities, also it will increase the level of discrimination that was up until now, also on the job market for persons with disabilities. Because we expect and we hope that this will increase the possibility for persons with disabilities to get employed, to be involved, to test the content, to get trained. How to test, to report well, what are the issues and so on and so forth. But I don't know. What are your impressions, guys?


(Mario)  I had the experience, for example, that what I have seen actually started to see for the last year and a half. is that, for example, LinkedIn started started to be a platform where you can get if you're into accessibility field. And you're the accessibility tester. You could get some interesting job offerings from different companies in Europe, which was not the case before. I have encountered a few so far and have encountered those of a few interviews so far for various job job positions, which I didn't accept at the end. And one of the reasons why I didn't accept besides the other conditions which you have for the particular job is because of the fact that people who are one who wants to hire you as the accessibility consultant think that this is something which is. And Project, which will last for a few months and then it will be finished. And this is something that's totally wrong. I think that the


We can all Agree on the fact that the accessibility if it wants, if it needs to be taken into account seriously is the ongoing process. So sorry,


(Hlynur) it needs to be maintained.


(Mario) Of course. Yeah, it needs to be maintained.


(Hlynur) And it's not a destination.


(Mario) No, it's not. It's not a, you know, thing that somebody wants to hire you for a year.


(Tanja) It's not a project. No, it cannot be a project for one two years.


(Mario) And then and then people will think that they will get all the knowledge necessary, so they will be able to continue on their own.


(Tanja) Yes, they will base the knowledge on your work, but the technology develops, so it's impossible. The standards are developed. Everything is going forward. So you cannot base accessibility on a project. I mean, your accessibility work on the project.


(Mario) Sure. And also other


(Hlynur) Other like we have like you, like you guys, you know, you know, Site improve. you know what it does. There are also companies and institutions here that do have site improve. they have this tool that tells you what you're doing wrong and what you need to fix, but turns out there is still no one within that company accountable for fixing it. So they have the solution they're paying for the solution, they're paying for everything. The only thing that they need to do is the manual labour of getting it done. And that's where the story ends.


(Mario) Well, that's I don't know what to say, it's tragic. Yeah,


(Hlynur) yeah, it's really it's a shame. Yeah, like damn, because it was not foreseen by the system that someone fixes accessibility issue and this has to change. Yeah, yeah. How about Pawel, what's your take on this?


(Pawel) Yeah, so I've Been in Austria for a very short time, but I can tell that at least there was a body created to control the quality and to to to collect all the reports of inaccessible public websites. And it's there and they're doing their job and they're also doing a lot of promotion. I have seen one spot they recorded for the. people said Global Accessibility Awareness Day or it was the International Day of disabled people where they actually have shown how a blind person works with the Screen reader, so they are out there doing showing it. But I don't know much about the situation at large, like how good or bad it is in comparison to before the directive. I know, however, from Poland that a lot of people are talking about accessibility. There is a lot of accessibility presentation going on in different sectors. I heard about the case in education, and people are running scared. People don't know what to do if this, like they get this training somebody comes, tells them that, well, they are this disabled people. They need things to be accessible. They may be explain how it works. But the impression at the end is we don't know who is supposed to do this. We probably cannot afford it. We don't know if anybody will actually use it at our particular place. And honestly, it would be good if somebody just came, did it And we are safe. And the problem is that people don't get how it works. It's often they expect that you will come as an accessibility auditor and you will fix all their issues within a fortnight because they need to be ready by 23rd September or some other deadline. And the thing is, just like, you know, another regulation they have to follow. Oh my god, stupid EU, And that there will be this nice woman or man who will just come. You pay them a bunch of money and they'll get it sorted and their misery. Yeah. And there is A huge mix up in also In the responsibilities and roles like people don't get the difference between an accessibility auditor accessibility tester.


(Mario) Oh yeah, oh yeah,


(Pawel) accessibility consultant and programmer, and so much more. So they expect you to sort of do everything, even though you tell them I'm just a blind person so I can test. Ultimately, for with the best result, for one use case, you need and help of an auditor Who can in turn, maybe hire me to test this blind person who has the methodology and the experience in organising a whole audit Story. So,


(Mario) oh yeah,


(Pawel) And this is a lot of money. It's not also like you will come to me. And Pawel could you please take a look at this and tell me if it's right? And it would be good if you said if it's all right because, well, the less we have to do, the better. And it's also quite crazy when you tell people how much you your work is worth. It's like I got some offers to do some kind of accessibility testing for institutions, and I consulted other people in the field in Poland to get some measurement, like how much it could be worth. What's your reality? And I got like different opinions more or less, I have calculated. how much I would like to be paid, and I told the institution, in turn, this is this is my offer, do you take it or not? And there was no response anymore.


(Tanja) Unfortunately, I think the impression is that we we are doing This like just in five 10 minutes. And it's a favour. It's not work. It's


(Pawel) yeah, because we do it for ourselves, like it should be us who should be fighting for this to happen. So we better do it for free because after all, if we don't do it, then we don't have the outcome.


(Tanja) But it's sad because This is a mind set that has to change. I think also what would help to raise this issue is that everyone who encounters accessibility issues on public sector websites is to report this because the feedback mechanism is there and to report to the organisations telling what are the issues and if they don't receive any feedback, they they just think everything is fine. Nobody, nobody who has a disability is accessing our website. But this is not the truth. So at least as a citizen, I think you can do something on this level and then slowly I hope it will change also what we criticise just before.


(Mario) I mean, speaking of the whole situation, I have to come back also to the fact that when some companies are searching for the accessibility specialists, the people in the HR

Department who are supposed to talk to you and basically recruit you as the candidate, have no clue about what are they talking about. So you need to be very patient at the same time and explain if the person on the other side wants to listen to you. What do you need to do, how do you have the things done? And then you might also encounter the positive or negative experience you can have. Or you can also get to the point where you end up on the interview and you find out that the company who wants to hire you wants to. make some things accessible, which might not be possible to do, such as working with the very highly visual stuff and, you know, making the statistics accessible, Which is very tricky to do.


(Hlynur)  Maps Yeah. Yeah,


(Mario) yeah.


(Hlynur) So if but if you look back. What have what has been accomplished? I can least say for here in Iceland, if we look back 10 years, for example, now we say that companies are searching for accessibility professionals and testers Look back 10 years. No company was searching for.


(Mario) That's true. That's true. Yeah,


(Hlynur) anything related to accessibility. So the awareness stage is much higher.


(Mario) It is. And it will grow. It will grow exponentially. Even more so this is something that we need to. I mean, we as a people, especially with people with disabilities, I think that we are the best candidates for doing these kind of jobs,


(Hlynur) Of course,


(Mario) Because we know eventually what needs to be changed. And people who have, for example, some site left can also work as the developers because there are some stuff which

 blind developers cannot do visually. But somebody who is visually impaired can can fix that. And at the same time. Yeah, it's this is something that will become popular more and more. Absolutely. And


(Hlynur) absolutely feel like that now we're at this point that when companies and institutions are aware of accessibility, they're kind of aware of why it's important and why it needs to be there and all those things. But I feel like, OK, enough awareness. Let's start doing.


(Mario) Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hmm.


(Pawel) (Mm hmm.


(Hlynur) I feel I really do feel like we are at that stage now.


(Pawel) I have a similar feeling about it's not related strictly to accessibility, but more to, let's say, social life. where people really admire you for doing your best as a blind person and they say all the stuff that you an inspiration and so on.


(Hlynur) You're totally hero.


(Pawel) Yeah. And I'm like, and they keep asking you about, you know, how you live, how you do this, how and I'm fine doing this. But you see that there is not much coming out of it, like people Bart you on your back and it's fine for five minutes, but then you're not really sure if it takes any effect with their learning. You know, if they could do something better. As a society, there is no reflection self-reflection in it other than, Oh my God, we are much blinder than you are because we don't think about this and that thing in our life. But this is not really transferred anyhow to improving the situation for disabled people. Every time somebody like tells me that I'm an inspiration, I'm actually tempted to ask, What did I inspire you to do? Like, what was the thing that you decided to do different since the day you met me ?So


(Mario) So why don't you ask them?


(Hlynur) Not not the thing that you did to inspire them, but what did you inspire them to do? I think that's a nice, nice, Nice way to look at it.


(Pawel) It's a fresh thought, so I haven't had a chance that it's fortunately not like I hear it every day. But I think next time it happens, I will, because it's it's an interesting effort to play with,


Yeah, yeah,


(Hlynur) I dare you and I want to hear the response.


(Tanja) I think it's a philosophical question, and it also depends how much the person is open.


(Mario)  Yeah, sure. Yeah, but I translate this message is that Pawel is not happy with enough attention from the chicks that he's getting.


(Everyone laughs)


(Pawel) That's a that's a separate issue, but we're a technological podcast, so we do have technology like Tinder and more.


So technology is becoming more aware of


(Pawel) photos, photos, even more photos, giving voice samples anyway.


(Hlynur) Yeah, yep. Ok, so healthy and good discussion. I'm very happy with you guys. So we're going to wrap up this show with Pavel interviewing Gleb Zevkov, CEO of Voxmate.




Yeah. Voxmate, which isn't completely a strange product to us, to our listeners and to us in the team because there is a person in the team who we already know working with the developers and it's Jakob, hello, you still remember us, we hope.




(Mario) Yeah)


(Pawel) And yeah, and Jakob has been working with Gleb and Katja and the whole Voxmate team over there in Estonia, building the product. It's an Android-based, self-voiced app for accomplishing different tasks based on a system of menus with just four gestures: flick down – next element, flick up - previous element, flick left - previous menu, flick right - expand menu; and you can make phone calls with it, you can send text messages, listen to music, radio, access services like Reddit, Telegram, but also it turns out you have a bunch of new capabilities, such as multiplayer games and audio forums, so if you have that community vibe and you would like to meet some more blind people from all around the world, this is also the place to be and they have really big plans for it, so you can listen to the interview. It reminds me a lot of Tweesecake, just in the mobile version. It can‘t be done, of course, in the mobile version with the keyboard shortcuts and invisible interfaces, but it's the closest thing to what we have. You will hear it also in the interview, it's a bit like the old IVR systems of the day where you could just call a number and get all the information by pressing 1 or 2 or 5 and you would Get into different menus and choose different information that you wanted to access; so, yeah, let's give it up to Gleb and what his vision is all about.


[Interview Jingle, text: The EBU Access Cast Interview]


(Pawel) So here we are back with an interview with Gleb Zevkov, the CEO... Are you... Are you the CEO of Voxmate, right? The new...


(Gleb) Uhh...


(Pawel) product on the market.


(Gleb) I prefer not to put labels on a two-man outfit. We are just getting started, so I'm the founder, let's put it that way.


(Pawel) Ok, but nevertheless, you are the the person who came up with the idea, more or less, I guess. What inspired you and basically, how did you come to an idea that a product for blind people would be something you would like to endeavour on, would be your kind of adventure?


(Gleb) So it started with my co-founder, Katia. Her father started losing vision first in one eye, and it was, you know, an ordeal and then suddenly in the other eye, and then it was a big, big, life-changing event for us all. It was a very surreal experience for the family, and we were kind of, uh, dealing with it firsthand, because they live in a different city, but he was undergoing his therapies here in Tallinn and we kind of tried to figure out how we could help and when he lost vision in both, both eyes at the age of 58, I think 59, it was very difficult for him to adapt. He, he was already set in many of his routines and we kind of tried to figure out ways we could help, like for example, we bought a bunch of cheap MP3 players and put an audio book on each MP3 player, and so he could kind of switch around; and then we got him a big iPad and tried to, you know, learn VoiceOver ourselves and then teach him how to use VoiceOver and it didn't go so well, because even, even if you're, you know, kind of happy with VoiceOver, a lot of websites (and he was very set in his preference, uh, for news, for example), are not very accessible. You can kind of go with VoiceOver and all the banners pop up, and it kind of very hard to understand what's going on, even if you can see, but if you can't see and you're, you know, fingering around with exploratory gestures, it's much more harder, so what we did was... So we started figuring out: maybe we can make a little bit of, you know, a little box for him. I bought a, like, Ar... Arduino or Raspberry... Raspberry Pi device, and I put a numpad on it, kind of started playing with that idea, and made audiobooks app for him on that, and then we thought, Well, you know, we looked around the internet for what, what existed and we couldn't find anything that would be simple enough for him to use, so we thought, OK, well, let's do something, and that's how we started in Voxmate.


(Pawel) So what is it exactly?


(Gleb) Well, it's an App and it's an App platform, so it installs as an App on Android from Google Play, and you can get it already today. And inside Voxmate you use gestures to navigate around smaller apps, we used to call them Voxlets, but now we just call them Voxmate apps, and these Voxmate apps, we have a whole bunch of them. There is one for news, one for podcasts, one for audiobooks, one for radio and so on, and they kind of create this cohesive atmosphere, a simple interface that's very easy to get started with. Most of our testers who are a little bit older, get comfortable within, you know, within an hour and then they can use a whole bunch of services, but Voxmate started as an idea to make these simple services, but we kind of grown up from that. We made this platform, and on top of this platform, we built a YouTube application, we've built the Telegram application, we built a Reddit application and so on, and we kind of creating more and more apps. We have like 20 apps today and, and we're... we want to... This is the path that we want to be on.


(Pawel) So how does the navigation go? What makes it so simple to use and did it in the end help Katja's father? So your co-founder‘s father in making this technology more accessible to him? And what was the idea behind the navigation there?


(Gleb) Well, they're kind of two, two basic ideas. First of all, let's minimise the number of things you can do with, with the phone screen, and right now it's just four, four gestures to get started: up, down, left and right; and you can, you know, go around of a lot of these applications... to use a lot of these applications; and the second idea was to have a good audio-first experience, be... The way accessible applications have been made to date is we take a visual interface and we say, OK, so let's put, you know, descriptors here and there, and we kind of structure it from, from... from then on. That's how we get exploratory interfaces and so on; or we go full voice like with google Assistant or otherwise that shall not be named, but what we wanted to do, we wanted to go gesture mode so that it's very expressive and there's no way to misunderstand the gestures: you swipe up, down, left, right, very easy, and we wanted the audio experience to be very clean, so, so that there's no, you know, extra stuff, you don't have to explain every little thing, and you don't have to say that this is a button, it's a node or a tile, we call them in an interface and it kind of., it's much more self-explanatory, because we're trying to focus on the audio-first experience.


(Pawel) Mm hmm.

So there is this, this menu context and you just navigate as in... as if a TV, let's say, an old TV or old phone menu style, getting in and out of menus, choosing the right option and getting wherever you want, right?


(Gleb) We've got our inspiration from, you know, dialler systems, nobody likes those, but, you know, when you dial your bank or something, press 1 to do this, press 2


(Pawel) Yes, mm hm.


(Gleb) to do that,


(Pawel) Mm hmm.


(Gleb) So nobody likes those. They're really inhumane, but it actually works out quite well if you have a sys... real-Time system that quickly responds to your, to your input. We also have voice input for storage and so on, and you can input with keyboard but to get started you just need a Four gestures, you can get around the menu, you swipe up and down to go around the options and you activate the option by swiping right and then you deactivate, you go back by swiping left, so it kind of is one of those. That's where we got the inspiration from this old telephone menu systems.


(Pawel) I also find them quite interesting. This is a system that I used to explore, of course, as I was a child. Let's say internet wasn't so popular and accessibility, well, forget it, but the IVR systems were around and I can still remember calling up a local cinema. They had a fully automated IVR system where you could get to know the whole schedule, which movie is running when, and I was so excited because it was my first source of independently obtaining some information so I Was basically torturing my whole family, telling them all about the latest movies that I heard about from the IVR, and I, like, whenever I do accessibility demonstrations for sighted people or even for students in a class, when I was still at the university, I always did a funny exercise in which I asked the group at large: „If you could imagine that screens were never invented and we never moved beyond IVR systems and basically telephone lines, if it was our ultimate technology today, how would you imagine the services of today and the challenges of Internet of today in a telephone-accessible form? How do you imagine social media as an audio experience? How do you imagine viruses? How do you imagine spam?“, and the results are usually interesting. People sometimes have no idea if they could assign, I don't know a sound, a nasty sound to a computer virus playing over the phone or basically their favourite shopping website where they cannot see a single photo of their, the shoes they want to buy, but they can just hear things, so this is an interesting approach. I guess there is always this fight, and you probably got to know this when you started testing with larger amount of people, that there are proponents of the universal accessibility so that we should use the mainstream apps as everyone does and promote and advocate for more accessibility and more inclusion in the interfaces, or the custom-made clients based on some external Api where the blind people are the target group, and so the interface is built from scratch, it's just thought of at the conception stage, is this somehow the direction you are going, like, the more into the custom apps area or are you also looking at some mainstream, mainstream universal accessibility as a worthwhile cause or more like good way to progress and the goal to be in the future, screen readers and mainstream apps in tandem?


(Gleb) I think this is, it‘s a... it‘s a great discussion to have and I heard this, you know, Yeah, I've had this discussion a couple of times with people and I, I think that we need to be doing both. and it's not either or kind of scenario. The way I, I think about Voxmate is that it can be a tool for forcibly accessibilizing  existing services, and that's how I Kind of internalise it. There's, you know, websites and there's services that they just don't have the resource to make an accessible Layer, let's put it that way, on top of and or or they iterate the UI so much, you know, maybe they‘re startup, maybe they‘re small and they don't have the resources, but but let's say if if we want to use that product, why not have a means to be able to accessibilize it? You know, on behalf of the original app‘s creator? So and, and I think in many cases, this is a little bit of a mute point, for example, let's say we take, we take Telegram as an example. They make a client, they make several clients actually, and they make a very nice SDK that you can plug into and you can create your own client quite easily, so why wouldn't we want to create a client that is much more audio-friendly as opposed to a client that is much more visual or maybe a clutter-free client or something like that, I think that a lot of these services downstream boil down to: there's a set of data, set of API‘s that we can kind of open up, and there could exist many clients, many different types of, of interfaces to that service, for example, a couple of years ago, Netflix started to kind of changing their UI a little bit and making it simpler to find new content as... or so they thought, but I like, you know, I like long lists of things where I can filter and I could, I could see myself using a client on top of Netflix that is much more friendlier to, you know, a person who, You know, has a data-centric view of the world; and then there could be a Netflix client that is much more suitable for a person who doesn't know what they want to watch and in a similar way, there could be a client on top of Reddit that is very nice for that use or very nice for audible use, so I think and what we want to make with Voxmate is, is we... we want to create this SDK so that it's very easy to write these clients on top, so we've made 20 applications. It's because it's quite easy to make applications on top of Voxmate, and it's quite easy to accessibilize a service that might provide an API or provide something that you can use externally, so I don't necessarily see this as, as... as a big fight between two, two camps or two, two, two ideas.


(Pawel) Mhm,


(Gleb) and another way of thinking about it is also, you know, Katja's father could probably, you know, even if you, you say that it's quite accessible, you know, to use certain app using VoiceOver and I might agree with you, but he wouldn't agree because it's too difficult for him. It's, it's as if it wasn't accessible at all. Learning something is also part of, of... of accessibility journey and when, when that learning is too difficult, when it's too difficult, then you can almost say that it's inaccessible, and so it can be also thought of as a stepping stone. You know, if you're just lost vision Voxmate might be a good fit for you, but as you progress in your journey and as you learn how to use Talkback, how to use VoiceOver, then it becomes much, you know, you might say, Well, then I'll start using these apps as well.


(Pawel) Speaking of that, actually, you probably had this argument many times testing with the community, but a lot of people who are very self-sufficient with technology will tell you that we don't need another voice interface while we already have screen readers and you have already addressed this a little bit. You told us what your, at least a part of your target group might be.

You had your first user case that basically has shown that a solution like Voxmate is needed out there., but how do you? Is that your only target group? And if not, how do you plan or how are you approaching and convincing the sceptics?


(Gleb) I think the sceptics need to give it a try. If you're super comfortable with Voiceover, try our version of Telegram client, for example it's still better to have a dedicated audio interface that is tailor-made to be used as an audio interface. That's just been our experience so far that people are... when they, when they try the app, a lot of them go: „OK, I see, I see the point. There's, there's value in this, even for me, even as an advanced user, I can find value in using particular client, for example“, but what we want to see is, is Voxmate as two things: first, as a stepping stone between, you know, no apps, no phone, no nothing and Talkback or VoiceOver, so I mean, even the sceptics have to agree that the learning curve is difficult for some people, so even before you... before you get to that level of proficiency with Talkback, you might enjoy the services that are simpler to use and then, on the other hand, what we want to do, and this is in our pipeline for the next year of development, we want to make a very development-friendly environment, so that you can create your own self-voicing applications that are tailor-made either to your small scale needs, like, for example, we had a person who wanted to automate their air conditioner and all, all they need is a simple app that will turn it on, on and off; or you could have a community that's passionate about some service and they would forcibly accessibilize it, even, even if it's not accessible today, so I would say to the sceptics that I think there's, there's room for both approaches, and audio-first could be a great experience, even if you are really comfortable with Voiceover, Talkback.


(Pawel) Ok. Umm, there is also a great post I have seen on one of the community forums regarding Voxmate where a person suggested that it would maybe make sense to apart, of course, from offering these clients and the interfaces, all your first interfaces that you do offer, to also include a sort of gateway, a bridge playing field, if I may say so, for learning how to use actual screen readers. Is it some direction that you would find sensible for the future of Voxmate?


(Gleb) I think it's a good idea. We're right now just getting started with what we want to build, and it is a huge undertaking for us. We want to be part of the larger vision., yes, but, but it might, might take different forms. We might want to take Voxmate to be a sort of assistive tool like, Voxmate would be a screen reader, this is a path that we are investigating, for example, and we have cool ideas how to do that in a new, different, simpler way, or we want to be able to integrate with Talkback and VoiceOver better, so right now, Voxmate is only on Google Play, by the way, but we're investigating how to make an iOS version, that's also in the pipeline for us.


(Pawel) Mm hmm.


(Gleb) So, yeah, Voxmate can be a way from my point of view, it's a it's a stepping stepping stone for many people that are just dealing with accessibility issues today, and going forward, maybe there could be an experience through Voxmate that would be a teaching experience. Today, Voxmate already supports Talkback as compatibility mode. That means that you can have Talkback enabled and use Voxmate at the same time. All you need to do is add another finger and you can swipe up and down with two fingers and swipe left and right with two fingers and then it would work as, as expected, and so you could much easier use it as as a... as a little extra application, if you only need it, for example, for Telegram or for Reddit or something like that.


(Pawel) Yeah, that sounds like a great compromise. You also have apart, of course, from this clients for external services, some of your in-house technology, you have some social networking features as well, and some multiplayer games that you released in the, in the first release, the public one that is out there. Could you say something a little bit more about this? What's your approach? What's your goal with this and how do you find this being useful for the... for your target audience?


(Gleb) So we look at Voxmate first of all, as an entertainment platform, and then we wanted to show that we can do a lot of things on this platform. You could read the news, sure, that's, that's kind of easy to understand, but you can also play quite complicated multiplayer games and we've started making these multiplayer games on our own. There's... We have four colors right now as our example game that you can go and play today, and the idea here is that we can bring people together. People are bored. They can find some... someone online to play with. We also made our own audio forum.

We here were playing with the idea that... that may be, you know, transcribing, you know, speech to text and then text... back text to speech is not always optimal, so maybe we can record the audio and people can just talk. It's, it's similar idea to how Clubhouse works, but in an offline fashion, so you kind of post audio messages and, and people reply to you with audio messages. We thought that, well, the audio forum is just getting started, of course, so we'll see where it goes. Right now, it's more of a support forum for Voxmate. We can... If you have any issues or if you want to know something how to do something, that's a great way to, to get an answer, but going forward, I mean, in the future, what we kind of want to create a community feeling. One of the biggest challenges that Katja‘s father had to face is adapting to his new reality, and as... try as we might to kind of cheer him on, the best thing that worked in his situation was actually talking to the blind union people from the blind union, and we want to have that kind of experience built into Voxmate, so if, if people need to reach out, there's, there's a way to do that also, and we want to play with, with... with concepts that only make sense in a, in a blind world. As you say, if we imagine, reimagine the world, that there is no interface, no visual interface, how would that world be? And so we came up with these ideas like audio forum, and because it is a platform, it's fairly easy for us to experiment with it, so we create a backend for it, we create an audio app for it and we see how people like it and what people think about it. Right now, there's a lot of ideas on the forum like how could we improve it if people want to add personal messaging, people want to add this and this, and we have to kind of wait and see how the forum develops on its own, what people want and what we can improve downstream.


(Pawel) Sounds great. What's your pricing at the moment and what's your sustainability model?


(Gleb) We are very aware of, of... of abandonware in, in accessibility and especially in VI, a lot of people create apps and then they kind of fail to find a suitable way to finance the app, so they kind of float around. We wanted to create... that's why we created a platform so that we could bundle up all the apps in one space, so it kind of makes sense to pay for the apps and, and implicitly, it also gives us financial support to, to continue improving the applications, continue supporting the applications. Right now, we're offering 75% off, of early access offer. We're just fresh off the presses into Google Play and Currently we're, we just want to get as many users on board as possible to kind of see what works and what doesn't work, so we're offering a 75% off and you can get a monthly subscription as low as 3,50 €. I think the actual price may vary just a bit between jurisdictions, but that's our rough target. We want to raise some funding and develop it further for maybe another year or so before we are sure that this product is kind of ready for, you know, maybe to remove the early access moniker, but we're... This is where we are kind of. This is where we're starting up.


(Pawel) And what is the plan about the pricing for the, for the future? Is it still to be decided or have you got any fixed numbers?


(Gleb) We think that we're going to target around €10 per month when, when we are, when we feel comfortable to do so and this, we probably will start ramping the price up a little bit over, over time so that it doesn't come as a shock. Right now, we're, we're running this 75% off so that we get as many people as possible on board, and it's been quite a nice reception so far and we hope to continue and grow the userbase. We think that we can give a lot of value for the, for the monthly subscription and, and think of it that way also that if there's a large enough userbase supporting us with subscription that it makes sense for us to hire developers to continue, continuing development, improving the applications, cleaning things up and so on. one of the strengths of Voxmate is our ability to push application updates, so every time you visit an app, if it has been updated and you're connected to the internet, you'll get a new version, so it's very easy for us to kind of iterate over something, updates something and so on, but we need, of course, finances to do so, and this is what we're kind of trying to figure out how the model will work. We are running this 75% off deal for maybe a couple of months and then we'll see what we'll do.


(Pawel) Do you think this pricing may change or vary depending on what solutions you would like to build around which APIs? Because you mentioned Telegram, but Telegram is one of the very few exceptions in popular and modern services where you actually can so freely develop an alternative interface. Otherwise, there is either no API and any attempt to create anything unofficial meets outright ban from the company, or you have to pay for API access, which sometimes they are not very low bills, mind you, so how do you plan to approach this if you want to expand with more services?


(Gleb) We'll we'll have to, we'll, we'll, we'll... have to see how we do that. We know that some people figure out ways and because we're in accessibility space, we're constantly talking to companies and they have kind of understanding in terms of, you know, trying to help us along, but it is a huge difficulty. As you say, everybody wants to keep things in-house. That's why we don't have Facebook at the moment on the platform, because they kind of keep us out. We'll, we'll... we have ideas how to, how to get around things and we have ideas how to negotiate, so it's just a matter of time before, before we can get better and better services on the platform.


(Pawel) You mentioned this a little bit already, but what are your... what, what next? What are your plans for the nearest future? What would you like to achieve? Maybe you can also drop a very tiny secret about some upcoming features or anything that you are working on at the moment?


(Gleb) So the next feature that... the secret feature that we're going to be dropping has to do with coronavirus and we already have an app for that, and so you can kind of check out how your country's doing, but we're going to be adding a sort of a QR code manager, and you know, a lot of countries, especially in Europe, are doing this kind of mandatory QR Code, so you have to bring, bring... Bring it with you and we'll be doing that, and that's just going to be a small update we'll be releasing soon. We're constantly making small updates to the apps and constantly making changes, but one of the big things that we're working on is, is the SDK, so we want to, we want to bring on board developers, and it might be that you want to create a whole game, audio-first game. (there's actually quite, quite a bit of a buzz in the community about this at the moment), Or maybe you'll want to create a garage opener for your, for your aunt, and we want to kind of bring these solutions into the fold as well; and one of the bigger things that we're trying to figure out how to do next is how to get iOS on board, because Android is a platform that allows you to do certain things, and iOS is a more restrictive space, but we hope to bring some functionality to iOS also.


(Pawel) I don't know how much you know the competition in this field, but perhaps you have already come across solutions like the blindshell, which is a dedicated, also with blind people in mind, a keyboard-based smartphone. I think we can call it smartphone because deep inside it's Android, and although it doesn't have a proper Playstore, there are interfaces created for it that target keyboard use, and basically what now they came out with is they try to receive feedback from the users, which of the openly available apps from the Playstore, for instance, the community would like to use the most and then what they will try and do is adapt these apps to work with the Blindshell. I suppose what happens inside is basically there is a tiny screen reader running which is told by means of scripting, of course, which elements it should focus in which order, which nodes of the proper app it should or... focus in which order when you navigate with the arrow keys up, down, left, right, enter, and it's a sort of hacky way to get at mainstream apps using proprietary keyboard, although the support wasn't added in the first place; and in this way, for example, I believe, I'm not sure about this, but this is, I guess, how it works, and that's how they gotten WhatsApp on board for instance. Do you think some kind of hardware way could be also in store for Voxmate? A dedicated Voxmate device also that maybe would be keyboard-based? Maybe since you already played around with Raspberry Pi, something around that territory?


(Gleb) So we're talking about, you know, putting Voxmate on a watch. That's, that's something that we're interested in doing, and we're also thinking about making our own, we call it the Voxmate Ring, and the Ring would be just connected with Bluetooth to your phone and you would be able to use Voxmate, up, down, left and right kind of deal with... Uh, just directly from the ring and all you need is a pair of wireless headphones and you can have your phone in your pocket, so yeah, we're thinking about stuff like that and, and... you know, regarding competition, I think it's really cool that there's companies around there. I think what we are going to be best at is providing, you know, a developer experience that will ultimately beat the competition because that's what we're focussing on internally. We kind of create these, these really easy ways for us to create and maintain Voxmate software and this is our big differentiator. Of course it's not, you know, it's not public facing, so it might not come into play just, just yet; another thing to notice is, of course,Voxmate already supports keyboard for, for easy input in some situations, so you can connect the Bluetooth keyboard as well, and I think this approach of forcib... this is what I call forcibly accessibilizing. If, if Blindshell is using a hidden screen reader and it's programmed to press buttons in a certain order, I applaud that effort, I think it's, it's a good way of doing things until, until there's a better way, and, and I think we should kind of create a nice sense of how these hacks, as you say, can be made better and maintain better, and that's, that's what we're focussing on with Voxmate.


(Pawel) Thank you so much, thank you for introducing our listeners to Voxmate. I hope, I hope you will have a lot of publicity by this, and I wish you a lot of luck with your development.


(Gleb) Thank you. Thank you for having me. It was, it was a big pleasure.


(Pawel) Gleb Zevkov, part of the Voxmate team. Voxmate, self-voiced audioface... audio-first interface for many interfaces on Android. Where can our listeners find it?


(Gleb) You can find it today on Google, Google Play. Just type in Voxmate, or you can go to our webpage and find everything from there.


(Pawel) Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing this with our listeners, and we hope to see some nice updates from you in the near future.


(Gleb) Alright, thank you, Pawel.


(Hlynur) So that's our show, thank you very much for listening to us once again and hoping to see you back in around six weeks. Thank you, guys. Thank you, Tanja, Mario and Pawel for being here with me and take care and bye-bye!


(Everyone) Byeeeeee!




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