Sep 27, 2020
This programme is financially supported by the fundings from the European Commission.
You are listening to the EBU Access Cast. The first official podcast from European Blind Union about assistive technology for blind and partially sighted people.
And here are the hosts.
(Tanja) Hello and welcome to the EBU Access Cast. This is episode 25. My name is Tanja Kleut. I hope you had a nice summer break and that you are doing well. We have the full crew with us, Mario Perčinić from Luxembourg, hi Mario.
(Mario) Yeah, we passed the 21. So we are now legal. Yeah. Hello, guys.
(Tanja) Yeah, hi. Paweł Masarczyk, this time from Austria.
(Pawel) Yeah, old Face, new place. Hello.
(Tanja) Hi, Bart Simons from Belgium.
(Bart) Hello everyone.
(Tanja) And Xavier Cisscar from Spain.
(Xavier) Hello. How are you?
(Tanja) I'm fine, thanks. Hope you're all doing great. What's new, guys. Do you have any recommendation for a new application or hardware that you bought during the summer or...
(Mario) Not really for the gadget stuff. I got some music equipment over the summer, but yeah, nothing, nothing techy for the moment. Still looking at the list of phones, though, so some things are popping up. But I didn't purchase anything yet, but yeah, I'll talk about it later.
(Xavier) We are waiting for your recommendations about phones. I want to learn about Android 11.
(Mario) Ok, yeah.
(Tanja) OK. From my side. Nothing really new in this aspect. So I propose to go to the accessibility news.
And now… Accessibility in the news.
(Tanja) The European Blind Union organises the award each year for good practises in accessibility. And this year was for web accessibility. The number of contributions was small. The applicants were interesting and they received a prize. So the number one is the Czech Union of the Blind, which had a very interesting application, not usual, I would say.
I don't know if you had the time to read and go through the summary and their application? So what they say is that they recommend 10 tips to ensure accessibility for public sector web accessibility. First is promotion of accessibility by giving presentations in all occasions. So raising awareness is the first point that they recommend. Then, starting with accessibility as soon as possible, because then the actual effect will have much more impact later in the website or in the product. Also, testing accessibility at the early stage for free and then providing full tests for a price. And then there are other recommendations. I don't know if it's necessary that I go through all of them. So they decided to take it differently, not just to follow the obligations from the Web Accessibility Directive, but to focus on those 10 points with the result that at the end they have a good collaboration with the company and they can continue to collaborate in the same way, having the good experience of users and also by providing better accessibility of their website.
The other 2 organisations that were awarded, are the Polish Association of the Blind and also the Italian Association of the Blind. I don't know, Pawel, if you know more about this Accessibility Plus project in Poland that they mention. They say that it is part of this project, implementation of the Web Accessibility Directive into national legislation in Poland, and also a project that tries to make websites of the public sector more accessible.
(Pawel) Yes. So basically the Accessibility Plus “Dostępność Plus” is a new bill that is in the power now. And it basically builds on this directive and it also obliges the public sector websites to be accessible. There are also some social implications in regards to accessibility of the built environment, etcetera. And there was a new task force built new corps of experts who deal specifically with these issues. And sometimes we see posts from them. And I can tell from what I have seen so far that, at least a couple of people there, I recognise the names and I can tell they're quite knowledgeable people and they know what they're talking about and they know the environment and they know the ins and outs of accessibility. And the good thing that is happening here, and I think the pandemic sort of propelled that, is that we are going more and more into digital e-government structures. So more and more things can be settled online and we have, for instance, a mobile app for managing not everything, but a lot already about, well, your administrative matters. So if you are a student and you have your student ID, it's in there. If you are driving a car and you have your driving licence, it's going to be there soon. And if you need to register your car, you can do that too.
(Mario) What if you're blind and you drive a car?
(Pawel) Oh, that's something I haven't tested yet. Maybe you will find a rare exception and then, you know, maybe we'll get a bounty for testing security.
(Xavier) Soon you will be able to drive a car, if you are blind, hahaha.
(Pawel) Hopefully. But something that is definitely interesting for all of us is the medical patient portal where you can actually check prescriptions. So if you go to a doctor and they give you a prescription for any kind of medicaments, you got any kind of medicine, you don't need these prescriptions on paper anymore. You rather get a digital prescription in the form of either a SMS text code that you show at the pharmacy and you get your medication or you have a QR code inside the app and you just show it again at the pharmacy and you get your medication. And you can read some details on the medication that was prescribed to you. You can keep track of all the prescriptions. So this is really convenient compared to how it was before. And things like that happen. I think also recently, this wasn't fully accessible, but at least worked and some kind of progress. And the Polish Postal Service introduced a service when you can receive a digital version of any administrative correspondence you might be receiving. So before you get your paper, your physical letter, you will also get a digital scan in PDF and you have to recognise it with OCR software, but nevertheless, you can read it on your own in any kind of form. So this is happening. I think there was a survey conducted by one of the NGOs that is a watch dog for accessibility in Poland and the public services have a slightly better rating than last year. There is still a long way to go. But I'm hopeful and I think a lot is happening and there are people who know how to take care of this.
(Tanja) That is great. And that also can inspire other organisations in other countries to follow the same or to see that that is possible, because maybe you see that there is much room of improvement left. But in some other countries we are still not there. So it's great to hear about this work and about these experiences.
So in the Italian application, they mentioned that, for example, they are collaborating with the Banking Association and they're working to make the online banking system more accessible. For example, they also mentioned that they're collaborating with the national media RAI to provide an accessible version of the content for people using screen readers or assistive technologies, which works well, I can say because I speak Italian, but I'm not sure if special versions of websites is the right way to go. Of course, we have to always go for inclusive websites that are the same for all users. And of course, accessibility will benefit also other users.
Next topic is the online discussion of the Web Accessibility Directive that is organised by the European Commission and European Disability Forum.
So the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology is inviting you to participate in the online discussion of the Web Accessibility Directive to speak about the achievements that have been done so far and also about the remaining challenges. Bart, you can share with us some more information?
(Bart) Maybe I can provide a little bit of background.
In 2016, after a long lobby, EBU, European Blind Union and other organisations finally managed to have some legislation on web accessibility in the European Union. This came in the form of a European directive, published in the official journal in 2016. And how it works with a European directive is that every member state needs to implement the legal text in their national legislation. So that takes time. And with every legislation, there is a period in which you can adapt your existing websites in this case by a certain deadline. Of course, you cannot publish a law that yesterday everything had to be accessible. So the deadline is September 2020. So if we manage to publish in time our episode of this podcast, it should be online just before the deadline because it is 23 of September this year. So that's what the European directive says. By that date, all public sector body websites in all European member states, also the old ones have to be accessible.
(Tanja) Yeah, I wanted to add, unfortunately, this does not apply on websites that are not maintained anymore.
(Bart) There are like in every legislation, there are exceptions. There are quite many exceptions. It's always a give and take when you make legislation. So there are some logic exceptions. There are a few which are not so logic. But also in the directive, it is said that after 3 years, so from now on, they have to evaluate all the exceptions. So there is somehow a mechanism to review what did work, what did not work in this period.
(Tanja) Ok. And you will also have a key note at this event.
(Bart) So on this date, on that famous deadline that we know since 2016 is coming up, they decided to organise this webinar. Everything is webinar nowadays. And since it's co-organised between the European Commission and the EDF, the European Disability Forum, they proposed me to do the introduction. A key note on why is accessibility important and what difference does it make when it's not? And so, yeah, the programme is quite ambitious. They say that they want to hear achievements. Well, in theory, the achievement has to be that all the websites have been made accessible. Of course, we know that this is far from reality, but I think it has to be a positive day. Hopefully many people have woken up by now and will be working hard in the coming period to rectify the situation.
(Tanja) Ok, that's great.
(Xavier) My asking would be, or my proposal would be perhaps, not for the keynote, because the keynote, as I understand you are pointing, has to be a positive keynote. But an interesting work would be comparing different level of achievement inside the European Union. For example, the case of Polish situation that Pawel has been talking about with the Spanish situation that is in some cases will be better and in some others won't be. And then knowing why is different. Why is better in some aspects and why is worse in some others and trying to learn what has made it better and what and what has made it worse. So I know that there must be many conditions, many circumstances and many things that can condition these achievements. But we can learn many things from ourselves. And I would be very interested in actually knowing the situation in all the European countries because I have liked a lot hearing from Pawel. Is there any forum or any place where we can know from other countries in these situations? Because one other thing is knowing the ways we users have to ask for getting things better, because many times we find things that are not being implemented, but we cannot say anything. I mean, we find many websites that are not being made in the right way. But we ask them to make it in the right way and they don't listen to us. So where can we get this information actually?
(Bart) Many interesting items I could react on. But to keep it brief. You're absolutely right that the situation in different member states is not the same, although all member states had to implement in their national legislation the same text from the European directive, some may go further. Some may not take several exceptions, or, as Pawell explained, they may extend it to more than public sector body websites. That's perfectly possible. So there are certainly differences/ You could, if you like legal text, you can compare them because they are made public. How the different member states implemented this legislation.
(Mario) Keep in mind some of those are copy paste, but OK.
(Bart) Yeah, mostly it's copy paste.
(Tanja) This is the site of the commission where monitoring is published. Is that the one that you're mentioning?
(Bart) It's very hard to find. Yeah.
(Tanja) Because there is a site where they invite public sector, in the framework of monitoring, to leave the reports. But as we are now starting…
(Bart) We're not there yet. Now, what they had to communicate, the member states had to communicate to the European Commission the legal texts that they implemented to transpose, as they call it, the European directive into national legislation. And there is a database where you can find those legal texts and you can also find which organisation in every member state will do the monitoring. And that starts only now. The law is there, now starts the next phase. It's monitoring how many websites are indeed complying with the law.
(Mario) Oh, yeah. And then there will be a lot of failure. Absolutely. Yeah, that's for sure.
(Bart) And they have now, I think, 3 years time to do the reporting on that monitoring exercise. So what's important is that we have now legal texts. That's good. But of course, what is even more important is what reality does with it. Do people obey to the law or or don't know the law or decide to ignore it? So while there are differences in the legislation in every member state, I'm sure the differences on the floor are even much bigger.
There are countries with a long history in accessibility, like Spain, like the Scandinavian countries, I think. Who have already national legislation since long time, so we can assume that the situation is there better than country like mine, Belgium, we never had any national legislation. Only since this European directive is transposed, we have something in our national legislation.
(Mario) Yeah, but for example, you have the organisations such as yours in Belgium, which, you know, is taking care about the whole thing. There are countries where the whole thing relating to the web accessibility or let's say digital accessibility and whole perspective is really, you know, at the early beginnings. So we cannot expect that…
(Bart) That's also what I heard in Xavier's intervention. What can you do as a user, as a visitor of those websites if, although they are obliged to be accessible, if they are not. And there is no policeman strolling the Internet to find inaccessible websites and report them. The directive leaves this indeed to the users, to the visitors.
There is a, what the very euphemistically call, a feedback mechanism. We could say a complaint channel, but they call it very nicely feedback mechanism where you can address your accessibility.
So a little bit like the accessibility@Apple.com email address. So they have to give you a way to report any accessibility questions or if they say something is not accessible, you can request an alternative. They will need to publish those channels in their declaration of accessibility. And if you don't get any answer from that website, which can of course happen, there should be another level where you can go with your feedback or remarks or complaints, and this should be an independent, like an ombudsman organisation, and they should help you to register your problem and hopefully solve it. And for me, this will be a very important factor, because if you don't get any feedback or any response to your feedback, you will quickly be not motivated anymore to contact website owners. So that will be vital that this enforcement body that is really on the side of the users and really trying to to make your case, because otherwise, if we leave it fully to the individual users, they will quickly give up. And so for me, that's really important that this enforcement body that is really the ombudsman function, that should really be on our side, because if they are blocking everything or if they are not independent from government, they might not dare to stand up for the rights of the users. So for me, that will be a and that will, of course, be completely different in every member state as well. So the power of this body will be an ally for visitors to get…
(Xavier) My experience, as far as my experience teaches me, or has taught me or is continually teaching me, legislation is important, but it's not enough because what you really need is money and convincing people because of course, police is not going to go to the house of the web programmer or the web boss or the owner of the web. In Spain recently we've got this new coronavirus tracing app, as you may have in other European countries, and the app, because this directive affects also to mobile apps from public sector also, I think and… no?
(Mario) No, it doesn't.
(Xavier) It doesn't?
(Xavier) If the application is from the public sector has it to be accessible?
(Bart) For apps, the deadline will be June next year.
(Bart) For websites the deadline is in a few weeks.
(Xavier) So this won't be presumably arranged in June. So the law is here and they could advance the accessibility and they could do it before June, I think.
(Bart) I'm not really agreeing with you when you say for accessibility we need money. I agree more with what we heard from the price winner, the Czech Republic. What we need, I think, much more is awareness.
"Xavier) Yeah yeah yeah
(Bart) We have always to fight this saying that accessibility is expensive, that it's difficult ...
(Xavier) No no no
(Bart) If you are a well trained developer…
(Xavier) The money is not for accessibility. The money is for making people aware of these things. I mean, for having an ombudsman, for having publicity, for having, I mean, the law alone, it's not enough.
(Bart) No now, I am fully with you.
(Tanja) I can also see that some new websites here by the public sector are not compliant, then they're failing basic recommendations on accessibility and it's really disappointing and we have to inform them. We have to intervene. And I think this is the best what we can do for the start. And then if we don't receive a reply that they will try to fix this, then maybe we can proceed with other means.
(Tanja) OK, so you can still register to this event if you are listening us before the 23rd of September.
(Tanja) And do you know, Bart, on which platform this will be hosted?
(Bart) It will be, uh, Go to Webinar.
(Tanja) Aha go to webinar, OK. Because I wanted to connect it with our next topic, which is Zoom and the addon for NVDA for zoom. But, well, it will not be useful for this webinar, but it will be for another one.
So this addon improves the accessibility of Zoom with NVDA and add some more shortcuts and announces more events and alerts. Do you have experience with this addon? I know, Pawel, that you are very experienced with Zoom.
(Pawel) Yeah, I haven't tested it yet, but what it basically does, it lets you control which events are spoken and which not. Because a lot of people found it annoying and they found themselves being overflodded with everything that Zoom says in meetings, especially with a lot of people joining, leaving, sending messages to the chat. And on one hand, you would like to focus on the speakers. On the other hand, you also would like to know what's going on, but maybe not everything at once. And especially if you're hosting the event, you'll get a lot more messages because Zoom needs to let you know what's going on so that you can react. The waiting room events, any request for any permissions or anything like that.
And this addon allows for switching that on and off per event basis. And then also what you can with this is when you're doing remote control on the computer. Basically, it works as long as the other party is also using the screen reader because then you can also have the sound broadcast. That's not the problem. But the problems start when you want to switch efficiently between your own computer and the other party's remote computer. Then some keyboard shortcuts may be blocked, may be overtaken by the remote machine and so on. So this addon allows you for switching between the 2 computers and that's what it does for now. I may make this suggestion to the developer, but I think what it could also do would be reading of subtitles. Because at the moment, the mobile versions of Zoom read them perfectly fine. If there is a subtitling provided for the webinar or meeting.
(Mario) You mean the captions?
(Pawel) Yeah. Yeah, the captions. Exactly. On the PC, it's sort of irregular. At some point it will announce the captions, at most points it won't.
And they are really useful, especially if you're not a native speaker of a language in which the meeting is and you would like to follow of course ...
(Mario) Ah, Pawel wants to join the Chinese meetings. Now we know.
(Pawel) If I ever wanted to, I mean, that would be a great help. But sometimes even with English, you have different accents. There are names of products given, and I really find myself exporting ...
(Xavier) In this case, you couldn't use this addon because this addon only works in English.
(Mario) Yeah, true.
(Xavier) I am sorry.
(Pawel) I think it's fairly easy to localise it and somebody would…
(Xavier) Ah really?
(Pawel) Yeah. And a lot of NVDA addons...
A bunch of python scripts with localisations but…
(Mario) It will probably come along with the future versions, the localisations.
(Pawel) Yeah. But I often find myself exporting the entire captions at the end of webinars so I can note down the names of some products or websites or names of people who gave their email addresses somewhere or anything like that. And of course for people with hearing disabilities, this is crucial. So if we have, I mean, obviously, deaf and blind people will not follow a transcript, uh, will not follow captions as they appear, most likely the transcript, but nevertheless, it could be a little bit of help. And if the mobile devices can do it and why not the PC? And now we have the addon and we can switch this on demand, it would be a very welcome enhancement.
(Mario) Yeah, I have to say that regarding the addon, I tested it as well. It does work and it's in my case, for example, it speaks some of the stuff which wasn't spoken earlier in Zoom. And as Pawel said, you as the user can define whether you wish to have all the announcements spoken. If you don't want nothing spoken or you want to have the announcement as beeps or you want to use the custom mode. And so in order to do that, you press NVDA shift and A key to toggle between the modes.
And then when you're in the custom mode, you can use a bunch of different shortcuts which are basically like control NVDA and then a bunch of number keys to, you know, read the certain announcements. And yeah, it does work and it's really good. It's a free addon. So whoever needs it. Yeah, go and download it.
(Tanja) Ok, great, then what about if we would like to take some notes during a webinar or check maybe the emails at the same time or do whatever, there is a tool that can separate the audio in the headset, and it is from a Dutch company. Bart, you can tell us more about this?
(Bart) Yes, the name of the company is Babbage and it's a tiny tool that exactly does what you mention. What you can do in Windows is set the volume for each individual application, but you can not set the balance left, right in your stereo speakers. You cannot adjust the balance for individual applications.
And that's exactly what this little tool does: for all applications that produce audio on your computer, you can set the balance. So you could have your radio or your Skype call or your webinar set to zero percent balance, which means you would hear it only in your left ear of your stereo headset or speakers. And you could put your screen reader to 100, having it only in your right ear. And that's the whole ...
(Mario) purpose of the application, basically.
(Tanja) Yes. Is it accessible?
(Bart) It works with JAWS and NVDA. What we found out is that it currently with the version we used for testing it did not work with Narrator nor with Supernova from Dolphin, which is strange because it looks like normal sliders. Like you would use in Windows. There seems nothing exceptional, but somehow JAWS and NVDA, which are only the tools which they also say they are supported, for some reason other screen readers didn't use it. With other screen readers it didn't work at the time of testing.
It is useful for me to have. You can concentrate a little bit better if the sound is coming from one side and the other sound is coming from another side, and they target it to people who are doing online or making phone calls all day and they have to follow a script on the screen. But it can also, as Tanja said, be useful for anybody using. We are using much more audio on the computer these months. So I'm a little bit surprised that this is not available in Windows, because it sounds so simple. Just provide next to the volume slider for each application, provide alos a balance slider. It's not there, so that's what they add and it's not very clear if they really launched this as a big project because as I saw, it was only in Dutch and it does not contain a lot of text. So it should be very easy to make it in other languages as well.
And it's a little bit hard to find on their website. And then, you require a key because it's not free software. And then you open the EXE file, you install it and it says, give me your licence. But there is nowhere a link where you can buy that licence key. So it has to be a bit more polished if they want to launch it to the bigger public, I think. And what set me off a little bit is the price. It is 149 Euro currently.
(Pawel) (hesitant) I would consider this if it had a couple more features. And I think what Windows also doesn't have and it could have, is the ability to route the audio from one app to another. Like on an actual mixer, which you can do sort of with virtual audio cable, which is also not free. I mean, it has a light version but there are some limitations, of course.
And so, for example, if I'm on a Skype call, I would like to play some music or present my screen reader talking, speaking something. I can do this. But the problem is that you also need to supply it with a sort of audio repeater so you can hear this yourself, because when you root this audio from one app to another, then your listeners can can hear it. The people you talk to on the other side can hear it, but you cannot anymore because it's not on your sound card anymore. And with the audio repeater, you bring it sort of back, but also you bring your own voice back. And it's a lot of technology, a lot of tinkering. And unless you're really determined to do this, this is not that easy. And I think on other platforms, I know that on Linux, this is a native feature in one of their audio drivers. I think the ALSA or somewhere And on a Mac there are apps that do it just fine.
I think Audio Hijack Pro,
(Xiver) Black Hole, also, I think.
(Pawel) So there are at least a couple solutions, but in Windows this is really, really tricky. And I think it would be great if there was a piece of software that would be maintained ...
(Xavier) Have you tried Reaper?
(Pawel) Not really
(Xavier) Because Reaper, that costs 60 euros I think, has a utility called rearouter or something like that, that does all kinds of rooting sound. For example, you could be recording this Zoom conference from Reaper to Zoom or from Zoom to Reaper. You can do all kinds of rootings, and it's a very, very, very nice and accessible, extremely accessible and accessibility is maintained by the whole community.
(Bart) But this is made for recording, if I'm not mistaken? This is not for life using your computer.
(Mario) Yeah, yeah. This is, I mean, I agree that the Reaper itself is is a great tool to use it. But, you know, this is a tool for sound engineers and for people who really do have a recording.
(Xavier) I was answering to Pawel's asking, not for words, but Reaper is much cheaper than what I think the price is, is very, very high of this audio mixer. I've heard some sound cards that included this this utility of managing every single application level and balance. But now I don't have this software.
(Mario) So there is, if you go deeper into the whole subject, there are basically DIY tools.
And so if you have some friend who is, you know, skilled enough with the soldering skills, it's possible to, you know, make your own kind of adaptor tools that you can solder and can do just that kind of thing. Because basically what this software does, it source audio splitter, basically, and it's possible to make this hardware source audio splitters for really very cheap.
And there are like tutorials how to do that for somebody who knows how to solder these things and you just plug that kind of adaptor into your PC, which you can get it for like 10 bucks, 20.
(Xavier) But you are speaking about hardware. Not software.
(Mario) Yeah, I'm talking about hardware stuff.
I understand why this tool was produced because any windows for the moment, which you only can do, but this is not you know, it's not solving the problem. You can reroute all the signal to mono. But that doesn't solve the problem.
So this audio source separation doesn't work, and I absolutely understand why they want to do this tool. And, as you said, for the call centres and people who are basically doing any kind of, let's say, even tech support or they're doing any kind of sales or whatever thing they do where they really require screen reader in one source and the phone on the other, so that the person who's on the other side of the line even doesn't have to be notified that you are using screen reader, et cetera, et cetera.
(Bart) That's exactly the use case, why they made it. And they even say somewhere that they were indeed fed up of making this hardware wiring thing, soldering what you say. So that's exactly the reason why they made this software.
(Mario) Sure. And I absolutely support the idea of having the tool. It is something that we as the blindness community, we need it. But come on, guys, this price is overkill. I mean, lower the price down to about like, I don't know, let's say 50 bucks, which is even a lot. But let's see, just by the example, instead of 150 euros, let's say that the software would be 50 euros per PC, which is still a lot. But OK.
(Bart) You will get 3 licences so you can use it on 3 computers and you can take the licence back.
(Mario) So you mean if OK. So if you pay, you get ...
(Bart) You can reactivate. You can deactivate on one machine and so you can have it run on 3 simultaneous computers and you don't lose keys if you sell your computer only maybe ...
(Xavier) So it's your price, Mario.
(Mario) (Laughing) So it is my price.
(Pawel) Organise group shopping for this.
But yeah, I also think that maybe maybe the reason why it's also hidden and mysterious and why it's so hard to find is maybe, I hope so, there will be some more options, like, for example, the ones I suggested coming up, and then it will be more global rollout, maybe.
(Xavier) Volume licencing or something like that.
(Mario) Yeah, well, but I mean, the overall idea is really cool, I see you know, the potential where it could be used, but, yeah, it's a bit pricey.
(Tanja) I agree.
(Bart) They will hear our feedback and they will maybe come back to us.
(Tanja) I hope so.
(Mario) Actually, it is the same guys who are making the addon for NVDA for Citrix, and they were I remember they were showing that in the Sightcity 2 years ago. So I'm not doubting their programming skills, but, yeah, you could, guys, a little bit restructure your marketing skills.
(Tanja) OK. Hoping that they will hear what we say. We can go to the next topic.
(Tanja) Facebook accessibility has improved much, and you notice that, Mario? So usually as screen reader users, we often use the mobile Facebook, for those who are using Facebook, because the native interface was not very accessible until recently.
Now they completely changed the interface and do you want to tell us more?
(Mario) Yeah, basically. So what happened is that at the end of July, Facebook made the announcement on their Facebook accessibility page that they restructured completely or their native interface from their Facebook website. So right now, when you go on the Facebook with whatever browser you want to use, whether it's Firefox or Chrome or new Edge Cromium, you will get the same experience, but what's really happening is that right now everything is being spoken as it should be. So first of all, the scrolling of the feeds is really easy. The screen reader is not jumping, as it used to be. All the elements are being structured properly with the headings. So when you go, for example, from post to post, they are being shown as heading 3. If you want to read the comments, then they show up. You have to, of course, click on the comments button that they show up. So once they show up and you want to read just the comments they're shown as heading 5. We also have the ARIA labels so you can jump from section to section and all the things are also being spoken live. So in case you like your, I don't know, whatever reading some posts and somebody contacts you on the Messenger, you're getting immediate notification that you're being messaged. You are getting the message from who is the message and if you're not doing nothing else at a certain time I think that the content of the message is even being spoken. But then you can easily just open like the part of the Facebook, a messenger, and you can read the whole conversation and then respond back. And so everything works as it should be working from a long, long time ago. Because I for many reasons and kind of because of my private stuff, of the music that I'm doing, lots of time spending on the Facebook and also a lot of the accessibility related stuff is coming in from the various Facebook groups, et cetera, et cetera. So I'm spending quite a lot of time there. But yeah, if you're using it, you will notice now that the overall experience improved like 300 percent really. And we have a link about it in the show notes.
What I really like about that article is the structuring of the article.
Like the article goes really very, very deep into details from the, well, it's also from the developers point of view where they're saying really for each of the points which libraries they used, which part of the code they had to integrate in certain parts of the Facebook website in order to get the stuff being spoken. So, yeah, it's it's the whole interface is much more more responsive than it used to be. It's much more faster.
And I noticed that even with the mobile apps as well, like the mobile apps are also much faster than before.
So I would say that the whole, you know, accessibility integration caused the even better code optimisation for the whole interface, which is really good.
(Tanja) That is great, because also some of the options were not available in the mobile Facebook and we never could see some of the functionalities. Or maybe you wanted to share publication from someone and then you shared only the link by coincidence in the mobile Facebook, not the entire status from the person, but only the link. And then suddenly you discover, no, I shared only link, but I wanted to share everything. Because the mobile for some reason did not have all the functionality as the native interface.
(Mario) And then you also have the inconsistencies with the mobile interface that, for example, you would load the same mobile interface in two different browsers, and then, for example, the mobile interface in Firefox would be the old one, while, if you would launch it in Chrome, you would get the features that you would not even notice that there are there before because the Firefox was using the old interface.
So, yeah, with this new one, everything is accessible as it should be. And, you know, everyone can see them the same way. And that's great.
(Tanja) That is great. Did you notice also some changes for the groups?
(Mario) In terms of notifications, you're getting all the notifications which are also involving the groups. So if there are any updates in the groups where you're a member, you can see that it will tell you, like, for example, you have 5 new group updates. So then you click on them and then at the top, it's showing you the most recent groups that are being updated. And you can see which groups have new posts. So it will say, like name of the group has 3 new posts or whatever.
(Tanja) And I also read that they created new keyboard shortcuts that you can see if you type shift questionmark. So I tried this and I initially didn't work, but I had to use the keyboard pass through option in NVDA, which is insert F2 to enable NVDA to disable its shortcuts. And then it worked. And I could see the list of current available shortcuts in that page because apparently they're changing also on the page to page or what is shown to you in that moment.
And also they say you can use J to go to the next post. But again, you have to press the same shortcut to pass through. You can not just use J because it will do something else with our screen readers. But you have also headings and ARIA landmarks which you can use like the navigation for the menu on the top. The main area is for the posts and then "create post" is in a separate region. So it is well structured really. The focus is not lost. And I noticed before that very often the screen reader was slowed down in the moment when the Facebook was active. Now it is not anymore. It is working really well, even though I don't use Facebook so often. But I checked it quickly and it's really a pleasant experience now.
Any other feed back for this?
(Bart) Maybe to complete a little bit. The shortcut in JAWS to pass through the key strokes is JAWS key, plus the number 3. And I heard in the recent podcast from Vispero that when they launched the new interface for Facebook, JAWS had something on board for Facebook that you did not have to do this.
You could use the j and Facebook unlike all other websites, would perform its own function, rather than the default what JAWS would do in all other websites.
So they had some programming to make use of these one letter shortcuts. And there was a temporary interruption when they launched the new interface. And they say in one of the next JAWS releases, it will come back so that you don't have to push this key combination to pass through the key stroke.
(Tanja) The next topic I would like to mention that Microsoft has opened the accessibility badges for the public. So first of all, some background information.
Microsoft has a learning platform where you can learn about Microsoft products for free. And after completing the modules, you can get the badge and that you can share on your social media, like LinkedIn or paste in a CV or email. Wherever you prefer.
And Microsoft has partnered with Credly’s Acclaim platform that awards badges for certifications that you achieved. That badge is used also for completing Microsoft trainings.
(Pawel) Yeah, I have heard about this concept of open badges in a webinar on user experience design. And apparently there are more corporations that are involved in this.
And the idea is to somehow replace the CV, the classical CV, with a sort of gamification system where you complete tasks and you get these badges, as Tanja mentioned, and instead of presenting your CV where you just write and this and this year I worked for this and that company, you can show your experience by means of these badges because there you can certify, OK, I worked for this and that company. I was involved in this project. And through the work in the project, I have either gained or demonstrated this, this, this, this and that skill. And this is more valuable because then you can collect more seemingly less significant, but in the long run, quite useful certifications for really small things, which sort of matter when you're looking for a job later because, well, you're not just posting about the companies you've worked for, but you're actually demonstrating that somebody has seen you performing well in this and that task and you can be trusted with this job. So this is a really interesting system.
(Tanja) Yes, exactly. It's an interesting system and now you can also have a badge for the accessibility fundamentals training on Microsoft Learning Platform, they have 4 modules. They are: “Introduction to Disability and Accessibility” where you can learn the basics. This is especially interesting for designers, developers, not only this module, but especially the others. There is also “Microsoft Accessibility Features in Microsoft Tools” and “Creating Accessible Content with Microsoft 365”. Maybe this would be more for editors. And also “Digital Accessibility”. This would be more for developers and designers.
So it is one way to show that you have learnt something about accessibility.
(Bart) What I like is that accessibility is part of the much broader curriculum. It's not a separate thing and it's really integrated. So that's the way forward, I think. That you can find it between all other modules, you find a chapter on accessibility. I think that's how it has to be.
(Tanja) Aha, yeah. And it's great because, unfortunately, we know that at university, especially, maybe older generations, did not learn about accessibility at that time or…
(Bart) Even the younger generations, I'm afraid.
(Tanja) Yes, maybe, it depends on university and countries, but it's a great way to encourage people to do the same. Initially, this was only internal to the staff of Microsoft, but they decided to make it available to everyone so we can take advantage of this.
(Xavier) It's good news that big companies are publishing and making open this kind of material.
(Tanja) Aha, yeah, that's great.
(Tanja) Android 11 has been launched, do you have some feedback, Android guys?
(Mario) Well, only from the stuff we heard and read, because eventually my phone is…
(Tanja) Ah, your phone is old, ok.
(Mario) My phone is old, so…
(Tanja) I forgot.
(Mario) Yeah, I didn't get the Android 11, I will get it when I get the new phone, which will be in the next few months.
(Bart) Your phone is not old, but your Android is old.
(Mario) Yeah, well, (laughing)
Actually, yeah, my phone will be like 2 years old, but it's not receiving the updates officially.
(Tanja) It lasts really short on Android.
(Mario) Yeah, but that's how it is.
Well basically now they're saying like if you're buying any kind of new device, you are very lucky if you can get the updates for the next 3 years.
(Xavier) That's the Android world. Because, not in iOS.
(Mariol) Uh, we will see, guys. I heard that the iPhone 10 is kind of a piece of rubbish. It's no longer possible to buy it.
(Xavier) Hahaha, I have an iPhone 8.
(Bart) Let's not go that route
(Tanja) He is saying that because I have iPhone 10, you know, and I remember I bought it 2 years ago and a few months after they said, yeah, well, we will stop with the production of iPhone 10 and some other models because of this and this reason. So, you know, it was just few months and they decided to decommission with the iPhone 10.
(Mario) Yeah. It's no longer possible to buy it.
(Pawel) On a happier note, Samsung has declared that they will provide 3 years worth of updates and this even for the mid-range Galaxy A models. So I think there is a light of hope in this tunnel.
(Tanja) 3 years, wow. (laughing)
(Pawel) Always better than 2? Because I think the standard for mid-range devices was 2 if they were really kind to you, and 1 if they were just an average brand. So yeah, I think Samsung is really moving forward with this and that's really great.
(Mario) Yeah. And from the overall statistics, we can see that the update cycle for the Samsung devices really improved a lot in terms of the delivery. I was just reading the stats today morning and the Samsung devices were one of the top 3. So that's that's cool to see. But yeah. Speaking of the Andoid 11, so yeah, it got released officially last week.
And all the features that we mentioned before in the previous episodes relating to the accessibility are now being released, but you have to enable them if you want to use them. So, for example, the multi finger gestures have to be enabled in the TalkBack settings. Otherwise you will not see them and you will think it's not working.
But no, you have to re-enable them through the TalkBack settings and then you will find that they work, though some of them are still unassigned. So for example, some of the 3 or 4 finger gestures are not assigned and people sometimes I've seen the posts where people are saying, oh, it's not working. Well, it's not that it's not working. It's because they're not assigned to do a proper whatever actions ...
(Bart) And can you assign them.
(Mario) Yes, you can.
So it's possible to assign them for for certain action. What I think it will happen and that's usually what we are seeing is that, well, they're saying that at the beginning of October we should be seeing the launch of Pixel 5, and that might be one of the new devices I will be getting depending on the price, of course.
But usually when the new Pixel devices come, we have seen in the past and I think it will continue to be like that, is that the version of the Android Accessibility Suite will be updated as well. Because we have seen the last update in April when we got the new Braille keyboard introduced.
So now comes the second part of the year where we should see the new update for the under the accessibility suite. And I think it will come somewhere in October or latest November. But I'm sure that Pixel 5, when it comes out, it will be on Android 11. Right now Pixel devices going from Pixel 2 are able to operate Android 11. Now of course, keep in mind that you get the same experience as the iPhone users.
So if the device is older, the overall experience will be more sluggish. So don't expect the Android 11 to run the same way on a Pixel 2 and Pixel 4 or even the 4 A, which just got released like a month ago.
So, yeah, that's except the Pixel devices they're saying and that lots of devices are now even waiting or they're in the finishing beta stages for Andoid 11 like few of the OnePlus phones, also some Xiaomi devices and some Oppo phones and some Realme phones. And who knows who else will be on on the updates list. Probably old Nokias as well.
So there will be a bunch of phones which will get updated to Android 11, which which is really good. I'm really happy to see that also the OnePlus released the Nord phone, which really has a good spec, it's kind of their mid-ranger phone, but with really good specs. Right now in Europe, you can get 2 versions of the Nord, one is 128 and 256 version. And besides the storage, the difference is also in Ram, the 128 version comes with the eight gigs of rum and 256 version comes with the 12 gigs of RAM. Which is like insane when you when you think that, like, our Pcs are having mostly less RAM than mobile phones, it's insane how much resources they have.
But yeah, it's also a 5G compatible phone and it has quite good CPU as well.
It's not the top CPU, but it's still a good one. And it has fast charging, which is really good. They're using very good fast chargers. So, for example, you can get like the batteries is 4500 miliampères. They're saying that you can get from 0 to 50 percent in less than 30 minutes. Which is great. So you probably would have full phone in a little bit more than an hour or an hour and a half the most.
Yeah, so it's cool.
And I saw that also the OnePplus Nord will get also the Android 11. So that's also one of the possibilities that I could get. Though what gets me worried with all the phones that are not Pixel phones are the security updates.
So what Pawel was saying at the beginning now, the update cycle is really important in terms of, you know, getting really stable security updates, which usually when you when you get these security updates, they are mostly also having the accessibility fixes.
So if there is something that's been broken or whatever, it's also coming up patched in the security updates. So now it's really important to get the phone if you're getting new phones, to have the phone, which is receiving regular security updates as well.
Because right now before the thing was that, you know, we were depending on the major operating system updates relating to Android, which is now not that much the case, but as the Android 11 really came up with huge changes which were not presented before, it's now important for people to get the phone if they are getting the newer phone of course, to get the phone, which is Android 11 compatible, and then you would have to get the phone, which is receiving regular security updates. I don't know, Pawel, do you have anything else to add?
(Pawel) I think there are 2 separate things. The first is the major OS updates. So Android 9 to 10, Android 10 to 11. And another thing are security updates. These are usually distributed for longer period of time. So if anyone is worried about that, no no no, the security updates, they might be coming out a bit later. So for example, I received mine for a given month at the end of this month and not at the beginning. But they will be there and I think they'll be supported for much longer than the major OS updates.
(Mario) Yeah, yeah, that's true.
(Tanja) Google launched the new version of the application Lookout, which is a similar application, like Seeing AI on iOS. Did you have the chance to try it?
(Pawel) I did. So, first of all, the great news is that it is no longer exclusive to the English speaking market and certain phone models. These times you can get it on the Play Store pretty much anywhere you are and with any device you have, as long as it's running a minimum Android 6 and 2 gigabytes of RAM. So I'm able to find it in the Polish Play Store on my Motorola One. And I installed it like that, and the biggest news right after this one is the fact that there have been new languages added to the official support, and that is German, French, Italian, Spanish, and I believe one of the Asian languages. But I'm not sure right now anyway, as far as Europe is concerned, the most important, so to speak, is the biggest European languages have been included. But even if your language is not supported, still feel free to download it and experiment. Because I've been trying this with some Polish texts and it was pretty successful. It even managed to reproduce the Polish characters quite well. So it's not really useless if you speak something else than the languages that are supported.
So this you can try. What is also introduced is a new food labelling mode where it no longer only recognises products by the barcodes, but also by the photos of the front of the package or any part of the package. It compares against its own database of products and displays the result or rather speaks it aloud and it worked.
So first, when you run it, you have to download a database of approximately 250 megabytes s,o you can use it offline.
And then when you start it, you just point the camera at the product and it will speak what it is. I tried it with some of the products available here in Austria and it recognises some of them, at least some kinds of tea, some sweets, some what was it else, some kind of drinks. So there are products available in Europe as well that I recognised.
And yeah, you can pretty much play with it, and it's by quality, I would say it is quite similar to Envision AI and it's free of charge. For the time being, it is my to go app for reading anything short for sure. So any labels on bottles or anything like that. And it does its job quite well. It tries to adjust the light automatically. So when it's too dark, it will turn it on. If it's too bright, it will turn it off. Sometimes it's annoying because it doesn't get it right every time and sometimes it's trying to scan with no flash in total darkness for a longer period of time. But when it works, then it does a really fine job at reading the text. It will rather read less, but more accurately, then read more and with some gibberish in the middle. So it's this kind of OCR app. Towards the end of the show, you should be able to hear my demo of it, so you'll also be able to experience it in action. But meanwhile, you can already grab your phone and try and download it.
(Mario) Yeah, I tried it as well on my phone and I have to say that it's pfff. You cannot compare it to the Envision AI. Sadly Envision AI showed as really inaccurate on my phone I have to say. And if I have to compare today, I'm really sorry that I paid even that discount price for Envision because it really doesn't work on my phone, as it should be. And the other free apps, such as Look Out or even Speak that we demoed earlier in the show work really well.
What I tried also was with the Look out also, as Pawel said, with the food labelling. So it does work well.
The recognition mode where it's able to recognise the stuff is the fastest from all the apps that I have ever seen. Like you instantly point the camera at something and you're getting almost an instant answer about what is it? And the level of recognition is really, really good.
So you can basically, like, wave your phone around where you are and it will tell you what it's seeing, so it's like really like interesting experience because you can get like you can wave around with the phone and get described scene like what's going on or who is there or what's in front of you on the left side. As I said, it's really well recognising the object. The document scanning mode is also really good. I also like the fact that it's reading less, but it's more accurate. However, the currency modes which they have is currently just recognising U.S. dollars, which is not accurate for us. But I believe that it should get updated in in the future. So it recognises Euros as well.
(Pawel) Coming back to the recognition mode, I remember it being quite inaccurate in the previous versions, actually, in an office where I used to work, it used to see animals for some reason, some cats and dogs which were not there, obviously. (laughing)
(Pawel) Yeah, yeah. And it confused computer screens for windows. So it was quite funny.
But nowadays I'm reading on Twitter that apparently people tried to walk in the street with this and it would actually read out the building numbers as they passed.
Somebody of my friends who tested it mentioned that it will actually read things in the street as long as you stop for a while so it can do the recognition and pass you the accurate result because it will have a difficult time reading anything on the go. I need to test this, actually. I need to see how this will cooperate with my phone.
(Bart) So no bus numbers when they move?
(Pawel) Probably not, but I'll have to see, maybe I'll be lucky with this.
I guess the idea here is that it yeah. It wants to provide something accurate, something human readable. So it will rather not tell you something than tell you random numbers or random digits or random characters. So maybe that's why it worked like that. But I will try myself, so maybe we'll have something more to say about this.
(Xavier) So summarising: the ones who have tried Look Out and Seeing AI, which you prefer?
(Mario) Well, one is for one platform and the other is for, you know, for the other.
But in terms of the features, I would say they're more or less there. Maybe there are some things that Seeing AI does a little bit better. For example, I really like the fact that when you are doing the barcode scanning with the Seeing AI, you have that audio signal pointing you where you need to go with your phone.
(Bart) You hear that you are close by.
(Mario) Yeah. Look Out is kind of supposed to do the same thing, but it doesn't. Well, at least on my phone, it didn't provide the sound feedback.
So I had to, you know, just manoeuvre with my hand around until I didn't find the information, which I was searching for. But yeah, overall, let's say that they're more or less the same in terms of being accurate, and we can say that kind of Look Out is well let's say the official replacement for Seeing AI on the Android, because we really don't know if Microsoft will ever release the Seeing AI on Android.
And, yeah, I mean, it would be good that they release it. But as we are having tons of apps which are doing already the same or similar kind of functions already on Android, I'm not sure that it will be you know, that people will catch up on it as they would do it earlier if Microsoft would have released the stuff earlier.
(Pawel) I think Seeing AI has still a couple more features. For instance, you can define a language for the short text mode, which I think, is a good thing to do. Because with so many languages support, it's better for the OCR to know which it should recognise to be more accurate. It does more currencies, that's for sure. It does the photo descriptions where you can actually explore the photos, which is also quite nifty. However, I think that for the time being, there is no reason for Android users to cry over there not being Seeing AI.
(Mario) Sure, yeah.
(Pawel) And I think, the approach of Google with the recognition of photos of products is quite smart because they have their own shopping aplet on the Google. So if you Google for any kind of product, there is the shopping tab which displays some basic information about the product and the links to where to buy it. And it has a quite nice and quite extended database of barcodes already. So as soon as they officially start in more countries, I think this will be even faster than any bar or QR code scanning app, because you just take a photo of a product or just wave your phone actually over a product and it will be able to tell what it is simply by comparing against their database, which is quite huge already.
(Tanja) Ok, so for all of you who would like to know more about the new features in Look Out, you can listen the demo at the end of this episode.
(Tanja) Chrome started to generate accessible PDF documents from version 85, which was launched at the end of August, and this is a great news for all screen reader users, because up until now, when we were saving the PDF document from browser like Google Chrome, we would get an untagged PDF document, meaning that headings, lists, alternative texts were not kept. We would have more simple text layout that would remind Notepad. Visually it would have all the necessary visual elements, but for us it was not announced, the tags were not there. Now the tags are kept, but it is not still automatically there for all users. It is an experimental feature. You need to enable it by typing a string that I will not say now because it is a little bit complicated and maybe I'll do a mistake. So in the show notes, we will put the link of the post that was published on the Chrome blog where you can find the string and you can just open that string, by pressing CTRL+L and pasting the string. You will have a new page where you will find the list of all different experimental functionalities in Google Chrome and one of them will be “Export Tagged PDF”. You have a combo box where you have to enable it. By default it is set default. So the option is called default and there is enable and disable. Of course, if you would like to have this feature, you have to activate, enable. And at the end of the page there is the relaunch browser button which you have to activate in order to relaunch the browser, and then you will have it there. So then the function works well because initially I saved the PDF from Chrome and realised that the PDF was not tagged. And after, I discovered that I have to paste this string. I also tried the same in Edge Chromium. As we know that now Edge is Chromium based, and it works. So the same string you can paste in Edge, you will get the same, absolutely the same page. With these extra functions.
You enable it and it works. It gives tagged PDF. This is a great progress because it will be by default wherever you work or you are. So maybe also in organisations that use Edge Chromium or Google Chrome at one point will be there by default and you can have an accessible PDF. I did not try - to be honest - with forms. I wonder how it works with forms. But…
(Mario) One of the things which you have in the experimental options there is the feature to save the forms as well.
(Tanja) Exactly. But I was wondering if the tags of the forms are kept.
(Mario) I don't know. I haven't tried it. I haven't tried it as well with the forms, so I don't know if ...
(Tanja) Yeah, I saw that one. I think that one was for filled out forms. Meaning if you filled out a form in the page and you would like to save a PDF with your answers. And that was the functionality, which is also interesting, of course, if you would like to save your answers, if it is a longer form. But I have not tried that one.
(Xavier) One of the things I was wondering, was just this. If that Chrome based browsers would have this.
(Mario) Yeah. So, for example, if you would launch the new Microsoft Edge.
(Xavier) Yeah, that's right. That's what Tanja said.
(Mario) Yeah. You would have the same feature.
(Xavier) Ok, and there are other Chrome based browsers like Opera, I think, is a Chrome based browser also. I don't know if it will have. And one other thing I wonder about, is what will happen with not well formed documents. I mean, because this is only a translation from HTML documents or XHTML documents to PDF documents. So if a document is not well formed…
(Mario) You will have the same structure.
(Tanja) The same. Yeah the same. Yes.
(Xavier) But the same bad structure.
(Tanja) Yes, exactly.
(Mario) You can use this for example for some audits for the websites, whatever. Meaning if you, if you encounter whatever website or part of the website, that is not accessible, that it is not structured, you can make the PDF of those parts of the websites and if something is not properly tagged, it will show later in the PDF that it's not properly tagged. So if that was your question.
(Xavier) Yeah, that was my question, of course. So this doesn't solve the problem of accessibility. This just puts the accessibility on the PDF that as you could find it on HTML document.
(Tanja) Exactly. But unfortunately, with PDF, I find that many tools do not keep accessibility tags.
(Xavier) Of course. Yes.
(Tanja) I also tried the Microsoft to PDF the other functionality that we have if we are using Windows. I also tried that one and that one does not keep the accessibility tags. So now, for example, if you do the same in Firefox, you have only Microsoft to PDF and there you don't have the accessibility tags. In my honest personal opinion, I think that we should go rather to HTML and not to PDF. But the reality is that many organisations are using PDF and PDFs are still very important and therefore it's good that we have some progress in this aspect. Even though I personally would prefer to get rid of the PDF.
(Xavier) My personal opinion is like yours, like your honest personal opinion. We should go to HTML or XHTML better than PDF.
(Xavier) Of course. Of course EPUB. Yeah, also.
(Mario) Yeah, sure. For example, if you're working with any kind of publishing tools or for example, I work as a transcriber, all the media that we are getting, all the books that we are getting from the publishers come in the PDF forms.
(Mario) Basically there is nothing you can do about it.
(Pawel) The implications here are also quite wide when we talk about tools obtaining the ability to tag PDFs because quite often when we think about all the PDFs, we get books and menus in the canteens or menus in restaurants or bank statements or your phone bills. These PDFs are usually generated out of some already existing accessible content into PDF. And I heard of cases where actually there are tiny instances of chromium or LibreOffice running on the server responsible for generating these PDFs of the content. So when Chromium suddenly enables tagging of PDF by default and LibreOffice does as well, or which we'll be talking about in a moment, I guess, this means that a lot of PDFs will be now accessible by default without the author is doing anything. So I think it's a it's a Win-Win situation and I hope more tools will incorporate this.
(Tanja) You introduced well, the next topic, which is LibreOffice Y, introduced to the accessibility checker for testing the accessibility of the content in the documents. The checker analyzes according to the PDF/UA universal accessibility standard and users who are using this application for creating documents can also check the accessibility now.
(Pawel) Yes, so first, we, as already mentioned, while exporting something to PDF, you now have the option to retain the tagging, which is, of course, a great thing to check before you export. And secondly, there are some basic checkers for basic mistakes in accessibility, in documents that you create with the Open Office Suite, the Libre Office, Open office, I think are sort of sister projects or one is a fork of the other. So I confuse them sometimes. But LibreOffice now has these checkers and these are of course, alternative descriptions for any graphical content. This are checkers for whether the document has a proper title set, whether the language is set, whether you are using actual numbering and not fake numbering. That means not just the numbers, put 1, 2, 3, but whether they have been checked by the system as actual points. It also makes sure that all the links have some kind of descriptions so they are not just pure links that lead somewhere but we don't know where. And there is also a check for contrast between the text and the background and also the headings structure. Whether they're there and the order is retained and I guess some more criteria are checked. So this basic things can be now checked before we save our LibreOffice document.
(Tanja) Ok, but did you have the chance to try this?
(Pawel) I am quite new to LibreOffice because we use it at work where I'm now and well, I haven't tested the checkers yet, but to look around LibreOffice, it basically is accessible. It's based on Java and need to install the latest version of Java because it includes the Java Access Bridge, which is an essential component to interact between any Java applet and screen readers, and then you can do things with it. I was able to write a simple document and save it. That was OK. The problem that I'm running into at the moment and I don't know how to fix is when there is a sheet in I think it's called Libre Calc.
(Mario) Yeah. It's the application which replaces the Excel?
(Pawel) Exactly. That's the one. There is a sheet in there and it has some protected cells, so you cannot edit them. And for some reason I don't seem to be able to navigate to them with the keyboard. And also we try to have a sighted colleague and we couldn't navigate with the mouse and somebody else checked for me on Linux.
Apparently everything is fine there and I'm using it in Windows. So perhaps there is some kind of bug that we discovered. But yeah, the basic idea is that it should be accessible. So apart from that, it now also makes documents accessible, which I think is great.
(Tanja) Yeah, this is great. And which screen reader you use?
(Pawel) NVDA. But I think it should also work with JAWS because in the latest JAWS update, there was a mention of a bug fix for some kind of error with LibreOffice.
(Mario) There was. Yeah, true. Yeah.
(Mario) I didn't install it on my PC, but from what I was able to see from the structure of the apps and how it works, it should be fairly similar to the OpenOffice.
(Pawel) Yeah, because as I said, I think LibreOffice is some kind of fork or continuation of OpenOffice.
(Mario), So OpenOffice is no longer maintained?
(Pawel) Either it is or it is a separate branch. I think there was some kind of ... they have some kind of similarity. So I believe the code base will be quite similar.
(Tanja) I would propose to change to something completely different, for an application for reading care labels, the application is called Laundry Lense. It is available for iOS 13 onwards. And you can use it to read the care labels from your clothes and learn how to wash it or iron it. All other symbols are read out. VoiceOver reads how many symbols the application was able to recognise, real time, so, it says 1 symbol, 2 symbols, 3 symbols. And when you think you are ready, you go to the instructions and you hear the instructions of the symbols and it works well.
I think I more or less know how to wash and iron my clothes, but I have to say that I was surprised when I discovered on one jeans where it was written iron up to 100 degrees, which I never thought about. But yes, the label says that I have to iron up to 100 degrees. I think it's a very useful application and I would really recommend it to everyone. I hope that you will have it also at one point on Android. It is free of charge. It is accessible. The only thing that I found is that once I go to the instructions of the symbols, I don't have a back button, at least in the version that I have. I hope that this will be fixed. So I have really to close the application.
(Xavier) Did you try with a 2 finger gesture?
(Pawel) 2 fingers scrubbing on the screen.
(Xavier) Did you try with this gesture?
(Tanja) Yes, I tried and it didn't work. There was the sound, you know, this sound when it tells you, OK, not possible. For me, I couldn't go back.
But well, anyway, I close it from the list of applications and I return back to the application again to read a new care label. For me, it works quite well.
(Mario) Yeah, maybe it needs some fixing for the future.
(Pawel) I think the accessibility was also introduced fairly recently and I think somebody on Applevis also commented that they had this back issue. So maybe that is still something on their to do list.
(Tanja) Aha, Ok, well, but already that we have it, I think, it's great.
(Xavier) Well, simple things are good.
(Tanja) Yeah, somebody needed to work on this. I think we don't have a similar application because it is quite simple. The symbols are universal. The application can recognise the symbol and it just tells you what it is.
(Tanja) Lego Braille will be launched to more European countries in the following months. Pawel, you have information about this?
(Pawel) Basically Lego have been trialling the set of Lego braille bricks, which are the bricks that are supposed to help children in learning Braille. Hmm. The idea is quite simple. You have Lego bricks where the studs are arranged in forms of letters, digits and characters of the Braille alphabet. At the same time, there are the black print equivalents printed on the bricks so that the sighted kids can also play together. I'm not really sure if those are tactile. That would be useful as well, but if they are not, then they are not.
And for the time being, the languages that are supported are French, English, German, Dutch, I think Norwegian, Portuguese. And I think that's it. I hope I haven't skipped any of the languages available.
And the support is coming up for some of the countries in which these languages are spoken but not come from. So, for example, Belgium, for example, Austria is also getting support here. And the idea is that the sets will be given away for free to the organisations that support blind people. And in most cases, these are the national associations. And then they will be distributed further to schools or organisations that will teach the children and let them play with those. So they're more designed for being given to organisations than to individual people. But they'll be there and they'll be for sure very, very useful to many children. And I think it's a really interesting initiative.
We already mentioned Lego in one of our previous episodes because of the accessible manuals that they put up on how to build some of their sets. And we have also recently discussed with some friends that actually there are schools for the blind in Europe and that teach children how to programme the Lego technique's robots. Oh, this is like the introduction to programming for children in which the robot can be controlled. It can go right, back and forth, from left and right, and it can do so in loops or it can do some other movements. And well, apparently the official language for programming is not accessible. The official programming environment, for the time being, there is some unofficial one which works. But apparently this is not really useful when you, for example, want to play in Lego techniques competitions.
So hopefully Lego will also tackle that. But definitely they're interested in more accessible products and more accessibility in general in their structure, which is really great.
(Xavier) I don't know if it's an adaptation of scratch or something like that.
(Pawel) It probably is, but you're playing with physical objects this time.
(Xavier) Yeah, yeah.
(Tanja) Ok, this is great. I think I would be really excited about this if I…
(Mario) If you would be 5 years old.
(Tanja) Exactly. (laughing)
Even though I would like to see them. I would like to see them now.
(Pawel) It's quite curious, because apparently there is a whole methodology. The whole teaching methodology developed around this Braille bricks and there will be a Facebook group for teachers to share practises and how to teach with these bricks. So I would be interested to see what kind of buildings can be built of Braille, like, how would that look like? Probably they would be forming some messages or words or something like that. But given that you can be really creative with Lego, I'm really curious what possibly could come out of it and what creative solutions the teachers will find.
(Mario) Yeah, yeah. Let's wait. Let's wait and see.
(Tanja) Yeah, exactly.
(Tanja) The last topic for this episode is the new virtual event is Sight Tech Global that will be on the 2nd and 3rd December this year.
The registration is already open and free of charge. The demonstrations will be live and on demand. So you can also watch it afterwards. And there is a pro pass for 25 dollars for the admission to breakout sessions and interviews with speakers, so you can get even more sessions with 25 dollars pass which is not a lot of money if you would like to have some more information. On the website, we can find the list of some speakers that are already announced. Some of them are the founder and software engineer of Seeing AI Saqib Shaikh. I don't know if I pronounce it correctly. Saqib Shaikh that Bart interviewed in April last year at an event in Brussels.
They will have also from Orcam the co-founder Amnon Shashua. I'm not sure if the name is pronounced in this way. And Cecily Morrison researcher from Microsoft that is one of the researchers who is behind the Project Torino that led to Code Jumper. On the website of the Sight Tech Global we can also hear the podcast of Microsoft Research where she gives the interview and tells how she worked on Project Torino and some other projects. So it was very interesting for me the interview. There will be many other speakers. So just check the website and after registration you get the notifications by email. I think this will be a very interesting event and I'm really looking forward to it. It will be from 8 to noon, from 8 in the morning to noon PST time zone which for Europe is around 5. Starting from 5 PM at least in +1 time zone.
(Mario) So from 5 to 9.
(Tanja) Afternoon for Europe. Yes,
(Xavier) I only want to ask, why have we had to wait for the pandemic to teach us to organise virtual things? Because this thing and the CSUN thing also and more things like this, I will be able to attend this thing. But if I have to hire a hotel and to pay for the for the flight ticket and those things, I wouldn't be able to go.
(Tanja) Exactly, and it is much more accessible.
(Xavier) Even if I have to pay 25 dollars, I can pay them.
(Tanja) Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
(Xavier) It is more accessible.
(Tanja) Exactly. And not only the money, also you don't have to think about the taxi and all the things who will help you there, you know, all practical things that we have to…
(Xavier) I am thinking of going to the restaurant every day that it's a difficult thing.
And of course you don't have the positive things of meeting new people. That's different. But I can afford not meeting new people. I mean, I prefer these virtual things. At least when the pandemic goes off, when we cross this difficult period, we could have both possibilities, virtual and real things. At the same time.
(Mario) Sure. I hope these kind of things will stay as well.
(Xavier) OK, yeah.
(Tanja) Yeah. Yeah I agree. I fully agree.
Jingle: demo time. Time of a demonstration
(Pawel) Welcome back. It's time for the demo of the Lookout app that was already promised before, which is the app from Google that resembles the popular app by Microsoft, available on iOS, called Seeing AI, as well as many other OCR and recognition apps. So as you see, the choice is wide and now extended by Google, extended even so much that now the app, as it was said in the show, is available on practically every phone with Android 6 and 2 gigabytes of RAM and probably in every country as well. So you can go into your Play Store, search for Lookout, spelled L o o k o u t as one word and find it and install it and enjoy it. But before you do, let's take a look at what this app can really do.
(Talkback) Lookout, explore mode.
(Pawel) Ok, the app consists of 5 tabs signifying 5 modes.
It can work in food labelling mode, the exploring mode, the quick read mode, the scanning mode and the currency recognition mode, which currently only works with the US dollar. I will show you all of these modes except the last one, of course, and we'll see how good this really is. And you can find out for yourself compared to the other apps that are out there. Oh, maybe it's good enough as a complementary tool to everything you already have. You'll decide for yourself.
So going from the top of the screen on the left, we have
(Talkback) Select ... (some beeps and clickx) Signed in as Paweł Masarczyk.
(Pawel) The typical button that we can find in all Google Apps where we can see with which account we're currently logged in. I don't think Google makes use of any cloud so that we can retrieve some data somewhere later. I might be wrong, though, but it's there and we need to be logged in in order to use the app.
(Talkback) Start button.
(Pawel) Then there is a start button, which we can use to start the app and it turns later into "stop" because when there is a lot happening around, the app can bombard us with notifications of what it sees. So it's sometimes better to pause it for a while.
(Talkback) Recents, button.
(Pawel) This is a button for a history of recently recognised items so we can see everything we've scanned up to a certain amount, I think it's the last 20 and take a closer look. Copy it, share it, delete it, do anything with it.
(Talkback) Selected, Explore Beta mode, one of 5.
(Pawel) Yeah. This is what I already mentioned before. So the tabs that represent the different modes the app can work in. The first one is the explore mode. The explore mode allows us to have a phone, look around our surroundings and describe what it sees, either the items or the text that is written on them, which is quite useful, either at home or when we're out and about.
(Talkback) Food label, beta mode, 2 of 5.
(Pawel) This is the newly presented food labelling mode in which the app is able to recognise the product that we presented with either by their barcodes or by the photos of the products in view. When we run this mode for the first time, we are asked to download a database of products of approximately 250 megabytes. The download doesn't take that long if we have a modern connexion at our disposal. Once we do that, we can use the app offline. So even if there is no Internet, that should work pretty fine. The database is not really rich in European products yet, but there are certainly many that all of us use on a daily basis that will be recognised. So try your luck and take a look.
(Talkback) Quick Read Mode, 3 of 5.
(Pawel) This would be the equivalent of the short text mode of Seeing AI for those of you who ever used it, and it lets you read the text as soon as you point the camera at it. So it's rather for recognising what we have in our hand rather than actually reading the contents.
(Talkback) Scan document mode, 4 or 5.
(Pawel) This is a more sophisticated mode in which the phone directs us where to point the camera so that the text is aligned perfectly and then takes the photo itself in order to recognise what's written in it. It's more for lengthy documents, letters, contracts, anything of this sort.
(Talkback) Currency, US dollars, mode, 5 of 5.
(Pawel) And that's the last one. I think the name speaks for itself.
Let's try the food label mode at first. I have some products here that I already know will be recognised and some others that I already know will not be recognised. Let's see how this performs.
(Talkback) Scan doc... wuick ... food label beta, food label beta. Selected, Lookout food label mode.
(Pawel) We turned it on and now it's probably going to look for some products.
(Talkback) Recent... start button.
(Pawel) It would also help if I actually started the thing.
(Talkback) Stop button.
(Pawel) Let's grab this package and see ...
(Talkback) No product in view.
(Pawel) Ah, you'll get one in a moment.
(Talkback) No product in view. Product not recognised. Try rotating it to other sides.
(Pawel) OK. That happens.
(Talkback) Product not recognised. Try rotating it to other sides. Product not recognised. Try rotating it to other sides. Product not recognise. Try rotating it to other sides. Product not recognised. Try rotating it to other sides.
No products in view.
Willi Dungl organic ginger-Lemon Tea
(Pawel) Sometimes patience pays off and we just heard what it is.
(Talkback) No product in view.
(Pawel) Even in English. Let's try and take a look at something else.
There is a bottle.
(Talkback) No product in view
(Pawel) That I have in my hand,
(Talkback) No product in view.
(Pawel) And we will see if it recognises it
(Talkback) Product not recognised, try rotating it to other sides.
Product not recognised, try rotating it to other sides. Product not recognised, try rotating it to other sides. Product not recognised. Try rotating it to other sites. Product not recognised. Try rotating it to other sides. Product not recognised. Try rotating it to other sides.
(Pawel) Oh well, I think we're out of luck. And that happens because the database is not very wide.
Let's try it again with a bag of biscuits.
(Talkback) No product in view. Low light.
(Pawel) As you see, it’s tinkering with the light a bit because it's too dark in my room.
(Talkback) Product not recognised. Try rotating it to other sides. Product not recognised. Try rotating it to other sides.
(Pawel) I guess we'll not have luck with that many products. At least that one was recognised. However, that's not the end because we can always use the quick read mode to read the text on the box so that we at least get a rough idea of what we might be holding in the hand.
(Talkback) Start button, explo... selected, quick read mode, quick read, selected, quick read mode.
(Pawel) And now let's try to start it.
(Talkback) Start button, Schoko-Röllchen, Volimilch-Schoklade, 125 g, zartes Waffelgeback mit 26% Vollmilch-Schokolade, Serviervorsca, 125ge
(Pawel) So this was written in German because I'm in Austria at the moment and I don't have really products with English text on them. But just to quickly tell you these are chocolate cookies with 26 percent of milk chocolate. So that's just for your information. You can also see the amount of it, I think it said 125 grams. I'll check it later. That's what the Recents option is for. And of course you'll also be able to see the entire text as it came out of the recognition in the transcript of the podcast. So if you would like to read along what really came out of this, that will be possible as well.
Let's try and see how much luck we'll have with the document scanning mode and we'll try to recognise what's on the screen of my laptop because I don't have anything written in English in this room either on a bigger piece of paper, so I think the laptop screen will be a great example as we can display practically anything on it.
I'll sit in front of my laptop and I'll switch over the modes.
(Talkback) Rece... food labe... selected quick read mo..., scan document mode, 4 of 5, scan document, selected, scan document mode.
(Pawel) Yeah, it always announces the mode it's in, once we launch it. And it's also great when we come back from another app and want to find out what actually we launched recent and what is currently active. OK, so I'll start this one and we'll see what happens when I point it at the screen of my laptop.
(clicking sounds signifying Talkback navigation)
recents bu... start button, stop button. Move towards top right. Move device right. Move right. Try taking a snapshot to scan what's in view,. Right. Right. Right. Move device towards bottom right. Try taking a snapshot to scan what's in view. Move device towards bottom. Move towards bottom. Too far, move device closer. Hold still.
(after a while of silence)
Recent item details, close details.
(Pawel) As we could hear, we got a nice set of instructions of what to do, so all we had to do was listen in and follow. At some points, we were told to try and take the snapshot manually. However, my experience is that it's always better to manoeuvre for such a long time that finally the app tells you to hold still and it will do the photo automatically. The result is usually better and you don't have to look hastily for the snapshot button. Now let's see what options we have here, and of course, what came out of the text,
(Some Talkback clicking)
(Talkback) Close details button.
(Pawel) This is for closing The view we are currently in.
(Talkback) Share button.
(Pawel) This is for sharing the text with somebody else over one of the apps we have installed.
(Talkback) Delete item button.
(Pawel) And this is deleting it from the recents, although the app will do it automatically once we close it. So now let's see how the text actually came out.
The voice of blind and partially sighted people in Europe
ABOUT BLINDNESS AND PARTIAL SIGHT
WELCOME TO EBU, the united voice of millions of blind and partially sighted Europeans. EBU Works towards an accessible and inclusive society with equal
opportunities for blind and partialy sighted people to fully participate in all aspects of social.economic. cultural and political life.
CAMPAIGNS AND ACTIVITIES
PUBLICATIONS AND RESOURCES
(Pawel) So it recognised a fair amount of text from the screen.
It's readable. You will also be able to see the result as generated by the app in the transcript and, well, here is to hoping that the same quality is provided when we do a snapshot of something written on paper.
Now let's go back and see what else we haven't explored yet.
(Talkback) Overview, Back button.
Can't, lookout, take sna... recents, take sna... recents but...
(Pawel) We haven't gone into the recents view yet, I briefly explained what it does, but let's take a look at what it actually looks like.
(Talkback) Recents, delete all recent items, button, recent items are deleted every time you close lookout.
(Pawel) Yeah, which is sometimes unfortunate because, well, often in a rush, we will close the app and then realise that there was something we actually wanted to retrieve and it is especially useful when we had an eventful journey and there was a lot happening. But sadly, well, as soon as we close the app, everything's gone. So bear that in mind. And also it stores up to the last, I believe, 20 items. So if we walk along a busy street and there is a lot happening, we can't retrieve all of that, sadly. Maybe that will be improved with a future update.
(talkback) Scan document, 8.54 pm www.euroblnd... EBU...
(Pawel) And that is our latest scan that we did with the app. So we already have been there.
(Talkback) Scan doc... Quick Read 8.40, quick read 8... quick read, 8 49 pm zartes Waffelgeback mit 26% Vollmilch-Sch...
(Pawel) Yeah. So from what you can see here, I have access to everything I have recognised with the app, all the way back to the start as much as the history allows me to have it saved and I can always recall it until I close the app, of course. And if I double click on one of these items...
(Talkback) recent item det... share button, close details button.
(Pawel) We are in the very same view that we were before. When we looked at the text I scanned in the scanning mode. So as you see, you can open every entry you've scanned, pretty much the same way. Even here you can read the text.
(Talkback) zartes Waffelgeback mit 26% Vollmilch-Schokolade...
(Pawel) Yeah. So there is that. And that's pretty much it when it comes to the interface of the app and now let's give the exploration mode a spin outside.
(The Demo Jingle Music)
(Pawel) So now we'll try to take a little walk around my area here, and eventually we might end up at a bus stop where we'll try to see if the app is able to tell us which line has actually arrived. So keep your fingers crossed and let's go.
(Talkback) building, flag, aeroplane, poster...
(Pawel) Ah, a poster... Can we see what's written on there?
(Talkback) Building, traffic light, sewing machine...
(Pawel) Oh, (laughs) I don't know where that came from.
(Pawel) OK, clearly, I can't...
(Pawel) aim at it.
(motor sound of a truck)
Truck, truck with text 10, building, sewing machine with text 10.
(Pawel) Hmm, it's not sure. It's either a truck or a sewing machine. We'll never find out.
(Talkback) Building, building. Building, building...
(the sound of an airplane flying in the air)
(Pawel) And now I can believe the airplanes. I didn't hear that one before.
(Pawel) So it's a car? It's sadly not telling us the directions. I remember the old version used to say something being at 12 o'clock...
(Pawel) one o'clock etc...
(Pawel) So I can't tell really
(Pawel) to which di...
(Talkback) Text: Löhnstraße, car. mirror, building airplane.
(Pawel) Yeah, this is accurate because Löhnstraße is the name of the street we just turned, so it would make sense. It saw the...
(Talkback) Building, person, building. Footwear, tire, building, tire, motorcycle
(Pawel) See, is it really a motorcycle?
(Talkback) Clothing, action figure, scooter
(Pawel) I'll see, it could be just cars, but...
(Talkback) Building, container, text: "1PA30, building, building, Text: 5 5 7 180, building
(Pawel) Ah, I approached an obstacle,
(Talkback) Text: 1 5 0 9 J
(Pawel) And it detected it as well, so This is pretty nifty.
(TalkbackC car, text: TABAKWAREN, ZEITSCHRIFTEN, text: Schulartikel, Süßwaren, text: bautomat.
(Pawel) At a certain point, the app started recognising so many things that it was impossible for me to both comment on it on the spot and concentrate on the road I was going. So I'll just record a short explanation of things that happened on the way after the clip is played. What we just passed now was a news agency stand which offered tobacco products, sweets, school articles, as well as, of course, newspapers, So we had that read as we passed the buildin.
(Talkback) car, bag, tableware, head-mounted display, helicopter, building, text: 26, two tanks, scooter, tank.
(A sound of cane crashing against a fence)
(Pawel) I don't think it's that street really.
(Talkback) Tank with text: tickets; computer monitor, tank with text: tickets, tank with text: tickets 0 0 9 0 0 4 1 6 5 7 RR.
(Pawel) And that's what I would have hoped could have been the ticket machine, which would clearly indicate I might be close to my goal, which was the bus stop, But it turned out it wasn't.
(Talkback) Car, computer monitor, car, video camera.
Two buildings. Window, text, 0000000, airplane, door, car, barbecue grill.
(Pawel) A tent? I can onlz feel some bushes here.
(Talkback) building, building,
(a bit of speechless silence and sounds of cane against the surroundings)
(Talkback) Tableware, building, car, building, building, building, building, building, building, building, 2 buildings
(Pawel) Fair enough
(Talkback) Building, houseplant. Building...
(Some more cane navigation)
(Talkback) Sculpture, sculpture.., food.
(Pawel) I think it's just a wall.
(Talkback) Building, sculpture.
(Pawel) Maybe I'm just approaching it...
(Talkback) Window, building,
(further walking sounds and a cane hits the fence again)
(Pawel) I think some of these objects actually appeared the moment I faced the house I was passing by. So then the camera could see a bit clearer and describe them to me.
(Talkback) Toothbrush, building, tableware, car, bench, car
(Talkback) Bench, car, car,
(Pawel) I'm going back and I haven't seen this before.
(Talkback) Building, helicopter, text: Mosselgasse, text: Mosselgasse, text: Mosselgasse
(Pawel) Okay, apparently I'm turning...
(Talkback) Car, picture frame, car, bench, clothing, person, jeans.
(the sounds of people moving and talking in the background)
Car, display device, Car, flowerpot, helmet.
Text: Städtischer kindergarten, traffic sign.
(Pawel) I first entered the Mosselgasse, which was announced by the app, it saw the street sign, and then after some rummaging through, I found the door to the municipal kindergarten, which is a really precious information, because from my experience, I know that this is my last waypoint before the bus stop.
(Talkback) Text: Löhnstraße.
(Pawel) I think we are there. That's the name of the bus stop. I just hope I'm standing right, so I can see the bus coming.
(Talkback) Furniture. Furniture with text: MOVENPIC, text: Movenpick, furniture with text: Zipfer, Movenpick
(Pawel) And it seems I was right. Opposite the bus stop, there is a restaurant and most likely what we heard before was a banner or a sort of advertising furniture piece that advertised the coffee, in this case Movenpick, and the beer, in this case, Zipfer, that the restaurant offers, so again, we managed to make sure that we are on the right spot by seeing two waypoints, the bus stop and then the restaurant opposite.
(Talkback) Text: (a difficult to understand text in German), text: IVB.at.
(Pawel) And unfortunately, we didn't manage to read the line the bus was heading. We see the internet address of the bus company and some other message that I couldn't understand, really. But other than that, we didn't get any information. And I was standing quite close by the front door where the driver sits. So I would think I would catch the number, but apparently not this time. I had a case where it worked though, and you can try it as well, just like you can try the entire Lookout app, so once again, I highly recommend it. I must say, it works better in bright light of the day rather than at night, even though it can manage the flash quite fine. But I did a little attempt at recognising anything from my balcony when it was completely dark and it failed. So it's better to work with it during the day.
Thank you for listening and enjoy Lookout.
(Tanja) Well, I would like to end this episode and…
(Mario, half-singing of joy) Yeeeah!
(Tanja, laughing) I hope you enjoyed our episode, Mario!
(Mario) Yeah, yeah, I did.
(Mario) I did.
(Tanja) But you're happy to go.
(Xavier) He was doing the notes.
(Tanja) Please reach out us at Twitter or email us. You will find the email and Twitter on our webpage. Until the next time, be safe, wash your hands, keep the distance and…
(Xavier) Wear your mask.
(Tanja) Yeah. And wear your mask. Talk to you in October.
(Tanja) Bye bye.
thank you for listening.
This has been EBU Access Cast.