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EBU Access Cast

Ebu Access Cast 29 Transcript

Mar 15, 2021

Transcript of EBU Access Cast - episode 29




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


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


And here is our host.




(Pawel) Welcome again back to the latest episode of EBU Access Cast, this is the episode 29, already close to 30. That's quite an impressive age for a podcast like this. And I must say, I'm really excited about what we're going to unfold both this time and the next time around as well at the 30th episode. But now let's stay in the present and let's see who is with us today. We have Tanja from Luxembourg. Hello.


(Tanja) Hello Pawel.


(Pawel) And we have Mario also from Luxembourg. Hey there.


(Mario) Hello.


(Pawel) Hello. And last but not least, we have also Hlynurrr from Iceland. I hope I got it right this time.


(Hlynur) Thank you. Yeah.


That was an excellent rrr, Great! and very tough to follow Mario with his introductions.


(Pawel) And I am Pawel, who recently also has become known as the Inspector Gadget on duty.

(A jingle of Inspector gadget cartoon in the background)


 And I'm from Austria currently and I'll be hosting this episode. So let's get on with the show. And what is in the show, you might ask? Well, we have very interesting subjects and actually the first one will be a bit futuristic. I said we’ll stay in the present, but we we’ll still go in… a bit in the future because we'll be discussing Mars and specifically the newest expedition of NASA to the Red Planet and what it means for blind people and accessibility. Then we still come back to the subject of TalkBack on Android, because not only is it available on Samsungs now, but it's pretty much rolled to most, if not all Android devices to date. So some more of us actually had the chance to play with it. Then Hlynur will report on the latest developments in Iceland in regards to the speech technologies that are being developed for the Icelandic language. And we'll discuss also some new Braille displays from human Ware then a really interesting French service called Handsome, which has nothing to do with beauty, actually, but more with banking and which is the first probably the first world's fintech bank-like service dedicated to people with disabilities. And towards the end of the show, we will discuss the vaccination application processes for Corona in different countries, so we'll be able to see how accessible it is to apply for a vaccine and to get a test and to exchange the bit of the experiences we have with the systems.


Fun Fact of The Show: Where does the name Bluetooth come from?


(Pawel) So before we get into this all, any gadgets from any of you?


(Tanja) Not this time.


(Mario) nope!


(Hlynur) Not for me.


(Pawel) Surprisingly… surprisingly, nothing from me either, but, well, Easter is just around the corner, so you never know, but apparently…


(Mario) this year, this year is coming sooner than later. So, yeah.


(Hlynur) double trouble


(Pawel) and just one episode of Distance between Christmas and Easter. That's pretty cool for the gadget section, I guess.

But that doesn't mean we don't have anything extra for you this time. Mario, you actually found out something really interesting, because I've been thinking for quite a while that Bluetooth is quite a strange name for a standard that allows you to exchange data between technical devices.

I mean, wi fi just sounds almost like hi fi and you can tell there is some high tech behind it.

But Bluetooth, that sounds really odd. And then in one of my lectures at university when I studied British history, I heard about this Viking king or leader or chief who was called Harald the Bluetooth and participated in some conquest of early conquest of England. And I found this interesting, but I never researched this. And it seems like you have some interesting stuff about this.


(Mario) Yeah. So the Bluetooth standard, as we know, was developed in the mid 90s and it was developed in the Ericsson company.

And in the 1998, two of the engineers who worked on the thing, which we know as Bluetooth today, they were supposed to present this and they had to have a code name for the standard. So they get around on the conference where they needed to present the stuff and they went for a few beers, (as all the developers do(. And yeah, so after a few stories about different subjects, they started talking about the Vikings and the Scandinavian mythology. And eventually they also discovered this king from the Denmark.

Harald the Bluetooth existed, and, well, they then decided that this code named for the stuff that we know and used today. Will be called Bluetooth. So, yeah, Harald the Bluetooth was responsible for that.


(Pawel) This is really interesting how different like everyday objects or places or historical events, characters inspire technology to be named after them. Like, I only I think it was a year ago or two years ago I found out that Ubuntu, which we probably know as a Linux distribution, is a beach in the Netherlands where you can actually come. And it's one of these fancy beaches where you actually have to pay to enter, but it's a great tourist site, apparently, and it's really… It has like a full service for a beach like a lot of…  fully equipped bar with snacks and drinks, Wi-Fi connection and a lot of luxury, really. And I had no idea this was like a real place. But even looking at Apple every macOS release right now, is named after some landmark in the United States, some national park or some other place. So it's really, really interesting what inspires people to name technology after.


(Mario) So the Android versions have also different bunch of snacks for every code we had, like. Yeah, and Oreos to cookies to work or whatever.


(Pawel) There are probably no beers involved in naming that.


(Mario) I guess not yet, but you never know.


(Hlynur) I just can't wait for the Samsung Hlynur which might come out of it. So I don't know what it will do, but it will be great.


(Mario Laughs)


Accessibility in the news




Accessibility in the news.


The ESA Parastronaut Feasibility Project and the first recordings of Mars


So we've discussed how different things are named after historical places and historical people and now something that will definitely join our historical landscape for good, the newest expedition of NASA to Mars. And in general, what's interesting is happening in the spectrum of space exploration in regards to disability. Before we go to NASA and Mars, Tanja you had some really interesting article about how ESA so the European Space Agency wants to include disabled astronauts in their upcoming moon and Mars missions. Does that mean we will go to will go to space as soon as blind people or is somebody sending us into space?


(Tanja) They are surely open to this.

They're interested in opening this page of history because up until now, there were no disabled astronauts and there were also few women astronauts.

So the article says that there have been only 64 women astronauts out of 560 in total. So the number is quite low. So they're interested in more diversity. Regarding the type of disabilities, I didn't find exact information, so, they say that they're interested in persons with physical disabilities and they have three categories, like the one that cannot fulfil still their criteria, the one in yellow and one in green, but I didn't find an explanation exactly… Maybe when you are applying, because they have now an open selection procedure. Maybe when you're applying, you can see all the criteria. I'm not sure if blind persons would enter in the green category, but it would be interesting to see anyway, they're interested.

This is Parastronaut Feasibility Project and also I checked their site, if you have also any difficulties with the application, you can also contact them by email.

But I think they would need, also, to improve a little bit the accessibility of the site.


(Pawel) Well, I saw a different article about this and well, it seems like the main disabilities they have in mind are people of short posture and people with prosthetic limbs, for example.


(Tanja) Mm hmm.


(Pawel) So I didn't see blindness mentioned specifically the question is…


(Mario) Yeah, because for blindness, you need to have a black category.


(Everyone laughs)


(Pawel) Anyway yeah, I would be really interested to see if that will be green or yellow if we have a chance to be there. I wasn't following what you need to do to survive in space, but since they are looking, for example, for IT people, I could definitely see some people helping with some kind of calculations or some software handling issues. Is there anything external that could prevent blind people from going into space? That is a good question. I never really thought about this.


(Tanja) Yeah, actually, I think what would be interesting for us is being blind, what someone can describe as what you can see, because otherwise you don't benefit at all. because I guess when you're going on such a mission, you are checking also what is new. And even if you have a AI, can AI tell what is new? So I'm not sure I see the limitations, but also maybe they can push technology more to cover the spectrum. Yeah, I don't know, it's difficult for me to say, but it's impressive that they are now searching for persons with disabilities. It surely opens a new page.


(Pawel) Since we actually mentioned the things that would be interesting to blind people.

I think there is something that we can already discuss that is available to us. And these are the sounds of Mars, because not only ESA, but also NASA, as we said, Send their rover into space, the Perseverance. And this rover actually is the first one probably to record actual sound from space on the microphones.


(Mario) Yeah it is the first one.


(Pawel) Yeah. And even during their press conference, NA… the NASA spokesperson mentioned that the one of the reasons why they did it was so that blind people could also hear how Mars sounds like and. Well, how does it sound to you?

Because we heard the samples, right? I heard some. And it sounded like some heavy, heavy pumping was taking place.


(Mario) So the clip that they posted is about 40 seconds long or something like that or about a minute. And in the first 10 seconds, what you can hear is you're hearing the basically the rover engine. And after 10 seconds, you hear the wind from Mars starting to blow for about a few seconds. And that that sounds spooky, man. That really like it's spooky. You don't hear anything else except that wind sounds, which was like a very slow breeze, which lasted for a few seconds and then it stopped. And then the last like 20 seconds of the clip, there is nothing. It's dead silence. For a few times I have been in those dead rooms that are called like very, very hardly soundproof room where you really can't hear anything inside. And it reminds me of that in oh man, as a blind person I didn't feel comfortable to, to say the least,


(Pawel) Were there also descriptions of the processes that were going on in there or just the sounds and you just have to guess what kind of process is happening on Mars right now or like what does it?


(Mario) you mean on that sound samples?


(Pawel) Yeah, yeah.


(Mario) Yeah, actually. So there was kind of written description in the article which I read like what's happening during that clip. And they said that the only thing what you can hear is the sound and the sound of the wind, and eventually that's true. Like you hear like just this rover engine and. That very light wind breeze which came from Mars and there is eventually nothing else, it's absolutely dead, dead silent.


(Hlynur) Yeah, maybe we could even show those clips. There are like three clips that they have.

The first clip was just named First Sounds from Mars. And that's just the raw audio


(sound of the first sounds from Mars)


Then they have the first sounds from Mars, which they have filtered.


(filtered sounds from Mars)


And then the third one is actually the rover fluid pump.


(sound with the rover fluid pump)


(Mario) Ok, so that's what maybe what Pawel heard.


(Pawel) That could be yes.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Pawel) Another cool thing that NASA did, but what is not so cool is that it wasn't accessible, is an application on the website where you can record your own voice, send it to Mars, get it back and hear the difference between you on Earth and you on Mars. And Hlynur, you tried it and you will present it to us, right? How was the experience?


(Mario) Not accessible [laughs]


(Hlynur) No, of course, it was not accessible. I'm not happy about that. It's weird.


(Tanja) We have to inform NASA.


(Hlynur) Yeah, yeah, we do. Houston, we have a problem [with ambient sound effect]


(Pawel) OK.


(Hlynur) So what actually happens is that the sound travels not as far as on Earth just because there's less air. And it kind of sounded like you are talking through a wall, a thin wall.


[Example showcased where Hlynur says] Unfortunately blind people can not hear themselves on Mars because this button for recording is not accessible for screen reader users.


(Hlynur) But we just have to get this thing accessible so people can start trying it out for themselves.


(Pawel) Yeah, well, maybe they will open source the technology and we'll see some kind of VST effect that simulates this kind of impression or a voice changer app.


(Hlynur) Or maybe we could just be those disabled astronauts that they're looking for.


(Pawel) Exactly.


(Mario) Pawel, are you looking for a travelling adventure?


(everyone laughs)


(Pawel) Umm, I would prefer to see some more of Earth first, but who knows, maybe at some point.


(Hlynur) After Covid, I’d go anywhere.


(Pawel) [Singing] Ground control to Major Paul.


[everyone laughs]


(Mario) Yeah yeah.


The new Talkback reaches more devices


(Pawel) Yeah, well, one can always dream, but what we already can have and we do have it on more devices now, is the new TalkBack 9.1 that was promised for a long time and that we already knew what it contained. But now we can test it on some more devices. And even I got this already on my Motorola Moto One running Android 10 officially over Play Store. And well, my first impression was “God finally, we have proper language switching”. I don't know about your impressions, Hlynur and Mario because you are also Android users. How does it feel this new TalkBack?


(Hlynur) I'm scared of it. So I've been using it for just a short time and I've been mainly using, like voice assistant and also I'm not a regular screen reader user. So probably Mario is better sharing his experience than I am.


(Mario) In my case I had very interesting experiences for the last 4 weeks, in fact. And the thing was that my phone got the update to Android 11  at the beginning of February. So Samsung decided to hurry up with the update because first I was supposed to get it in March, but I got it in February and as we expected and as we previously reported, yes, the thing is that after you go and proceed with the update, you are getting a new TalkBack on the Samsung devices which eventually is now very similar to the official Google TalkBack 9.1, which just got released. Unfortunately, until now, the difference is that there is no Braille keyboard inside of the Samsung TalkBack, and the more and more rumours are saying that the Braille keyboard will arrive in the March security update for Samsung devices. So it might be that if you're having a Samsung that you will get the update for TalkBack on Samsung which will bring back the Braille keyboard. Other than that, it's great to see, yes, that we got, as you said, Pawel, proper language switching, which now has to be used by multiple finger gestures on Android 11, but if you have Android 10 or the phones, which are not updated to the latest March security patch then you will not have multiple gestures for the moment. The multiple gestures will arrive with the March update and that will only work for Samsung phones or Google Pixels. These are the news for the moment, so if you have any other brand of phone and you are migrating to Android 11 there is very high chance that you will not have multiple gestures.


(Pawel) And this is going to stay like this or is just for now? We don’t know, huh?


(Mario) This is going to stay so far as long as Android 12 doesn't come out.


(Pawel) And that's interesting. I thought that, like, more phones supported the multi finger gestures by default on 11 before.


(Mario) Yeah, this is correct. And my understanding is that what they what they have done is that they introduced these multiple gestures and as we could see in the TalkBack, it was first as an experimental feature. The truth is that while they were working, there were some phones even on the Samsung phones, they were not 100 percent accurate. So my initial guess is that they are tweaking them and they're working on improvements, and that's why they decided to pull them back until everything is not polished. So they will bring them back then in Android 12. So the only people who will be able to use it are Pixel users and Samsung users.


(Pawel) I think the good news is also there that it's not the end of the journey. There are more rapid updates promised a more rapid development. It sounds so convoluted by my understanding is that we will see more frequent updates or my hope is that we will see more frequent updates of TalkBack. And also other manufacturers are invited to join Google in co-developing accessibility solutions. So I think this is something that Android needs to address in a way and good that they're doing this because on iOS to compare, it's much easier to maintain a stable base for accessibility since you are manufacturing only one set of phones and Android, the main accusation was always there that these other phones like Xiaomi or Motorola, HTC, whatever you buy, you don't know what you're getting and what you don't know what will be the next feature that's not going to work as intended. So I hope this will somehow improve the state of matters on Android and they’ll be really good.


(Hlynur) This is just basically a typical pros and cons when it comes to Android and iOS, both have its pros and both have its cons. We had some trouble in Iceland because we have the main Icelandic voices that we are currently using are third party voices, which have stopped working in most occasions for those who have been updating to the Android 11. In some cases we have managed to get them working again and to retrieve them. But not in all cases, so we actually have had to advise those who are here in Iceland and would like to have the Icelandic voices up and running, that they do not upgrade to the Android 11.


(Mario) It's unfortunate to hear.


(Pawel) Yeah, exactly, I mean, I guess not only Icelandic, a lot of other languages where custom made TTS solutions were used, are going to be affected similarly, if this wasn’t developed for a while.


(Hlynur) And that probably has been the case, even though we might have not heard of it.


(Pawel) Yeah, Mario you had similar incidents, right, with your voices? They disappeared at the beginning, right?


(Mario) I did. That happened to me when I had the update from the 8.2 to 9.1 of version of TalkBack. So after I did the update, my half of TTS engines, which were older and which did not update for a while, disappeared completely. And I thought, OK, if they disappeared, they're no longer working. But then I decided to play around a bit more and I discovered that they are still installed on my phone and I could see each of the app for them, separately available on the phone. So after I would launch certain apps such as, let's say, the Eloquence app. After that, it showed up in the speech setting, so I was able to launch it and that worked for the rest of the TTS engines as well. So I got them back, all of them.


(Pawel) Yeah, that's good to hear. We were already told for some time that 32 bit applications will have to go and Eloquence officially pulled out of the play store. But it's good to see that at least on some devices, people still have a little bit of time to get used to the state of facts and to switch to something else if they have the option or to negotiate with the companies to make the necessary improvements. I'm happy about the update. I'm on Android 10, as I said. So not so many problems. I was even happy to see that the dictation part, the voice commands part, works in Polish. I was surprised. I wasn't expecting this to work. And now we have to wait for more languages in the Braille keyboard. Hopefully they will come at some point.


(Mario) I don't know how do they pick the languages for Braille keyboard, because in the newest update they just got to Spanish and Arabic from new languages and I really don't understand why they choose just those two instead of adding a bunch of those big European languages. There are none like there is no French, no German, no Russian. No, even no Polish, Pawel.


(Pawel) Yeah, I know.


(Hlynur) No Icelandic probably either.


(Mario) Yeah, no Icelandic, yeah.


(Pawel) Probably they work on them one by one.


The project to develop specific technologies for the Icelandic language


(Pawel) But what is available in Icelandic is, or what is planned to be released soon is a set of tools to help blind users of the Icelandic language to use their assistive technology so speech synthesisers, speech recognition, auto correction. Hlynur, this is a great achievement isn't it?


(Hlynur) It is. It is something that our association here has been, let's just say, fighting for, for over a decade. We have been talking about like we need to get new Icelandic natural speaking voices, that is around probably 13 years ago. And things have changed since then because we were getting like people just saying, no, no, that's OK, we can just come as volunteers and read books for the blind. And it ended up that in 2011 The Icelandic Association of the Visually Impaired took initiative and managed to finance, amongst others, to build new Icelandic voices with the Polish company IVONA.


(Pawel) I remember that coming out and I was surprised to see Icelandic like there are these big languages and suddenly there is Icelandic. And I was like, cool.


(Hlynur) Yeah


(Pawel) There is one of these languages also available.


(Hlynur) When there are few living in a country, then usually it costs more. We have to do more ourselves because for those, let's say, larger countries, then you have those like Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, they will build a voice for Spanish, for German, for English, for Chinese. They will build those voices themselves. And naturally, I understand, of course, they don't see any benefit for them to spend money on like, Icelandic voice or anything of that degree where they live like 370000 people, but this plan was finally initiated in 2018. That was the plan. It got delayed by one year, so it's a five year plan from 2019 probably now until 2023 where the main goal is basically to save the Icelandic language as we save from like from digital death. And they're like five core projects for it, that is to develop Icelandic speech recognition so that we can talk to our devices. There's new speech synthesis. I think they're talking about, what, like ten new voices which are being built now also for like machine translation, spell and grammar correction and checking. And also, which I find very, very interesting, is just those open source language resources. So the plan is OK. Let's say we're having a discussion with Microsoft. OK, Microsoft, you have no interest in building an Icelandic speech recognition or speech synthesis. OK, how about this? We've done 99 percent of the work for you. You basically just need to go and get it and install it and provide it. So that is basically what they are doing here.


(Pawel) Here's to hoping that it's going to work. I when I started using computers, let’s say, at the age of 12, 13, Polish was already quite recognised, but not quite yet, in the way that, of course, there is Ivona, there were a couple of other older robotic sounding synthesisers, even some hardware ones, we had Apollo actually from Dolphin too.


(Mario) Yeah, we had it also for Croatian.


(Pawel) Yeah, many people still miss it. Hmm. I still know some people who use it and are really happy, off some convertors from RS to USB. But and there was Realspeak so like the former, like one of the former Nuance voices but that was about it. Acapela and all this Loquendo people just started coming on the scene when I started using computers and now I see that Polish is pretty fast adopted when it comes. Of course, we have a much larger user base than Icelandic, I guess. But still, it's not like the first language the big companies think of. It's fortunately moving ahead now. But look at the Braille keyboard and Google TalkBack. It's not like one of the first languages you would think. And I'm always happy to see that the support is provided. But we still, for example, lack proper voice assistant support apart from Google assistant, which let's say it works, but it's not as conversational as in English and some of the features are limited. We don't have any voice assistance for now. So I'm pretty much I can feel what kind of a terrific deal that is to you, that finally there is something going on for Icelandic. We also have some minority languages in Poland, like I come from a region where one of those is spoken and we don't have any kind of support for this. Nobody is thinking of trying to develop any kind of accessibility framework around it. I mean, in general, there is still this huge argument whether they are actual languages or just dialects.

So I guess there is this problem of recognition on a national level; and I only recently found out that there is somebody in the States who is a language enthusiast and he built an actual Braille support for these languages, so, yeah, I can imagine how how much of improvement this would be in in Iceland, and I really hope this succeeds on a larger scale. You said you were building everything from scratch, right? There is no base in like MBROLA or any other open source like eSpeak. This is everything is build…


(Hlynur) No, I, I believe everything is being built from from scratch.


(Pawel) Wow! This is such amount of work.


(Hlynur) We have a lot of institutions like two of the major Icelandic universities where most of the, like, research work is done. We have the national broadcast television station that they are using those studios for better quality once recording the voices, and there are just many, many different institutions and companies coming together. They released the first app called Ampla???, which is like, let's just call it a a a basic Siri. It will not perform any actions for you, but you can ask it in in Icelandic uhh like uhh “What's the time?” or “Where am I?” or “Where is the next bus stop?” and “Who is…” And then you say the name of the president of Iceland, so she can, like, look for information for you uhmm and do a bit of maths calculations, she knows a bit of history, but you can't ask her to, like, buy two tickets to the movies tonight for a specific movie. Tha… That is like the first step, but that is still the first time ever that you have been able to speak Icelandic to your mobile phone and it understands you.


(Pawel) Wow, that's really impressive. I really hope it’s expanded with time.


(Mario) That’s, that’s impressive, yeah.


(Hlynur) And it talks back to you in Icelandic.


(Pawel) Yay! So there are very we're looking probably looking at very exciting times ahead.


(Mario) I was just wondering what's happening with these opensource, TTS developments in general, like does anybody know what's going on because MBROLA is no longer developed and maintained, but we had, like, Festival aaaaand, what was else? OK, eSpeak is dead more or less…


(Pawel) Mmm, now there is the eSpeak NG, no?


(Hlynur) [laughs]


(Mario) Yeah.


(Pawel) It’s still developed.


(Hlynur) Yeah, if Karl and Dóra, the Icelandic voices that are only 32-bit and will be shut down off the Play Store in August.


(Mario) Yeah


(Hlynur) What voice will… would have to replace them is actually an eSpeak voice called Snorri Or Sturla.


(Mario) Oh, OK. So…


(Hlynur) that that is the next test thing, uhh.


(Mario) [laughs]



(Pawel) I hope it  gets the pronunciation right.


(Hlynur) Yeah.


(Pawel) I'm not fully satisfied with the Polish fully.


(Mario) But, I mean, we are talking about this no… not the human robotic thing.


(Hlynur) Yeah, He is p… he is called, I think, Snorri, I think it was first Sturla and then there was an update and then it was called Snorri that it's kind of before my time.


(Mario) Aha…


(Hlynur) But actually, one thing that we managed to do was we got some very good coverage within the Icelandic press about these this very serious situation that we are facing of people who rely on those and… Icelandic voices are about to lose them.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Hlynur) And there was no immediate plan in place. They were just saying, “yeah, we will have new Android Icelandic voices in 2022, which is… could be more than a year with with only an eSpeak voice, uhm…


(Mario) mmhm…


(Hlynur) to use with the Android, but they have made some changes to their plans after that, didn't take that long, and they are hoping to release a new Icelandic Android voice from this project, maybe this spring or this summer, so before August probably, And we're crossing our fingers and all our other limbs that that might happen.


(mario) Well, that's that's great, man. Uhh…


(Pawel) Yeah…


(Mario) You are, You are even more successful than we are in our countries[laughter] in terms of getting the press to talk about it, because usually if you bring up uhhh… such things in the press, in the other countries, it maybe goes on one or two portals, it becomes kind of news of the day and after that, it's gone, so, yeah, congratulations to that.


(Hlynur) OK, Ok, thank you. Yeah, the media has has been very, very kind, kind to us through the years. We have a had a good relationship with with the press, TV stations, radio stations and online and printed newspapers as well.


New braille displays from Humanware available on the market


(Pawel) Well, I hope that Icelandic Braille is also doing alright and now we will have two new devices to read it on, because humanware is releasing a new line-up of their Brailliant displays. One is the BI 20 and the other is the BI 40, And what is so special about these Smart displays? Oh, I already said it: smart. They aren’t quite the standard braille displays that we know, that you just plug into your computer and off you go; and they aren’t also the new noteTakers with whole operating systems. It's something in between. It's a Braille display with some capabilities of its own. We already knew some displays with, uhmm, notetaking capabilities, with a calculator, some simple alarm clock; but now what they are doing is they're putting wifi on board of these displays so that you can connect to the Internet to, first of all, update your software, and secondly, to access the libraries for the blind to get some books onto the display directly and enjoy them in Braille. Now, we've seen this already with the Humanware… Uhh, no! with the APH Chameleon and Mantis, but we can say that they will not make it to Europe, probably, but with Humanware it’s a bit different story because Humanware has its dealership points or resellers in different countries and in the European ones as well. I even remember that at some point Apple had this gesture of selling assistive technology in their stores officially, and I remember that, uhh, the Brailliants were the displays that they had even in the Polish Apple store, you could get them straight from Apple; and this is big deal because they would like to cooperate with different libraries for the blind. There is an interview we will link to with the representatives of the company on Mosen At Large podcast of Jonathan Mosen, where they explain what the new displays are about and what's going to happen with them and they mentioned RNIB, so at least they try to cooperate with the British Library, but I guess if Humanware is more present in different countries of Europe, we will see these support, uhh, coming to these displays as well. And well, err, these are also probably the first or one of the first displays to support the new USB HID standard for Braille, where Apple and I think Microsoft, some other companies cooperated on, so that ideally you would plug in your display to your computer and you wouldn't need any special drivers and your Screen reader would read the display straight away and let you use it. Apparently it works on Apple products for now, on Macs and iOS devices. There are some issues with this still, but, uhmm, more or less it works and well, you don't need to tinker with any drivers, so that's great; and there are, of course, two of these displays, the more, the bigger one, the more expensive one, 40 characters one, is priced at 3195 dollars, [the sound of letting the air out] so we'll have to see in euros that would be something, something similar like that, but, uhh, well, hopefully, hopefully you will know the prices when when they come and the differences are that, first of all, the 40-character display is equipped with a Wi-Fi adaptor that supports both 2,4 GHZ and 5 GHz Wi-Fi. The smaller one is just2,4… 2.4; and the bigger one has the Bluetooth foive.0 standard and the older one, the smaller one, just 4.1 aaand…


(Mario) Uuuhhh, bigger one, no, no, the bigger one has Bluetooth 5.


(Pawel) Yeah, 5.0.


(Mario) Yeah, you said 4.


(Pawel) Did I? Oh,


(Mario and Pawel) [laughter]


(Pawel) Thank you. So, uhh, the bigger display has a Bluetooth fo… uhh, 5.0 and the smaller one 4.1. Also, the bigger display has more storage, I think 32 gB, but no card reader as far as I heard. And the smaller one, just 16, but for that a card reader. To both you can, of course, connect USB-equipped storage device like a pendrive or hard disk, and the bigger one has also a microphone, and this is a really interesting story because there is a speaker and a microphone and a Jack ca… a Jack port on both devices, uhmm, but well, the problem is that they don't work at the time because there are no features developed yet that would, uhh, make it use of these components. So we have to wait for the future. For now, Humanware doesn't want to say much about the plans - of course, they cannot as well – [the sound of taking breath in] but, uhh, the guess would be, or the most likely story would be that there will be some, uhh, Audio capabilities either in the direction of playing mp3 files or to access the Daisy… audio Daisy part of the libraries they would support, so we would see a combination of a Braille display and a fully fledged book reader and player eventually on the market. And this is really interesting because not everyone would like to have this, uhh, fully fledged, fancy dis… NoteTaker with, uhh, Android or Windows on to… onboard, yet to have a display with some more smart features Is not a bad idea either for people who just would like to make simple use of taking some notes and, uhh, using some pre-programmed applications, maybe read a book, uhh, so it would be interesting to see if this holds on as a trend and if other manufacturers will follow suit, but, uhh, well, we'll have to see, well, for the time being, we can just speculate, but, but, well, that's the Humanware, and their new displays.


(Mario) I have to say that I like the features of the Humanware, which they put in their devices, however, I'm not that big fan of their hardware. When I take the Humanware Braille display in my hands, I have a feeling that something will… might break at certain points, while on the other hand, if I would take, let's say, the Focus, I feel that Focus is much more robust, but that's me, really, this is this is my personal personal opinion about it, however, yeah, regarding the features and the support, they absolutely have the newest, let's say, the newest standards for Braille, uhh, in their devices and as you mentioned, support for the libraries, I think that this is the next thing which will come up in their firmware updates as the devices are equipped with the speakers, that they will have support for Daisy books - I think this is really what's coming because they are supporting multiple online libraries and this to me, this seems, uhh, as a logical step forward.


Handsome – France’s bank dedicated to disabled customers


(Pawel) Yeah, uhmm, another step forward that is actually happening, is what is actually going on in France right now. I was already seeing this, uhmm, at the stage when they were just testing it, but now there is a webpage…


(Mario) Are they testing some French cheese or what?


(Pawel) No, but something equally exciting, I guess, uhmm, the first probably the first ever bank dedicated to disabled customers; and this is really cool what they're planning. I looked at the website, uhmm, and I see that, uhmm, this is really well thought of and it has some really unique features. So, of course, it's an app where you create an account, you get a card payment card for it, and of course, you can watch your transactions, you can set the limits on your card, you can lock your card when it's stolen or lost, you can change the pin on the card, manage everything like you would. Of course, the app is accessible. It's, uhh, checked and proven for compatibility with the guidelines by organisations for the blind in France and, errr, everything about it is accessible and it should be available for both iOS and Android. The service is called handsome and the first thing that really drew my attention was the fact that their card that you get for payments is connected with the terminal and with your app. This means whenever you pay somewhere at a store and you put the card in the terminal, you will receive all the messages that the terminal is showing visually in the app, so all the errors, all the PIN requests, every single stage of the transaction, you can control it. You can see what's going on on the terminal, and I think this is the first that we see something like this working and well, given that the newer terminals are touchscreen-equipped and quite hard to use for blind people, at least now, uhh, this is really a nice improvement and I really hope we will see it with some more institutions. The second f…


(Hlynur) Do you know if it’s only… Do you know if it's only tied with with France or if it's…


(Pawel) I think for now Yes, because the website is only in French, but from what I read in the article where it was announced, they applied for some international patent for this, so I would hope that they would not lock it up for just for French people and they will just let people use this outside of France as well, which is not that difficult to do in the EU. You can pretty much operate a bank for any European citizen with relatively little problems, and there are many fintechs based in Lithuania, for example, like revolut or N26 in Germany, and you can just have a card with them even if you're from a different country, so I hope they would open up, and also I think it's somehow connected or supported by or developed by Credit Agricole and I think they are available pretty much in in other countries; so here's to hoping, uhmm, that they will expand.


(Tanja) I think it's interesting, but at the same time, we will have the European Accessibility Act that will require that E-Banking will be accessible. Well,  it is not yet the case, I guess for most, uhh, E-Banking, but it will come at a certain point. So at the same time, I think that for some of us your job requires to have the account open in a certain bank and then, you know, you don't have even the choice. You can have another account in another bank, but anyway, you have to use the one that your job asks you, uhmmmm, so I see that, I mean, it's nice, it's interesting because, uhmm, the other banks maybe can see what are the good practices, what they can do, but at the same time is limiting, because if there is one that is considered to be accessible, what about the others? Wi… Will the others take the responsibility to also have accessible interface? Well, anyway, they should because of the legal obligation that will come at a certain point, but, I see the limitations, and at the same time, I did not test mobile application, which I believe that it is accessible because, it is declared it is accessible, but the website, that you sent us was not.


(Pawel) There were some unlabelled graphics, no? For example.


(Tanja) Background.png, heading 1 was on “Support Us”.

So I was a bit disappointed to see, like, “Yes, fully 100% accessible”, and then you're reading from a website that it is not, so can you trust them?


(Pawel) Yeah, yeah, that's a good question. Maybe they just focused on the app for some crazy reason, but, uhh, [inhaling of air], yeah, here's to hoping they they fix it.


(Tanja) Mmhmm.


(Mario) Yeah, considering the fact that we are talking about French, uhh, usually French services are very strong in terms of, uhh, being persistent and having accessible services, so…


(Tanja) Probably They will improve it.


(Mario) Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's OK, but I'm just saying that it's kind of, uhh, strange to see that this is not being thought of


(Tanja) Mmhm.


(Mario) from the beginning. So… But I agree with you, Tanja, as well. I think that the overall goal should be that we have a universally accessible design applied towards all the banking because that that that should be the end goal. Uhmm, I like the feature, which you said, Pawel, that this, uhh, interface has this, uhh, opportunity of, uhh, sending the messages of between these machines for transactions and between your phone so you can see what what's going on on your phone in the same time what's going on on their display, that that's a cool thing, but, uhh, yeah, other than that, I think that this is a little bit of part of, uhh, yeah, putting us in the ghetto. You know, sometimes we have a situation that some some things which we see as as the things which are being developed are planned long, long time ago, and it might be that this kind of service was planned like at the beginning of 2000’s, I wouldn't be surprised. Twenty years ago or fifteen years ago, the situation with the level of technology which we used was much different than it is today, so, you know, today, really, what I want to see is more and more E-Banking solutions accessible on the worldwide , for example, myself, I have a situation at job where I'm supposed to use just a specific bank from Luxembourg because I work for the Luxembourgish Institution, and they said, well, if you're working for us, you have to use specific bank, otherwise it doesn't work so…


(Hlynur) Otherwise, you’d be a volunteer???


(Mario) Yeah, yeah, [laughter] and, uhh, you know, in order to, for example, access  the the this Luxembourgish, uhh, bank, I'm using a think, which is eventually used in multiple countries. It's called the Luxtrust token… They call it Talking  Token for the moment, and It's the device which connects with the older with with that service where you are able to authorise the stuff and and and login into the E-Banking interface, but it's used all over the other, uhh, public sector institutions which need authorisations. But, for example, as we are talking in the, like for the E-Banking, in the same time, the same company developed a mobile application which is used for last year, it's called Luxtrust Mobile, and on the iPhone and Android, it has different levels of accessibility, on An… on iPhone, it's a bit better, but on Android it's pretty much terrible, so right now we are pressing them to see what will happen in the future if they will improve that, so, yeah, E-Banking in in in Europe. Eeh, it needs to go forward


(Hlynur) not just the E-B… not just E-Banking, I'm I'm quite worried about like all those new payment terminals with touchscreen where nothing has been thought of, uhh, for blind and visually impaired users.


(Mario) Oh absolutely. Yes, Yeah.


(Tanja) Yeah.


(Hlynur) It is a big concern here. I've already gotten in touch myself with some people at Softpay who are running these Pax terminals in like over 27 countries, and I was very surprised that an organisation of that magnitude, they didn't seem to have a clue what I was talking about.


(Mario) Absolutely, absolutely, yes.


(Pawel) Weren’t, weren’t they the ones who actually were working on some accessible terminals? I think we were…


(Hlynur) The Pax…


(Pawel) Yeah?


(Hlynur) The Pax do have a solution, but like this Softpay company, they are using their own interface, and in that interface, they didn't think about accessibility, but, like, being told that, I mean that if if this was in the USA, this would be illegal. Simple as that. And…


(Mario) Abso… Yeah, yeah.


(Hlynur) And soon, don't know exactly maybe when, but it will be in Europe as well and it will be in Iceland as well. We know that all regulations and laws are going in that direction, but the US had the advantage that those laws are in place and have been for, what, over 20 years.


(Pawel) Yyess…


(Mario) That's why your friend from Iceland is very busy over there.




(Hlynur) Yeah


Accessibility of the COVID-19 vaccination application


(Pawel) Speaking of services that should be accessible, and are they really? We heard close to Christmas, of the Corona, the covid vaccine being slowly rolled out in different countries across the world. And of course, many countries have already started the process for people to apply to get their spot to reserve their vaccine whenever it's available for their group. And yeah, that's the question, is this accessible in your experiences? Did you have trouble finding out? Could you?


(Tanja) Exactly yeah, I had issues. Actually here in Luxembourg you cannot even register because you receive a letter, a paper later at home with the code and then you can register online. And there is no alternative way you can just receive the letter. And what they offer as alternative, but not to the letter, but to the online registration. They offer as the alternative the telephone registration, but still you need to read the code. So unfortunately, it is fully, fully inaccessible.

I was checking in Croatia and I could see that you can register online or by telephone or you can call your doctor, and well, the website was partially accessible, so it's really disappointing, you know, checking here and there that everywhere you see the same accessibility issues. And then there was an article on WebAim, the non-profit organisation that works on accessibility, so they evaluated, I think, 96 websites in the states that are for registering for the Covid vaccine or general information about the Covid vaccine. And almost all of them had accessibility issues like missing alternative text. No labels on form fields or things like that, and it's, I mean, it's really incredible today that all of these websites are actually new and that in this public health crisis, we still see that this is not an exception, that unfortunately, most of the websites are still inaccessible. So what I did since we have the Web Accessibility Directive, I contacted the accessibility officer here in Luxembourg and I reported the issue. I really propose that everyone that has the same issue does the same in their country. So to make a report and to make a complaint. Actually, I found a few days ago that a website called Big Hack, it's from U.K. they made a template for making an accessibility complaint on certain websites of the public sector body. So, you know, you can follow the template if you're not sure what to write. So to describe the issue, what assistive technologies are you using, the version eventually the browser and device, so to make it easier for you to report the issues and then… because otherwise, if we don't report for them, it just does not exist, unfortunately. So this is individually, I think, what you can do, but also organisations, I think, are responsible to inform the institutions about the problem. What is your experience?


(Pawel) For Poland, I can say that there is a procedure for now, as far as I understood, to make your interest known to the state that you would like to get the vaccine. So it's not even sign up for a spot is just for now somehow letting the country know I would be interested. I don't know why they do it like this, but just like it is and it somehow involves text messages, you send some kind of SMS and then you confirm something. So it's digitalised. It's not on paper. And I think there are no bigger problems with it, maybe it's not fully compliant, but it's probably accessible as it should be. I don't know for Austria because I don't have their Social Security number, so I can't apply and I don't even know if I'll be here by the time the vaccines will be available to me. But what I tested, and this is a similar kind of service or similar experience, is the application for the testing, because in Austria you can apply for you can go for test, for a Covid test free of charge as many times as you want. So like I have friends who go testing every 10 days, for example, or before they would like to meet together as a small group, things like that. And this is really cool how it works in general. You go on a website, you fill in your data, you show where you would like to take the test and when and at what time. And you have a nice overview of the data you've entered, which is a good accessibility practice at the end of forms to show what you've typed so you can confirm or deny. OK, this is what I wanted to type. And then you get a code by sms, which you have to put in the box there to confirm that it's really you and you're not impersonating anybody. And then you get the link and the code by sms which you have to show at the place where you're taking the test, they check if it's really there in the base, if you're in there on the list, they will let you in to have a test. And afterwards, you can choose to get the test results, either on paper or by, again, text message and email. And then you get information that it’s positive or negative and the link to access a QR code with some more information and the entire outline in PDF probably as well, if you will, if somebody needs a printed proof or anything like that. So this is really cool. The website is not, I wouldn't say it's fully accessible, it wouldn't pass all the criteria, all the success criteria of WCAG , but it's usable provided you are using in my case, it was NVDA and Chrome. With Firefox, it crashed. It actually froze my entire system. And I tried it a couple of times and it was reproducible every time. On Android with Chrome it would show me just like half of the link to send the data somehow. And when I clicked it just took me back to the previous screen.


So I found the combination of NVDA and Chrome to work best. And while the fields are, let’s say, labelled, but some things could be, for example, radio buttons or check boxes, and they are just clickable elements, which shouldn't be the case because you're not really sure then if you've really checked something or not. But once you learn to deal with this, you can go through the procedure on your own. I did it twice already and it worked just fine. Small fun fact. I don't know who programmed the website, but for some reason it would not accept… So they let you pick a country if you have a different number than Austrian. But they didn't adapt the edit field to accept other formats of numbers like in Austria you have ten digits for number and in Poland you have nine, so that's already wrong and it will not take the number even though they offer different countries. But once you go for this, everything else is really smooth. You arrive at the place. I did it once on my own. Fortunately, the test site is just two stops away by bus from where I live and it's very close by the bus stop and I just asked for help. But once I was there, there was already somebody who assisted me, took me through all the steps, checked my data, took me to the place where the test was taken. They took the test. They saw me off to the bus stop again. So I felt that is really thought of and it's really accessible.


And I was happy and I will probably come again when I need to have a test.


(Mario) Over here in Luxembourg had many different issues where even people could not go with our Adapto service to have the testing for a while. I have heard that they just started to do that again. But I heard that they will have now kind of guidance assistance if the people come for the vaccination.


But as Tanja said, the whole procedure for the vaccination over here is really not thought of the best. I mean, and this is, again, just my opinion. But I think that most of the people will agree with my opinion. I think the overall blind people are, by default, much more vulnerable than what the general population thinks and what the National Ministries of Health think of. Because when you are blind, you have to touch everything around you. If you are living alone and you don't have that much assistance you are doing with your hands all the time something which means that you are much more exposed to the virus and you can get…


(Pawel) Definitely


(Mario) you can get much more well in contact with the virus even if you don't want to.

And therefore I think that we should be much more included in that and that all the things should be much better thought of and that all the institutions in the local countries representing the blind people should be much more involved where they would explain to the National Ministries of Health what are our needs and how we should be treated.

Because right now the situation does not look good for blind people.


(Pawel) What about Iceland? How is it in Iceland?


(Hlynur) Like everything, it's quite casual, hehe. They say, like I probably will not have my vaccination until maybe June if everything goes as planned. They do say, however, that people are... They have like this pre-decided calendar, they have, like, prioritised how people will be vaccinated first, they will start with the… or they have already. They started with health care workers in the hospitals. And then they go to like other health care employees, fire departments, police. They have started or finished with 90 plus. Then they will go to 80 to 89 years old, then 70 to 79,60 to 69. And they have this calendar that they just change. If like let's say they get more or less of of any vaccine that might have an impact on the schedule, I am myself in the latest group. Others. Which will probably mean that I will have my vaccination in May or June. They let you know when you are supposed to when and where you're supposed to get vaccinated. You don't order it. You don't have anything to say where or when it will be done. But it is done in different places around the country. So it doesn't mean that someone has to take a bus for eight hours just to get vaccinated and then go back. Everything has been quite online and in mobile, there hasn't been like a lot of paper issues like you mentioned, Tanja. The only paper case that I know of was the information brochure for people who were entering Iceland about like how long they should quarantine themselves and what would be the next step and step and blah, blah, blah. And that was only the paper, no website, even though this wasn't any, like, sensitive information, but it was still just paper. But now they let you know with the text message or an online message on their web where you can, everybody has a possibility to log in on their own domain or as I say, or with other measures.

What those other measures are, I'm not quite sure.


(Pawel) Oh, I see. Well, here's to hoping that the vaccines will roll out fast enough that you will be able to enjoy normality again at some point and the virus will be contained.


(Hlynur) Uh, I'm hoping for that for you guys as well, actually. They believe that Iceland is now, for most parts, virus free, but we are getting quite a lot at the border, but it has since spread out that I think there were, what, 10 cases like within Iceland in the whole of February, something like that.


(Tanja) Wow.


(Pawel) I mean, the country is smaller, but there's definitely a good result. Really good. Hoping for even less.


(Hlynur) Yeah, because there have been over 100 cases just on the border, but now they are. Now you have to like provide a negative test results, which has to be younger than fifty eight hours. OK, and you still have to get tested at the border, then you have to quarantine for five days, then you get a second test. And if that is negative also then you're free.


(Pawel) Yeah anything to hold the virus at bay is good.


(Hlynur) Yeah, because of course we can we don't have any direct borders with anyone else.

It's the only way to come here is by ship or by plane or by swimming. But I would not recommend it.


(Pawel) Yeah, hehe.




(Pawel) OK. And that would be everything from us in this episode. We hope you enjoyed it and we hope you will stay tuned for the 30th, our round episode coming up again the next time around.

If you have any remarks, questions about what we have discussed in this episode or maybe some suggestions of something to share from of your own and you can always reach us at. Twitter @EbuAccessCast or via our email Thank you guys for being here with me.


(Hlynur) Thank you very much Pawel.


(Mario) Yeah.


(Pawel) Then we'll hear from each other the next time. Bye.


(Hlynur) With some gadgets.


(Tanja) Bye bye.


(Pawel) Hopefully, hahaha.


(Mario) Bye bye.


(Pawel) Bye.


(Hlynur) Bye bye.




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