Oct 26, 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.
(Pawel) Welcome back to another edition of the EBU Access Cast, this is the episode for October 2020, and here we are with another portion of fresh assistive technology news for you. My name is Paweł Masarczyk and I'll be hosting this episode. And today with me, I have Tanja Kleut from Luxembourg. Hello, Tanja.
(Tanja) Hello, Pawel.
(Pawel) Also from Luxembourg coming to us Mario Perčinić. Hello Mario.
(Mario) Hey man!
(Pawel) Hey there. And Bart Simons from Belgium. Hello Bart.
(Bart) Hello everyone.
And now… Accessibility in the news.
(Pawel) Plenty of news to discuss this episode, amongst them, for example, the new survey of EDF regarding the accessibility of public sector websites in different countries, as well as the new Google products that were announced at their latest event. Also from Google, a brand new feature of audio description and multi track support for YouTube videos. Then we can't forget also about Screen reader news. There is going to be a new version of JAWS No. 2021 as is going to be also an update for other Vispero products with pretty interesting features we'll discuss in this podcast, as well as the new NVDA version. And then, last but not least, some users amongst us will be quite sad because Voice Assistant is going away. But don't worry, there will be a screenreader. Stay tuned and find out more. Also note that every time you would like to jump to a particular section of this podcast and review a particularly interesting news item, refer to your chapter list in the app where you can find all of the news we're going to discuss as separate items to choose.
Before we delve into news, however, let's see if any of you, or, hum, perhaps I got some new gadgets this month.
(Mario) Oh, you too!
(Pawel) Um yeah, but if anyone else did well, maybe I'm not the only one.
(Mario) Yeah. I got also a new phone, finally.
(Pawel) Is it a pixel?
(Pawel) Is it the Pixel 5?
(Mario) It isn't a pixel, though I was waiting for the Pixel 5 announcement and when I realised that basically they are good devices, but it's eventually nothing special for me. I give up from getting pixels. So at the end I got another phone, which is from Samsung. It's a Galaxy Xcover Pro model.
(Pawel) These are the durable ones, right? I think the series is going on for quite a while. I remember the xcovers back in 2013 or 2014. I think these models are going strong ever since.
(Mario) Yeah, the ones that I know is that they first released Xcover 4, which was like from 2017. Oh, yeah, time flies fast.
(Mario) And after that, they had few versions of those xcovers.
But now in 2020, they released the Xcover pro, which is kind of their version of a durable Samsung phone, which means that it's. Yeah, it's, it should be ... waterproof, which is cool. It has IP68 ratings and it should stand also droppings from 1,5 meter to the ground, as well as the possibility of working on the screen if you have gloves, so that's also a cool thing. It originally comes with the Android 10 and it belongs to the huge update scheme for the phones, multiple Samsung phones, not now that that belong to the 3 years period of the updating, which means that I might be getting even Android 13 when it comes out.
So that's a cool thing.
(Pawel) You are secured for the years to come.
(Mario) Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Hardware wise it's kind of similar phone to the A51 for those of you who are familiar with the Samsung devices, so it's like a Midranger. I mean, it does it's not anything high up, but it's for what we need and what I need, it's absolutely more than fine. It's coming with the 4 gigs of RAM and 64 gigs of internal memory, though Android itself is constructed that way that it allows people to put any kinds of SD cards in the phones. So, for example, I put it 256 gigs card and I can store anything that's not relating to the installation of the software to the card. So like books, podcasts, all kinds of media that I'm downloading, it can go directly to the SD card. So I'm not abusing my internal memory of the phone, which is fine. And I can tell you that, for example, right now I installed all my apps, which is like I have about 150 apps on the phone and it's, I have less than half of the space occupied, which is fine. So overall, it's really good.
Yeah, and I'm really happy with the device, it performs really well, I have to say that ...
(Bart) What's the size of the device, Mario?
(Mario) Size is 6,3. So the screen size is 6,3 inches.
(Bart) That's quite large. For a nowadays phone maybe not but...
(Mario) The thing is that it's kind of large, but the way how Samsung constructed the phone is that you have like edge to edge screen size. So basically, it's not that huge. For example, I had the previous phone, which was also kind of a durable thing, which had like 5,5 inch screen, but because of those extra protection features that it had, the phone was ... the same size as the Samsung.
(Bart) I see.
(Mario) So basically it's absolutely fine. And one of the things which I forgot to mention about the phone, is one of the really cool features which you cannot find in many today's phones. And that's the thing that it has a removable battery. Believe it or not.
(Pawel) Oh, that's good.
(Mario) Yeah. So even people, I saw like on the net, posts where people are saying that people would buy multiple batteries if they need extra juice so they would swap the batteries. But it's absolutely fine. It's USB C compatible. And there is also a power charger, that special Samsung thing, which allows very fast charging. But this has already fast charger and it does charge really fast. I went like from 0 to 50 percent in a little bit like 30, 40 minutes or so. So it's OK.
(Bart Mm hmm. Nice.
(Mario) So if you need some quick recharge, that works very well. What else? Yeah, the accessibility of the phone is fantastic.
I have to say that, you know, I was coming from the Nexus phones when they were available for a long time, which ran the stock Android and I had Moto G device in the past and that Cubott phone, which also was kind of stock Android thing. But I have seen some Samsung devices in the past from the other people, but the amount of features and customisations which the device has is absolutely outstanding. So I have to say that it's great to see like how much Samsung UAI integrated all the things relating to the accessibility, but also it has like much more functions from Samsung integrated into the phone. Like whenever you go into the settings and customisations, you will find additional features that are not available like in the native Android.
But in the same time, most of those features are 100 percent accessible for us. So that's a cool thing.
And yeah, one of the reasons why I picked up this phone is because it has physical fingerprint sensor, because right now the trend on the smartphone market is that when you are buying any kind of newer Android device, you will get the on screen fingerprint sensor, which for people who are completely blind, can be really, really tricky. And when I was even talking to the others, the other people on the Android lists about this, all of them told me, like, yeah, you can get used to it, but you will never be 100 percent precise.
(Bart) Do you mean, you have to put your finger on a very specific area, but you can touch it? You can't feel it?
(Mario) Yes. But the other thing is that also when you are defining your fingerprint in the settings for the first time, you can basically put your finger whereever you want on the screen
(Bart) And then next time it has to be on the same spot.
(Bart) Mm hmm.
(Mario) And that's the thing. For example, some people said that they kind of solved this problem with some different kind of casings where they would have some certain spots in the case, where they would touch it or so and so and so. But it's, you know, these are all the issues where you are not required. I mean, you are not precise 100 percent all the time. So it's, for me that was kind of an issue which was like eh, no, no! Because I almost got like A71, which is also Samsung device and it has really great specs. But because of that feature that where you don't have a physical fingerprint sensor, I said that, no! So, yeah, but I'm really happy with the current phone, so that's good.
(Pawel) That's great to hear. New phones are always fun to explore, especially because you have all these features to discover. And what are the differences, especially in Android land between the stock Android and the modified Android and maybe here a manufacturer had a better idea for some feature that is simple but makes a whole lot of a difference when you're using it on a daily basis. I am for instance quite happy about Motorola, where they introduced in the latest update a feature of switching tracks in my music player while the screen is locked, by holding down the volume buttons. I use it quite often.
(Mario) Oh yeah, that's nice.
(Mario) Even though my phone has one feature, which I will, actually it is not a feature that's not basically listed nowhere on the site and when I found it later that it doesn't support the ambient light sensor, I was like ehh! is this even possible? How is this possible in 2020? But it is eventually. There are phones, for example the whole Galaxy J series from Samsung, also does not support this ambient light sensor. So what does that mean?
It means that, for example, if you have the apps which have light detectors, well, they will not work, because eventually you need that sensor to detect the lights. But what's possible and I have written to one of the developers of such apps is that they could implement the feature for using the front camera to do the light detection. That's how it was done in the past when those ambient light sensors were not utilised so much. But yeah, that's that's the only kind of downside of the phone, but I was a bit surprised like, wow, how is this possible?
(Pawel) Yeah, these are these rare kind of features that nobody cares about in the basic specification. Because what everyone is excited about mostly is the RAM, the built-in memory, the processor, screen, ...
(Bart) The camera.
(Pawel) The camera of course. And then maybe does it have 4G, 5G, NFC whatever memory card or only built in memory, what kind of headphones and ports. And then suddenly it turns out that for the blind users there are these small things like the compass, like the ambient light sensor, like a good pair of microphones, like where is the speaker located so that you don't cover it with your hand while typing in Braille for instance, really quirky things. And then you buy the phone because you couldn't obviously test all of that at the shop or anywhere. And you buy it and you find that oops, it doesn't have a really tiny detail that makes the whole difference.
(Pawel) And it's difficult to find. I mean, there are websites on the Internet and apps where you can compare different devices based on even those tiny details. But you need to know about them and you need to do your research really well before you buy the phone. And even if you do that, there is no guarantee that there will not be some annoyance that will maybe even make you return the device back because there is a glitch in the software that makes your speaker go funny when you use a screenreader ...
(Mario) Oh yeah, for example.
And you know, the funny thing about my model of the phone was that in the official, Samsung specs there is nothing written about this because the manufacturer didn't find that important to say, oh, you know, this phone doesn't have ambient light sensor. So if they don't say, you might think, well, it's 2020. This might be kind of normal to have it on the phone.
But eh, no, wasn't here.
(Pawel) Exactly, the cheaper Nokia models, they are cheap and they are fine. But then it turns out they don't have a compass. And if you're seriously using GPS navigation as a blind person, ...
(Mario) that kind of sucks.
(Bart) Do you know Gari database from the Mobile Manufacturers Forum?
(Pawel) I heard about it.
(Mario) Yes, I heard for that.
(Bart) It's a website where you can compare phones, based on specific requirements, like for accessibility for different handicaps, and they are always open for feedback. So if there are features that are important for choosing phones for specifically for visually impaired people, you can always suggest them to add to the list. And it's the manufacturers who have to fill in the information. So at least they will be triggered if they see some new questions that they are relatively important for some of their potential buyers.
(Pawel) I think also GSM arena has really advanced filtering system, you can just go on there and sort your options by really, really different criteria.
(Mario) Yeah, they do. But it's kind of general. I mean, it's a general kind of website gives you absolutely good info. But I also checked the Gari site that Bart just mentioned and yes, it is definitely accessibility oriented.
Yeah, that's good.
(Pawel) Yeah. So straying away from the phones, I also have something new which I incidentally won in a competition.
(Mario) Well, congratulations. Yes.
(Pawel) Thank you. Also, if you see some kind of competition done by either a manufacturer of a device that you think you like or a shop that is selling this kind of equipment, consider taking part because somebody always wins and it may be you. So it's actually interesting.
What I have is an aid, an assistive technology piece, called feelSpace the naviBelt which is pretty much what it says, a belt used for navigation. The way I understand it is a compass that you were around you as a belt with velcro and you pair it with an app that they have over Bluetooth and you use it as like a proper GPS app, except the direction to your destination is given to you via vibration on one of the sides of the belt so you can feel what direction you should turn.
(Bart) But the rest of the information is spoken by the app then: "in 50 metres" and then you feel the buzzer on your right hip.
(Pawel) Yeah, exactly.
(Tanja) Did you have the time to test it outdoor?
(Pawel) Yes, and it works fine. Maybe it's the magic of Innsbrück where I currently am because I find myself taking longer walks than usual here. Somehow everything is accessible from within walking distance and it's not that difficult to walk around here, but it really, really helps.
And it makes a difference because ...
(Bart) Does the app then do its own turn-by-turn direction or does it go together with TomTom or with Google Maps or?
(Pawel) It does its own.
(Bart) It does its own.
(Pawel) Either it's on turn-by-turn or you can set a beeline on a specific point and you just have a general direction and then it's your job to figure out the way. So like most navigation apps for the blind do actually.
(Bart) Yeah, but it's another one. It's not using Via Opta or one of the other ...
(Pawel) Nothing external. No.
(Bart) Yet another one. OK. Interesting.
(Pawel) Yeah. And it also has a compass feature where you can get your general directions via the same way, the vibration and also street crossing mode where when you set yourself against a street crossing you turn it on so you feel the vibration. You go through the crossing and when you stray away a bit to the left or right, you can feel that the vibration changes. So you know how to position yourself to go in a straight line.
(Mario) Yeah, that's interesting.
(Pawel) That's quite smart indeed. Yeah. It's an interesting device.
(Mario) Since it's a vibrational thing, what about the battery? How long does it last.
(Pawel) It's supposed to last a minimum of 8 hours. And it's also interesting how it signals to you the percentage of battery that you have. Basically all of the vibrating motors will vibrate around your waist. And the sooner it ends, the less battery you have. So if it only reaches around somewhere on your back, then you better charge it.
(Mario) Ah, ok.
(Bart) So it makes a circle?
(Pawel) Yeah, exactly.
(Bart) Oh OK.
(Pawel) It is an interesting way of indicating information.
(Bart) Very haptic.
(Mario) Yeah. But I remember uh.
I saw that device as I don't remember if it was a prototype I think it was still in the prototype.
(Tanja) Yes. we saw it on Sight City 2017. I think at that time ...
(Tanja) No, 17. 17.
(Tanja) Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Because it was not the year when we went on Sight City with Pawel, but it was 2 year before that. And I think at that time it was not in stores yet. That was quite interesting but we just had the possibility to test it only there indoor so you know you're limited, you cannot really test it how it works on the street. And so, but it was quite interesting.
(Pawel) Yeah. That's a problem with many interesting devices on events. Either it's for outdoor usage so you can't test it because you're indoors or something happens to the internet and internet features of something don't work. Sometimes you can only take a look at the device and be happy that it looks nice.
But yeah, so time flies and the devices develop, which is good.
(Bart) That's good news. Yeah,
(Mario) yeah, so congratulations, man.
(Pawel) Thank you. And as I said, if you see a nice competition somewhere around the corner on social media, or a newsletter, consider taking part. People win at those actually, hehe.
OK, so having said all of that, let's go straight into our news and we start off with something that we already discussed last time. So the deadline, the magical deadline of the 21st of September, where all the websites in the EU, in the public sector should become accessible, have they or have they not? The EDF wants to check that in their latest publication. And for this, they need your opinion, opinion of every one of you who has some experience in their country. Tanja you have some more information about this, right? It's a survey that we have to fill in.
(Tanja) Yes, exactly. It is a survey. As of the 23rd of September this year, all European public sector websites have to be accessible for persons with disabilities and in this context, the European Disability Forum launched this survey. There are few questions based around the accessibility statement. So they ask you if the website of the organisation is accessible and do they have the accessibility statement. So the accessibility statement is an important component of the accessibility of the organisation. And you can check the survey on the EDF website. What is also important is that if you do the effort to write to them about some accessibility issues, you can do the same and write those issues to the organisation actually and raise the question in your country. So the experience that I have is that unfortunately, we are not there yet and there's still work to do, so it is important to take this opportunity when you can share your feedback and to raise this question.
(Bart) Do you know what they will do with the data collected?
(Tanja) I don't know, I guess maybe plan some new projects based on the most recurring issues. This is what I suppose this is one of my personal guess, but I don't know. I guess they will plan some projects in the future.
(Pawel) I thought some kind of publication going to be released with the findings from the survey. At least that is what I saw on the web page of Survey Monkey where you can fill in the questionnaire.
(Bart) So that's a good motivation to fill in another survey.
(Mario, laughing) Yeah, but I mean, this is also ... the thing that comes to my mind right now is that all of these data that they will need will be definitely also used for the status of the monitoring, I guess, of the websites.
And what's the real situation in European countries.
(Tanja) This will be a part, from EDF, but actually the monitoring, the real monitoring that will be from the European Commission, from national public sector bodies will not be through EDF.
(Mario) This I understand. But what I wanted to say is that this kind of data could be used for that, because eventually what could happen is that, this is just my guess, but what eventually could happen is that we might see totally different results with the for example, the official results from the commission, let's say, and the monitoring states and from the people who really are people with disabilities who, you know, filled up the survey on the EDF site.
(Bart) Oh, that's possible.
(Mario) That's possible.
(Tanja) Yeah. So it is important that we as persons with disabilities share the feedback on different instances so that they know actually what is the current state of accessibility.
(Pawel) The survey is also available in 3 languages, that is English, French and Spanish. So if you feel more comfortable filling it in in another language than English, then there are options. Yeah. So it's not really limited to just English. Yeah. So let's fill it in and let's hope that it will actually result in more knowledge, widespread knowledge about whether the European directive has actually worked or not.
Now we should discuss something a little bit different, and that is the new products that were announced at the latest event by Google, also an online event where they did it really on the last 30 minutes.
(Mario) Yes, it was only half an hour.
(Pawel) Exactly. And yet they managed to pack in 2 new smartphones, a series of new loudspeakers and a Chromecast
(Pawel) Exactly, with Google TV. This is not the same as Android TV, I suppose.
(Mario) No, but it will be replaced with the ... So the Android... It's kind of confusing at the moment.
(Bart) Yes, it is.
(Mario) Because the Android TV will be replaced by Google TV in the next 2 years. So that's the plan.
(Pawel) But it still will support the Google Play store and the apps.
(Mario) Yeah, yeah, yeah.
(Pawel) I couldn't see that from any like press coverage.
(Mario) Yes, that's the plan.
(Pawel) That's interesting because well it's a cheap device, let's say. Fifty dollars for a Chromecast.
(Mario) Yes, it is. It is like a device that you're also getting the remote with and the remote has basically, if I understood correctly, it has 2 buttons. There is a Netflix button, a magic Netflix button, because all today's remotes have to have Netflix buttons. And there is also a search...
(Mario) Yeah, assistant button.
(Bart) 70 Euro I heard.
(Pawel) 17 euros? Ok.
(Pawel) 70? Oh yeah. OK
(Bart) 50 dollars and 70 Euro
(Pawel) That's good because the Android TV devices usually were more expensive.
(Mario) Yeah. Yeah. So, this device will replace current Chromecast old Chromecast devices that was like thirty or something. Mm hmm. And yeah. Who needs a new Chromecast? Yeah that's what we have now.
(Bart) It does a lot more than casting from Chrome. It's also a complete.
(Mario, laughing) No, no, no, no. That's yeah.
(Bart) It's a historical name but does much more than that.
(Mario) Yeah. Yeah. But even the original Chromecast passed that a long time ago. You could now cast from, well, lots of different sources.
(Pawel) Yeah, if you look at Google Play under Chromecast, you will find really a lot of creative uses for this. There is even a microphone option so you can turn your TV into sort of megaphone style broadcast device. There are even, I think, apps for playing old school games on Chromecast. So you have a sort of like gaming console control with your phone as the pad. So, yeah, it's not just like boring sending of photos or videos from here to there. It's really well expanded solution. Do we know how to control this device? So when the Android is already on there? Hopefully TalkBack will be as well. How do we control the? Where do you make the gestures?
(Mario) No news about that yet, I can say.
(Pawel) That is interesting, because Google usually includes something. I think even with Stadia there were accessibility mentions. So I'm pretty sure they have something.
(Mario) Yeah. Yeah. There must be something.
(Pawel) And the new Pixels with 5G.
(Mario) Yeah. They also announced a new Nest audio speaker which is basically replacing the original Google home.
I have to say that regarding their presentation, which they streamed, they did kind of gimmick thing which I found quite annoying as a person who is being, you know, working with audio, because they were saying that the new speakers, besides having a little bit different look and blah, blah, blah, that it has a new set like that, that the overall sound is 75 percent more louder and that it has like 50 percent more base than the original speaker, blah, blah, blah. And then you could see in the presentation thing where they said, like, oh, now we are going to show you, like the presentation, how it sounds. So you could see, you could hear really in the presentation, Google assistant announcing that the song will start and eventually that presentation was coming out from the speaker. But then when the song started, they switched to the, you know, original sound of the song, how it sounded.
So they were faking basically... hahahaha... how the device sounded.
(Pavel) Ai ai ai, naughty, naughty
(Mario) So they were faking how the device sounded. But eh, Well, okay. Yeah, but I mean, OK, I'm sure that there is a kind of improvement definitely on the sound point. There is one thing which is kind of a, I would say, huge for people, because from what I understand is that they were saying that if you for example, right now you can pair 2 of their Nest audio devices and they can be paired in stereo. While the old Google Homes couldn't do that. You could make a group of speakers in different rooms, but they couldn't run in stereo if you had, like, 2 of them together.
And basically they are also looking to ... if you have like 2 of them together, you could completely replace your, let's say, stereo system at home if you want to. They could be used as the alternatives to Sonos speakers or the other sound bars that are available.
So that's now available from Google.
Um, and, of course, all the functionality that originally was supported by the Google home is also here, so you can work with the assistant and talk to it. That is the same. There is one thing different on the newer speaker: the microphone mute is no longer a button, as it was on the original home speaker, but it's a switch. So that's maybe even better for some people. So, yeah, that's a good thing. And they also released the new Pixels. Yeah. Pixel 4A 5G. Man, what a name. Pixel 4A 5G and the Pixel 5 phones. They are in Europe available from ... so Pixel 4a 5G is 500 euros and Pixel 5 is about 650 or a little bit less. And it's available for pre-order already in the Google stores, who wants to order them?
They do have all kind of, yeah, newer features, the 4a 5G is equipped with the 5G antennas. As well as the Pixel 5, but in the same time, the, I mean, people who are doing the hardware, the announcements all the time, of the smart devices, they saw in the hardware specs that the price of the 5G of the Pixel 5 is a bit, it's a bit pricey. And that's just because of that 5G model, which uses some kind of specialised MMW or how it was called module, which is just being used in the States. That's kind of a special antenna that's for 5G that's used just in the States. And that antenna cost, well, some some lots of money.
And they were saying that if any other 5G model would be used, they said that the Pixel 5 should be much cheaper, but yeah. The good thing is that Pixel 5 is finally IP 68 and it comes with 8 gigs of RAM and it's quite fast, even though the battery is also expanded. So it should be OK. It's about 4500 milli amperes. Even though, keep in mind one thing if you're buying 5G device for the moment, if you go and buy anything that's 5G and you are in the situation that you can use the 5G network, your battery will drain really, really fast.
That's not only the thing related to the Pixels, that's the thing related to all the devices that utilise 5G.
So, yeah, you will have a fast download and fast upload and all the things that 5G offers, but your phone will get quite hot and the battery will die quite soon. So that's why I also didn't get to 5G phone for the moment. 4G is fine for me.
(Pawel) Well, let's wait for the technology to mature a little.
(Pawel) Maybe then will be more battery efficient in the future. One feature I'm really excited about that the new Pixels offer is the hold for me feature where you can actually ...
(Mario) Yeah that's. That's yeah.
(Pawel) Yeah. A call centre, a phone line where you are placed in the queue and you have to wait forever and ever. And then what the phone does for you is it will basically let you disconnect for a while or put it away and it will send you notification once the call was answered by an actual person who would like to help you. So then you can return to the call and talk to them. I think it's really great. I was once holding a line for a friend for like half an hour and listening to "Hit the road, Jack" was certainly interesting, but over and over again in a loop. I think it's better if ...
(Mario) Well, you're not anymore in Luxembourg. If you have to call Mobiliteit central and you wait for them to answer the phone, it can take up to an hour. Believe it or not. So, yes.
(Pawel) Yes, exactly. When you are like the 30th person in line, it's good that such solutions exist and that Google makes this smarter for us. Well, there were these plans, the Duplex feature, that was supposed to ... and I think it still works, but only in English and in the States.
(Mario) Yeah, but I'm also wondering how this hold feature eventually works. I mean, is it listening? Is it listening what kind of message does it say that you have to wait or there is some kind of other, I don't know, DTMF tones in the background? So that it knows when to pick up the line, because if it's a language specific thing, then I'm afraid that in the most countries that are not English speaking countries, we might have a problem.
(Pawel) Maybe it controls, maybe it watches for some repeating frequencies, because usually when you wait in the line, the sounds that you hear is pretty much the same. It's mostly music. And then some announcement coming back every now and again, the question is how fast you catch it when it changes.
(Tanja) But I had also the experience sometimes that there is nothing when you're waiting, which is quite annoying.
(Mario) That's also true.
(Tanja) Yes. You have a message at the beginning, but then later you have nothing. But well, it's interesting to see how it actually works because maybe it does not depend on the language. We don't know for the moment.
(Mario) Maybe not.
(Pawel) It may also require the providers of such services to become a bit smarter because another feature they are offering now on the Pixels is the enhanced call screening, where if a company calls you, they can put in a reason of the call. So you can see why they are calling you as well. This, I suppose, they have to attend to manually if they want this to work.
(Pawel) Yeah, so we'll have to wait and see. So this is one of these features that people will have to consciously use.
(Pawel) There is also another feature from Google that people I hope will start using consciously once it rolls out globally. This was actually announced at the #GAconf, which is one of these big events for game accessibility. While presenting the trailer for the latest Assassin's Creed Valhalla game, Ubisoft showed it, it turned out that there is the ability in YouTube now to upload multiple audio tracks to one video so that if you offer a video in several languages, you don't have to re upload it over and over again. You just upload it once, you add the additional audio, and it is synchronised and you just choose it on the website or in the app. And the good news is there is also the possibility to add audiodescription tracks. So in the show notes, you will find a link to the trailer. And if you go in there and with your B letter, you navigate through the buttons and in the player area you find the settings button. It's an expandable button and you open the menu there, you'll find a sub menu called audio tracks and you open that and you have 2 options, English or English audio description. And you can switch and switch over to the audio description version of the trailer. So I don't know if this has been announced officially. I haven't seen any official announcements from Google yet. So there is no technical specification of how it works. But the demo works surely. I tried it and it's there. So it's to be hoped that quite soon we'll also see how this exactly works for creators. This is definitely a great news because we have been waiting for so long and there have been these alternative solutions like You Describe where volunteers could practically describe YouTube videos to you. But finally, this is natively integrated and I only hope that the YouTube results we enjoy watching on a daily basis or organisations who provide really essential or interesting content will care to add this description where necessary.
(Mario) So how is actually this preparation of the audio tracks done?
(Pawel) This is the part that we still don't know because it's not widely available. I really hope you can add it in the creator somehow in an easy way, because, yeah, there is a way, of course, in an mp4 file to add multiple audio tracks, multiple audio containers. This you can even do via VLC Media Player when convertin. Uh, maybe Youtube can read from that too. So if you are that professional and your video editor allows you to add multiple audio tracks, YouTube can fetch from that. But I also hope that there is an alternative way via the YouTube Studio interface. But we'll have to see about that when it's released.
(Tanja) But it is quite surprising that there is no mention on the Google support page about this, because actually it is not straightforward, because you would not go into settings to search for audio description.
(Tanja) And what I find also confusing that there is a button in the player for subtitles and closed captions, but when you go in the settings in the drop-down menu, you can find again the closed captions and subtitles menu, which can be expanded. Because, in the player it is on or off, but there, in the settings you can see off. And then depending whether the video has real subtitles in another language or auto generated closed captions or subtitles.
(Mario) I think it's ...
(Bart) It's also different tracks that you can have. So you can indeed have captions in several languages. Therefore you would have to choose in the settings. And YouTube is producing automatic captions for almost every video, but they are of course, not good enough. There are errors in them.
(Mario) And it's only for English, I think.
(Bart) No, no, it's not.
(Tanja) No, no, it's not.
(Bart) But of course, the quality for English will probably be higher than for other minority languages. But they offer it for many languages.
But when you go in as an author of the video and you correct the subtitles, it becomes a separate track. So the original autogenerated still exists and you add the real ones as Tanja says it: the corrected ones. And so indeed there is a toggle button to switch on and off the captions. The author can set the primary track, but in the settings button you can modify it.
And I agree with Tanja that it's unfortunate that for audiodescription, there is not such a toggle on/off and we have to go and discover it in settings whether there is an option available, but at least it's a step forward.
And I really hope that for authors of video, it will become easier to insert the audio description because it's not easy for most people to record this on the right time, because your audio should not overlap with ... your audiodescription should not overlap with the audio of the video.
(Bart) There are no easy tools for amateurs, let's say, to the record audio description, I think, except for those services that you mentioned, like You Describe. So I really hope that YouTube will make it easy for authors to produce the audio description as well.
(Tanja) But I also think that they should think how to make it easy for users, because I think it is confusing to find closed captions under 2 different menus or one in the player directly and the other in the menu, and audio description that is hidden in the settings. So I think it should be organised a little bit more different, but maybe the time will show.
(Pawel) It should be toggle settings like Netflix does where you define your preferences from the start. So I am usually an audio description user and I speak this and this and this languages. And then as soon as the track is available in that given language or any audiodescription, though, it will be automatically turned on for you.
(Mario) That's what I just wanted to say as well.
(Pawel) Oh, sorry, I just ...
(Mario), No, no, it's ok.
(Mario) I think I see practical also problems with the current implementation:, for example, you would start to watch some video, but your audio description track would not start automatically, so you have to pause the video, turn the audiodescription on and then go back and start again, which is kind of time-Consuming.
(Tanja) Yes, and I don't see a shortcut to activate the audio description because you have to go in the menu. And for example, for close captions, you have a shortcut in the player, so that would be good as we use the keyboard to have a shortcut for audiodescription.
(Pawel) So, yeah, for the moment, it looks like the main focus of the feature is the audio tracks for languages and the audio description aspect is there somehow by the way.
(Pawel) Hopefully expanded to make it more prominent. But for the time being, we don't even have a definite documentation on how an average creator could actually integrate it so well, we have to wait until this will be something more official.
(Tanja) I wanted to say that it is great that it is there as a possibility and we can take advantage of it now, and as more as we use it or, the authors will use it, probably it will develop in the future.
(Mario) Sure. The only thing what we can do for the moment is to also act on the accessibility support channels for Google because Google is the owner of YouTube. So there are ways how we as people with disabilities can contact Google and we can definitely say what we wish for, for example, all the things that we discussed right now in the podcast.
We can definitely also, not only we, but our listeners who agrees with us, they can contact disability support group because the way how the things are getting solved in Google relating to problems with disabilities is that they're raising the tickets for some problems and if certain problem gets enough votes, then it gets solved out. And so. Yeah, the more people react on it, the more results we will have.
(Tanja) Is there a place or website where we can react about this... related to YouTube?
(Mario) Yes. So there is a ... we can put also the link again for the contact information for disability support channels. Basically, you can also use Be My Eyes and call to disability support from Be My Eyes directly and communicate that thing with them verbally or if you want you can do that in written form as well. That's how I raised, for example, a few issues myself.
(Pawel) Yeah, so they also care a lot about what you see on Twitter, because if you talk about their products and the accessibility, even in your private tweets - not private messages, but private tweets where you don't mention Google specifically - or you talk to somebody on Twitter and you say, yeah, this doesn't work in terms of accessibility. Suddenly turns out they respond to your tweet and they say "would you like to raise an issue with our technical support for accessibility?" And they give you a link. So they definitely would like you to give them your feedback. And also, every - if you're using Android -, every app that Google made has a "more options" button where there is the "send feedback" option.
(Mario) Yeah yeah yeah
(Pawel) Then it goes escalated to the right department and the right team responsible for this particular app.
(Pawel) Speaking of accessibility and being close to screenreaders, we quite often mention what's new with Vispero products. And this time it's no different because, well, the year 2020 is coming to a close quite soon and the year 2021 is coming and with it the new versions of JAWS, Fusion and Zoomtext. And they have some interesting features, especially one which is the voice assistant nicknamed The Sharky for JAWS and Zoomy for Zoomtext. So when you call out Sharky, you can ask to make your speech faster, make your speech slower, read from this moment on and do some kind of recognition. A lot of commands that you normally use with your keyboard shortcuts, you can call out from your microphone. And this is really interesting. I wonder if a lot of people will use it. Definitely it's useful for people with motoric impairments.
(Mario) Absolutely, yeah,
(pawel) Yeah, as they don't have to use any external software to do the work anymore because obviously it was possible before to use the computer via commands. Now it's built in. But I think also for many of us who are sometimes doing things in the background and I don't know, reading a book, for example, and we would like the speech to go slower and would like to pause or resume. This would be definitely useful when we have our hands busy with something else. For the time being, it's available in, I think, 6 languages. There was English, French, German, Dutch, probably Italian and Spanish, and it uses the Microsoft speech recognition engine, which sadly is not yet available in a lot of languages. So many users will not be able to use it for a while, I'm afraid. And yeah, it's an interesting enhancement in this era where every company has their own voice assistant. Now Vispero is doing the same for a screenreader, and I think it's an interesting move to innovate.
(Tanja) And do you know if speech recognition is linked to the language of JAWS? Or you can change it manually?
(Pawel) I don't know yet, but I would suppose it rather will be, unless there will be a setting for this somewhere. But it would make most sense because then it's using the same translation basis.
(Pawel) So I think it will be like that.
(Tanja) Mm hmm.
(Pawel) We'll have to see.
And also other than that, now JAWS is able to give a bit more in-depth description of images in the recognition mode. It can also insert the OCR content straight into an Office document. And yeah, it receives a lot of enhancements for the OCR module, and that's the focus of this update, I would say. So watch out for the beta. It's already available. And yeah, if you have any experiences with Sharky, give us your feedback. It would be interesting to hear it.
(Pawel) And not only Vispero updated their products because also N.V. Access is proud to present the new NVDA version. It's the 2020.3.
(Mario) Yeah, it's the R.C. at the moment, I mean, the stable release is just behind the corner, basically.
(Pawel) Yeah, and what can we say is new in there? I noticed, for example, the ability to detect unlabelled graphics and to navigate between them, and there is also the option to assign any system shortcuts, keyboard shortcuts, to a shortcut of your choice in NVDA.
(Mario) They also have now touch screen support shortcuts as well.
(Pawel) Oh, that's nice.
(Mario) Which can be turned toggled and pfff what's there...
(Pawel) Some more ARIA: I think ARIA mark, one of these values.
(Mario) And among many different bugs, which they solve from version to version, there is a one thing which got solved and I'm pretty happy that it got solved out. And that's the thing that eventually was causing some sound cards to make the problems with speech synthesisers, where you would, for example, read something and then you would hear the beginning of the word cut out and the end of the word cut out again. And that would also affect, like the USB speakers or USB headset, even Bluetooth headset especially. So what they've done in the new beta release was that they left the communications channel between the speech synth and the sound card open all the time so that there is no more those cutting issues. And that's supported for all the speech synthesisers for NVDA built-in like eSpeak and all the new Microsoft voices. So that's good.
(Pawel) I think there was a plugin for that at some point that
(Mario) There was a plugin for Bluetooth just.
(Pawel) Ah yeah.
(Mario) Yeah, that was a plugin for Bluetooth but it's no longer, I think, in development. So right now it's no longer needed basically.
(Pawel) I'm really happy about the system emulation thing, because if I get it correctly, I think we are, for example, able now to assign certain shortcuts to Braille display accords.
(Mario) Yeah. Yeah,
(Pawel) That's great because for example, my difficulty with switching to use Braille more is the fact that I use Twitter a lot and the specialised Twitter clients have a lot of shortcuts that you need to use in order to operate the programme fully. And yeah, until now it was very difficult to press all these Windows, alt, control, arrow keys and hopefully now it will be possible to assign some kind of Braille chord to this shortcut and this way access Twitter or any other software more conveniently.
(Bart) So you can assign them not only to NVDA's own commands, but also to other programme's shortcuts in general.
(Pawel) I think, yes. I mean, any combination of keys, as I understand it, can be assigned to anything in NVDA. So desktop layout shortcuts, laptop layout, as Mario said, touch screens and I believe it should also work with Braille displays.
(Mario) Mm hmm. Yeah.
(Pawel) Yeah. So this would be really great.
(Pawel) And we'll still stay for a while in the screenreader's land because well 2 of them are getting an update and one of them is going away. And that is the Voice Assistant from Samsung. We have seen the changelog for the one UI 3.0 based on Android 11. So that's what you, Mario, are going to get probably quite soon. And the changelog mentions that the Voice Assistant app is gone and TalkBack comes back.
(Bart) That's a big news.
(Mario) It is, though, I have to say practically that when I was configuring my phone, I could get the Voice Assistant running right away.
So for example, I would press the 2 volume keys on the phone and if you hold them, the accessibility comes up. So the Voice Assistant comes up. But then later, of course, I had to download TalkBack.
I mean, now it's called Android Accessibility Suite, from the Play store. And what I noticed right away when switching from one to another is that the Voice Assistant is much more clunkier than TalkBack for current version of TalkBack. And one of the reasons why Voice Assistant is more clunkier is because the way how Samsung built Voice Assistant was that they downloaded really, really old repository of the TalkBack, which was, yeah, basically available for general public. Was it open source? I don't know, but it was available for download as a source code. So they forked that old version of TalkBack and they implemented lots of functions which people liked because it had quite similar usability as the VoiceOver on the iOS devices. There was even a triple home gesture for turning the Voice Assistant on and off before. But right now the TalkBack supports all of the functionality that the Voice Assistant used to have or let's say still has, but it's no longer needed for Samsung to do that. So eventually, that's why Voice Assistant is going to retirement and it will be available for all the devices which are getting Android 11 and in the future so no more Voice Assistant. There will be just TalkBack.
Which I find OK. I mean, if we came to the point where, you know, TalkBack matured finally enough to work OK and we can also see the Samsung and Google were collaborating more on the accessibility altogether. Well, I don't see why why not then if the TalkBack is now included. That's absolutely fine.
(Bart) Is there any other possibility for installing a screen reader in Android? Long time ago we had something called Spiel. Is there still something around or is it only TalkBack at the moment?
(Mario) Oh, OK. You touched the interesting topic. Spiel is no longer in development, let's say shortly and it's not in development for a long time. We used to have another thing from China.
It was called Shine+
(Pawel) That was from Korea, I think.
(Mario) OK, and then it was Korea then, yeah, I think it was China, but anyway, somewhere from Asia.
And that thing had quite some nice features, but it was not developed frequently.
And now we come to the interesting topic of discussions which even Pawel and I had offline. And that's the thing that is called commentary screen reader.
Now, the thing about the commentary screen reader, keep in mind that this is my personal opinion, but I, as a matter of fact, there are people in the other parts of the world which kind of think the same. But the thing is as follows. The overall product is really good. Like it's amazing how much the product can do if we take into account that from what we know, it's developed by only one developer in China. So that's a Chinese thing. It has been ... community kind of picked up on it like last year and for the last year, they started doing the translations and now there is like international version of the Commentary available. But now we come to the big but.
The problem for the moment is that as the official Google Play store is not available in China, the overall product is not officially distributed via any kind of official distributing channels. So right now, only people can get it from like Telegram. And, yeah, the other kind of sources and from my understanding is that once you install it on the phone, then you could basically like get the updates directly from the Commentary itself.
But it's still not ... I mean, we still didn't come to the point where we could be publicly available.
(Bart) So it's not like endorsed by Google?
(Mario) No. No, no, no.
(Bart) And there are no other ... it must not be an easy job to develop a screenreader competing with TalkBack, Google's own product. It must not be easy.
(Mario) Absolutely not.
(Pawel) Android gives you the possibility to do that because you can install third party things. But then, yeah, it's hard to find a product that is something more than somebody's hobby that somebody seriously picks up on and develops. There are, of course, also like special phones made for the blind, which have some custom screen reader on them. I think Kapsys is one such device.
(Mario) Yeah, but we didn't hear from them for a long time actually. If there is anything new.
(Pawel) Yeah, I think there is also ...
(Bart) NVDA also started as a project of 2 people. So it is possible, but it's hard work to build and maintain a screen reader for all these devices.
(Pawel) I was just saying it's difficult to find an example like working out there. People have been trying to fork TalkBack of course, and add some things on top of it or change sounds or do anything to it. But yeah, at the moment it's it's mostly TalkBack.
(Bart) As a long term project that's very heavy, I think, to maintain.
(Mario) Yeah, but as I said, you know, regarding the functionality, people are really happy with how this Commentary performs and in some ways it even works better than TalkBack. People are especially saying that regarding the responsiveness of the devices is much, much more responsive than what TalkBack is.
(Bart) But the question remains, do you trust your device in the hands of one individual?
(Mario). Right. Sure. And especially, you know, I'm not kind of conspiracy theorist, but, you know, if something comes from China, China, China.
Well, you know that today the situation is kind of tricky. There was at a certain moment, I remember even there were lots of, I would say, unnecessary questions that the commentary was asking for users for the permissions rights. And that was a huge ... there was a huge debate about it on the Android lists, whether why it needs that permissions and so on and so forth.
(Bart) I would think that if you wanted to do that kind of thing, that there are bigger markets than the screen reader users to target. But yeah, you never know.
(Mario) Yeah, yeah, yeah. But that's how it is.
But I mean, as of the official channels, TalkBack is the official screenreader we have.
(Bart) The only one in the Play store.
(Mario) The only one in the play store. And it does get better. And I think that we should absolutely supports the fact that this is happening. What's happening with the situation, for example, with the Voice Assistant, I am coming back on the topic, that, you know, now it's a process and basically it changes for the Voice Assistant, so that's good.
(Pawel) Yeah, I personally would miss a couple of solutions they had in the Voice Assistant. Particularly, I believe there was an option to quite quickly navigate between activities. If your app offered actions, for example, in WhatsApp now there is an action to mark an individual message so you can mark a couple of messages and select tehm and perfrom batch operations. And in TalkBack you have to open a menu and find the action. Not that much work, but if you think about the rotor on iOS and the way actions are organised there, it's really handy. You just turn the wheel to the right position, slide down and there you go. And you can, for example, delete the message instead of double tap and hold, find the option, do something else. And in Samsung you could basically scroll with one gesture, if I recall correctly, between the actions and then you just chose it on a particular element. So there was no need to open new windows.
(Mario) Oh, yeah, OK, true. But maybe this kind of thing will be expanded in Android 11. That is something we don't know for the moment.
(Pawel) Yeah, hopefully this will be, because I never found this interface of actions that convenient. And I wasn't the only one because Facebook was considering adding the actions as well for the posts. So you have one flick per post and then in the actions you can, like, comment and do whatever you want. But then they said it makes as much sense to implement this as to put an actions buttons next to the post element that you double tap and you choose from an extra menu.
(Pawel) So eventually even they - one of the biggest developers for the Android - they gave up on the idea altogether, which is sad, but maybe the interface will be reorganised in the future. I think also there was this possibility to instantly look up your battery status and the time and your network coverage, wifi and the status of a couple of other things in one gesture. But this was more relevant when it was difficult to access the status bar in Android, I think prior to Android 6, you could only read the entire status bar in one go. So if you only cared about the battery, that was difficult. And I think they have much better editing options. So, for example, if you are reading something and you would like to select a portion of this text that you're reading, but not the entire item, just some words or whatever, copy out a phone number or something. This is, I think, still somehow better organised in the Voice Assistant because there are gestures to accomplish that somehow and people really like that. On the other hand, the problem of Voice Assistant is that - as Mario you already said - it's based on a really old TalkBack version.
(Pawel) And therefore it hasn't caught up with all the accessability API updates that Google has released ever since. And often we ended up in situations where developers tried to make their apps accessible and it turned out that OK, with TalkBack everything works fine, then with Voice Assistant, it doesn't work at all or it works much worse than in TalkBack. There are some navigation problems, not everything is read, and then people are complaining that, well, the developer did not really care to make it accessible for everyone because he only made it accessible for one screenreader. But the problem is not in the app itself. The problem is with the screenreader that also doesn't catch up with the specifications. And that's generally the problem of accessibility. Even if you look at the WCAG guidelines, you realise that a lot of the recommendations there are made sometimes in order to avoid some commonly made mistakes in screenreaders, or at least some of the accessibility courses teach you that, you know, a good idea is to do it like this because then this and that screenreader has a problem in reading this and that this way. And maybe you in order to be fully compliant or fully comfortable with everyone, you should do it in this particular way to avoid this problem. And yeah, it's also sad because Samsung was a big supplier of phones and people were buying them really gladly. Well, somebody is putting a lot of effort and then a huge user base says "well, your work went to waste because it doesn't really work with my screen reader." So what's the use of the accessibility enhancements.
(Bart) Did Voice Assistant have braille support?
(Pawel) Uh, I don't think it was there.
(Mario) No, I don't think so.
(Pawel) You still have to install Brailleback. I mean, TalkBack doesn't have it built-in either.
(Bart) No, no no, but could it work with Braille back?
(Mario) I think yes. Once you installed it, I think yes but ...
(Bart) We can skip it.
(Pawel) Brailleback is like a separate screenreader.
(Mario) It's kind of like a separate service.
(Bart) Let's skip it, sorry.
(Mario) No. you raised a valid question, that is OK.
(Pawel) I'm interested to see what happens with the other Samsung features like the camera faces detection or the ability to switch between the keyboard with lifting your finger and double tapping on letters. And I think the curtain, because Samsung was the first to introduce some kind of screen curtain. I think this is not relevant anymore that much. So maybe they'll get rid of it or maybe they even leave it because the TalkBack curtain doesn't have these root privileges to really turn off the screen. And I think with Samsung, I mean, that's the manufacturer. So maybe they have more power over their own device and the curtain can be a bit more effective in what it's supposed to do, not just saving your privacy, but also battery.
(Mario) Mm hmm.
(Pawel) And yeah, that's
(Mario) What I'm hoping is that, for example, I noticed when testing the Bixby on my phone, which is a Samsung version of the Google's Assistant, I noticed that right now on the Android 10 the situation is if you run the newest TalkBack with Bixby, it's breaking up. So Bixby starts speaking and then TalkBack jumps in the middle of the announcement and then the Bixby stops talking. So I'm hoping that this will be resolved in the official release when Android 11 comes up. So that TalkBack doesn't interfere with Bixby because Bixby is an official Samsung thing, and if they're planning to include everything all together. So I think it would be good that this bug is sorted out.
(Pawel) I think there are also some discussions between Samsung and Google to somehow make Google assistant also available on Samsung more prominently. I don't know if this means that Bixby goes away. I wouldn't say so because there are also some new features being added continuously, but they are thinking of some kind of closer cooperation there as well. So.
(Mario) Well, that would be great, because right now, as I have Samsung device, I don't have a side button to call the Google assistant. I need to caal it via a soft button.
(Pawel) Yeah, I see what you mean. Yeah
(Mario) Or I can shout to the phone, that is also available. But the problem with the - if you have too much Google devices in your house - is that once you shout the magic word, all of them are turning on at the same time. So you cannot just call the assistant on your let's say smart speaker. But if you shout, everything turns up and it's great, it's kind of ... it can be quite cacophonic some times.
(Pawel) Yeah. Another issue I also observed with my phone is when you have the voice matching enabled, so you can use the hot word to activate the assistant, the microphone is partially blocked and you can't really go stereo, for example. And when I disabled the hot word, I realised, OK, the stereo works again. So this only started happening in Android 10. So before it was completely fine. Now.
(Mario) So you mean if you're recording, or?
(Pawel) Yeah, yeah. If you in general have this on, you will never be able to go stereo, at least with my phone, because it will be always mono with some kind of worse quality. And when the hot word detection is disabled then everything works normally.
(Mario) Oh, man, that's kind of big.
(Pawel) I mean, again, Motorola thought about, maybe not about that, but about some kind of alternative use case and they added like a double power button click to open the assistant. It's also quite handy to open it now. And yeah, nobody is listening in on my microphone. (laughing)
(Pawel) Yeah. So, that will be it for today. I think that's all we have for you in the news. We hope you enjoyed it. It was some pretty interesting stuff we covered in here, I think. And a lot for you to listen to, process, discuss and get ready for the next batch in November. So thank you for being with us here today. Remember that every time you would like to leave a comment or feedback or anyhow let us know anything that we might find interesting, you can reach us either by email at EBUAccessCast@euroblind.org or Twitter @EBUAccessCast.
Thank you for listening. And we hear from each other in approximately a month's time.
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