50 Shades of Shades

by Maurie Hill on July 16, 2014

Picture of Maurie sporting her sunglasses and hatRecently Byron Lee, Rodney Edgar, and I sat around on our respective patios for another edition of the High Contrast podcast. We talked about everything under the sun, quite literally. Though sunshine is the last thing my retinas need, this is not going to prevent me from hanging out on my deck on a gorgeous day. Protecting your eyes from the sun without completely blocking vision is easier said than done.

While we certainly couldn’t come up with a unified solution, we shared our own experiences and research, and would gladly welcome your input. What types of sunglasses and hats have helped you face the bright light? Can one get protection and be fashionable at the same time? It’s kind of a lofty goal I’m striving for, so help me out here!

Listen to the latest High Contrast episode and leave your comments below.

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Moving on from Ai Squared

by Derek Bove on July 11, 2014

Out on the town at the CSUN conference

Out on the town at the CSUN conference: from left to right – Stephanie, Becca, Derek, Shawn

After almost 10 years at Ai Squared, I am off to explore new opportunities and adventures outside of my home state of Vermont. I wanted to take some time in this post to thank both the company, and our amazing customers.

It is incredible for me to think that my first job straight out of college would have given me as many opportunities as Ai Squared has given me – both in my career and personal life. For those of you that have been long time customers, you may remember myself, Gary and Maurie were on the phones in support for my first two years. In that time, I had the opportunity to create the ZoomText Tutorial for ZoomText 9.0.  Then my role expanded into sales & marketing, and finally led me to managing our ZoomText Mac product.

So many of you, our ZoomText users, have given me perspective on my life.  A 22-year-old out of college  needed to learn patience when walking someone through how to fix an issue (before we had remote support tools). In my mid-20s I learned to excel at public speaking through sales campaigns and cold calling; things I was both unfamiliar and uncomfortable with, but learned how to find my “voice.”  From there, I was able to expand my role and share with you some of my knowledge through our webinars and videos, and even meet some of you at our tradeshows and ZoomText University trainings. Lastly, having the chance to listen to our users, and being able to implement their feedback into ZoomText Mac has been one of the most rewarding opportunities in my career.

For those of you on the outside, you should know that this is a great company, with some incredible people that really care and take pride in the products and services they offer. I am proud to have been a part of this company for the past 10 years, and can assure you that you are all in great hands.

If you read through all this way to the end of the post, I have some good news for you…I was able to put a discount code into our system for 10% off any order through the end of our business day on Monday, July 14th. Just use the code DerekSaidSo on our website, or when calling in by phone – (802) 362-3612. I think I saw two men in sunglasses and black suits walk through the door, that’s my cue to leave!

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Foundation (Still) Fighting Blindness

by Maurie Hill on July 2, 2014

Maurie and Becca at the VISIONS awards gala

Maurie and Becca at the VISIONS awards gala

Becca and I recently returned from the foot of the Rocky Mountains no worse for wear after another rousing Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) VISIONS conference. Given that this was my seventh one in a row, I thought this would be the one in which I could control my emotions. Well, that idea went out the window when a parent of a child newly diagnosed with Stargardt Disease told me how our Zoomed In blog has educated and helped him deal with the news, making him realize that his daughter would be just fine. That alone made the trip worthwhile for me. Then the keynote speaker Tom Sullivan, made everyone laugh and cry with his stories of growing up blind in the 40’s and 50’s in his Irish Catholic neighborhood in Boston, where a very high fence was erected in his backyard for his safety.

But this didn’t protect him from a boy walking home from a Red Sox game, taunting him through the wired fence with “blindy . . . . blindy”. Later, some friendlier neighborhood boys inspired him to breach that well-intended fence when he heard them playing ball. Since then, both literally and figuratively, he has never stopped climbing fences. His presentation as well as most of the sessions will be available on the VISIONS 2014 website, but until then, I plan to read one of his many highly recommended books, Adventures in Darkness, which is also available as a downloadable audiobook on the NLS Bard website.

Read on!

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Mouse-oholics Anonymous – Please Step Forward

by Maurie Hill on June 25, 2014

  • Picture of a bunch of computer miceBesides normal typing, are you afraid of your keyboard?
  • Did someone have to point out the home key bumps for you?
  • Do you lean over to search for numbers and other uncommonly used keys?
  • Do you pretend that the Windows key doesn’t exist?
  • Do you think you can bypass all productivity issues with a touch screen?
  • Are you totally helpless without your mouse?

If you answered yes to 4 out of 6 questions, than you may be mouse dependent. The reason why I recognize you so clearly is because I’m in the midst of mouse-dependence recovery myself. Probably similar to quitting anything comforting, I have had several failed attempts at relinquishing my mouse, and just gave up when I found myself staring at the screen with no idea how to perform a simple task. But this time, it’s going to stick because a circuit has changed in my thinking process, allowing me to move forward instead of reasoning my way out of the dilemma I face.

First let’s take a step back; you have to have a compelling reason for giving up a tool that has served you well for so many years. There are no studies to show that your mouse habit will shorten your life. Mouse navigation is intuitive, with no training required. Give a kid a computer and a mouse and they’re off and running. But according to an article written by KeyRocket, we can save eight working days per year by using keyboard shortcuts in place of the mouse. Even if you don’t buy into this number, you can be sure their testing method was based solely on normally sighted individuals. I think it’s safe to say that the time to be saved in using keyboard shortcuts where you normally would use the mouse is substantially higher for you, the computer user with a visual impairment. As a small example, see how long it takes to send a document to your printer using the keyboard (Control + P, then Enter). Now do it all using the old familiar mouse. Catch my drift?

Read on!

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Early Memories of the Web

by Maurie Hill on June 17, 2014

Picture of the globe with a web address around itOn one of my many adventures to Philadelphia last year for my stem cell trial appointments, I stopped into meet David Goldfield at the Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASB). David is a talented Assistive Technology Instructor and he also hosts an online meeting for his local computer user group. If you’re lucky enough to be on his mailing list, he sends his thoughts about current news in the assistive technology industry. His candid opinions on blind and low vision topics are always very perceptive and entertaining. Now he has a personal blog to share his thoughts about everything under the sun.

His first article acknowledged the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web, prompting David to reminisce about the wonder and awe he experienced during his first web search. That sparked some memories of my own; I worked at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in the late eighties and early nineties, where we had fun chatting with each other over our own intranet. At that time, very few had internet service at home. By the time I moved on to my next job in a baby formula factory, everyone was starting to get a PC and surf the web at home.

Read on!

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VISIONS 2014 in the Mile High City

by Maurie Hill on June 11, 2014

Picture of the logo for Foundation Fighting BlindnessBecca and I will be exhibiting at the Foundation Fighting Blindness VISIONS 2014 conference in Denver next week. Hands down, this is our favorite conference and what a bonus to have the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop for this always eye-opening event. If you’re attending, please stop by booth number 13 and say hello; it’s always great to see you in person. We also will be presenting “The Low Vision Toolkit” from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM on Saturday, June 21st.

Check out the schedule to view all the session topics, ranging from “Stem Cell 101” to “Make-up and Fashion for the Visually Impaired”. The variety of topics is wonderful; this conference truly does the best job of providing information for those of us for whom our sight is hard to explain or categorize. Aside from the many science and “The Doctor Is In” sessions covering specific retinal degenerative diseases, the coping sessions really hit the nail on the head for me:

  • Using a Cane, Is It Right for Me?
  • Parenting a Child with Low Vision
  • Don’t Let Low Vision Bring You Down: Coping with Depression, Anxiety, and Anger
  • Keeping Your Job or Finding a New One
  • …and more!

And when attending this conference, don’t miss a thing. The opening lunch with general session keynote speaker, Tom Sullivan, will surely inspire and entertain. If you go to a science or “Doctor Is In” session, ask the questions you’ve always wanted to ask about your particular eye condition. You might even bump into one of those doctors during a relaxing mingling event. They are accessible!

Besides all this, I am most excited about connecting with a few ZoomText customers who I have talked to over the phone for years and years and will finally get to meet in person. One name you may be familiar with is our wonderful guest blogger, Janet Parmerter-DiNola, who will also be exhibiting at the conference. I’m also looking forward to meeting her husband, Keith, who was always so patient when we tried to work out technical difficulties over the phone. Surely, Becca and I will come back revived and invigorated, full of stories to tell about our adventures at the foot of the Rockies.

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Picture of the Solo-Dx logoIn the latest “High Contrast” podcast, Byron Lee and I shared our experience using Solo-Dx’s Movie Reading App while watching “Philomena” at our respective local movie theaters. Since the theater here in Manchester has no audio descriptive equipment of its own, it was a new and wonderful experience for me to hear key details, action, and facial expressions being spoken to me, which I otherwise would have missed. Even better, I was able to use my own headphones on my own familiar device.

Since the recording of the podcast, Solo-Dx sadly had to close their doors but I am thrilled to say that it was not for long. The Accessibility Hound team acquired the rights to the Solo-Dx project and will be continuing the mission of expanding media accessibility. Phew! When art and technology merge to provide something that’s so easy to use and life altering, it should not die on the cutting room floor.

In contrast, some say that parts of the new TV series “Growing Up Fisher” should have stayed on that cutting room floor. Listen to Rodney, Byron, Joe, and I discuss our differing first impressions of this TV series, which features a blind man who stops faking his way through his disability and gets a guide dog that seems to have missed out on some basic training.

Please watch and decide for yourself and let’s support the things that we find worthwhile before they are regrettably gone forever. Oh, and if you’ve always loved being read to, Joe has an interesting app review for you at the end of the podcast.

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In a recent ZoomText Mac update, we added three brand new speech features in the product. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to try them out!  If you had, you might be wondering how to change the voice used. The great news is that there are a number of human sounding voices built right into the Mac’s operating system and are available to download for free.

Today’s tips and tricks video will show you how to access System Preferences and change your voice options, as well as download new voices on your system.

Watch the video right here by clicking on the play button below, or go onto YouTube and watch it there.

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ZoomText Mac – Introducing ZoomText News

May 22, 2014

Ai Squared is pleased to announce a free ZoomText Mac update (1.1.1) which includes a brand new feature called ZoomText News! ZoomText News is a great way to stay informed with the latest product news, special offers, and any other communications from Ai Squared. A friendly alert window will automatically display news stories when you […]

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“Spirit to Soar”

May 13, 2014

Last weekend, I caught one of ESPNs “SC Featured” showcases, where they talk about athletes overcoming obstacles to achieve success. This one piqued my interest, more so after the recent news of our merger with GW Micro, as we are now not only serving those with low vision, but the blind community as well. Charlotte Brown […]

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