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Update April 3, 2015

Whoops, where has almost a month gone? Somehow it feels like only a few days since March 8 when we posted the first installment of the iHabLog. The initial intention was to post a bit more frequently, but hopefully that will happen when necessary, and as we get better at time management.

But getting back to where that month has gone, well, it’s gone into putting the finishing touches on, you guessed it, Access Touch, the tactile diagram option for Fedora Outlier’s iOS Master Series. And because we’ve gotten so efficient at diagram creation, and the production cost is so much lower than for previous books, we’re happy to announce two major improvements.

The first is that this, and future books, will be generic, covering iPod, iPad and iPhone in a two-volume format: one for diagrams and another with descriptions and keys. This will allow the user to have a diagram and its supporting information side by side for easier reference.

The second is that we now have a total of 56 diagrams, covering virtually all native iOS apps, and showing differences between iPhone and iPad. So, with all this experience under our belts, and a good stockpile of diagrams, we will be able to offer generic iOS9 books concurrent with its anticipated release in the fall.

And yes, the iOS Master Series launch party teleconference did indeed take place on March 15, with about 40 participants. We were there to discuss the concept of tactile screenshot diagrams – how they were conceived and developed, and the benefit and advantages to be gained from using them.

And yes, only a few days after blog entry number 1, our own book, “iFeelaGrams: Tactile Screenshots for iPad and iOS8” officially appeared in the National Braille Press shopping cart. Then, a couple of days after that, we received five real live physical promotional copies. Talk about a great feeling! Now we actually have a finished product that we can put under peoples’ hands. Thank you, NBP!

As a result of visits to local seniors centres, along with involvement in the local chapter of the Getting Together with Technology Program, sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind, we are starting to receive more requests for individual iDevice instruction. Ken is great at working with the low-vision users while Tom specializes in Voiceover and braille display use.

Speaking of Getting Together with Technology, the monthly meetings are now being held at Fort Tectoria, an ideal location. Turnouts have been great, aided by the accessibility of the place, right near Fort and Blanshard in downtown Victoria. The fact that there is an excellent coffee bar just inside the front door makes it that much more attractive!

In addition, some of the training inquiries were a direct result of being invited to do a presentation on CFAX1070’s TechTalk show in late October, with host Alan Perry.

But more recently, just a day or two after the iOS Master Series launch party, up popped Mr. Perry in Facebook Messenger, asking if we would help an iPad user who has recently begun quickly losing his vision. This led to further conversation and an invitation to make a second appearance on Alan’s show on March 21.

In fact, the day before the show, Alan paid a visit to our home office, where we gave him the whole technology tour – Windows with JAWS, the Mac with Voiceover, the BrailleNote and Brailliant 40 braille displays, Everest embosser, Tactile View graphics software and how the FeelaGram production process happens.

With his rapidly evolving interest in the potential of accessibility and what we mean by inclusive design, Alan was especially interested to see how all of the screen readers would work with his online show notes, which currently exist in OneNote. What we discovered is that they didn’t really work at all. And though Alan was quite shocked to discover this, well, as Marshall McLuhan once wrote, “Break Down Is Breakthrough”. So now Alan is busy migrating everything to a nice, inclusively designed WordPress site.

During this visit, we got talking about how he and his business partner want to implement accessibility support in the training packages provided by their company, eGurus, which also works with the computer department of the London Drugs chain. And so, a meeting to consider areas of potential partnership will be scheduled when Alan’s partner, Jennifer Cairns, returns to Victoria in the next few weeks.

Anyway, because our original appearance on the show only occupied a half hour segment, we were surprised by a “We’ll return to more with iHabilitation Canada right after the news”. But nonetheless, we were ready with the BlindSquare app to show some of its features and the dramatic ways that they facilitate independent travel. We also brought some household products and gave a demo of the DigitEyes Barcode Scanner app, not only identifying products, but also reading preparation instructions, nutrition facts, local availability and competitive pricing – all issues that directly affect health and quality of life. So though we were on for more than an hour, the time flew!

So yes, we’ve definitely been busy. But we hope we’ve made up for a longer-than-desired interval between postings with all the good news.

The final news bit for this installment is that a documentary about our little Cuban rehabilitation centre has been aired on Cuban national television. Since then, our great pal Eddy, the rehab-O&M-vision-support teacher has been receiving phone calls from across the island. As a result, he has also been invited by the government and ANCI, the national blind organization, to present at a number of national events. Not only is Eddy a great pal, but he is also as shining an example of independence and entrepreneurialism as you’ll find anywhere. Yes, we provided some resources, but it is he who has made it happen, and pretty much single-handedly, too. Indeed, it is his example that often motivates us to move forward.

And, a reminder that, thanks to a program sponsored by the Lions Clubs of Vancouver Island, people who are vision impaired can apply to receive an iPhone 5S. This program is administered through the Canadian Federation of the Blind, which has already facilitated the distribution of 27 iPhones so far. If you are a vision-impaired person who feels that an iPhone can increase your independence and quality of life, please send an e-mail to [email protected]

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you next time!

Tom, Ken and Abe aka THE AbraHound

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