FSCast #169

April, 2019


LARRY GASSMAN:  On this edition of FSCast 169, we salute CSUN.  Jonathan Mosen catches up and says hello.  Larry Lewis of Paciello Group speaks to us about JAWS Inspect, plus other projects they’re working on.  And we have lots of listener comments, as well.  We’ll hear from Terry Bray, beta tester for JAWS.  And we’ll talk about how you can contact the podcast.  And that’s on this edition of FSCast 169.

CSUN Highlights

LARRY GASSMAN:  Well, John, we just got back from CSUN.  And CSUN is Cal State Northridge’s Assistive Technology Convention, has been going for many, many years, this year in Anaheim, California.  In fact, for the next four years it’ll be in Anaheim, California.  We had a great time visiting and seeing friends, seeing new technology.  And I wouldn’t miss it.  It’s one of my high points of the year.  Now, the next CSUN takes place in 2020, in March.

JOHN:  So if you’d like to mark it down on your Outlook Calendars, next year’s CSUN will be Monday and Tuesday, the 9th and 10th, which would be considered pre-conference.  And then 11, 12, and 13 – Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday – are going to be where the various presentations occur and the exhibit halls at the Anaheim Marriott.  And so I know we’re looking forward to being there again.

LARRY:  We had the chance to visit with a lot of great people, including a lot of our friends from Freedom Scientific and Vispero.  And Eric, of course, did his annual – Eric Damery did his annual “What’s New with JAWS?”  And it was a packed house.  We had standing room only in that room, and for most of the time when someone came to chat about something related to JAWS.

JOHN:  And of course later on that Wednesday evening Vispero threw their yearly reception.

LARRY:  And that was really packed because it was free.

JOHN:  Yes, of course.

LARRY:  And so a lot of people came in, yeah, absolutely.

JOHN:  Are you implying something there, Larry?

LARRY:  No, I’m saying that a lot of people came in, saw friends, networked with friends, but also ate food and drank, as well.  It’s a typical wonderful party that happens every year.

JOHN:  And I really can still not believe the number of people that walked up to us, or yelled at us from across the ballroom, recognizing our voices and wanting to know if we were John and Larry from FSCast.  I knew we had a lot of listeners, thanks to Jonathan Mosen’s 13-year build-up.  But I had no idea that many people listened.  And Eric has always said it was between five and 10,000 people a month, and he’s probably right on.  Lots of people came up to us and said hello and how much they enjoyed the podcast.  So we’re very happy to hear that and hope to be able to continue doing podcasts that will make you enjoy what you hear over the next few months.

Now, if you’d like to contact us here at FSCast – by the way, that’s F S C A S T – you can email us, fscast@vispero.com.  Or you can call us on the listener line at area code (727) 803-8000, extension 1010.

Interview with Jonathan Mosen of Aira

LARRY:  He began FSCast in December 2006 and continued for many, many years.

JOHN:  Through October of 2018?

LARRY:  Yeah.

JONATHAN MOSEN:  That sounds right.

LARRY:  Yeah, yeah.  And then he left and went on to other things.  And we’re here kind of to talk about some of those other things.  So first of all, let’s welcome – this is such a weird thing to say.  Welcome to FSCast, Jonathan Mosen.

JONATHAN:  Well, it was great to be on FSCast, guys.  You’re doing a great job.  It’s nice to be here.

LARRY:  Have you actually heard it?

JONATHAN:  I have.

LARRY:  You have, okay.

JONATHAN:  Yes, I tune in...

LARRY:  And then tune out.

JONATHAN:  ...and keep an ear on you guys and what you’re up to.

LARRY:  Yeah.  So does it seem strange for you not to be doing it after 12 years?

JONATHAN:  In some ways.  But I also think the success of a project is when you can pass it on to someone else because nobody can do the same thing forever.

LARRY:  And nor should they.

JONATHAN:  Yeah, no, that’s right.  And so when you create something that outlives you, I guess, you know, you’ve created something that’s successful.  And clearly FSCast is thriving, and that’s fantastic.

LARRY:  It is.  It is.  And there’s so much from a technology perspective, we’ll never run out of things to do.

JONATHAN:  Yes, that’s for sure.  And JAWS and ZoomText and Fusion, gee, I sound like I’m in my old role now.

LARRY:  You are.

JONATHAN:  They’re always evolving.  There are always new things happening.  And I think Picture Smart, which I’ve been watching from a distance, is super exciting.  So lots of things happening.

LARRY:  I love the concept of it.  And it works so well.  And as we record this, the update has just come out, and people will have a chance to play with Picture Smart.  And it’s just terrific.  I enjoy it very much.

JONATHAN:  Yeah.  And it’s one of those things where I’ll be interested to hear anecdotes about how people are putting it to use because that’s really – and when you work on something like this, I know from past experience in the lab, and you get it out there, what really is worthwhile is when people tell you stories about how it’s enhanced their lives.  And I’m sure there’ll be a lot of good Picture Smart stories.

JOHN:  Just like Aira, people will come up with their own unique things to use it for, things that maybe the developers hadn’t even thought about.

JONATHAN:  Yeah.  I think this is one of the wonderful things about working with Aira, one of the many things, is that we get such incredible testimonials from people who feel empowered to try new things, who don’t feel like they’re a burden on their friends and family anymore, that you can actually just have those relationships for what they were intended to be, friend and family relationships, and save all the visual tasks for Aira, who you’re effectively paying to provide you with their service.  So it’s a game changer.

LARRY:  Earlier this afternoon at the booth we met somebody who didn’t know what you were doing now.  And for those who maybe are in that same boat, tell people briefly what you’re doing now.

JONATHAN:  I have two roles at Aira, and I’ll talk about what Aira is in a sec.  But one is to grow and develop the Australia and New Zealand market for Aira.  I’m based in New Zealand, and so it made sense to take responsibility for that market.  The other is a global role, and I’m Vice President of Explorer Communications.  Explorer is the term that we give to our customers.  And some people think, oh, well, Aira must be about travel.  But when we talk about Explorers, we’re talking about exploring, not only new geographical horizons, but new opportunities, as well.

So Aira in a nutshell, if you think of a sign language interpreter, where there’s a lot of sound around you, and a sign language interpreter turns that into something visual that a deaf person can see.  And so we call Aira a visual interpreter.  We turn all of this visual information that’s around us everywhere into sound.  And that visual information could be anything from what’s on a screen that’s not accessible, what’s on a printed page, signage as you walk around, or even the expressions on people’s faces when you’re in a meeting.  Anything that you can’t readily access as a blind or low vision person, we can turn that into audio with real-time human professional agents.

LARRY:  When you first became a part of Aira, you knew about Aira.  Has there been anything in the several months since you actually worked for Aira that you didn’t expect?

JONATHAN:  When I first came into the assistive technology industry full-time, a long time ago now, somebody gave me some interesting advice when they said, “There are two things in life you don’t want to see manufactured:  software and sausage.”  And so one of the interesting things about working at Aira and being on the inside is Aira makes it seem so seamless. I mean, as a blind person who was using Aira before I worked here, you would make the call.  You’d have this highly competent person at the other end who was just so super able to describe things.  And you end the call, and you think, cool, you know, I got my job done, without really thinking about what goes on to make that happen.  And that’s as it should be.  I mean, it should seem like magic, and it should seem simple.

So I think one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate is just how much goes on behind the scenes.  So when you call Aira, the agent who answers your call is dealing with software that we’ve written called the Dashboard, the Aira Dashboard.  And that comes up with all sorts of information such as your location to help with positional information.  It has a video feed of you through the apps camera or smart glasses, and a whole bunch of other data, as well.  And so we’ve got that dashboard to maintain, in addition to the software and hardware that Explorers see.  So there’s an awful lot going on behind the scenes in terms of network infrastructure and all of that software to just make it run like the well-oiled machine that it is.

LARRY:  It’s interesting.  If our roles were reversed, and if you were to have asked me the question I just asked you, my answer would have been very similar because I was just a listener before.  I didn’t know.  And over the last several months of doing this with John, we have come to know how meticulous and how good they are at...

JOHN:  Meaning the people at FS.



LARRY:  Yeah, about pushing their product forward and doing it in such a way so that it’s informational for everybody who happens to listen.

JOHN:  Well, and everything is user based.  It goes toward the user experience.

LARRY:  Right.

JONATHAN:  Yes.  And we’ve always, with FSCast, we’ve tried to explain what it is that is rolling out, but also how you use it.  How does it actually impact your life?  Why is this good to have?  And with Aira I’m finding that I’ve got that challenge mega inflated because Aira is a new product category.  We’ve never had a visual interpreter service before, where you have professional agents somewhere who will basically give you real-time audio description.  And many of us kind of muddle through, you know.  Many of us might stockpile a whole bunch of tasks until somebody, a family member or a sighted friend comes along.  And you’ll say to them, “Oh, by the way, would you mind just having a quick look at such and such a thing for me?”  And, you know, you kind of surreptitiously ask it.

And so we have to change the way we think about these visual tasks now to use Aira effectively because we’ve got that assistance on demand for the first time in our lives.  And so one of the things I’ve also been doing is creating a tutorial that talks about not only how you use our app – and there’s a free app for iOS and Android – but also how do you actually integrate that into your life?  How do you live things differently to make the most of the Aira lifestyle?

JOHN:  You know, one of the things that you might think that would diminish a little bit with regard to all the technology is traveling because you can do so much of it from within the confines of your own home or office, but you still do a bit of traveling.  How does it compare now versus then?

JONATHAN:  I don’t do quite as much because people are much more ready to jump on a Zoom meeting, and I can do video presentations, run a PowerPoint.  Zoom works beautifully with JAWS.  And I do a lot of that, presenting to people.  I think we’re all more conscious of the environment.  And it just takes a while out of your life.  But when I do travel, and there is still some, I just find it so much less of a stressful experience now because one of the things that Aira has done is partnered with many airports.  And generally every week or two we’re adding new airports to that list where Aira is available for free, kind of like free WiFi in a public area.  And so I can often go to an airport and use Aira without consuming the minutes from my Aira plan.  And I’ve done it, you know, I’ve checked into very big airports.  Recently I did Terminal 7 at Los Angeles International Airport.

LARRY:  Oh, really.

JONATHAN:  Yeah.  And I went in there, and I got to the counter without any assistance.  I got my boarding pass.  And I held the boarding pass up to my smart glasses and said to the agent, “Where do we have to be?”  And the agent gave me the gate information.  I went to security with their assistance, and took off my glasses and things and did security.  When we got to the other side I realized that, because it was a little flight to San Diego I was on, we were going to be in one of those little puddle jumper planes at the end of the terminal.  So we got all the way to the end of the terminal without any meet and assist, and it was a really smooth experience.  And when I got there I said to the agent, “Let’s just take a look at the flight board.”  And I found that my flight was 90 minutes late.  In a situation like that, I would normally have just sat there and listened to FSCast or whatever, you know, just killed the time.

JOHN:  Sure.

JONATHAN:  But I was able to do what any other shopper or passenger would do.  And I got up, and the agent found the one place nearby that would serve me a good, healthy, ketogenic meal.  I eat ketogenically.  And not only did they find the right place, we got in line.  I didn’t have to kind of tap the person in front of me to find out if they were moving up the line or not.  So it was all very dignified.

LARRY:  The agent told you, sure.

JONATHAN:  While we were in the line, the agent read me the menu.  So the moment I got up to the counter I didn’t have to waste the person’s time by asking what have you got.  I placed my order and got my food.  And then the agent found me the one free table in the area for me to eat it.  Because normally, if you’re a blind person on your own, looking for a table, you kind of gently tug the chair to see, you know, is there a bottom on this chair or not?  You know.  So it’s just so much more dignified.  And, you know, I know there are people who will do that.  In my case, I have a hearing impairment, as well.

And not everybody are super-duper travelers.  And I don’t think that you should have to be in order to enjoy that level of independence and confidence that everybody else takes for granted.  And so Aira will meet you where you are.  If you don’t need Aira for those sorts of tasks, that’s just great.  But for many of us who do, it’s really opening up a lot of opportunity.

LARRY:  Do you take Aira for granted?

JONATHAN:  You know, I don’t.  And I thought I would.  I mean, I live and breathe Aira, and often my days are very long.  But every so often I have an experience with Aira; and it just makes me, when I end the call, it still makes me go, wow.

LARRY:  I agree.

JONATHAN:  This is so cool.

LARRY:  Yeah, it is.

JONATHAN:  And it’s a wonderful feeling to have, to be a part of a technology that is that transformative that, after a year of my using it now, I still feel that way, and I’m still doing new things with it.

LARRY:  There are several different life-changing applications for me.  And I thought I would take JAWS for granted.  I don’t because it allows me to do so many different things.  I don’t take Aira for granted.  I’m a Type 2 diabetic, and I use FreeStyle Libre.  I just started using it.  I don’t take it for granted.  It is incredibly, technologically speaking, it’s awesome.  I don’t know any other word to...

JOHN:  And the iPhone.

LARRY:  And the iPhone.  Same thing.  There are about five or six.  And I will never take them for granted because it gives me so much more flexibility and independence.

JONATHAN:  Yes.  I used to be the president of New Zealand’s consumer organization like the ACB or NFB equivalent.  And I’ve also been a passionate advocate all my life.  So I’m certainly not one of those docile blind people who think we should always be grateful for what we have.  But interestingly, a few years ago I started keeping a gratitude journal, where I would write down at the end of every day five things at least that I’m grateful for.  You can be grateful for something while also hoping for improvements in it.

And I think you’re right.  I think, you know, when you think of the kind of access that we now have compared to, say, even 20 years ago, being able to read newspapers independently with JAWS, and all these newspaper websites that there are; the level of accessibility of the web.  We still have problems, but it’s improved so much.  All the things that this technology affords us, it’s a remarkable time to be a blind person, I think.  And to be involved in something so groundbreaking as Aira, it’s a heck of a privilege.

LARRY:  It is.  Before we let you go, why don’t you give the website for Aira.

JONATHAN:  Okay.  So let me say two things.  First, the Aira app is available free for iOS and Android.  We do have paid plans, but you can use Aira increasingly free in a wide range of places and for specific tasks.  So if you search on Google Play or the iOS App Store for Aira, A I R A, you will find it.  And you can also visit the website to find out more.  And it’s Aira.io.

LARRY:  Jonathan, thanks for being with us.  And thanks for letting us catch up.

JONATHAN:  Well, it’s good to be back on FSCast.  Thanks very much.

LARRY:  You’re welcome.

Feedback:  Picture Smart and Transcripts

LARRY:  In the last couple of FSCasts, we talked about Picture Smart and the new transcript service, and you gave feedback.  It’s great feedback.  We always love hearing from those who listen.  And we have a few of those comments for you now.  Since all of our letters this time are written, I decided to use a lot of our Vocalizer voices.  Here’s Kim with a comment about our new transcript service.

KIM KLEIN:  Hello to all.  I am not deafblind, but I have been using this feature to quickly locate things in the FSCast that I want to refer back to.  The JAWS Find works quite nicely with the transcript, as does the headings list.  So in my opinion it is a benefit to everyone.  L. Kim Klein.

MICHAEL MUNN:  Hi, Mr. Gassman.  This is Michael.  Just want to comment on the last editions of FSCast.  I just read the transcript today, and it was awesome.  This transcript really benefited me.  Before the transcript option was available, I used to follow the steps by pause and play in audio, and ALT+TAB back and forth between programs.  With this transcript, I can now read the steps on my Focus Braille Display and perform the steps.

Another comment for the Picture Smart.  I really had fun on playing this feature.  Now I can just open a picture that I received from a friend through email and download it to my pictures folder, and there will be no sighted people needed for the future when it comes to describe the picture.  Thanks for the great work, and I’m looking forward for the episode after CSUN convention/conference.  Best regards, Michael Munn.

LARRY:  Next, let’s hear from Anders, who has three different questions.

ANDERS:  I have the following comments to you.  One, my wishes for future podcasts.  Increasing the focus on how the hardware products are actually manufactured.  It would be interesting, for instance, to listen to a podcast detailing how the Braille Display Focus 40 Blue is manufactured.  Who makes the different components, including the braille cells?  Who assembles it all in the end?  And not least, some background information about the entire design.  Who came up with the original idea behind the design for Focus 40 Blue, and will there eventually be new models supporting even more options, including the newest standards within Bluetooth communication?

LARRY:  Anders, that’s an interesting idea.  Glen Gordon and I and John were talking about that very thing as we looked at your email at CSUN.  So let’s see what we can do.  Not sure if we will do something, but we will talk about it some more.  And thanks for bringing it up.  It’s a great idea.  And stay tuned.

ANDERS:  Two, question about phone interview with Eric Damery in your latest podcast.  I have noted that you interview Eric Damery over a traditional phone line, and some of your other persons over a connection with better sound, e.g., Skype.  Why do you interview Eric Damery over a traditional phone line and not Skype, et cetera, with better sound?

LARRY:  Anders, let’s clear up a couple of points.  Number one, we do interview Eric Damery on Skype.  He uses a USB headset, and maybe that’s why you think he might be on the phone.  But he’s not.  He’s on Skype.  Our order of preference is to interview everyone we can through Zoom.  If that’s not possible, we use Skype.  If that’s not possible, we use the phone.  But Anders, thanks for asking.

ANDERS:  Three, a last question.  Do you have information about JAWS and support for the new Office 2019?  When will JAWS, e.g., support Office 2019?

LARRY:  Anders, Office 365 is the release version that anyone with Office 2019 is using.  So the support is already there.

PETER TAKACS:  Hi, guys.  I think this podcast transcript is a very good idea, not only for those who are deafblind, but for us, not native English speakers, as well.  Sometimes, when you make an interview on the phone, the sound quality makes it challenging to understand the content for me, who is Hungarian and for whom English is a secondary language learned in school.  Normally I understand everything, but now the phone conversations will be fully understood, too, for everyone.  Thanks a lot, and all the best.  Peter Takacs.

Interview with Terry Bray, Freedom Scientific Beta Tester

LARRY:  One of the things that we’d like to explore on FSCast is the role of a beta tester, and we’ll talk about what that is.  We also want to kind of get acquainted with, not only what he does as a beta tester, but what he does in real life.  So we’re with Terry Bray, who is from Toronto, Canada.  And Terry, how long have you been a beta tester for Freedom Scientific?

TERRY BRAY:  Since 2006, I think.  There was a little gap in there where I wasn’t.  But I came back to it.  So we’re talking close to 13 years?

LARRY:  Yeah, yeah.  But you don’t do that full-time.  You do that when you have a chance?

TERRY:  I don’t, no, I don’t do it full-time.  I do it for, obviously, personal reasons at home and with what I’m doing.  But I also do it as part of my job because we have a lot of systems where compatibility and new features quite often make the difference between what will and will not work for our users.  And it’s all about the user; right?

LARRY:  Right.  And what do you do as a full-time job?

TERRY:  So my full-time job is an accessibility specialist, although my title is Senior Technology Specialist.  And I also do something that has nothing to do with adaptive technology, and that is I run our software management committee.

LARRY:  Who do you work for?

TERRY:  For the Bank of Montreal.

LARRY:  So did the bank come to Freedom Scientific and say we need him to be a private beta tester?  How did that start?

TERRY:  Actually, it actually started because I met Eric, and he kind of approached me.  He may not tell it that way, but he kind of did.  But I do it with the full knowledge and approval of my employer.  So they know that I’m doing it.  And so it doesn’t create issues with me having beta software on my work machine, whereas other people it would.

LARRY:  And as a beta tester, if I remember correctly because it’s been many, many years, you’re sent forms.  You fill them out.  And then you sign a nondisclosure act.  And then you actually get builds of JAWS prior to their release, and you beta test them.  You put them through their paces.  You send back reports of things that either worked or didn’t work for you.  And since there are like about a hundred of us who do that, JAWS is very well tested before it actually gets to the release stage where we release it to the public.

TERRY:  That’s absolutely correct.  So the first part of your comment, we do sign a nondisclosure agreement.  And I, you know, I really do honor that.  I feel that it’s the least we owe Freedom Scientific for being able to at least – I guess they don’t call it Freedom Scientific so much anymore.  But it is, it’s a small price to pay to see where the leading edge is going, and to have positive impact on that leading edge.

You know, they do listen, despite what people may think or feel.  They are listening.  They are aware of things that do and don’t work.  They’re aware of what people need and don’t need.  And they, for the most part, at least in my experience in testing, are trying to make home use, for people who need it at home, better.  And for people doing their jobs, you know, at the end of the day it’s about people working that really matters for me.  And that’s why I do it.  Because every time a new feature comes out that lets somebody do their job more effectively or better than they could before, then we have more productive employees, and more productive employees have better opportunities.

LARRY:  Let’s talk a little about CSUN.  How long have you been coming?

TERRY:  So this would be my seventh year.  Yeah, it’s 2019; isn’t it.

LARRY:  Yeah.  And why do you come back?

TERRY:  You know, I come back because this is, especially here, this is where you get to meet and talk to the people that are actually making a real difference.  I actually heard a debate going on on a mailing list about a year – now, I don’t really listen to mailing lists, but I think it’s important for listeners to understand that this is not like an NFB convention or an ACB convention.  This is a convention of professionals.  And the argument was, well, it’s too expensive.  But these people are here, and these people are the people who make a difference in your daily lives, whether you really realize it or not.  And maybe that’s putting things a little bit strongly.  But the fact is that everybody I meet here is a passionate person who truly cares about making the world a better place for everybody.

LARRY:  Terry, this has been great.  Thank you so much for appearing on FSCast.

TERRY:  Thank you.

Interview with Larry Lewis of The Paciello Group

LARRY:  Larry Lewis is no stranger to accessibility; no stranger to the world of assistive technology.  He’s been with us for many, many years in a variety of roles, working for a lot of different companies.  He recently joined The Paciello Group and is currently the Director of Government sales and Strategic Partnerships.  I always like talking about accessibility, and Larry is somebody who is deeply involved in that.  And Larry, welcome to FSCast.

LARRY LEWIS:  Well, thanks so much.  It’s great to be here.  It’s always great to sit down and chat with you folks.  And I’m not sure if I’ve ever been on an FSCast.  I know we’ve talked plenty.

LARRY:  Sure.

LARRY LEWIS:  So it’s for sure a privilege and an honor.  And I’m looking forward to our time together, chatting about all things accessibility.

So I joined The Paciello Group, or we’ll call it TPG for the duration, just because it’s a bit of a tongue twister.  But I joined The Paciello Group last June as their director of – in a director role, primarily at first to interact a lot with different types of nonprofits and build out some of our accessibility services.  That morphed into something a little bit more where I began to work a little bit more with our government book of business, and then also some of our resellers, Vispero resellers and other organizations who wish to resell some of the products and services that we offer at TPG.

I’ve been doing contract work for Vispero and for TPG on the accessibility front for a number of years.  And actually, prior to TPG being acquired by Vispero, I’d been working with their services department on the auditing front, doing a number of different types of activities as related to training primarily sighted QA testers and web developers on manual test processes and how to use a screen reader for manual testing, desktop and mobile.  And so I have an interesting career that really started in more of the assistive technology space.

Probably about seven or eight years ago I began to shift gears and move more towards the digital accessibility side of the aisle because, regardless of what you’re using, be it an iPhone or a computer, a braille display with that or a CCTV and whatever screen reader you choose to use, if content isn’t coded according to standards that are out there that are designed to uphold accessibility guidelines, doesn’t really matter what you’re using.  From an assistive technology standpoint you’re going to be dead in the water.  And so I wanted to sort of branch out into more of that digital accessibility space, which I’ve done the better part of the last seven or eight years.  I know you and I both probably go back, I’ll date myself, all the way back to JAWS for DOS; right?

LARRY:  Yeah.  Not quite for me, but very close, very close to it, yeah.

LARRY LEWIS:  Right, right.  So, I mean, so JAWS has played a very significant role in my life, even when I worked for companies who competed against Freedom Scientific, which I did.  I used JAWS quite a bit as part of the competition process to do my job.  I mean, it’s a screen reader.  It’s not the only screen reader out there, and I get that.  I’ve used them all from NVDA to ChromeVox and all points in between.  But from an employment and education standpoint, from a federal standpoint, a federal employee standpoint, from a private sector employment standpoint, I don’t think it’s presumptuous nor arrogant to suggest that JAWS has quite a market presence.

LARRY:  Yes.

LARRY LEWIS:  Not the only game in town.  There’s freeware out there and whatnot.  But the folks who we’re working with primarily, as it relates to corporate and as it relates to education and as it relates to the government, there’s JAWS users involved.  It’s just how it is, whether we like it or not, which I do.  But I’m sure there are going to be naysayers.  We can always have freeware. 

LARRY:  Sure, sure.

LARRY LEWIS:  But not to go off on a tangent, freeware you do not get support.  And a lot of these corporations and a lot of government entities or whatever, they want that backend support that you get with a paid subscription service as it relates to a screen reader.  So JAWS Inspect pretty much came into being because individuals like me would go out for Vispero and do web page testing, training for developers and QA testers.  And everybody would be excited, and there would be this empathetic bridge built between the sighted developer and the screen reader user based on these sorts of trainings.  We would teach them how to do a few things very well for basic QA testing, not any intensive user settings, JAWS commands.  Everything would relate to things like keyboard operability, tab order, focus, programmatic focus and things like that.  And everything would be great.

And then I would leave, or whomever would be doing it would leave, and we would find that the majority of folks who we worked with would just put it on a shelf.  Once we left, the thought of dealing with synthetic speech to capture defects, to do manual walkthroughs, would often become frustrating.  Results would be somewhat inconsistent sometimes because everybody’s skill sets are different on a sighted QA team.  I mean, you and me and others, draw some names out of that hat, you know, you and me, Jonathan Mosen, Matt Ater, a handful of us could all be testing the same thing.  And there might be slight deviations.  But the deviations would really occur if we started interacting with sighted individuals who are not users, who might not know if what they’re hearing is a defect or not.

So you’ve got to capture the defect.  You’ve got to somehow put that into a format that makes sense that you can share across work streams.  You have to dump it into a tracker of sorts so that it can actually be logged as a problem and ultimately remediated.  And it’s problematic.  It’s problematic for somebody like me who’s visually impaired to manage a process where you’ve got these work streams not grasping what’s a problem.

What JAWS Inspect does is it visualizes the screen reader experience, and it associates transcripts of HTML elements, how JAWS would pronounce them, how JAWS would speak them.  It also offers reporting capability to show how a web page is laid out, how the screen reader reads the web page from top to bottom.  There’s a live testing mode so that you could actually run test scripts without JAWS speaking.  Or with JAWS speaking.  It’s fully compatible with JAWS.  And so, you know, every key press is recorded.  So if you’re basically running a test script against a user story that has accessibility built into it, you’re able to do that with JAWS Inspect without – and it is a distraction.  Speech can be a distraction for a sighted individual.

LARRY:  Absolutely.

LARRY LEWIS:  We’ve gotten a little beat up on the marketing.  JAWS Inspect, you know, sort of circumvents the distraction of speech.  For those of you who are blind listening, speech may not be distracting for us, but it is for a predominantly sighted team.

LARRY:  In fact, they can only go so many hours, if that, before they say, “I can’t do this anymore.” 

LARRY LEWIS:  Well, I mean...

LARRY:  I’ve heard this from so many people.

LARRY LEWIS:  Right, right.  And so, I mean...

LARRY:  We’re used to it.

LARRY LEWIS:  We have to accept that, while we think screen readers are wonderful, if somebody doesn’t have to use one, they’re a pain.

LARRY:  They won’t.

LARRY LEWIS:  It’s a different way of thinking, which they need to embrace to get why accessibility’s important.  But that actual execution, the beauty of JAWS Inspect is you can have minimal to no knowledge of how to operate a screen reader, and you can run reports either by keystrokes or by using your mouse.  You can also do a lot of live testing just by using your tab and your arrow keys.  And obviously you’re going to have to understand form interaction.  You have to ALT+DOWN ARROW to open a combo box and whatnot, basic things you’re going to have to know.  But you’re not going to be distracted by speech, and you’re not going to have to think in terms of when we find something because you still have to manually comb through visually through the transcripts.

When we find something, we can capture that.  We can export that out to a spreadsheet, through CSV, or through JSON [JavaScript Object Notation], which is a JavaScript language, basically, or a file format that developers like that’s going to show you the JAWS transcript, the underlying code.  And we do give unique IDs to particular things that are called out for bug tracking purposes if it doesn’t have one already.

LARRY:  So if somebody works for a company, and they want to employ the service and utilize JAWS Inspect, how do they do it?

LARRY LEWIS:  So the process typically, how the workflow would go at Paciello, typically it would come to us either through a web form or word of mouth or whatever.  We’d give them some information.  I take the lead a lot of times on meeting with these organizations – virtually or onsite, just depends – on doing a complete walkthrough.  We do have a demo version of the software that runs in sort of a limited reporting mode.  I do free targeted time trials of full functionality.  And then we ascertain what’s the best way to integrate this into the process.  Would you like a network version or standalone seats?  We do have a single seat that we sell, but we do find that oftentimes JAWS Inspect requires multiple users.  And so we often, for work sites, you know, we go to more of the network version.  And that’s concurrent users.  And that can be anywhere from five users to enterprise-wide unlimited usage.

LARRY:  You mentioned earlier you have other tools that you take advantage of, not just JAWS Inspect.  Maybe you could kind of give us an idea as to what some of those are.

LARRY LEWIS:  So we have an automated tool, which is our platform.  It’s called our Accessibility Resource Center.  And we pare that down, and we refer to it as ARC, A R C.  And what our Accessibility Resource Center is, is it’s a portal for organizations to interact with us.  It primarily has – it has four purposes.  It is a monitoring tool, or a scanning tool, first and foremost.  So far we’ve talked about manual testing with a screen reader.  There is another component to accessibility which involves the automated scanning of code to do a lot of your heavy lifting and to actually clean your code up and to map any code violations to particular success criteria from WCAG that are potentially being violated.

Both automated and manual testing are important.  They do very different things.  In the interest of transparency, you need manual testing because any automated tool may yield some false positives from time to time.  So, but nonetheless, when you’re scanning and spidering and crawling through multiple web pages, it’s important to scan and to monitor how the code is being published and so forth.  And so what ARC does, what we pride ourselves doing is providing an initial scan to give you your top three problems that need to be fixed, which is going to handle about 80% of your headaches.  And so we like to start with that.  And then we run subsequent scans once per month typically.  It allows the organizations to really chart trends as to how things are going as it relates to their accessibility effort.

So ARC really, it’s a monitoring tool, but we also have some eLearning functionality in there to teach people how to code and how to test.  We also have our complete knowledge base, which is all of our engineers’ knowhow sort of crammed into a very user-friendly format to learn how to do things.  And we have a help desk system built in for developers and testers to log online tickets and get help with different accessibility efforts for their organization.

JOHN:  So if anybody wants to contact you, how do they do that?

LARRY LEWIS:  The best way to contact me is email, which would be llewis@paciellogroup.com – P A C as in Charlie, I E L L O Group dot com.  I also have a Vispero extension which will pretty much route to wherever I’m at, (727) 803-8000.  I believe my extension’s 1909.

JOHN:  Accessibility is so important, and we thank you for being at the head of trying to make it work so that it works for everybody.  And thanks for being on FSCast.

LARRY LEWIS:  Well, it’s been a pleasure, and I appreciate the opportunity.

 Join Us for FSCast 170

LARRY:  As we draw to the end of FSCast 169, we hope you’ll be with us next month.  And if you’d like to contact the podcast, remember you can do that.  Send a note to fscast@vispero.com.  Or you can call us:  (727) 803-8000, extension 1010.  Join us again next month for another FSCast here.  And thank you so much for listening.

Transcript by elaine@edigitaltranscription.com





edigitaltranscription.com  •  04/06/2019  •  edigitaltranscription.mobi