JOHN GASSMAN: Welcome to FSCast 173 with John and Larry Gassman. We’ll hear shortly about the new JAWS, Fusion, and ZoomText updates coming your way this month. And David Kingsbury is with us from The Carroll Center to talk about his new book, “Format Your Word Documents with JAWS and NVDA.” And John Gassman – hey, that’s me – has just won the highest award that Disney can offer its cast members. All of that coming your way on FSCast 173.
LARRY GASSMAN: Hi, everybody. Larry Gassman, along with John Gassman. And it’s time once again, as John just said, for FSCast 173. So much to get to. We thank you so much for your feedback, and keep continuing to write and/or call because we love the comments, as well. And if we can help you with something that you’re having an issue with, we’d be happy to pass it along. Now, to get in touch with the podcast, you can email us, email@example.com, or you can call us at area code (727) 803-8000 extension 1010.
And the last item in this section before we get on to updates for JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion is to talk to you briefly about training. We know Rachel will be coming on FSCast soon to talk about the training department in general and some of the things that are happening in particular. But I know this month they’ll be talking about Outlook, and also they’ve just released a 20-minute documentary tutorial on Zoom.
So for more information about the training department and the webinars, the free webinars that they have to share, go to www.freedomscientific/training/webinars. You’ll see the list of webinars they’ve done, and those that are going to be done in the future. So please stay tuned for that, and we’ll be talking more about the training department and webinars as FSCast continues.
LARRY: For those of you who are wondering about Jaws, ZoomText, and Fusion updates, be assured that they’re going to be released probably the first week in August, at least that is the hope. That’s what we’re aiming for. And so you should see all three sometime during the first week in August. These updates contain a lengthy list of issues. Some of the key areas addressed by customers reported issues with the Start Menu, which stopped speaking since updating to the latest version of Windows.
Now, with regard to the Start Menu issue, if any of you are experiencing this issue, it’s rather easy to actually find out for sure. Just open the Start Menu and up-and-down arrow. If you’re getting feedback, then you’re okay. For those who have the issue, there’s a new setting located in the Settings Center called Start Menu Access Out of Process. Toggling this new control should address the issue for you. And as always, there’ll be a lot more detail on this change and others, as well, along with the exact steps to make the change, if you visit the FS home page and select the JAWS 2019 updated August 2019. These write-ups contain all the changes that’ll occur throughout the course of the 2019 releases.
LARRY: Over the course of FSCast, we over the years, whether “we” being Jonathan Mosen or Glen Gordon or John and myself, have interviewed many, many people with terrific stories about being blind, and how we as blind people interact, and how we do what we do. And all of us have won awards, and it’s very nice when that happens. But we don’t always center on that, except when the award is really, really special.
This happened recently to John Gassman, and he won the highest award Disney has to offer. Disney is the company he works for. So we thought we would take a few moments to share with you a little bit about the award, why he won it, and the ceremony that took place as a result. So John, welcome to FSCast.
JOHN: Well, thank you, Larry. It’s a pleasure to be here. This is a special award, not just where I work at Disney Travel or at the Disneyland Resort, but company-wide. So you’re talking about the Disney Parks, the movie-making part of the company, with Pixar and Lucasfilm and Marvel. And then we go into, you know, Disney Cruise Line and ESPN, I mean, the whole company. That’s where the award is given, and not to everybody, but to about half of one percent of the company. So it is tough to get. It’s nominated by your colleagues, your cast member friends and colleagues and people you work for. It’s given out every two years, and it’s called the Walt Disney Legacy Award.
I had no idea I was going to win the award. I was nominated by several people. I still don’t know how many. I know of one person for sure, and there are others, according to what I’ve been told. And they submit in writing, there are guidelines up on a web page which tells you exactly how to put it together. And then from there, after the deadline passes where you can nominate, it’s sent to the managers and the committee and then goes to the Disneyland Resort, in my case, and I’m not sure where from that point beyond. Way up the line, probably. And they narrow it down and eventually choose the winner.
So in our office three of us out of the 450 won the award. Maybe five or 600 get it throughout the entire Disney company. So it’s a major, major thing. Got a very nice award, huge award with pictures of Walt Disney and a lot of very nice words on it.
And I also have a nametag. The nametag is very cool because it stands out from all the other nametags that are worn by other cast members because this is now a very special award, and the nametag goes with it. My manager, Anna, described it to me. The nametag is blue with a thin gold outline around the entire tag. At the top of the nametag is a silver pin of Sorcerer Mickey with a very small diamond in the star right above his outstretched hand. And I can tell you that diamond does sparkle a lot when you’re out in the sunlight. Really looks cool, according to friends of mine.
Below the pin is my name in white lettering. And below that is the hometown where we work, and I’m California. That’s also in white lettering. And in gold lettering below the hometown are the words “Dream, Create, Inspire.” And those are the three major attributes that Walt Disney personified every single day of his life.
Now, if you’re interested in reading two terrific biographies on Walt Disney, my two favorites are, number one – actually, not in any particular order. I like them both. Bob Thomas wrote a book quite a while ago called “Walt Disney: An American Original.” That one might be tougher to find. It is available on Bard and other places, as well. The other one is a huge book by Neal Gabler, G A B L E R, and he had access to the Disney Archives. I think Bob Thomas did, too. But this book by Gabler is called “Walt Disney: The Triumph of an American Imagination.” It came out in 2006. It’s also available on Bard and several other places where books are available to blind readers.
So it was an outstanding day. Nobody knew about who won the award except for the committee and our CEO. So they didn’t tell you in advance. You come into the break room. They do the ceremony. And they draw it out, and they announce the winner. People go crazy. And then there’s a nice write-up that the manager or the person who nominated you has put together. That’s read. And at the same time your name is announced, your family is there. And that might be the best part of the whole thing.
So what happened, we’ve got to tell the story about how this all came about with regard to the family part of this. Couple of months ago my manager came back from vacation, and I wanted to show her all the “Star Wars” pictures that I had had taken at our new “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” in Disneyland. And I said, “You’ve got to see this great light saber that I bought.” And it’s a nice light saber, not one of those five or $10 light sabers. It’s a nice one. So she said, “Yeah, come into the office, and I’ll look at it.” So she was looking at it and talking and said, “Yeah, that’s nice, that’s all right.”
What I didn’t know, because there are advantages when you’re a sighted person looking at a blind person’s phone, he’ll never know what you’re really doing. And in this case she was scrolling down, looking for Larry’s contact information so that she could text him and ask him who shall we invite? And so she had to swear him to secrecy, and the family, because nobody knew about it. So Larry got a text. And she announced it to him that I had won and said, “Who do you want to invite?” So we invited just inner family, basically, my brother and sister and sister-in-law and nieces and nephews, couple of nieces and nephews. And it was wonderful having them there to see the award given.
They had a 25-pound cake, two of them, with my name on it and with the other winner’s name on it. And so we all got our pieces of cake and enjoyed it. And then they released it to the vultures standing and watching the entire thing. That’s what I call them, whenever they put food out on the counter that is available to the rest of the cast because it’s gone in five minutes. And it was, too. And it was great cake. And so it was an absolutely wonderful day.
LARRY: Now, let’s go back and tell them what kinds of things they had to deal with because, after all, we are twins.
JOHN: That’s true. In most cases, for sighted award winners, they’re standing there listening to our CEO, Chris, talking about the award, and then their name is announced. And at that point family members can walk in and sit down. And then when everybody stops crying, they take pictures, which is what they did in both of our cases.
But in my situation, nobody – very few people at work knew that I had a twin brother. So what they had to do was, not only hide the family, but hide Larry in a training room so that nobody could see him, accidentally come up to him and say, “Hi. Wait a minute. You’re not John, are you? Because you’re dressed differently.” Which is what happened on the day of the award. Somebody saw him and caught on and said, ah, I won’t say a word. And as it was I hear a couple of people on the floor did double takes because I walked by, then 10 seconds later Larry walked by in a different outfit. So they had to hide Larry until the very last moment. And then take it from here, Larry, because I was just so surprised, I don’t remember exactly what happened.
LARRY: So for sighted people, as you said, once the name is announced, sighted people can walk in. But we don’t have to be as careful when you’re with a blind person. John can be sitting there listening to all that goes on, and he’s certainly not going to notice that his family is right behind him. But the audience in the room does notice. And so there was an audible [gasp] when I walked in, and they saw me standing on the other side of my younger brother and sister, and then there was John. So we were able to get away with a little bit there just because John didn’t know we were even in the room. And even afterwards, a lot of people didn’t know that we were twins.
JOHN: I should also mention that we are so very lucky to have the technology we do today. My manager, Anna, described everything to me, did a great job. But I didn’t have anything written down. Not the description of the photograph or the award or any of the printed material. Some of the printed material didn’t scan very well. I tried it with OpenBook and other apps, but there must have a been a lot of pictures and images and so forth that prevented it from scanning very well.
So I called Aira a couple of days after I won the award. And the girl that was on the phone with me took pictures of everything and then put it into a Word document with written descriptions. So I now have all of that in a folder, thanks to Aira. It makes looking back at this award months, years, decades, centuries later, possible.
All right. Before we finish up, I do have one more thing. A lot of the reasoning behind my award came from the fact that I was the first totally blind person ever hired at Disney. Disney didn’t know really anything about JAWS or screen readers or how blind people do in the workplace. They got a lot of their information from Marriott when they asked them what should we expect? How do we do this? How do we do that?
LARRY: I was on the presentation team when we did the presentation to Disney.
JOHN: And they hired me anyway.
LARRY: No, and I said, “Don’t hire him. Don’t do it. You’re going to wind up spending a lot of money, then one day giving him a legacy award. Don’t do it.”
JOHN: Yeah, true. Oh, if they’d known that, they wouldn’t have hired me.
LARRY: Of course. Of course.
JOHN: Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. So anyway, they did, you know, I did the interview. And they said, you know, what’s the main thing we want our guests to do when they book a reservation for us? And I said, “I think we want them to max out their credit cards.” And that’s probably what got me the job. So anyway, we all learned together when it came to technology. We were using DOS-based reservation systems when I got hired, and so they had to script the whole thing.
Then they brought me in, and I went through it with them and made sure that the controls worked and that JAWS spoke. It did all right, but this is back in 2003, when JAWS was, what, about eight years old. But we’ve progressed since then. I’ve trained about 17 people in terms of using the reservation system in JAWS. I now also test all of the websites and the applications before we use them at the travel company to make sure that they work with JAWS. If they do, great. If they don’t, we try and find out who the developer was and make sure that they fix it.
And of course some developers, even to this day, don’t test with a keyboard. They just test with a mouse. They don’t even consider that blind people might be using it. Well, they’re beginning to learn that. And I’m sure that’s not just Disney. That’s probably a lot of companies. But in any event, what I really wanted to say, most important of all, is that I’ve been very successful over the years, but I could not have attained any of this success without Freedom Scientific, and specifically without JAWS. No way I could do this job without JAWS. I could have used another screen reader, but none of them are even close when it comes to efficiency and productivity.
And that’s why I’m so thankful that I’ve had Freedom Scientific and JAWS as a part of my work life for the past 16 years at Disney and three years at Braille Institute. It’s amazing what JAWS and Freedom Scientific can do to make our work lives so much more pleasurable and so productive. Without screen readers like JAWS, we’d have a lot more than 70 percent of the blind people out of work, I’ll tell you that.
LARRY: All right. Check is in the mail.
JOHN: Thank you.
LARRY: David Kingsbury is with us, and he has just written a terrific book that’s available from National Braille Press. It’s called “Format Your Word Documents with JAWS and NVDA.” And it’s a terrific resource and should have been written a long time ago, but we’re happy that David has written it now. And we’re also very happy that David has consented to be with us on FSCast. So welcome, David.
DAVID KINGSBURY: Well, thank you very much for having me. I’m a big fan of the podcast, listen to it religiously. And I really wanted to get on it, if I could. So thanks for having me.
LARRY: It’s interesting because you were, for I assume much or most of your life, a sighted person.
DAVID: Yeah. I have been blind for 15 years. I had a physical trauma, so I went from sighted to blind overnight. And one of the first things that I tried to do, somebody told me about this program that talks to you called JAWS. And within just a few weeks of becoming blind, I got a hold of a copy of that and started trying to learn it. That was JAWS 5, I think, back then. And I’ve been at it ever since. But it’s one of the main things that just got me back on my feet again. And, you know, been using it ever since on a daily basis and couldn’t live without it.
LARRY: Now, were you a technology person when you were sighted?
DAVID: No. I was not a technology person. I actually had – I had a degree in agricultural economics, and my previous life was working internationally on agricultural development in Africa. So I used technology every day, but as a user. You know, I sort of tell folks, technology-wise, you know, I’m more of a chauffeur of the technology. I am not a mechanic under the hood type. So my interest has always been in trying to get from A to Z with as little effort as possible. But I’m not a techie. I’m really more a user of it.
LARRY: Are there differences between you as a sighted person and technology, and you as a blind person learning and then eventually teaching technology?
DAVID: Well, you know, one advantage you have if you’ve used technology with vision before is you know the things that Word, Excel, et cetera, can do. And, you know, I still visualize what I can remember from that, and it certainly helps me with technology. Again, the book that I’m working, that I wrote, you know, had to do with formatting Word documents. And, you know, a huge element of why you format documents a certain way is to make it look visually appealing. And it certainly was an advantage for me to know what documents, what a good document looked like visually, even though I don’t have sight now.
LARRY: So did your sight help you with regard to putting this book together because you knew what you wanted based on what you remember visually?
DAVID: Yes and no. It did because of what I just said. You know, I know what a visually appealing document looks like. That said, I’ve learned a ton of things since becoming blind that I didn’t know anything about back when I could see. One good example is use of headings and styles. I probably did manually, you know, mimicked headings and styles back when I could see. I put together a lot of long documents where I would tediously go in and change the bold and italics in about 50 or 100 different places, you know, mimicking headings, without even knowing what they were. And I only learned about those maybe about three years ago.
And when I did, I had one of these head-slapping moments, or forehead-slapping moments, saying, oh, my goodness, I wish I had known that stuff 25 or 30 years ago, all the hours I would have saved. On the one hand, you know, I knew what I knew when I could see, but it’s quite a bit less than I know now, partly because, you know, I’m a trainer, and I need to learn those things. But then also the technology has evolved, too.
So there’s a lot more things that you can do that you couldn’t do before, for example, using color as a formatting technique. Back when everything was just black-and-white printers, you know, nobody used color in any way. But now people read a lot of things just on the computer. And because of that, you know, you use color. Of course many, many different fonts than there used to be back when. You know, back when I was using it, you had, what, Times New Roman, Arial, and one or two others. And now there are hundreds of different fonts. So it’s an evolution.
LARRY: In writing your book, did you have any history to fall back on with regard to maybe other people who had written similar types of books? Or were there any out there while you were researching?
DAVID: Well, you know, there are certainly plenty of books for sighted people on how to format documents and the like. I did not find anything comprehensive, whether it be a book or maybe podcasts or training videos on how you write a Word document from soup to nuts, with all the formatting you need to take into account. And in particular for students. I wanted to make sure that there was an emphasis in here for students, who are required now – this was not the case when I was in school – to use these different formatting style guides – APA for social sciences, MLA for the humanities, Chicago style for arts and the like. That stuff didn’t exist when I was going through school. And students are required to do that type of formatting. There’s nothing written anywhere that is adapted to blind people for doing that. There are a number of good sites. But it falls down when it comes to how you would translate some of those things for screen reader users.
JOHN: How long did it take you, from the time you actually began to learn about technology and assistive technology, to get proficient in JAWS so that you could continue your life with regard to using JAWS to help you with regard to Microsoft and other pursuits that you were working on?
DAVID: Well, that’s sort of an interesting story. When I became blind, I was actually working for the United Nations in Italy. And I came back to the United States to get some healthcare, and then I went back to Italy for a couple of years with a computer, with this JAWS program. So I had to self-teach myself a good amount.
Now, I self-taught myself at a pretty – up to a pretty rudimentary level. And then I came back to the United States in early 2006 and was a client, a trainee at The Carroll Center for the Blind, where I actually now work. And when I went there I had 12 weeks of training, and I had about 12 solid weeks’ worth of questions on how do you do this and that in JAWS because I had things that I could figure out, but many, many more things that I couldn’t figure out. And with a trainer, I got quite a bit more up to speed.
But then, you know, I compare where I was then to where I am now; and, as you know, it really is a lifelong training experience. The JAWS screen reader program is so rich in all the things that you can learn, as well as the different programs that you work with, like Microsoft Office and the various web browsers. And it’s a moving target. You know, technology changes all the time. It gets better and better all the time, and you just have to keep learning.
LARRY: Before we actually began the interview, I mentioned to you that, at least for me, I know what I remember and what I learned. And there’s so much more that I don’t know from a JAWS perspective. I don’t know what the percentage is, maybe you do. We use what we know. And maybe it’s only 10 percent or 15 or 20 percent of all that JAWS has to offer. Have you got any idea as to what that percentage might be?
DAVID: I really don’t know what that percentage is. And of course it depends very much on the person. One thing I’ve noticed about myself before I became a trainer, you know, and I was – I’m now paid to learn things. But before I was a trainer, and I notice this with a lot of other people who’ve maybe been using technology, screen reader technology and the like, for a number of years, you sometimes tend to settle at what I’ll call a low-level equilibrium. Like you say, you know what you know, and maybe you don’t really work hard to get to know a little bit more.
And I’ve often found that, just with a little bit more information, one can up one’s game quite substantially. And I was hoping that, you know, many people spend a lot of time writing Word documents. And, you know, my hope is that, if people spend a little time reading through this book, those who get it, they’ll pick up some things that will really help them put together better documents. Most of my clients are adults, and a number of them have been using JAWS for a while, and they’re pretty proficient at it. But they sometimes wonder, am I putting together a document that looks right, that visually looks as it should? This book is an attempt to help out with some tools in that area.
And as you know, JAWS has some really powerful tools for helping on formatting, such as Speech and Sounds Schemes, Text Analyzer. And my experience is that I think they are sometimes underutilized. If people knew just a little bit more about them, they would use them a lot more because they are very powerful.
LARRY: Why are they not used? Is it because people are afraid of them based on the title?
DAVID: I think it’s just sometimes just people don’t know enough about them. You hear something called “Speech and Sounds Schemes.” And with about five minutes of exposure to it, you can immediately see what it can do for you. But without that five minutes or 10 minutes or whatever of exposure, you know, either through the written word or listening to an audio recording or a podcast, you don’t really know what it is.
Text Analyzer in particular, I have to admit, I’ve only started using that myself within the last couple of years. Once I started using it, I now use that habitually. I’ll spellcheck something, and then immediately after the spellcheck I’ll do Text Analyzer to check out the punctuation errors that might be in there. And I pretty much always find a number of them that, if I hadn’t used Text Analyzer, I would have had some stray punctuation or some extra spaces here or some weird capitalization or whatever it might be.
LARRY: Yeah, I think the casual user figures, well, I’ll do a spellcheck, and there’s some grammatical things from within spellcheck so it’s going to catch them. But that’s not necessarily so, is it.
DAVID: Correct. You know, you run spellcheck. In theory, just as one example, in theory that catches all the extra spaces between words, except that it doesn’t. So I’ve run spellcheck. It says it’s all completed. I immediately run the Text Analyzer. And, sure enough, there are some extra spaces between words that for some reason or other spellcheck didn’t catch.
LARRY: What percentage of your book is based on Microsoft tools that are within Microsoft and materials that JAWS has introduced with regard to keystrokes and other things that help you as a blind person?
DAVID: It’s hard to come up with a percentage. But, you know, most of the book is about doing things in Word. But then, you know, with the interaction with screen reader programs, JAWS as well as NVDA, for example, I go through the basics of font formatting and paragraph formatting, but introduce very early INSERT F as an invaluable tool for knowing what font formatting and paragraph formatting you have going. I talk about headings and styles. Those are Word tools, but you need to be using something like INSERT F for checking formatting, or Speech and Sounds Schemes, or Text Analyzer, to really get a good handle on whether you’ve put the stuff together right or not.
So there’s an interaction going there. I’d say the bulk of it is really Word, but then how does the screen reader interact with Word so you get verification that what you think is on the paper, is on the page, you know, the visual page is actually what is showing up there.
LARRY: Is your book meant to be an overall view of Word and how to navigate? Or is it meant to be a tutorial?
DAVID: No, not a tutorial on everything. Not encyclopedic. But the basic emphasis is, if you are a student and you need to put together a term paper, or you’re a professional and you need to put together a three- to five-page article on something or a 50-page report of some sort, you know, the elements that you need to take into account. So not absolutely everything, but most everything. So again, your basics of font and paragraph formatting through headings and styles. If you are a student, you are required to put headers on your pages. And the various style guides – APA, MLA, and Chicago – are very exacting in what those headers need to look like.
Spend a good amount of time on other things that you may not be required to do, but for a larger document you will need to do, such as tables of contents, bibliographies, footnoting. There’s also discussion of when you are collaborating with others, comments, you know, how to put in comments, how to reveal them, how to edit them, track changes. So a whole variety of things. But it’s not meant to be an encyclopedia. It’s meant more to be, you’ve got a document to write. What are the elements that you need to take into account?
LARRY: We’ve referenced The Carroll Center many times so far, but we haven’t talked about what it actually is. Maybe you can help us with that.
DAVID: Yeah, well, The Carroll Center is located in Newton, Massachusetts, just a few miles outside of Boston. And it’s primarily a rehab center for blind people. Most of the clients are people who’ve become blind, you know, midlife, and they need training in independent living. So we have training for, for example, mobility skills, personal management around the house, technology certainly, Braille. It’s also a residential facility. So at any time we have maybe 15 to 20 people there.
Most of the year it’s adults. But in the summertime we have a youth program. In fact, you know, we’re doing this interview right now in July, and we’ve just started a program with youth. We have several programs. Some of them are for interning, to try out, to get work experience. I’m doing a Computing for College course that I will start just in a few days with a student or two, for high school seniors getting ready to go to college.
LARRY: So again, let’s talk about the formats of the book. When you go to NBP.org you can buy the book, but it’s in a couple of different formats. So let’s talk about that and where people can go to find the book.
DAVID: Yeah. The book – which, again, it’s titled “Format Your Word Documents with JAWS and NVDA: A Guide for Students and Professionals.” So you can get that on the NBP, the National Braille Press website, that’s NBP.org. It’s available in several formats: braille, you know, paper braille; eBraille; DAISY; as well as Word. And it can be sent to you electronically. And depending on the format, it’s between 18 and $20.
LARRY: Well, David, it’s been great spending the last several minutes with you, talking about assistive technology and Microsoft Word and JAWS and how they all come together. And we thank you so much for being with us on FSCast.
DAVID: Well, thank you so much for having me, Larry. And we’re doing this recording on July 4th, so Happy Independence Day to you.
LARRY: Thank you so very much. I’m glad you had the freedom to say that.
DAVID: Okay, right, yes. Oh, that’s a cute little...
LARRY: Yeah, I get paid the big buck for stuff like that.
JOHN: The big “buck” is right.
LARRY: Yeah. Thank you, David.
DAVID: All right. Well, thanks a lot.
LARRY: And we thank, once again, all who have participated in FSCast 173. We’re at the end of another one. Once again, here’s how you can get in touch with the podcast. You can email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can call us on the phone, and some have done that. Thank you very much for that. It’s area code (727) 803-8000 extension 1010.
Well, that’s it for now. Larry Gassman speaking for John, saying thanks again for listening, and join us again in September when we come back with another FSCast.