GLEN GORDON: On FSCast 203, Eric Damery is here to talk about some of the new features coming in JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion 2022, and how you can try them out early as part of our public betas. Then we’ll get to know Cory Jackson. He’s an escalation specialist in our tech support department, but in his free time has developed a sizable YouTube and TikTok following.
GLEN (on the right): Hello, everybody. Glen Gordon welcoming you to our podcast for August of 2021.
JAWS VOICE (on the left): How come you’re talking on the right and I’m talking on the left?
GLEN (on the right): Sorry, got ahead of myself.
GLEN (on both sides): This should be back to normal. I often mention how nice it is to get emails from many of you all around the world. I got a letter this month from Joel that kind of confounded me because it was entirely in Spanish. And my Spanish is, well, let us say that everything I might have learned in my two years of high school Spanish is completely gone. But as coincidence would have it, I’m running Office 365 Insider, which means you get previews of some new features. And one of the things that’s available in Outlook is a way to translate a message into your language of choice. So I could easily convert Joel’s Spanish message into English. The translation was excellent. I responded in English, and presumably he did something similar, or he speaks English reasonably well. But either way, we were able to go back and forth.
Sadly, once he started responding to my message, I couldn’t get the translation to work quite right. But if you have access to Office 365 Insider, and even if you don’t, it’s looking like this will be a feature that comes to Outlook pretty quickly.
That, coincidentally, brings us to this month’s Power Tip, which has to do with Microsoft Office, and ribbons in particular. JAWS has long had virtual ribbon support for Word, Outlook, and Excel, where we try to make the ribbons look like the traditional Windows menus. But if you want to use ribbons in their natural habitat, which I tend to do, one of the problems for those who are not informed, and I wasn’t informed until very recently, is that although the options in the ribbon, in the lower ribbon, are arranged into groups, TAB doesn’t let you move between those groups quickly.
So I’m here in Outlook, and on the Message item in the ribbon. Once I get down to the lower ribbon, the first three groups are Delete, Respond, and Teams. Each of those has a bunch of options in them. And if I know I want to go to something under Respond, which would be Reply, Reply All, or Forward, just in case I don’t remember those hotkeys, I can move between the groups really quickly with CTRL+LEFT and RIGHT ARROW. So it’s a quick way, when you start hearing options that you say, I don’t care about that set of them, let’s move on to the next one, CTRL+RIGHT ARROW is your friend there, and CTRL+LEFT ARROW kind of the converse.
If you have a Power Tip, something ideally about one of our products that’s kind of a hidden feature, maybe it’s been around for a while and people have forgotten about, or never knew about in the first place, by all means let us know about it. It’s kind of a higher bar if your Power Tip is just about a third-party app. Doesn’t mean we won’t use it, but it’s got to be super special. Either way, great to hear from you about Power Tips or anything else that’s on your mind. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GLEN: With me now is a voice familiar to most of you listening to FSCast. Last month I predicted that Eric Damery would be joining us. Admittedly, since I schedule the guests, it makes it very easy for my predictions to come true. Eric is Vice President of Software Product Management, and here because we’re nearing the time of our 2022 product releases. JAWS, ZoomText and Fusion 2022 will all release around the end of October. So this is a perfect time to preview the features. Eric, welcome back.
ERIC DAMERY: Thanks, Glen. Great to be here. And I’m really excited. We’re about to unveil something pretty cool, I think.
GLEN: And Public Beta 1 is right around the corner for 2022; right?
ERIC: That’s right. We’re coming up on September 2021, and we intend in the first half of the month, hopefully during that first week, that we will get Public Beta 1 posted for everyone. And we’re on schedule right now. Things are looking good. The write-up will generally appear 24 to 48 hours on the website prior to the official posting, and consumers can watch the website for that announcement. Once the announcement hits, they know the software is not far behind and, like previous years, will follow the same type of a schedule where we do Public Beta 1 September. Public Beta 2 should hit about three to four weeks following that one. And then right before the final release we’ll probably put out another build with just any final adjustments. And then the final release, the initial release of the 2022 version will come the end of October.
And people will want to make sure that, if they’re not up to date on their license, and they need to get an upgrade for ILM, by all means make sure you tackle all of that stuff before we hit that final release because older versions of JAWS for Windows, ZoomText, and Fusion, the 2021 authorizations will work with the public betas, but you’ll have to be updated by the time the release comes.
GLEN: So does this impact home annual users?
ERIC: That’s a great question. People with those portal licenses, now, those are time-based. And it’s good up until a particular date. And any update or new versions that release during that time, those will already work. They’re authorized. So if you have one of those portal licenses, and you’re good let’s say through February or March of 2022, you don’t have to do anything right now. You’re good to go, and you’ll be able to run 2022 as soon as it posts.
GLEN: What are some of the things that you’re excited about coming out in this public beta?
ERIC: Something that we changed in ZoomText last year, kind of quietly, and I think most users didn’t even recognize it. It was a huge benefit, though, for ZoomText users. And that was, if you had a version already installed, and you had it all set up just the way you like it, when that new version got installed, it automatically adopted those settings. You could go back and change them afterwards, of course. But they just pulled right in. So as soon as you started the new version, your speech rate would be set, magnification levels, all those things.
This year, ZoomText, Fusion, and JAWS will all follow that paradigm. They’ll all automatically adopt your previous version settings. If you had 2020 or 2021 installed, you’ll automatically get those settings as soon as it starts.
GLEN: Now, when I installed 2021, I remember getting the import wizard, and it offered to import from 2020. So how is this different?
ERIC: Right. So that was a migration tool that would allow you to migrate your settings. And this eliminates the need for you to interact with that migration tool. It just happens for you so you’ll automatically get them. If you had a previous version, and it adopted those settings, and you’d rather start clean, or you’d rather import some other settings that you’ve saved someplace else, you go to the Options menu. You choose Restore Factory Defaults. It’ll ask you are you sure you want to do this? You accept it. And your settings will be wiped out. I think JAWS will actually restart, and you’ll get the Startup Wizard just like you had just done a clean install with no adoption of settings. So at that point you can do whatever you like.
GLEN: It just so happens that I’ve installed JAWS 2022, rebooted as prompted, but never launched it. I’m still in JAWS 2021, sitting here in Reaper, where I’m doing the recording. Pressing INSERT+Q says:
JAWS VOICE: Reaper scripts version 48 settings are loaded. The application currently being used is Reaper.exe.
GLEN: And you’ve probably also noticed that I’m using Vocalizer Expressive Ava instead of the Eloquence read voice that’s used by JAWS by default. I’m going to exit 2021.
JAWS VOICE: Unloading JAWS.
GLEN: And now I’m going to go to the Run dialog and type in JAWS 2022.
JAWS VOICE: JAWS beta release. Set Start JAWS options dialog. Start JAWS at the logon screen checkbox checked.
GLEN: All of my settings have now been copied over. I have Ava talking as my voice. And I’m being asked whether or not I want to run JAWS at the login screen because although 2021 is currently set up to run that way, 2022 is not. If I escape out of this, 2021 will continue to be automatically launched. If I go through this dialog, that’ll move everything to 2022. I’ll hit ESCAPE. And I’m back here in Reaper. INSERT+Q again says:
JAWS VOICE: Reaper scripts version 48 settings are loaded. The application...
GLEN: One more point of proof that my settings have migrated. If I exit by pressing INSERT+F4, I again won’t be prompted.
JAWS VOICE: Unloading JAWS.
GLEN: Because that feature also got migrated from 2021. So that worked. That worked really well. And it’s sort of obvious in hindsight that we should have done this a long time ago because it makes it so much simpler, and almost everybody decides to migrate settings anyway. So why not just make it automatic?
ERIC: That’s right. And, you know, for some of our international users, where they might have multiple languages and multiple settings for each of those languages, it’ll bring them all in.
GLEN: What happens if you have a braille display installed with 2021 that’s not, let’s say, a Focus or one that comes in box? Does that information transfer over now, too?
ERIC: Yeah, you know, this is an area where braille users have been after us for a number of years to adopt those settings. And in this new release, and it was important for us to get it done first go-round with 2022, so that everyone would see how it works, it’ll bring your braille display setup into the new version. So if you’re all set up using a braille display, whether it’s a Freedom Scientific Focus display or it’s a third-party display that you’ve had, that you’ve got all set up in your previous version, when you install 2022 and start, that braille display will be all set up for you, and it’ll be working.
GLEN: That’s hard to demo for an audio podcast. But take our word for it. We’ve also made some other braille changes. And I know this because I had some firsthand involvement in discussions about them. You have thoughts about those?
ERIC: This is also a long time coming. We’ve got a very large international audience. We also have a lot of students who utilize JAWS and take advantage of foreign language. And braille is a bit tricky when it comes to foreign language to get it right because you have different braille tables, you have different things for input and output. And getting that to all work seamlessly for a user and let them transfer or switch on the fly to go between languages required a bit of effort. But we’ve made a pretty good go of it this time.
GLEN: If you’re a monoglot, like I am, you won’t have to interact with this more complicated UI. You’ll still have the braille general page. Under that is Translation Settings. You can set what kind of output you want, whether it’s contracted braille or computer braille, and set your input. Set the basic parameters that you’re used to doing either in the startup wizard or in those settings.
But if you use multiple languages, we have something now on that page called Language Profiles. And that takes you to a dialog that has a checkbox for every language of braille that JAWS supports. And those checkboxes are to allow you to easily use the keystroke, which for the Focus is braille chord T with a dot 7 added. So like braille chord of capital T. In JAWS 2021 and earlier, that would allow you to move between computer braille translation tables. But it wouldn’t allow you to really have better control over the settings for individual braille languages. You really could only set one language at a time.
With this new model, any language that you check in the list of braille profiles will be in that braille cap T chord switching. So you can easily go between multiple different languages, the ones that you use, and completely ignore the others. And then for each of those languages there’s language details, or translation details. I think we haven’t fully decided how we’re going to say it. But it’ll be pretty obvious. It’s in that same dialog. And that allows you to specify what table you want to use when using computer braille, and what table you want to use when using contracted braille, and whether or not you want to use computer braille or contracted braille by default for input, for output, or for both. You really will need to get in and play with it a little bit. I think for those of you who are braille users, and especially those of you who speak multiple languages, this will be of great use and allow you to customize things a bit more than you could before.
ERIC: And I think in the next couple of months we’ll probably get out and do a good webinar on this, how to set it up for multiple languages and so forth. And maybe we can get you and Adi, the product manager on the ElBraille product, to come on and speak about that.
GLEN: Yeah, I think it would be great. And especially if we get some international braille users joining that webinar and asking questions. I think it’ll be a very lively discussion, and we’ll get a lot of material covered. One thing that I did leave out is, if you are doing input in computer braille, one of the problems we’ve had for someone like Adi, who speaks English, Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian, is that if you’re trying to type a language in braille, the table that works for typing English doesn’t necessarily work when you’re typing Hebrew.
And so now we have an additional option which says, do you want the braille input language to change when you change the regular keyboard language? Those of you who type in multiple languages know you can change the keyboard language in Windows just by hitting one of a couple of possible shortcut keys. And when you do that with this option checked, when you’re then switched to inputting from the braille display, it’ll switch to the braille table set up for input in that language so that, if you’re inputting primarily in English, you want to enter a Hebrew phrase, you change your keyboard language to Hebrew. Suddenly you can now enter Hebrew from the braille keyboard, as well.
ERIC: So I think we’ve got one more feature we really want to talk about today.
GLEN: This is really one of those features that’s a sign of the times. I think it was your idea. And would you have ever thought of it had we not all gone pretty much into complete COVID lockdown a year and a half ago, and suddenly those of us who didn’t know about Zoom knew lots about it and were spending half our time on Zoom meetings, and often wearing headphones.
ERIC: Yeah. And, you know, it became apparent that this was such a problem when so many people started ending up in Zoom, going to webinars, attending meetings, I mean, you and I, well, you’ve been in meetings like this for years, so it’s been second nature to you. But for most of us that have been working in the office with a group of people, we’re not living on these applications like Teams in meetings and so forth.
Well, that all changed. That all changed a year and a half ago. Everybody seems to be on these things now. Last year in the 2021 release we introduced a feature, the Adjust JAWS Volume, so that you could set JAWS at a lower volume, for instance, than maybe your webinar so that you could still do a little bit of navigation with JAWS at a lower volume in the background without it stomping all over your meeting so you could still pay attention to the meeting. And that was met with a thunderous roar. Everybody loved it. They thought, this is wonderful. We don’t have to completely go into speech on demand. We can just turn the JAWS volume down so we can hear a little bit, and we can still hear our meetings.
But we could do more. We could do something better. And that’s what we focused on this year. I like to think of it as splitting your headset in two. You want to send your screen reading to one side and put all the other sounds on the other, and do it quickly, do it while you’re in the application, and have it stick when you leave that application and go navigate and start working on something else so you can still listen to the meeting in your other ear.
GLEN: I was actually going to demonstrate this using a Zoom meeting. But I tried that, and it’s really quite awkward because people in the meeting don’t necessarily stop talking so I can just let JAWS talk and announce exactly what I’m doing. So I’m sitting here on a book in FSReader, and I’m going to play it for you in a second by pressing CTRL+P. And while I’m playing I’m going to briefly go over to a web page, just so you can hear how disconcerting it often is to hear someone reading aloud or speaking and at the same time try to listen to JAWS, all out of both ears.
JAWS VOICE: (Talking simultaneously with training audio playing in both speakers)
GLEN: I’m going to go back to FSReader now.
JAWS VOICE: FSReader – Table of Contents.
GLEN: I’m going to press JAWS Key+SPACE, V, B, and then LEFT ARROW.
JAWS VOICE (on the left): JAWS is routed to the left.
GLEN: So you hear the JAWS now is in your left ear, or your right ear if your headphones are on backwards. And I’m going to start playing FSReader again, and at the same time go off into Chrome, and show you the difference.
JAWS VOICE: (Talking on left while training audio plays on the right)
GLEN: To me, it’s easier to discriminate between those two voices when one is in each ear, even though you may not be able to 100% understand both of them concurrently. At least it’ll be easier to block one out when you’re focusing on the other. The prefix is JAWS Key+SPACE, V as in volume, B as in balance, and then LEFT ARROW to move JAWS to the left and the focused app to the right, or RIGHT ARROW to completely reverse that. And now to bring everything back to the center I’m going to press JAWS Key+SPACE, V, B, and then UP ARROW.
JAWS VOICE: Balance has been restored for all apps.
GLEN: And playing FSReader some more with CTRL+P.
TRAINING AUDIO: Start time.
GLEN: So Dan’s in the center again, as well. Also if you shut down JAWS, and then the next time you restart it, everything will be returned to the center.
ERIC: Now, Glen, anticipating the questions from a consumer out there, talk to me a little bit about why we wouldn’t make this something that is application-specific.
GLEN: You know, we talked about that. And I think I actually was one of the proponents of this until Andy Smith or Mohammed, the two engineers who were working on this, pointed out to me that, if I go into Zoom, and I put Zoom on the right side and JAWS on the left by using the keystroke, I probably want to ALT+TAB away from Zoom while in my meeting just in case the meeting wasn’t captivating enough to take 100% of my attention. I might want to ALT+TAB away, and I wouldn’t want Zoom to suddenly return to the center. So it feels a bit more situational than it does the app that you’re in. Typically you’re going to be in a meeting or in a webinar or something where you want JAWS audio to be split off from whatever else you’re listening to. And that’s going to continue until the meeting ends, not necessarily until you ALT+TAB back to a particular app. So I think that’s the logic for not doing it this way.
ERIC: Great. And one of the things that we will try and do to make sure that users find this feature is that if you’re running our 2022 releases – now, remember, this works for Fusion users and for JAWS users. If you go into Zoom, or you launch Teams – in particular those two, but I think Skype, as well. Whenever you launch those apps, the first time they launch during the session of JAWS a message will pop up alerting you that this feature exists and that you can use those keystrokes. It’ll tell you the keystroke right in the message to try and separate your sounds so that you can put your screen reader on one side and the app on another. So you will get some prompts there, if you see it.
Once you’ve learned it, and you know how to use it, and you don’t want that dialog, there’ll be a checkbox to say don’t show me this again, and it will go away, and you won’t see it again. But we thought it would be nice to have that there for users getting started that don’t hear these FSCasts. Hopefully it’ll give them a chance to see how great this is. Because I think, once you’ve tried it – and you and I have tried this. Once users give this a shot, they’re going to love it.
GLEN: I agree 100%. For those of you who are audio nerds like I am, this feature currently only works for the default soundcard. If you only have one soundcard, and you say what’s “default soundcard,” it’s not a problem for you. But if you have multiple soundcards, maybe you have JAWS routing to a different one than is your default, when you issue this command, JAWS will say the audio has split. JAWS has moved to whichever channel you wanted it to. But it actually won’t move. It’s not the fact that the feature doesn’t work. This ends up needing to be adjusted on a per-soundcard basis. We’re only doing it for the default card. We have a plan for fixing it, but it’s not going to hit the first public beta.
ERIC: So I think for most people it will just work out of the box. But I guess what you’re saying is, if it doesn’t work, that’s probably the area to look first.
GLEN: Yes. And it’s really confounding. I spent probably an hour and a half yesterday thinking that there was something wrong with my recording setup when I was going to experiment for the purposes of a demo, only to realize that I had gotten tripped up by this problem. So if you get tripped up, you’re in good company. That’s all I can say. And it will get solved.
ERIC: Great. So beyond this feature and the ones that we’ve mentioned, there are some other things coming. We’ll see again in Public Beta 2 what’s going to show up. One of the things that I hope to come back and speak with you about in the next FSCast, Glen, will be Quick Access Bar changes for ZoomText and Fusion users. Make sure everyone tunes in for those. And then we’ll see what else makes Public Beta 2 and talk about the final release.
GLEN: Sounds good. Well, thanks for being with us, Eric.
ERIC: Thanks, Glen. Have a good day.
GLEN: On the line with me now is Cory Jackson. Since 2006 he’s been in our Freedom Scientific Tech Support department, currently a team lead and escalation specialist. But Cory is our own in-house Superman, “in-house” meaning that by day he does tech support, and by night he’s a TikTok and YouTube star. So we have lots to discuss, and delighted you could join us, Cory. Welcome.
CORY JACKSON: Thank you, Glen. I’m happy to be here.
GLEN: So the first thing that was news to me, but I’m sure you’re very familiar with, is if you do a Google search for “blind Cory Jackson,” what you get is “Cory Jackson does blind audition for The Voice.”
CORY: That is not me. And it’s funny. I just tried that very thing yesterday and got that result.
GLEN: But you have “Living Blind with Cory Jackson.” That’s your YouTube channel; right?
CORY: And Facebook and Instagram and all that kind of stuff.
GLEN: Oh, you really are the...
CORY: I’ve branched out.
GLEN: You’re the social media mogul. All things we will get to. You, I think, were pretty shy growing up. How did you get past that?
CORY: I didn’t get past that really, I don’t think, until I was in college. A good friend of mine in college, her and I hung out a lot, and basically I saw that we would walk down the hall, and she spoke to everyone. She just would say, “Hey, good morning, how are you?” And I thought, you know what, you need to quit being bashful and come out of your shell a little bit and start talking to people. That’s how you’re going to meet people. I will say this. If I were like I was 20 years ago, I wouldn’t be making videos right now, I don’t think.
GLEN: Did you have any blind mentors growing up?
CORY: Not until I was in my mid-teens. I met an older couple because they purchased a computer and were getting JAWS, and the local computer store gave them my information. So they were, when I met them, they were in their 60s. And I would say as far as blind mentors, out of anybody I ever met that was blind, they stand out in my mind a lot. They’re both gone now. But they taught me so much. And one of the things they taught me that has helped me with many things – because they were both blind, they lived independently, they had families – they taught me not to be afraid to try something because I was blind. They taught me to try it, even if I thought I couldn’t do it. They taught me to go on and give it a try anyway.
GLEN: It was really interesting because you as a kid had some skills and some knowledge that they deeply needed. And you may not have realized you needed their advice and guidance, but turned out to be helpful.
CORY: I will tell you, even though I was – I think I was like 16 or 17, and they were in their 60s. I can look back now and tell you that they were a couple of my best friends.
GLEN: Can you think about stories from your life that really were transformative experiences that might have been difficult at the time, but really helped you become the person you have?
CORY: I do want to tell you a story, actually. I was very interested in the telephone growing up. And when I first was introduced, there were still rotary phones. And then this cool thing called “touch tone” telephone service came out. So I started learning that there were so many things you could access with a touchtone telephone, so many codes that nobody ever told you about. So I would play for hours on the phone. To be honest with you, my dad was an alcoholic. Him and my mom fought a lot when I was growing up. And when they would fight, that was kind of like my little getaway. I would play on the phone. That was like, if I look back, it was kind of like my little security blanket, I guess, if you will.
When I was about nine years old, I started learning that places would basically buy up a whole block of numbers. Basically you would dial a prefix and a number, and that got you into their PBX. Anything else you dialed would dial an extension in their PBX. So I happened to run across the hospital’s PBX. And one day I ran into this thing that if I called it up, I could dial into it. I could record myself. And then I could play it back. So then I turned a few of my friends onto it. I said, “This is something at the hospital, but I have no clue what it is.” And after this went on for a while, my older brother was sleeping, my mother was out somewhere, my father was at work, and I hear a knock at the door. And I opened the door, and what I heard was, “Hi. This is Detective Hill from the Cambridge Police Department.”
GLEN: Oh, my god.
CORY: And to make a long story short, I do believe that being blind is what ended up getting us off of the hook. The system that we were getting into and putting our voice on, we were erasing the doctors’ dictation records. They had backups. And I think it took several months to restore. But we were recording over and erasing the doctors’ dictation records.
CORY: You know, I always knew that the telephone was a computer. It was basically a computer. There was a computer at the central station that was intercepting all of this stuff that made this all happen. And I really think that’s what started my love for computers. And I really think that is how I ended up in a position working technology that I am today.
GLEN: I think you had your own consulting company for a while; did you not?
CORY: I did. I did have a – it was called CJ’s 3-Way Computer Consulting. And I could consult and train with people in person, online, and over the phone. And I did work for the State of Ohio. And as we all know, being self-employed isn’t easy. And having steady customers is difficult in that line of work, as well. So I did that, though, until I came to work here.
GLEN: Were you surprised when you joined our tech support team about the number of people who call and sort of the variety of questions and problems they encounter?
CORY: There’s definitely more that goes on in the technical support department than, you know, just an average JAWS user, for example, would think about.
GLEN: I think it’s tempting for people who have problems and are really frustrated to assume that this is a lack of caring on the part of those of us who are working on developing the product and supporting it. But we get really connected with people. And I assume that’s true for you. You get connected with people who have issues and want to make sure they get solved.
CORY: Yes. And, you know, we do. We want to make sure that our customers are happy. And there’s many customers that I just know. They’ll call me, and they’ll give me their name, or a case will be escalated up, and I’ll go to call them, and I just know who they are before I get them on the phone. And a lot of times I can say, you know, wow, didn’t I help you with such-and-such a while back? Now there’s other customers that will call in and say, do you remember you helped me with this 10 years ago? And, you know, you are a very important person, but I’m going to tell you, there’s a lot of things we just don’t remember because of the high pace that the job requires.
GLEN: When people get to you as the escalation person, they’re probably already a little frustrated. What have you found are good ways of both helping them to relax a little bit and also get the problem solved?
CORY: I am not a fan of email support. I would rather have a conversation with you than go back and forth via email. I feel that a lot of times there’s miscommunication that can go on, not on purpose, but it happens. I feel that customers can be left frustrated. And so when a call gets to me, after the front line tech has worked it, I want to get on the phone or on Teams or Zoom and have a conversation with that customer so that I can assure them that I understand their issue, and if I don’t, have them show it to me.
And if I don’t have what they need to resolve the issue, then as you and I both know, Glen – we’ve worked on issues together. I can go to development, and I can get the answer for that customer. And I feel that the best way to do that is to have a live conversation with them. Tech support requires you to have an open mind. But when you handle the escalations part of it, you definitely cannot be afraid to think outside the box and try things. That’s how you resolve issues. And not everybody is cut out to do that. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a technician. But when you’re going to do escalations, you have to be willing to go into uncharted territory sometimes and just try a few things, just to see what the outcome is.
GLEN: It is a bit of an odd question, but do you think your being blind in some way influenced what your career was?
CORY: I really believe it did, a lot, because had I been sighted, I can tell you that I would have explored one of two industries. I either wanted to own a funeral home, or be a medical examiner.
GLEN: Why? I mean, I don’t mean “why” like, oh, my god, that’s weird and exotic. But yeah, it’s not typically something that people say they want to grow up to do.
CORY: I know. It’s really odd; right?
CORY: And death has always interested me. Not in a way to say, oh, my goodness, I want someone to die. But the whole part of a human being born and then after so many years passing away has always just really interested me. I watch a lot of strange medical documentaries and things like that. And I could see myself being the type of person that would want to get into that body and find out what happened.
GLEN: As a blind person, there’s no reason you couldn’t have a funeral home. I would think being a medical examiner would have more challenges, but not be impossible.
CORY: Well, I don’t think as a blind person, I probably wouldn’t make a good embalmer.
GLEN: No. I guess I was thinking of the owner of the funeral home was the person who dealt with the...
CORY: Oh, no. I want hands-on. I want involved.
GLEN: Okay, got it. I’m going to look now as a personal challenge for a blind funeral home owner and embalmer as a guest for this podcast. There’s got to be...
CORY: Ah, wouldn’t that be interesting.
GLEN: There’s got to be one.
CORY: Yeah, it would be very interesting. And I think you’ve just given me the next TikTok idea.
GLEN: Do you recall the time that you suddenly said, you know, maybe I want to do some blindness-related videos?
CORY: I do. It was during the part of the pandemic when everything was pretty much at a halt. You really couldn’t go anywhere unless you wore a mask, and many things were closed down. My wife and I were having a picnic at a lake not too far from us. And she said, you know, “I’m recording a TikTok video, and I’m going to upload it.” And I thought, you know, my wife is kind of bashful. If she can do it, I can do it. And I didn’t want to be outdone, see.
So that first video, if I remember correctly, I would have to go back and watch it again, I think I made that video in the car. And I said, you know, I don’t know what we’re going to do on this channel. We’re just going to talk about whatever. And we’ll see if it even takes off. I don’t even know if it will. And then I posted a video where I showed how quickly I could crank Eloquence up in JAWS. And I really started getting views. I mean, that video was shared, and I read comments. “Wow, that sounds like a pot of coffee brewing.” That sounds like this. That sounds like that. It got shared, and it got shared. And then I went on to doing videos like showing how braille screen input on the iPhone worked.
People like to learn. People are interested. If I just jump on there and say hello, how are you all doing today, and talk about the weather, people aren’t overly interested. But if I have something to show to educate, people really get involved, and they like it. So that’s what I’ve determined I need to do. On my channel I know I have some boring content where I just talk a little bit. But I like to educate. And something very simple, yesterday, for example, I was grilling some chicken. I made a video of me grilling the chicken. People are interested in that. Number one, because it’s a food video. And number two, you have a blind guy out there using the grill.
GLEN: I think you have about 8,000 followers, but I’ve seen a couple of videos that I thought had hundreds of thousands of viewers. Am I right?
CORY: I think, if I’m not mistaken, I might have one that might have close to 200,000 views. And I’ll tell you which one that was. That was where I was showing the braille screen input on the iPhone. And what makes that video get watched over and over isn’t only the fact that I was showing braille screen input on the iPhone, but I had a text message open between my wife and I. And I didn’t realize this until after I posted the video. So not only do you see the braille screen input going on, we’re having this text conversation about dog toys.
GLEN: That is funny.
CORY: So a lot of – you read the comments, and there were so many comments on that video. A lot of people will comment and just say “Wubba dog toy” and things like that. And I had the comments where people will say, “Hey, man, the camera’s over here. Why don’t you look at me when you’re talking?” And people say, “Why don’t you respond to comments like that?” I said really they don’t bother me. If I respond and say, you know, I’m blind, I can’t do that, I’m just opening up – if somebody’s going to leave a comment like that, you know, “Look at me when you’re speaking,” if I comment back to them and explain that I can’t, chances are I’m probably just going to open up more trouble for myself. So I just “like” those comments and move on.
GLEN: Do people come to you with off-the-wall questions?
CORY: Oh, yes. Especially on TikTok. I had somebody ask the question, you know, “How does a blind person know what they are eating?” So I sat down, and I pondered the answer for a while, and I thought, I need to make this funny, but I need to record it and just act like I’m being so serious. So I sat down, and I recorded this response, and it went something like, “Well, unfortunately the truth is I don’t always know what I’m eating. So when I’m home alone, until somebody can get in to help me, I just go outside, and I crawl around the yard and eat a little grass.” And that video got so many responses.
GLEN: Now, did they think you were serious?
CORY: Some do. Some think you’re very serious. And some – and I always say in my videos, usually like that one I say, you know, I’m just kidding, and then I tell them the truth.
GLEN: Don’t try this at home.
CORY: Look at me. Yeah, look at me. Does it look like I have any issues finding something to eat? And then there was another one. Somebody said, well, “How do you drive?” So I put together this video, and I said, well, I put one cane out the driver’s side window, one cane out the passenger side window, and I have my black lab Duke sit right in the middle of the car. And if there’s a stop light, he barks, and I know to stop. Otherwise I know it’s clear.
GLEN: And, I mean, it’s much better than saying, “What kind of idiot are you? I don’t drive. I’m blind.” You know, that’s not going to get the likes.
CORY: Exactly. Exactly.
GLEN: How much of the editing of videos can you do as a blind guy?
CORY: I can do everything now except close-ups of things that you’re doing. So if close-up shots are taken, even if I’m the one that takes the shots, which that’s generally not the case, I usually have my wife do it, generally I do all the audio editing and put all the videos together and put all of the little splots in between to make sure they fade together properly, and I get to the part of the video where the picture needs to go, and she inserts the picture and puts it on the screen where it needs to be.
GLEN: What do you use, software-wise?
CORY: I do 99% of my video editing in iMovie.
GLEN: So on the Mac?
CORY: No, I do it right on the iPhone. I picked up a wireless keyboard, though. That makes things go a lot smoother.
GLEN: I really commend you. I don’t think I would willingly do videos. I’m very comfortable in front of a microphone. But because I’m not a visual person, I think I would be very self-conscious being in front of a camera.
CORY: And I don’t know what made me decide to do YouTube. I have no idea. It’s not that I’m trying to make money or anything off of any of this because I have a job. But I just – I got the idea. I’m very fortunate as a blind person that I consider myself a decent cook, and everybody likes my food when I make it. So I thought, you know what, why not do some cooking videos for YouTube? Now, I’m going to do more than just cooking videos, I think, eventually. But cooking videos was the big reason I started my YouTube channel.
GLEN: Do you think people are watching those because you’re a blind guy cooking, or just because they’re interested in Instant Pot and what can be done there?
CORY: There’s a lot of them that watch them probably because I’m blind and cooking. I would say that some people are maybe searching for Instant Pot topics, and one of my videos come up, and they watch them. But I would say a lot of the stuff comes around, a lot of people watch the videos because they just can’t figure out how a blind person is capable of cooking.
GLEN: Well, Cory, this was fun. Thanks for being with me.
CORY: Oh, it was great. Thank you for having me.
GLEN: If you want to check out some of Cory’s videos, search for “Living Blind with Cory Jackson." That’ll get you to the ones on YouTube and to his Facebook page. And just search for Cory Jackson on TikTok. You’ll find him there, too.
GLEN: One final reminder that the 2022 public betas of ZoomText, Fusion, and JAWS are out the early part of September. If you’re inclined to give them a try, preview the features and let us know some things that might not be working exactly right, it always helps to have people outside of the company who are trying things for the first time to kick the tires and let us know when we still have some refinements to make.
As for FSCast, in about two weeks in this very same feed you’ll get the replay of FSOpenLine from the end of August 2021. And we’ll be back in another month with a new edition of FSCast. I’m Glen Gordon. Thanks for joining us.