FSCast #206

October,  2021

GLEN GORDON:  On FSCast 206, McDonald’s has partnered with Vispero to develop their accessible self-order kiosks.  Over 500 have rolled out throughout the U.S., with more coming before the end of the year.  Ryan Jones will give us a demo.  And then we’ll talk with Kelsey Hall, a product manager on the McDonald’s Digital Accessibility team, about how all the pieces of the project came together.

Hello, everybody.  Glen Gordon welcoming you to our podcast for October of 2021.  As you listen to this, most likely the official product releases of JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion 2022 have hit the Internet; which means that, if your current product has not prompted you to download and install the new version, you can go to our website and get it.  Lots of new features.  We’ve talked about it on the last two editions of FSCast.  So if you missed those, you might want to go back and listen to them.  Now is the safe time to download them, if you have not already done so because you were waiting for the official release.  We look forward to your feedback.  And, as always, we’ll have product updates coming every month and a half or so throughout the next year.

My interview with Daniele Casarola last month about stenography brought quite a bit of feedback, including one from a new listener, Shelley Keeland.  She was told about that particular episode because it featured stenography.  Turns out that she worked as a stenographer in Arkansas for close to 30 years, most recently using software called Eclipse, combined with some scripts developed by Vince at NanoPac, JAWS, and her Focus Braille Display.  She was able to work effectively for these 30 years.  And she confirms what I had sort of suspected, that there aren’t many blind people in the United States doing this work.

Secondarily, from Howard Goldstein, a comment about the stenomask that Daniele talked about.  Howard was given one by the New York Services for the Blind nearly 50 years ago.  Armed with a Sony TC-110 tape recorder and his stenomask, he’d proceed to classes, hold the stenomask up to his face, and dictate notes into the tape recorder.  He said that was a lot faster than recording the lectures, and then at his leisure he could convert those notes into braille.  Who woulda thunk?  Also Howard points out that there is a very lengthy and detailed article on Wikipedia about stenomasks, and they really are fairly complex beasts.  They have an interesting story.  So if you’re interested in such stuff, I recommend going to Wikipedia.org, searching for “stenomask.”

And, finally, from Elaine Farris, who diligently creates really accurate transcripts of this podcast every month, she said that many people doing court reporting who don’t have time to do a final proofread of what they’ve written employ people called “scopists.”  And indeed, a quick Google search revealed that there are scopist jobs in the United States still happening.  And they take the notes that court reporters create, make sure that everything is punctuated and written and formatted correctly, and turn them in.  So that’s how a court reporter is able to stretch the hours available in the day.

Always great to hear from you.  And if you have thoughts about this podcast, guests you’d like to have on, problems that you can’t get solved with our software in any other way, by all means write to me:  fscast@vispero.com.  And if you have problems that you want to talk about in somewhat of a public forum, we’re about to have our next FSOpenLine.  When I spoke to my co-hosts about having it on the normal fourth Thursday of the month, the response that came back from all of them was [turkey gobbling sound].  Yes, the fourth Thursday of November is November 25th, and that’s Thanksgiving.

So we’re doing it a week earlier, at 8PM Eastern Time, the 18th of November.  That’ll be the next FSOpenLine.  Eric Damery, Matt Ater, Rachel Buchanan, and myself will hold forth, hopefully with you, because without you it just becomes the four of us talking, which is far less interesting.  We’re doing it on a combination of Clubhouse and Zoom.  So whichever you like better, you can join on that platform, listen to the other callers, and participate, as well.  So 8PM Eastern on November 18th.

And then a couple of days after that, on Saturday November 20th, we are going to have a day of system maintenance.  And that is not a day that you want to authorize your software because the authorization servers will be unavailable on that Saturday.  So make sure that you’ve authorized either before or after November 20th.

Ryan Jones of TPGI Demos McDonald’s Accessible Self-Order Kiosk

GLEN:  At more and more McDonald’s throughout the United States, you now have the opportunity to bring a pair of headphones, plug them into a self-order kiosk, and have JAWS as the voice of the ordering process.  This has happened now in over 500 locations throughout the United States, with more coming before the end of the year, a collaborative process done with both Freedom Scientific on the JAWS side of things, and TPGI, which is our accessibility consulting wing of Vispero.  So you plug your headphones in, and you can do an accessible order process.  To show us exactly how that works is Ryan Jones from TPGI.

RYAN JONES:  The kiosk has a Storm keypad, which has four arrow  keys, up, down, left, and right; a middle key that’s used as the ENTER key and also an information key; and then a headphone jack.  So I’ll be using those keys to navigate the McDonald’s kiosk.  So let’s get started and order some food.

JAWS VOICE:  Welcome to McDonald’s.  Press the RIGHT ARROW key to move to the next item.  Press the DOWN ARROW key to skip to the next section on this screen.

RYAN:  So right away I’ve got some text here that says “Welcome to McDonald’s,” and it starts giving me tutor messages about what keys I can press to move around.  So I’m going to press the RIGHT ARROW key.

JAWS VOICE:  Start order.  Press the middle key to activate.  If you need assistance from a McDonald’s crew member, press the round Help button.

RYAN:  And I’m going to press the ENTER key on the Start Order button.

JAWS VOICE:  McDonald’s menu.  Press the RIGHT ARROW key to move to the next item.  Press the DOWN ARROW key to skip to the next section on this screen.

RYAN:  So most of our help messages will tell you to press the RIGHT ARROW key to move to the next item, or press the DOWN ARROW key to move to the next section.  Pressing the DOWN ARROW will let me jump between different sections on the screen.  The RIGHT ARROW will move through the different items.  I’m going to press the RIGHT ARROW and start moving through the main McDonald’s menu.

JAWS VOICE:  Home is selected.  One of 13.  Press the middle key to activate.

RYAN:  I’ll press right again.

JAWS VOICE:  Deals.  Two of 13.  Press the middle key to activate.  Monopoly.  Three of 13.  Press the middle key to activate.  Sandwiches and Meals.  Four of 13.  Press the middle key to activate.

RYAN:  So there are Sandwiches and Meals.  Let’s see what’s here.  So I’ll press the ENTER key.

JAWS VOICE:  Sandwiches and Meals.  Press the RIGHT ARROW key to move to the next item.  Press the DOWN ARROW key to skip to the next section on this screen.  Press the UP ARROW key to skip back to the McDonald’s menu.

RYAN:  Okay.  I’ll press the RIGHT ARROW key to see what’s in Sandwiches and Meals.

JAWS VOICE:  All filter is selected.  One of four.  Press the middle key to activate.

RYAN:  So we have some filters where we can filter by the type of sandwich.  It says, “All filter is selected.”  I’m going to look for beef because I want a hamburger.

JAWS VOICE:  Chicken filter.  Two of four.  Press the middle key to activate.  Beef filter.  Three of four.  Press the middle key to activate.  Double Big Mac, $5.19, 720 calories.  New.  One of 19.  Press the middle key to activate.

RYAN:  So I pressed the ENTER key on the beef filter, and it took me to the first item here, which is a Double Big Mac.  It says it’s one of, and then it tells me how many products are here.  I’m going to press the RIGHT ARROW, and let’s see what else is here.

JAWS VOICE:  Little Mac, $1.99, 320 calories.  New.  Two of 19.  Press the middle key to activate.

RYAN:  Now that I’ve found Little Mac, which is what I’m going to choose, I’m going to take a minute and show you how to use the kiosk once you’ve gotten familiar with it, and you want to speed things up a little bit.  So there’s a settings mode that we can use in JAWS kiosk where you can actually increase or decrease the speech rate of JAWS, just like you might do on a regular computer.  I’ve gone ahead and increased mine a little bit.  And this time I’m going to do a few things and move a little bit faster to show you what it’s like to navigate once you get familiar with the kiosk.  So I’m going to go ahead and activate Little Mac.

JAWS VOICE:  Little Mac.  Would you like a side and a drink?  Press the RIGHT ARROW key to move to the next item.

RYAN:  And I’m going to go down and make my selection with the RIGHT ARROW.

JAWS VOICE:  Yes.  Make it a meal.  No, item only.  Review.  Little Mac, $1.99.

RYAN:  So now I’m going to move through the review screen, and I’m actually going to change the quantity, once I get there.

JAWS VOICE:  Nutrition and ingredients.  Customize it.  Decrease quantity.  Current quantity is one.  Increase quantity.  Quantity changed to two.  $3.98.  640 calories.

RYAN:  So JAWS automatically told me the new count and the updated price and the calorie count.  I’ll press RIGHT ARROW.

JAWS VOICE:  Cancel.  Add Little Mac to your order.  Item added to bag.  Your total has been updated, $3.98.  May we suggest press the RIGHT ARROW key to move to the next item.  Press the DOWN ARROW key.

RYAN:  So now it’s asking me if I want to add something onto my order.

JAWS VOICE:  Medium French fries.  McDouble.  Large Coke.  No Thanks.  Press.  McDonald’s Menu.  Press the RIGHT ARROW key to move.

RYAN:  I chose No Thanks.  So now I’m back on the main screen.  I could go add more products here if I’d like to.  But if I wanted to check out, I could press the DOWN ARROW key and jump to the different sections on the home screen here.  And I’ll find the item that would let me start the checkout process.

JAWS VOICE:  Sandwiches and Meals.  View your order to proceed to checkout.  Your order total is $3.98.  Press the middle key to activate.

RYAN:  If I activate this one, I’ll start the checkout flow where I can make my purchase and decide different options about my purchase.

Interview with Kelsey Hall , McDonald’s Accessibility Evangelist

GLEN:  Now that we’ve had a demo of this, I thought it would be interesting to explore the whole process that was involved in bringing this kiosk to life.  Because although it seems, because the interface is really streamlined, that this could have been developed in a couple of days, there are a lot of moving parts.  And to discuss some of those is Kelsey Hall.  She’s an Accessibility Evangelist at McDonald’s.  Officially she’s a Senior Product Manager on the Global Digital Accessibility team.  Kelsey, welcome to the podcast.

KELSEY HALL:  Thank you, Glen.  Happy to be here.

GLEN:  What prompted McDonald’s to do this, especially because in most restaurants there is still the counter that someone can order at, with a human on the other side?

KELSEY:  Yeah.  That’s a really good question.  And, you know, ultimately, a lot of this has to do with our refresh of our core values, the conversations that are happening around really what is McDonald’s doing in the space of inclusion.  And knowing that McDonald’s has a Digital Accessibility team, it was a real opportunity to work towards this enhancement of our guests with disabilities, using the technologies that we have that are available in our restaurants today, and then showing that they can use those independently.  So it totally changes the playing field for the ordering process at our restaurants, and it becomes this independent access to order their favorite meals, their favorite meals for themselves or their family members or their friends.  And that’s really important to us.

GLEN:  My initial thought, of course is, oh, well, you know, it’s simple to go to the counter and order, and you have a human who will take your order.  It’s really fast.  But then I started thinking about the fact, if you don’t know exactly what you want, the order taker is not going to read the menu to you.

KELSEY:  Yeah.  If you want to know the calorie count of something, and you want all of that information, this enables that to happen independently.

GLEN:  How long ago did this whole project start?

KELSEY:  It was February 18th of 2019.  At least the conversation started well before that, probably like six or so months at least before that, maybe even a year.  So these things take a significant amount of time because there are so many stakeholders.  But I say February 18th, 2019 because that was my first day at McDonald’s.  And the very first meeting that I sat in was the first more formalized kickoff meeting of like this whole project to like really push this forward.  So from that day until recently, it took about, you know, two and a half years to get it out there because it’s a large-scale project. 

GLEN:  I remember there was a relatively opening bidding process.  We as TPGI and Freedom Scientific bid on it sort of jointly with JAWS as the brains of the speech operation.  We put together a proof of concept.  Do you remember seeing the various entries in that bid competition, and why you picked us?

KELSEY:  Yeah, I mean, I think ultimately it was really important for us, one, to make sure that we were working with the community of people that this would impact.  That was a very critical piece of our decision.  We wanted to make sure we knew that the engineers working on this, the leadership teams kind of helping to guide this, that our partners in this were people who really would seek to understand or to personally know the impact of this in day to day.  So that was a big part of it.

Another part of it was that we know that JAWS is a highly utilized screen reader in the blind community, and we felt like that would help in terms of the familiarity with using that technology.  Despite the kiosk being a much different experience than the web.  It still has this level of familiarity to it.  And that was also important to us.

GLEN:  How close is the final product to the initial tests?  In other words, did the UI or the experience for a blind user using the talking kiosk change dramatically?

KELSEY:  I guess I wouldn’t say dramatically.  But I would say that the screen reader functionality that you would find for a more traditional computer is going to be naturally a different experience.  Like how you navigate through headings or sections is vastly different.  And a lot of that learning came with trial and error, with testing, with community members who could give us that feedback to say, you know, like this does not make sense.  And it’s like, huh.  And we had to work through why doesn’t that make sense?  Oh, you know, because this would be how this person would perceive this on a computer.

But that’s not what we’re really dealing with when it comes to kiosk functionality.  So there was a lot of try this, move forward with this because this is a better user experience.  This makes more sense.  This is more natural.  And that was really important.  So we had an idea broadly of how this would go, and how we’d leverage the functionality from the Navigation Pad to how it kind of worked with the software and our interface.  But I would say a lot of that was trial and error to like ultimately where we got today.

GLEN:  I remember distinctly one of developers, Jonathan Harper, came up with a nice refinement of the help messages.  We’ve been talking about the NavPad and demonstrated with it.  But the kiosk is actually a big touchscreen, and it is touch-enabled with JAWS running so you can swipe your way to nirvana.  So Jonathan had this idea that, if you swipe, the next prompt will be in terms of swiping.  But if you’re using the NavPad, the next prompt will be in terms of that.  And that just seems really clever.

KELSEY:  Yes.  It is clever.  And kind of that collaboration was supercritical between the developers on that side and the engineers from Vispero, TPGI.  Jonathan was instrumental in that.  And Vanh Vue, who’s on our team, the kind of like correlation of all of them together between testing, ideation, came up with this ingenious support to also allow people to be able to toggle between them.  So you could be leveraging the NavPad and still switch and decide to use touch gestures, which are very kind of similar to what you’d use on a mobile device.  Obviously, the mobile device screen is significantly smaller than the size of our kiosk screens.  But that functionality is similar.  And that was really neat.

GLEN:  I know you have a background as an educator.  You worked in higher education in accessibility services.  What was it like to actually be working for a company and rolling something like this out?  Because it’s sort of coming at it from the other end.

KELSEY:  Education-wise, I would say the really amazing piece to this is that, because I’ve had such great experiences working with a wide array of people with different disabilities and experiences, including the blind population, I learned a lot about interaction, and even the difference between a native user of screen reader technology, someone who kind of learns it over time, maybe they lost their sight later in life, someone who’s more of a power user, and how people interact so differently.  And also the challenges that exist in that interaction and how when we don’t create a space where assistive technology can seamlessly integrate, it’s still going to be unusable.

So I think that the user experience side really drove how this product was created.  And I think it’s not – education and business aren’t ultimately that different.  And so knowing that I was a part of a product team that was really strong in understanding how to build product, and our developers were really excellent in terms of all the intricacies and the pieces, and we had all of these stakeholders at the table, everyone had a role to play, knowing that the user experience was always going to drive each step.

GLEN:  To what degree have these rolled out, and what are the rollout plans, as best you can tell us?

KELSEY:  So our McDonald’s-owned restaurants are rolling these out, the solution out to our kiosks in those restaurants by the end of 2021.  And then any kiosk that is purchased after July 1st of this past year, this 2021, it’s just coming as a part of our kiosks.

GLEN:  Which means this is also in the franchisee restaurants when they decide to buy new kiosks.

KELSEY:  Yeah, buying new kiosks or building a new restaurant after July 1st of this year.

GLEN:  I think I can probably safely say that I spied on your LinkedIn page, at least the part I could see.  And you had a line there that I had never seen before, which is “Vet before you get.”  So of course I googled that.  And it said, “Take your potential dog adoptee to the vet before you get it.”

KELSEY:  Oh, interesting.

GLEN:  But I don’t think that’s what you mean by that.  What does that mean?

KELSEY:  No.  But, you know, that’s still a good pointer.  Thank you for that.  But what I mean is, and what that really was about, was I have a secret love for accessibility and procurement.  And a few years back with a close friend and colleague, when I was working for UMass, we did a massive series of presentations on accessibility and procurement.  And we used that tagline, “Vet before you get,” kind of like a know what you’re getting into and make sure that your values as a company are included in the services and products you procure.  And that’s really important, I think, to the broad community in a variety of ways.  It doesn’t just mean for accessibility.  But I think that’s really important in terms of allyship and doing right.  You know, there’s a lot of companies out there who are on this journey, and that’s the cool thing about it, right, is being able to work together to really build spaces where people feel they belong.

GLEN:  I think that’s a perfect way to end it.  It seems to have come full circle because essentially McDonald’s has demonstrated a lot of those positive values with these accessible kiosks.  Kelsey, thanks so much for being with me.

KELSEY:  Thank you so much, Glen.  I really appreciate your time.

JAWS Power Tip

GLEN:  Time now for this month’s Power Tip, and it’s courtesy of Paul Ferrara.  He’s bringing back an oldie but a goodie that continues to be quite relevant.  And that’s the JAWS keystroke to virtualize window.  It’s ALT+JAWS KEY+W.  And it comes in handiest when you’re in a window where you don’t have the fine-grain control with the arrow keys that you’d like, that you can’t navigate by character or word, or that you can’t easily copy a portion of a list item, let’s say.  Now, Paul has always used this for sending things to his IT department when he gets errors.  The window comes up, he does ALT+JAWS KEY+W, virtualizes the window, copies the text, and his IT department has something to go on.

But the thing he’s discovered most recently is in Zoom.  If lots of people are posting things in chat in rapid succession, it may be hard to capture a link.  And so Paul has found that moving to the chat window and then using ALT+JAWS KEY+W to virtualize the window allows him to review it more quickly than moving item by item, maybe even using JAWS Find to find something that’s close to what he’s expecting and easily copy the link out to place it elsewhere.  And when you’re done with the virtualized window, you just press ESCAPE, and you’re back to where you were before.  The one caveat I would add is it virtualizes what’s on the screen.  It does not virtualize everything that’s in the chat.  So if the chat is really long, and part of it has scrolled off the window, you’ll want to make sure that you’re down at the portion relatively near what you care about so that when you virtualize, you’ll get that item.

For sending in his Power Tip, we thank Paul, but we thank him with a one-year extension to his JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion license.  If you’d like to get your hat in the ring for perhaps receiving same by submitting an interesting tip, write to us at fscast@vispero.com.

Signing Off on FSCast 206

GLEN:  That pretty much wraps it up for FSCast 206.  Don’t forget to join us on November 18th at 8PM Eastern for the next edition of FSOpenLine.  We’ll be looking forward to taking your calls.  I’m Glen Gordon.  Thanks for listening.


Transcript by elaine@edigitaltranscription.com







edigitaltranscription.com  •  10/26/2021  •  edigitaltranscription.mobi