August 2017 Newsletter And Dave’s News and Technology Updates

It is time for our big event! The tickets for Dinner in the Dark on August 17th can now be purchased. This event will fill at Hotel Roanoke. See the link below to buy tickets.

Eventbrite - Vistar Eye Center presents Dinner in the Dark to benefit New Vision Logo of Dinner in the Dark

We’ll be having a silent auction at the event. If you have a quality item and you’d like to donate it to the cause give us a buzz and let us know. Or email Courtney at the link below.

Another way you can show your support is simply by sharing our Dinner in the Dark Event on Facebook. See the share link below.

If you know of someone that could benefit from New Vision services feel free to send them our way. Our new Assistive Technology for the Elderly Program is very popular. To learn more see one of the links below.

Program Brochure
General Description of the Program and other New Vision Services

Echo News

Nothing much going on here. There are two important things of note, however. First off the Echo Reminders feature will now send notifications to your smartphone if you have the Alexa App setup and installed. This can be handy so you can still get your reminder even if you are not at home. Secondly, Amazon released a device called the Dash Wand, that’s right wand like magic wand. It is a $20 device that can scan bar codes and add the items to your Amazon cart. We have one in the Tech Center if you’d like to try it out. As an idea, it has a lot of promise but seems to have some rough edges that you’d expect in a version 1 product.

Accessible Television

This is our feature item for this month’s newsletter. We’ve had a lot of students asking about accessible TVs and TV equipment. We’ve been accumulating a lot of answers from local providers. So before we unload all that knowledge on you there is some basics to discuss.

So we’ve talked to Cox Cable, Dish TV, and DirecTV about accessible products they provide. Each has offerings, which we’ll get to in a minute. But the technologies fall into two catagories; an ideally if you can you want both. First off you have a screen reader, now they each have their cute name for this but that’s what it is. And each of these boxes offer this. It gives you audible feedback as you arrow around the menus, settings, and channels. Secondly, you have voice commands. That’s where you give a verbal command and the cable box flips channels. Now, be careful, one feature has nothing to do with the other. And you’ll still find that voice commands don’t always get you what you want or are as robust as a screen reader. Importantly, the voice command system isn’t built for us… in other words, it isn’t made for Blind or low-vison people. It can be very handy for us; but as a rule, it isn’t nor has it ever been a feature put into products for us… that goes for Siri, Amazon Echo, and Cortana as well. Now, since I mention the main stream voice assistants I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dish TV allows for the Amazon Echo to control certain satellite boxes they produce.

Ok, so what’s with the influx of accessible TV boxes. I’m going to assume it has to do with new FCC rules that went into effect in mid-December 2016. You can read about that at the link below.

“So where can I learn more?” you might ask. Below are links for each of the local providers in our area.

DirecTV, satellite service

DISH, satellite service

Cox Cable Service

ComCast Cable Service

As of this newsletter I’ve pretty much confirmed that everybody provides these boxes free of charge and will replace your old box for free. You’ve simply got to tell them you’re legally Blind or otherwise visually impaired. I’m not positive if they require any confirmation of this but I kind of doubt it. In the case of a local student on Cox Cable, they didn’t ask him for any confirmation. Additionally, I spotted at least one of these boxes had some magnification and other low-vision features; but you’d have to investigate.

So that’s the basics of local providers and accessible TVs. But there’s a lot more. For instance are you familiar with Audio Described video or as it’s otherwise known Video Descriptions? If not here’s a brief description. Audio Described content consists of TV shows or movies with an extra soundtrack that can be enabled expressly for the Blind. This audio track has a narrator who adds extra bits of info during a program that otherwise might be missed by a Blind patron.

Would you like to know more? Would you like to learn about what programming is available for broadcast TV networks in your area? Check out the FCC’s website below.

Here’s a link to a search engine setup by the American Foundation for the Blind. At this website, you can search by your Zip code for audio described content. See the link below.

Additionally, NetFlix, iTunes, and Amazon are making hundreds of their videos and movies available with audio descriptions. See the links below.

Amazon’s Blog Post NetFlix’s Blog Post Apple’s Content


Now I mentioned this Main Menu Podcast last month. But I failed to mention they discuss a accessible TV, not a box, a TV! So if you’d like to learn more see the link below.

Here are two more podcasts we’ve mentioned before but are jermaine to this month’s topic.

In this episode of the Blind Bargains Podcast listen to Joe interview a professional movie critic. And yes! He’s blind. See the link below.

Check out the 20,000 Hertz podcast. This is a delight to listen to and really enlightened me about audio description. This is a separate audio track added to movies and TV shows that fills in the gaps about what is happening on screen. They interview a Blind Movie critic, from YouTube. Have a listen.

Here’s a quick listing of some Blind Bargains coverage from the recently completed NFB convention.

NFB coverage of the Braille2Go notetaker from National Braille Press

Chancey Fleet talks with Beth Carrigan, General manager for the game Materia Magica

Here’s a great interview with the Seeing AI App Team from Microsoft. If you haven’t heard Seeing AI App is an OCR, barcode, and object recognition app. We’ve had about seven different students try it out in the Tech Center and it is a a big hit. Have a listen to the interview below.

Ever wanted a talking clothes washer and dryer. In this episode of Cool Blind Tech learn about a $99 box that does just that and about something called a color catcher for those times you mix your whites and colors. See link below.

Echo Hack

Just in case some of you heard a story on the news about the Amazon Echo being hacked and turned into a surveillance device, I felt the need to address it here. So in simplest terms, it is not true; and click bait. These kinds of stories feed on what some in the industry call techno panic. When people hear the term hack, they think of an Amazon Echo being remotely taken over via the internet or WiFi. Nothing of the sort took place, an as an internationally certified IT Security Professional I think my laptop is about a thousand times more likely to be taken over. So what’s the real story? A researcher named Mark Barnes physically took apart an Amazon Echo and changed the software so he could use it as a surveillance device. So the take away is this means nothing. As a rule in the security industry, if someone has physical access to an electronic device you’ve already lost the battle, so that goes for computers, cell phones, you name it. So no worries the Amazon Echo hasn’t been hacked!

To read more see the link below.

iPhone & iPad Apps

Check out the AppleVis’ Unlimited Newsletter for July 2017. Topics discussed include more games in the BlindFold series, Dolphin EasyReader, and the new Seeing AI App, from Microsoft. See the link below.

Echo Tip

There’s an online Amazon Echo guide as to different features and commands you can issue. See the link below and take a look.

Here are some things you can ask you Echo:

  • “Alexa, tell me a quote”
  • “Alexa, flip a coin”
  • “Alexa, pick a card”
  • “Alexa, good morning”
  • “Alexa, rap for me”

Ways to Support New Vision

Kroger Community Rewards

Picture of Kroger Plus Logo

Your Kroger Plus Card can be a powerful tool for supporting local organizations in your community. New Vision recently registered to be a beneficiary of the Kroger Community Rewards Program. Kroger will, in turn, donate toward our mission every time you, as a registered user, make purchases at their stores on hundreds of items.

If you’d like to see how to sign up, see the link below.

If you are a screen reader user then follow the link below for directions. These directions should apply whether you’re using NVDA or JAWS.

If you need additional help feel free to phone us here at the office.

Amazon Smile Program

Picture of Amazon Smile Logo

If you want Amazon to make a donation to New Vision every time you make a purchase you can use the link below to sign up for the Amazon Smile Program. Follow the step by step directions. Sorry, we haven’t had a chance to put together step-by-step directions for screen reader users yet. See link below.

Local News and Events

Reoccurring Events: Roanoke Alliance for the Visually Enabled (RAVE) meets the third Wednesday of each month. The next meeting of the Roanoke Alliance for the Visually Enabled (RAVE) will be on Wednesday the 16th of August at 7:00 PM. For more information contact Dianne Decker at

Your Thoughts

If you have any thoughts about what could be mentioned in an upcoming newsletter or comments on this newsletter feel free to reply or fill out the following form. See the following link.

Contact Info

New Vision 4504 Starkey Rd. Suite 120, Roanoke, VA 24018 (South Park Office Building)

Phone: 540.985.8900

Subscribe to the Newsletter via Email Click Here

Picture of David Ward

David Ward
Assistive Technology Instructor
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June 2016 Tech Center Newsletter

June 2016 Technology Newsletter

New Vision News and Updates

News: New Vision has moved! Our new address is 4504 Starkey Rd. Suite 120, Roanoke, VA 24018 (SouthPark Office Building). This location is accessible via RADAR Bus, whether you’re located in the City of Roanoke or in Roanoke County. Our Office suite is located in a complex beside the Carilion Wellness Center, formerly Roanoke Athletic Center (RAC). Our offices are located on the ground floor, in the front eastern section. The new Tech Center classroom space was completed ahead of schedule and is now all setup to go! So there won’t be any need for students to enter the office from the side entrance; instead simply use the front entrance.
When Arriving on RADAR
Picture of SouthPark Office Complex
When entering the grounds on a RADAR bus you’ll pull into the parking lot servicing the Carilion Wellness Center; hang a left and you’ll find the complex on the right. I’ve been told at this point there is signage that says “SouthPark Office”. The Address 4504 is located in large letters beside the front entrance. Some photos are shown below of the new facility which we hope to serve us for many years to come. Picture of the Front Entrance of the SoutPark Office Building.

Important Note to Students: The Tech Center is up and running. Despite some heating and air duct work we got done this past Tuesday, the 31st, we’re back up and running. We are also looking to update the Tech Center with some new workstations and equipment so stay tuned in!

Additional News: New Vision will be participating in the First Friday event. We’ll have volunteers from New Vision helping out and we’ll be a beneficiary from the event. First Friday’s has expanded to include the first and third Friday of the month, during the summer season. We’ll be participating on August 5. Stay tuned via our Facebook page or Twitter to learn more. Below is a link to the events webpage.


Check out Blind Bargains podcast number 63. Here you’ll hear JJ and Joe talk about Google IO conference, free courses from Deque, and an interview with the Makers of the Guardian Circle App. Oh, I almost forget you’ll hear about Pickles the guide cat. See the link below for more.

Apple’s been making some further strides in the accessibility field. Learn more about their new described video offerings in this episode of Blind Bargains, episode 62. Additionally, you’ll hear about some of the new accessibility tools being sold in the Apple Online store; this includes a refreshable Braille display. This and much more, please see the link below.

On episode 61 of Blind Bargains hear about the NFB’s settlement with Uber and about ZoomText now supporting Microsoft Office 2016. See the link below for more.

Check out this Main Menu episode dated May 27th. We’ve already got our socks blown off with the $49 Amazon Tablet. Take a listen to this episode where Peter Korn, Accessibility Architect, and Mark Mulcahy, Developer on the VoiceView Team talk about something new. VoiceView, is a screen reader, that is now running in Beta on the Amazon Fire TV. The Amazon Fire TV is a set-top-box for your TV that allows you to stream movies and TV shows. See the link below for more.

In this episode of Main Menu Scott Davert shows off the Amazon Echo Dot. Two popular apps, Roger and Alexa get together. Dan Kysor talks with Mike May about Seeing Eye GPS and then Larry Skutchan tells us about Nearby Explorer another GPS app. See link below.

Tech Center Workshops

We’re entertaining ideas about having more workshops now that we’re in our new space. What technology topics, with an accessibility twist, might interest you?

Here are some ideas I’ve had but feel free to give me your feedback at the comments link below.

  • How to protect yourself Online? Avoiding fraud and your financial information from being stolen.
  • How to use an Amazon Fire Tablet to read books, play audiobooks, watch movies, and read email for $49.
  • How to rent movies, watch TV shows, using an Apple TV and Amazon Fire Stick?
  • Apple Devices Advanced Workshop. We’d cover power features of iOS and Apps. Such as image recognition Apps, custom keyboards, Braille Reference tools, and the like.

Let us know what you think either at the Tech Center when you attend classes or via the link below. Or feel free to respond to this email.

iPhone & iPad Apps

For more about what’s going on in the App Store check out the latest AppleVis Unlimited Newsletter for May 2016. A few neat Apps discussed include a BBC Music App and the Big Finish Audiobook App. See the link below for more.

Did you know?

That in Microsoft Word you can select text and press the Control Key and the letter D to access the Font dialog box. From here you can quickly modify a font for a specific section or an entire document. Additionally, you can use the F12 key to prompt Microsoft Word to open the Save As Dialog box. I find this last shortcut, especially useful, it saves you several confusing steps in Microsoft Word 2007 and above.

Local News and Events

Annual Lake Event: Saturday June 25, 2016, at Claytor Lake State Park they’ll be the annual Lions on the Lake Event. This is presented by Blacksburg Breakfast Lions Club. Here’s a little about the event from Mrs. Ament.

“The Blacksburg Breakfast Lions Club is hosting the annual ‘Lions at the Lake’ event for visually impaired individuals. People of all ages are welcome especially children, to enjoy boat rides and being out on the lake, snacks and good company. Family members are of course welcome as well.

When: Saturday, June 25, 11 am to 2 pm, at Claytor Lake State Park, Picnic Shelter 2 (see map overleaf) If you, your family member or a friend are blind or visually impaired and are interested in more information please contact

Suzanne Ament
Tel: 540-381-0963″

Annual Picnic Event: Roanoke Alliance for the Visually Enabled (RAVE) meets the third Wednesday of each month. The next meeting of the Roanoke Alliance for the Visually Enabled (RAVE) will be on Wednesday the 15th of June at 7:00 PM. This will be the Picnic in the Park, that RAVE holds annually, it will be held at Waldron Park. For more information contact Dianne Decker at 540.562.0455 or at

Your Thoughts

If you have any thoughts about what could be mentioned in an upcoming newsletter or comments on this newsletter feel free to reply or fill out the following form. See the following link.

Contact Info

New Vision 4504 Starkey Rd. Suite 120, Roanoke, VA 24018 (SouthPark Office Building)

Phone: 540–985–8900

David Ward – Assistive Technology Instructor

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