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

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David Ward
Assistive Technology Instructor
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