Tech Times Newsletter

Winter 2019




Welcome Our New Technology Tutor

We’re expanding our technology tutoring team to include a new tutor, Barb.  Barb is an experienced VoiceOver user and can help you with a wide variety of features and apps on your iPhone or iPad.  She is available for appointments on the second and fourth Mondays of the month.  Marv and Joe are also available to address any of your technology needs on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  One-on-one tutoring appointments with Barb, Marv or Joe can be made with our front desk by calling 312-236-8569.

New Smart Speaker Workshop

Maybe you received one of the new smart speakers for a holiday gift and not sure what to do next?  Our new My Smart Speaker workshop shows you how to set up a Google Home Mini or Amazon Echo Dot.  We’ll also demonstrate the apps for each device and learn useful voice commands and some fun ones, too!  To register for My Smart Speaker on Thursday, Feb. 21 from 1:30 to 3:30 pm, call our front desk or email David Flament.

Affordable JAWS and ZoomText

The high purchase price of JAWS and ZoomText has long been limiting for users and has led to the use of outdated programs with scarce technical support.  Freedom Scientific has announced a new model for purchasing which offers increased access to up-to-date programs at more affordable prices.  For home versions of the programs, an annual subscription fee of $90 per year for JAWS and $80 per year for ZoomText provides users with the latest version of the program plus technical support.  This subscription service is only available for purchase online.  To learn more, visit

Technology Training to Meet Your Needs

We are always striving to improve our programs to serve the needs of all our clients.  We believe that a one-size-fits-all program isn’t for everyone.  To incorporate this into our technology training, we are testing one-on-one computer training with David Flament.  You can learn it all – Word and Excel in the Microsoft Office Suite, Internet browsing and email – or pick and choose what is most important to you.

We have also expanded our computer training practice time to include an open lab with technology tutors on hand to provide additional guidance on what you are learning.  Open Lab is Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.  No need for an appointment, just drop by.

Our other technology training options include one-on-one appointments with a technology tutor for screen readers and magnifiers, Apple products using VoiceOver and Zoom, Victor Reader Stream and Microsoft Office.  Let our front desk volunteers know what area you would like help with, and they will set you up with a tutor who best meets your needs.  Our computer lab is also open for your use during business hours with computers equipped with the latest Windows operating systems and assistive technology programs.  Watch for future articles in Making Sense for group workshops on a variety of technology topics.  To learn more about our computer training and to discuss your needs, call or email David.


With the growing popularity of the free screen reader, NVDA, I would like to talk a little about add-ons.  Add-ons are software packages that allow you to add additional features to your programs, like dictation or remote access for NVDA.

Add-ons for NVDA are not created by the folks from NVDA.  You should know there is always a security risk to using add-ons.  The NVDA Community page lists many ad-ons, and you can feel some degree of comfort knowing that NVDA has probably taken a look at those listed.  In addition, you can get feedback from other users on their experiences using these ad-ons.

Not all add-ons are on the NVDA community add-on page.  For example, one of the newest add-ons that people are excited about is the Dictation Bridge add-on.  Dictation Bridge is still under development, but is working well with NVDA.

Here’s how you can install an ad-on:

  1. Go to where you downloaded the add-on, usually your Downloads folder.
  2. Press ENTER on the add-on file.
  3. You may be prompted to Run or Open the file.  If so, select Run or Open and follow the instructions to install the add-on.
  4. Restart NVDA and your add-on should be working.



By Joseph Lee, Technology Tutor at Second Sense

Communication Apps I Use to Talk with My Friends

As someone who is visually impaired, I have seen the accessibility in technology expand to enable the use of text messages and emails for social and professional use.  Because I have friends in different parts of the country and around the world, I have started using a few apps to help keep in touch without having to make a long distance phone call or purchasing plane tickets to hang out with my friends. The apps I use are WhatsApp and TeamTalk.


WhatsApp is a platform where people can exchange text, audio and video messages.  Similar to the Messages app on the iPhone, conversations in the group appear starting at the bottom with the more dated bits appearing higher up as you scroll. This can prove to be handy when there are more than two people phoning in or if all members are not on the call simultaneously. A member in the conversation can simply check the app and reply to any of the messages received while away.

For text messages, a member of the group can tap on Compose and an onscreen keyboard appears for the user to type or dictate their message.

Audio messages are slightly trickier.  The user has to double tap Audio Message and hold while dictating, then release when finished. There is no way of checking your recording before sending.  When you lift your finger off the button, it is automatically sent.


TeamTalk is a freeware conferencing system created by BearWare and is utilized more for conference calls. It is almost like a phone call with multiple parties. Private channels and rooms can be created to host group conversations. Although it has a feature to message, this is not the primary function of the app. One handy feature is the Transmit button. If a person wants to listen to the conversation but wishes to cut out the background noise on their end, they can double tap Transmit to toggle it on and off.

While WhatsApp and TeamTalk are communication apps, they both have their unique uses, each with advantages and disadvantages. Users may prefer texting or email over these apps. However, they fulfill a very niche role. and if used creatively, communication can be achieved to fit certain circumstances.


Is There An App for That?

I often work with clients on finding apps that help them with everyday life situations.  I wanted to share a couple of the ones I use and recommend to students.  The apps below are for the iPhone.  Some are also available for Android.

Is there an app to help me get where I need to go?

If you want more options for travel than public transportation or paratransit, check out ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. They allow you to share a ride with others. These ride-sharing apps are a great way to get around and are almost like having your own chauffer. It is as easy as opening the app, telling it where you are and where you want to go. A car will pick you up in minutes. Best of all, it is a shorter wait than calling a cab and the cost is usually less.

How can I tell what color my clothes are?

There are a ton of apps that identify color, and for the most part, all of them do a terrible job.  The Color ID channel in the Seeing AI app is okay, but I prefer to use the Be My Eyes app for this task.  Be My Eyes connects you with a volunteer who can see with the rear camera on your phone.  Not only can they see me and tell me that my colors match, but they can also spot if I have a stain on my shirt.

How do I read print like my mail or a restaurant menu?

Many apps are able to work with the camera on your phone to read print materials.  The one I use the most is Seeing AI by Microsoft.  Seeing AI is free and has a ton of features.  The Short Text channel reads any text in view of the camera without having to press any buttons or tap on the screen.  The Documents channel will read an entire document after you snap a photo of the page.

How can I tell the denominations of my paper money?

Among the many currency id apps out there, the two best are the Currency channel in the Seeing AI app and Money Reader by NantMobile.  I use the Money Reader app.  It is free, fast and very easy to use.  Just open the app and wave a bill in front of the rear camera.

How can I find out where I am, what stores and restaurants are around me and get directions, too?

There are more GPS apps out there than grains of sand on the beach.  I find the easiest way is to use Siri and Apple Maps.  Just ask Siri “Where am I?” or “Get walking directions to the nearest Starbucks.”  If you turn on Tracking with Headings in Apple Maps, it will announce Points of Interest (POIs) and intersections as you walk.

Another GPS app that has really taken the community by storm since its release in the spring of 2018 is Microsoft Soundscape.  Soundscape builds a 3D sound environment around you. When you ask the app to tell you what is around you, you will be able to tell where things are by where the sound is coming from.  For example, if the Chase bank is to your left and McDonald’s is behind you, you hear something like, “Chase Bank 75 yards” in your left ear, and “McDonalds 300 feet” coming from behind you.  The menu makes it very simple to use.  You do need headphones to take advantage of this 3D soundscape.  I recommend purchasing bone conduction headphones if you plan on using a GPS app like this outdoors.

What about shopping?

I have really come to dislike getting help from customer service at the grocery store.  At least half the time I end up with someone who just can’t help very much.  I tend to do most of my shopping with the Peapod or InstaCart apps.  They both charge delivery fees and InstaCart also charges a service fee.  Peapod delivers your groceries from their own warehouses, and they also have their own line of generic products.  InstaCart shops at your local stores and then brings the products to you.

I also do a lot of shopping on the Amazon website or with my Amazon Echo smart speaker.  I do occasionally use the Amazon app, but do not really care for it.  Amazon has most everything I need and their customer service for people with disabilities is amazing.  A customer service representative can do almost everything for you including finding, describing and placing products in your cart.  They cannot, however, checkout or pay for your purchases.  The phone number for the customer service for people with disabilities is 888-283-1678.

Is this soup or nuts?

One task that becomes difficult as our vision changes is identifying products like cans in the cupboard or boxes in the freezer.  I use the Seeing AI app from Microsoft for this task.  The Products channel will identify products by their bar code and even give you the label information like nutrition and directions.  If you are like me and cannot see enough to find the bar code, Microsoft already thought of this and developed an ingenious solution.  As you move the product around in view of the rear camera, Seeing AI will start to beep as the bar code comes into view.  The faster the beeps, the closer it is to seeing the entire bar code.  Before you know it, you will hear the app say, “processing,” and then it will identify the product.

Need a real person?

Sometimes you just want a pair of eyes to look at something.  I mentioned the Be My Eyes app earlier for color id, but this app is so much more.  I have used it to find my hotel room in an unfamiliar hotel, check the temperature on my air conditioner and set my microwave clock.  This app is free and very easy to use.  When you tap on the “connect to a volunteer” button, you will be connected to a volunteer who will be able to see out the rear camera of your phone.  Keep in mind, they are volunteers, not paid professionals.  I would not ask them to read my bank statement or credit card number.  Also, remember they can see everything the rear camera on your phone catches including that week old moldy pizza on your coffee table!

Need more help?

If you want to learn more about the apps in this article, Second Sense can help.  Our open lab is staffed with a tutor to help you weekday mornings from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.  The open lab is first-come, first-served.  We also have individual, one-on-one sessions with our tutors by appointment.  Just drop by for the open lab or call our front desk at 312-236-8569 to schedule your one-on-one appointment.