Tech Times Newsletter

Summer 2018




Learn About Sprint Services

Join us on Friday, Sept. 14 from 1:30 to 3:30 pm to learn about the services, discounts and offers Sprint Wireless provides to individuals with vision loss.  Maryam Adeocun, Sprint representative, will demonstrate accessible devices and apps and can answer all your questions about Sprint services.  Bring your device, too, for any specific questions about accessibility.  To register, call our front desk or email David Flament.

Coming in October

Join us on Saturday, Oct. 13 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm for our third Assistive Technology Showcase. We welcome Ana Leffel from Second Sight, developer of the Argus II. This is the only FDA-approved retinal prosthesis for adults with late-stage retinitis pigmentosa. Anna will discuss how the Argus II works, assessment of eligible candidates, the rehabilitation process and real-life examples of Argus users’ experiences with their new, artificial vision! Anna will also share an update on Second Sight’s Orion, a product currently in clinical trial with the FDA, designed to provide artificial vision to a broader population of adults without usable vision.  If you can’t attend in person the conference call-in line is available at 312-582-2994, conference bridge 301 and pin 1111.  To register, call our front desk or email David.



This quarter I’d like  to talk about web browsers.  Internet Explorer has been discontinued and Microsoft has not sent any major updates since 2015.  Internet Explorer is becoming unsafe to use.  If you are still using Internet Explorer, it may be time to try another web browser.  Here are some other web browser options you may want to consider.

Microsoft Edge

What has replaced Internet Explorer? Starting with Windows 10, Microsoft created Edge to be its main web browser. While it was not accessible when Windows 10 was released in 2015, assistive technology companies and Microsoft have worked hard the past several years to make it more accessible. Edge is now mostly accessible with screen readers, but not as much with screen magnifiers. Edge is a modern app, not a desktop app.  The interface has no menu bar or ribbon. Any items you would find on a menu or ribbon are now navigated with a series of several tabs. This makes Edge cumbersome to use. I do not care for this interface and do not use Microsoft Edge very often. Microsoft Edge is the default web browser in Windows 10. This means if you open any HTML file or follow any links in a document, Edge is the browser that will come up.  If you want to change the default browser in Windows 10 to another browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft has step-by-step instructions on its website.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome is currently the most popular web browser on the market. It is the browser I use most often. You may have heard that Chrome was not accessible or needed an add-on to make it accessible. This is no longer the case. Chrome is very accessible and uses most of the same keyboard commands you have grown used to in Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Like Microsoft Edge, Chrome does not have a traditional menu bar or ribbon. When you press the ALT key, you will hear “Google menu.” Everything is on this one menu. All you need to do is DOWN ARROW to find the items you would normally see on an older menu bar, like Bookmarks or Settings. Google Chrome does not come installed on most new computers.To get Google Chrome, go to:

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox has been around for a long time. It was the first web browser to use tabbed browsing and has been the web browser of choice for use with NVDA.

That changed back in November with the release of Firefox 57, often referred to as Firefox Quantum. Version 57 was a total makeover, and unfortunately, damaged the accessibility to a level where it was mostly unusable with a screen reader.

However, Mozilla quickly realized what they had done and issued an apology, promising to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.

Now, Mozilla is on version 61 of Firefox and everything is working great. Mozilla Firefox does not come installed on most new computers. o get Firefox you can go to:

Remember, you can have more than one web browser installed on your computer. I find that sometimes a particular website can be more accessible in one web browser than another. So don’t be afraid to try more than one.



By Joseph Lee

How My Friends and I Play Risk

As a visually impaired person, I know the lengths to which one must go in order to enjoy the same recreational activities as our sighted friends.  Often, it is painstakingly time consuming and requires some extra financial investment.

But, once work-arounds are met and participation is achieved, it is always worth it, whether it is tandem bicycling or something much simpler like playing a board game with a couple of close friends.

Adapting and playing a board game called Risk is exactly what my friends and I aimed to accomplish by combining our existing knowledge of the game itself and the accessible resources available to us as blind board gamers.

The “Risk” game board resembles an old world Atlas in its simplest form.  It shows countries on a map on which armies are placed and commanded to take over the world.  Moving and attacking one another is done through the rolling of dice.  The challenges of placing armies, moving pieces around on a visual board, and rolling dice were what needed to be addressed in order for us to actually play the game.

First, we used a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that contained separate columns for each continent and its countries, bordering countries and number of armies.  The title columns were arranged with the Number of Armies as the central column.  The adjacent columns positioned to the left and to the right were Continents and Borders.  Each player’s name was indicated by a single letter along with how many armies that player controlled in that country.  Other notations were created to play the finer points of the game.

Secondly, and most importantly, we employed the use of a whole lot of tools on the assistive technology side to make it possible for us to communicate our moves, roll the dice and play the game.

We used:

  • screen readers and Excel,
  • Roll The Bones App for rolling dice, and
  • Skype to communicate army movements, attacks, and dice results.

All in all, it took some concerted effort, several accessible devices, patience and creativity to pull it all off.  The first game was not perfect.  We discovered little changes here and there we could make to simplify game play and shorten the amount of time spent on knowing who had how many armies on which country.  As we implemented these changes, the game itself became more enjoyable to play.

The experience of trying to adapt one of our favorite board games was such a positive one that it led to us adapting other games, too.  It is amazing to see what a little extra effort and time can do when you are trying to have fun with your friends.

If you would like to see our Microsoft Excel Risk game board, please email Kathy Austin for a copy.


After our new Assistive Technology Showcase workshops, I have been fielding a lot of calls about notetakers.  Here you’ll find information on three of the major notetaking devices on the market, BrailleNote Touch, BrailleSense Polaris and ElBraille.

BrailleNote Touch

The BrailleNote Touch is the latest entry in the line of BrailleNote notetakers from Humanware.  It is their first Android-based notetaker and combines a touch screen with a braille display.  You can either use the traditional KeySoft applications like KeyWord or KeyPlan or you can use your favorite Google apps like Google Docs or Google calendar.

The BrailleNote Touch has 2 GB of RAM and the lowest amount of internal storage for the three notetakers discussed in this article.  It comes with a 32-cell braille display for $5,495 and an 18-cell model for $3,995.

The BrailleNote Touch features include:

  • The Android operating system combined with the familiar KeySoft suite of apps
  • Both contracted and uncontracted Braille including UEB
  • Google Play store access
  • touch screen like mainstream tablets
  • Both TouchBraille and smart keyboard cover


BrailleSense Polaris

The BrailleSense Polaris is the latest notetaker from HIMS.  It is an Android-based notetaker, however, it is not a touch screen tablet.  HIMS has chosen to keep the same style notetaker design as its previous models while switching to the Android operating system.   The Polaris does support Google apps like Drive and Docs.

With 3 GB of RAM, the BrailleSense Polaris has the most RAM of these three notetakers.  The Polaris has a 32-cell braille display and a standard Perkins style keyboard.  It is priced at $5,795.  The Polaris Mini has a 20-cell braille display and comes with the same Perkins style keyboard.  The Mini is priced at $4,195.

The BrailleSense Polaris models features include:

  • Android OS Lollipop
  • Google Play store access
  • Suite of familiar BrailleSense apps like web browser, word processor and media player.
  • 11-key Perkins keyboard with CTRL and ALT keys like a traditional notetaker
  • Powerful 8 core processor
  • 13 MP camera
  •  Memory card slot
  • USB 3.0
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi



It has been a long time since the PacMate was retired.  Freedom Scientific has finally introduced a new notetaking device, the ElBraille.  The ElBraille is a Windows 10 based notetaker.  It will run Windows 10 apps, but with only 2 GB of memory, it may not have all the capabilities of a standard PC.  This notetaker comes with a Perkins style keyboard, however, JAWS and a braille display are sold separately.

The ElBraille has the most internal storage of the three notetakers discussed here.  The ElBraille is priced, for the unit alone, at $1,795 for use with a 14-cell braille display or $1,895 for use with a 40-cell braille display.  You can also purchase the ElBraille with a braille display already included.  The price for the ElBraille with a 14-cell display included is $2,795 and with a 40-cell braille display for $4,390.

The ElBraille features include:

  • Windows 10
  • Intel quad core Atom processor
  • 160 GB internal HDD
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • 4G LTE modem
  • USB 3.0
  • Memory card slot

Note: While a 14-cell braille display can be docked and undocked from the ElBraille, a 40-cell display must be permanently mated to the ElBraille by VFO.