Tech Times Newsletter

Winter 2017





Amazon Voice Products: Do You Hear an Echo?

Do you have one of the new Amazon voice products like the Echo, Tap or Dot?  Wondering what to do with it?  Find out at our Amazon Echo workshop on Thursday, Mar. 9 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm.  You’ll learn about the difference between each product, the set-up process and all the things the device can do for you. To register for this workshop, call our front desk or email David Flament.  You can also read my overview on Amazon voice products below.

Learn the Basics of Apple Mac

On Saturday, Mar. 18, we are once again offering Apple: Mac Basics.  We cover navigating the system, managing files and getting and using apps. To register for this workshop, call our front desk or email David Flament.

One-Week Computer Class

Get yourself up to speed with Windows 10 and Office 2016 during our Intensive Screen Reader class this March!  Our Second Sense computer classroom is now equipped with new Windows 10 computers and Microsoft Office 2016.  This advanced class covers the same material as our 16-week course, but is taught in a fast-paced, one-week class.  This class is for those who need to make the change to Windows 10 and who cannot attend our 16-week comprehensive program.  This intensive class meets Monday through Friday, March 27 through 31 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Prerequisites include ability to type at a steady pace, having good computer skills and being familiar with your screen reader.  Space is limited.  To enroll, contact David Flament at 312-236-8569 or email David Flament.

Are You A Gamer?

Do you think having vision loss means you can’t enjoy playing a game or two?  Join us on Thursday, April 13 from 1:00 to 4:00 as we learn more about gaming in our Apple Gaming workshop.  We’ll explore popular games from different genres, learn where to find new games and get tips for playing them.  To register for this workshop, call our front desk or email David Flament.



Time to Get Cooking!

Here’s an exciting new app from Conversant Labs called Yes Chef – just in time for holiday cooking! Yes Chef is an easy way to find and follow recipes. Much like this developer’s Say Shopping app, Yes Chef is an app that you talk to and it talks back to you, no typing or swiping required.

Getting Started

Everything begins by saying the wake word of “Chef.” After saying, “Chef,” wait for the tone. Often I find I have to repeat “Chef” a couple of times before I hear the tone, so be patient and wait for the tone. When you do hear the tone you say “Search.” Helpful hints are always given for what to say as you move throughout the app.

How Does it Work?

Let’s say you are trying to find a recipe for meatloaf. Once you are in the app, say, “Chef,” wait for the tone and then say, “Search.” The app will reply, “Search for what.” Now say, “Meatloaf.” The app will then read off the basic info for the first meatloaf recipe. You can then say, “Chef, Read All” to read the info for the first 10 recipes. Let’s say you want to try the second recipe. Just say, “Chef, read recipe number 2.”

Once you have found a recipe, you have several choices of what to say:

  • “Chef, Read Next” will read the next step in the recipe.
  • “Chef, Read All” will read all the steps in the recipe.
  • “Chef, Read All Ingredients” will read the list of ingredients for this recipe.


Where Do You Get It?

So where do you find this amazing app and how much does it cost? It’s available in the Apple app store and it’s free. Since it is free you have nothing to lose, so give it a try.

Don’t forget, this app gives you the recipes to follow, not the skills to cook with vision loss. If you want help chopping, measuring and using kitchen appliances, give us a call and ask for Polly Abbott, our certified vision rehabilitation therapist.


By Shawn Sturges

Getting Your Entertainment Fix

In one form or another, entertainment is a part of our everyday lives, whether it’s reading a book or watching a movie. As a blind individual, my forms of entertainment are not that different from those of my sighted counterparts, but the way I access entertainment can be slightly different. I’d like to share several forms of entertainment that fill my days.

Movies and TV

Netflix is probably one of the most accessible platforms to watch movies and TV shows. Netflix is known for adding audio description to some of their content, however, there is a limited selection with this feature. Another popular service I use is Hulu. Hulu uploads new episodes of many popular shows just days after they air on television. One aspect I do not like about Hulu is it is sometimes difficult to navigate the various options. With some patience, the ability to navigate does get easier.

Reading Books

I enjoy reading books because the imagination can build amazing mental images from the words on the page. I read my books on the Bard mobile app on my iPhone. It is also easy to download books from Bard on the computer.

Bard mobile has a large selection of titles, but when a title is not available, Audible is where I turn. Audible, however, is a service where you must pay for each book. Once the book is purchased, it is yours forever.


Music is a great way to fill the background with noise while cooking or cleaning, but I find myself listening to music more during my travel throughout the city of Chicago. There are many ways to get the music fix — Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify or an Apple subscription through your iPhones music app.

I use both Pandora and iHeartRadio because I can create a personalized radio station. To create a personalized station on Pandora, place the name of the artist or genre into the search field, then press the search button to find many similar stations. iHeartRadio is where I turn to when I want to enjoy the radio stations I know in the U.S. The only stations iHeart picks up, however, are Cox Communications stations. The app was developed by Cox and carries all of their terrestrial stations throughout the states.

Spotify and Apple services lean more towards a subscription service. Their price is minimal compared to what is provided, so these two platforms warrant some exploration for the music lover.


Finally, I must mention games for the gamers out there among us. Prior to losing my sight, I was a huge gamer and loved Role Playing Games, or RPGs as they are more commonly known. For years I searched for gaming options, and I kept coming up short. This form of entertainment is still in its infancy and the options are few and far between compared to games offered to the sighted community.

Several years ago I found the perfect realm of games known as MUDs which stands for multi-user dungeons. These games are popular among computer gamers who want to play the Dungeons & Dragons game popular decades ago. MUDs are purely text based and rely on the players’ minds to create the visuals, making it perfect for the visually impaired individual. Games vary in scope from medieval fantasy to futuristic and everything in between. The two games I currently play are Alter Aeon and Materia Magica, both fantasy games based on magic.

The wonderful thing is that their creators, along with coders, place a great emphasis on accessibility for the visually impaired community so that they can compete on an equal footing with a sighted player. I get to interact with others from around the world, and the best part is that a large portion of the player base is other visually impaired individuals.

Many other game styles exist, but for me, I love RPGs. These games are perfect to pass some time when I just want to go on quests with other likeminded individuals from around the world.

Summing it Up

Entertainment helps us to pass time while enjoying the company of others, or alone as a momentary escape from the stress of everyday life. The forms of entertainment mentioned throughout this article are just the primary forms I enjoy, but are by no means the end all of the entertainment possibilities. These options are just a starting point for those who do not know where to find accessible entertainment. If you ever see me at Second Sense, I would love to talk with you about more options for everyday enjoyment.


I am often asked about alternatives for an iPhone for those who just can’t afford the cost of the device or the monthly expense but need the accessibility options offered by an iPhone.

The answer is the iPod Touch 6th generation. This iPod Touch offers all the accessibility features and most of the capabilities of the iPhone at less than a third of the cost of the latest iPhone with no monthly bill.

Too Good to be True?

You are probably saying “that sounds too good to be true, there must be a catch.” There are, of course, a few small differences between the two devices you’ll want to be aware of if considering this option.

  1. There is no cellular connection. You must use a Wi-Fi connection for any apps that need access to the Internet including web browsing.
  2. The iPod Touch does not have Touch ID similar to newer Apple products, so no fingerprint identification.
  3. There is no GPS chip. The iPod Touch relies on the same variety of methods as the iPad including the location of Wi-Fi signals around you to determine your location. This will work with most GPS apps, but is only moderately accurate and not accurate at all in rural areas. A GPS receiver can be added at a low cost, typically under $100. This will give you better access to GPS apps like BlindSquare and Nearby Explorer.

Other than these differences, it works a lot like the iPhone. The iPod Touch even has similar specs to the iPhone 6 with an A8 processor and an 8 MP camera.

What can you do with the iPod touch 6th Generation?

  • identify currency with the Money Reader or Eye Note apps,
  • read print with the KNFB Reader app,
  • identify objects with the TapTapSee or Bespecular apps,
  • shop with the Amazon or Peapod apps,
  • read and send email with the built-in email app,
  • send text messages with the built-in iMessage app,
  • use as a portable video magnifier with the built-in magnifier app,
  • use as a book reader with the iBooks or NLS BARD apps, and
  • use social media with the Facebook or Twitter apps.


What Does it Cost?

The above list represents the most popular apps for common tasks, and while some of these apps are free, some are not. The cost for the iPod Touch 6th generation is $199 for 16 GB, $249 for 32 GB and $299 for 64 GB. I strongly recommend one of the bigger storage sizes as 16 GB will fill up quickly with all the apps you will want.