Legendary Insights radio program to feature Hartgen Consultancy


Considering all the time I spend marketing and promoting my various projects on social media, it would pain me to think you are unaware of my radio program on ACB Radio Mainstream, called Legendary Insights. However, if my outreach has fallen short, then I encourage you to tune in this evening to see what it’s all about.

A few months ago, I was invited to create and host a program on ACB Radio, an Internet radio station sponsored by the American Council of the Blind, ACB. The station has a number of channels, each emphasizing a different aspect of ACB business, blindness issues and legislation, access technology, and general information. The channel on which you can hear Legendary Insights is called Mainstream.

Legendary Insights is still something of a work in progress. I’m not entirely sure I’ve found my voice yet, so to speak, and I’m still not sure where I want to take the program. I’ve been given a wide latitude to flex my creative muscles, and so far, I haven’t felt as though I’ve been particularly creative. Yet, there is a theme to the show, based upon one of my favorite quotes.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, whether here on my blog or on social media, then you know that I have a love of language. I enjoy the written word, thoughts beautifully expressed, and timeless words of wisdom. As to that last, I particularly love quotes, and I used one of my favorites as the basis for the radio program. As mentioned in prior posts, it’s attributed to a poet and playwright by the name of Neil Marcus, who said, in part: “Disability is not a ‘brave struggle,’ or ‘courage in the face of adversity.’ Disability is an art…It’s an ingenious way to live.”

Since I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, the theme of Legendary Insights is “live your ingenious life.” Every other month, on even-numbered months, you can hear me share ways in which we can all live our best, most ingenious life. Whether that is by way of new ideas, new tips or tools, new products, or interviews with experts you may never have heard before, I hope I can help my listeners to enjoy a greater quality of life.

Tonight’s episode features Brian Hartgen of Hartgen Consultancy. Brian will share details of some of his most popular assistive technology products, such as J-Say, J-Dictate, and Leasey. Brian will also talk about his love of music and radio, and share his thoughts about helping others to live their own ingenious lives.

Tune in tonight at 8 pm Eastern, 5 pm Pacific time on http://www.acbradio.org/mainstream/ to hear the show. You can also listen on the fantastic ACB Link iOS app, available in the Apple App Store.

As I mentioned above, the show airs every other month, so the next episode will drop the first Thursday in December. I’m thinking about sharing some ideas for holiday home decorating, and if you have any favorite holiday tips or recipes, family traditions or creative party ideas, feel free to send me an email at laura@acbradio.org.

You can find me live tweeting during the programs on @LLOnAir and use the hashtag #LLonAir when tweeting about the program. Don’t worry if you miss an episode. The program is also available as a podcast onn iTunes.

So, don’t forget to tune in tonight. Also, there’s lots to explore on the Hartgen Consultancy web site, so go here to check it out:

http://www.hartgen.org/

Follow Brian on Twitter: @brianhartgen
Thanks for reading…and for listening!

LL

Now, online shopping is as easy as chatting with a friend. Introducing Say Shopping.


If you are a screen reader or other assistive technology user, and have ever felt overwhelmed navigating an online shopping destination, then you may have turned to a smartphone app instead. Often, the main retail shopping sites are visually cluttered and can lack some useful markup that allows for screen reader users to quickly identify and navigate to necessary links and buttons. Many smartphone apps provided by retailers offer a user experience that is more streamlined, and therefore more efficient, due to the limited number of options available as compared to their huge web sites. Unfortunately, some of these same retailers have app’s that can be as confusing as their full site counterparts, since the limits imposed by app size and scope can leave little room for ubiquitous help, thereby reducing intuitive functionality.

Now, thanks to a new technology developed by Conversant Labs, using your smartphone to shop online is as easy as chatting with a friend. Say Shopping is an iOS app that enables users to interact with a retail establishment, in this case, Target Stores, by using natural language. Chris Maury, founder of Conversant Labs, sat down with me for a fascinating discussion of the Say Shopping app, algorithms, and natural language processing technology. Be sure to click on the link at the end of the article to listen to the audio interview with Chris that I posted for the Fashionability Channel.

LL: What is meant by “natural language processing,” and how have you furthered this technology in the Say Shopping app?
CM: Natural Language Processing or NLP allows a computer to understand the meaning behind the words people use. NLP has a wide range of uses from understanding whether someone is happy or sad or understanding that when they say “I ran out of toilet paper” they’re probably looking to buy more.
With Say Shopping we’ve taken NLP and applied it to the realm of shopping, and by doing so made it really easy for people to shop using their voice (something that’s never been possible before).

LL: Your technology will allow eyes-free, and eventually, hands-free interaction with other apps and devices. Where do you see the future of the technology headed?
CM: In the next year or so, we are finally going to see voice interaction move beyond simple virtual assistants like Siri and Google Now. With new products and services like Apple’s Carplay and the Amazon Echo, we are finally seeing devices where it is much easier to interact with them using voice than it is using touch. With these new products we’ll start to see more exciting features for voice-based services; Say Shopping and being able to shop online is just one example. Soon we’ll be able to read and follow recipes while we cook, order an Uber, and manage our email all from a voice client. And we’re building the tools that developers are going to need to create these new, voice-driven experiences.

LL: What can users expect from this first release of Say Shopping? Will there eventually be other retailers or use cases for your technology?
CM: You can search through Target’s entire product catalog, hear about product details and customer reviews, and order any products that Target will deliver to your house. We’re working to add the ability to order for in-store pickup as well which will open up shopping for groceries as well.
We want to make the best shopping experience possible for our users, so we want to make sure they have options in what they are shopping for and where they are buying from. We also want to bring Say Shopping to as many people as possible, so we are looking at supporting other platforms besides the iPhone such as Apple’s Carplay.

LL: How can other developers or potential licensees get involved in creating new platforms for the technology?
CM: We are finishing up work on our Say Kit Software Development Kit (SDK) which we used to build Say Shopping. We want as many people as possible building voice based experiences into their apps. We will be releasing the first version of the SDK in the coming months, but if developers are interested in getting early access they can reach me at chris@conversantlabs.com.

LL: Is Say Shopping available now? Where can readers find it?
CM: Say Shopping is available now from the Apple App Store. Download the app by following this link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sayshopping/id969106932?ls=1&mt=8

You can learn more about the app at sayapps.com

LL: Anything else you’d like Accessible Insights readers to know?
CM: Say Shopping is still early in it’s development. We wanted to get it out there as soon as we could while providing something that people would find useful. There is still a lot we want to do with the app, and there is still a lot we can do to make it better. So if you have any ideas on how to make the app better, please let us know.

LL: I also want readers to know that Chris will be attending the National Federation of the Blind 75th annual convention the week of July 6th, 2015. You can find him bouncing between the booth for Target Stores, B43-44, and the Elegant Insights Braille Creations booth C6. You can try out the app, ask questions, and learn more about the technology. To hear a demo of the Say Shopping app, check out the interview I conducted with Chris for the Fashionability Channel podcast at http://fashionabilitychannel.wordpress.com/.

More about Chris Maury:
Chris was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Macular Degeneration in 2011 and has been working in the accessibility community ever since. He is also the
co-organizer of the Pittsburgh Accessibility Meetup a group with 200
members discusses how to make the world around us more accessible to people across disabilities. This group has met monthly since it’s founding in 2013 and covers topics from accessible sports to emerging accessibly technologies from universities and companies alike.

Get in touch with Chris:
Website: Sayapps.com
Twitter: twitter.com/@cmaury
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Conversant-Labs/438191096263041

See you in Orlando, everyone.

LL

Abilities Expo to showcase products, services, entertainment for all abilities


Elegant Insights Braille Creations will be at the San Jose Abilities Expo on November 16-18, 2012 at the San Jose Convention Center where we would like to introduce you to all the great things we have to offer! In addition to Elegant Insights, there will be approximately 150 suppliers of products and services that will increase your quality of life through new technology, great seminars on important issues and networking that will meet your specific needs. There is NO CHARGE for the Expo and it’s the leading event for people with disabilities, their families, caregivers, seniors, veterans and healthcare professionals.

 

If you have not pre-registered, you can do so now and receive priority entrance to the show onsite.  In addition to the distinctive Elegant Insights Braille-embossed jewelry and accessories collection, here are just a few of the remarkable things that you will experience:

The latest products and services for people with ALL disabilities
Cutting-edge assistive technology at the AT Pavilion
No charge loaner scooters, wheelchair repair and sign language interpreters
Low-cost daily living aids at the Retail Pavilion
Special dance performance from AXIS Dance Company, as seen on So You Think You Can Dance
Face art for kids
Compelling workshops on the issues that make a difference to you
Canine assistance demos to learn how dogs can help their human partners
See real live horses in action and learn how they help people with disabilities
Meet the stars and get a sneak peek of season 2 of Push Girls, a new Sundance channel docu-series that traces the lives of four dynamic women in Hollywood who happen to be in wheelchairs
Hip-hop wheelchair dancing for the latest moves and great exercise
Adaptive sports
Essentials for seniors
And more!

The website is continually updated with new features so log on to http://www.abilitiesexpo.com/sanjose as often as possible. You don’t even have to wait for the show to connect with your peers. “Like” the Abilities Expo Facebook Page today and weigh in on timely discussions, post comments on disability issues or get the latest show news. You can also follow them on Twitter and sign up for their monthly e-newsletter.

Abilities Expo San Jose will be here before you know it so mark your calendar now, Friday, November 16 through Sunday, November 18 at the San Jose Convention Center.
Find Elegant Insights on FB:  www.facebook.com/Elegant.Insights
Chirp at us on Twitter:  @ElegantInsights

LL

 

NFB 2012 preview: Digit-Eyes to exhibit at national convention


Here’s something to look forward to if you’re planning to attend the 2012 National Federation of the Blind conference held this year in Dallas, Texas :.

 

Digit­‐Eyes is exhibiting at NFB this year.
This is your chance to meet the developers behind the product!

Digit-Eyes is a unique application that enables people who are visually‐impaired to identify items using their iPhone or iPad. Digit­‐Eyes reads nearly 27 million UPC and EAN codes and tells you the product name ­‐ and the full description, usage instructions and ingredients ‐ in 10 languages. Using Digit‐Eyes, inexpensive off-­the-­shelf office supplies and a standard inkjet or laser printer, you’ll be able to record audio labels or make text labels that are read aloud by your phone.

At our booth at NFB, you’ll be able to try the Digit-Eyes products that you’ve seen online, let us know what new features you’d like to see in the product and even make appointments to work with one of our master teachers to refine your Digit­‐Eyes skills.

The booth features:

·         Hands‐on experience with the iPhone and iPad.

 

o   Find how Digit-­Eyes can be used to make and play back your own labels

o   Learn how to apply the special washable labels to create talking food containers or to label clothing

o   Use the iDevices to read the manufacturer’s UPC codes to identify all sorts of items. Even find out the product ingredients, usage instructions and nutritional information.

 

·         Opportunities for educators and counselors to get free introductory packages that contain not only sample labels, but also iPhone and Digit-­Eyes information and training materials for low-­vision and non-­sighted students and clients.

 

·         The complete line of Digit-­Eyes products – all at special show pricing:

o   Pre-­printed paper labels

o   Washable Labels

o   QR-­coded Playing Cards you can read with your Android or iPhone

A limited number of spaces for free training are available on a first-­come, first-­served basis. If you’d like to reserve your session, please tweet @digit_eyes or e­‐mail support(at)digit­eyes(dot)com.

 

Look for Digit-Eyes at booth B-31 starting July 1st, 2012

.

LL  

 

A new standard proposed for accessible media at CSUN 2012


If you have ever watched a movie or television show that uses audio description, sometimes also called video description, then you might have realized how valuable this type of service can be for someone who has a visual disability, hearing loss, or even a person who is a non-native language speaker.  You may have also noticed, though, that there seems to be no quality, methodology or technology standard to which service providers can turn for guidance in the deployment of described media.

     

Director of Digital Accessible Media, Robert Pearson is one of the presenters at this month’s CSUN 2012 Conference on Disability.  Here he explains how his organization proposes an industry standard for accessible media.  What is Accessible Media Inc. all about?  Pearson says, "Accessible Media Inc., (AMI) makes the media of everyday life — newspapers, magazines, TV, movies and the Internet – accessible to the more than 5 million Canadians who are blind, low-vision, print restricted, deaf, hard of hearing, mobility impaired, learning disabled or learning English as a second language. We are a not-for-profit, operating two broadcast services; AMIaudio and AMItv."

 

AMI will be presenting at the 27th International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN) on the topic of international media accessibility guidelines around the development of descriptive video (DV) standards.  If you have never heard of descriptive video before, Pearson offers the following:

 

"DV is a process that adds a descriptive voice on the audio for the benefit of people who are blind or low-vision, allowing them to hear descriptions of key visual elements appearing on screen. Recognized as both a science and an art form, the availability, distribution and production of descriptive video is not significant in comparison to main stream or even closed captioned content. Internationally, the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia have all led the creation of descriptive video content. However, industry and international standards do not yet exist and therefore the content that is being produced uses different guidelines. This results in a lack of uniformity of content."

 

What are the goals of the presentation?  "Through this presentation we would like to initiate the discussion to bring about the uniformity of international standards. Canada is leading the way in terms of the implementation of accessible broadcasting, as indicated through the licensing and support of AMItv. AMItv is the world’s first channel to broadcast all programming with 100% Open Described Video and Closed Captioning.

AMI is participating in the Government of Canada’s, Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) DV working group to ensure the technical viability of and to increase the awareness of this service through the implementation of an online DV TV Guide. Following the completion of those efforts, AMI will be guiding the Canadian broadcast industry with the support of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) in the development of industry wide DV standards."

 

 

You can follow Accessible Media Inc. on Twitter:  @a11ymedia

Click here to go to the CSUN conference home page.

LL

What to consider when it’s time for Plan B: Entrepreneurship


With our economy and employment situation languishing in an apparent sea of unchange, you may have considered an alternative to traditional employment, such as starting your own business.  There are many articles you can consult as to whether or not being your own boss is right for you, but here are my observations, based upon my personal experience as a solopreneur for the past ten years or so.

There seems to be a certain amount of "conventional wisdom" about working from home, mantras oft-repeated but seldom questioned.  For example, the notion that you must dress for work as though you planned to spend your day in a typical corporate setting, in the belief that this will somehow raise your game and ready you for peak performance.  Below are a few of these pithy little wisdom pellets, and my own opinion as to their value.

      

1:  Anyone can do it.  No, they can’t.  When working in a corporate environment, you are usually being asked to specialize.  In other words, you are hired to fill a specific need, working within the limitations imposed by a specific job description.  When you go out on your own, you must be a master of many things.  You must be a great marketer, promoter, communicator, organizer, planner and supervisor.  Can you outsource many of these skills?  Yes, but how much money do you anticipate you will need to spend in order to meet a minimum, and can you afford this sort of outlay?  keep in mind that no one cares about your business as much as you do, and you might discover that other people’s standards are not at a level with your own.  You must require a great deal of yourself in order to successfully run a business, whether as a solo act or with a staff.     
2:  You must dress up, even at home.  Baloney.  Unless you are meeting clients, there’s no sense in "putting on the dog," just for the sake of your dog.  I can be more productive when I’m not required to spend an hour preparing a canvas onto which the face that launched a thousand ships must be painted,
strap myself into the various hydraulic devices intended to streamline and acceptably arrange my proportions, not to mention towering atop three and a half inch heels which elevate my 5 foot, eight inch sea-level self to an altimeter reading of nearly six feet.  If you want to dress because it makes you feel something you need to feel, great, but if you need to wear a suit to perform at your best, there’s something in there about being a superhero, but I’m not sure where to go with that.   
3:  You’re certain you will be a better boss.  If you think your lackluster performance at your workplace is solely due to the fact that your boss is a complete idiot, you’re likely to take your poor performance home with you.  Remember, your boss is constrained by the limits of HR policies, and cannot roundly badmouth you to everyone you know.  Your customers have no such constraints.  They can be just as cranky, flaky, schizophrenic, rude, and demanding as any superior in a typical workplace.  Just because you do not have an immediate supervisor, doesn’t mean you don’t have a boss.  You do, it’s just not the one you think.  It is your customer, your client.  Fail to grasp that little detail, and you won’t last long. 
4:  Your corporate job description will directly translate into a consulting context.  So, you are an administrative assistant at ACME Multinational, but you think that means you can be a "virtual assistant" from home?  If you have a supervisor who acts as your editor, proofreader, fact-checker or error-catcher, keep in mind that you will not have that safety net once you are on your own.  If  you are not a better writer than the published author for whom you hope to provide your virtual assistant services, you have no business proofreading someone else’s work. 
5:  It’s easy to manage distractions.  It takes an incredible amount of discipline to work from home, if you want to be effective for your clients.  I have had the most infuriating experiences with individuals working from home whom I’ve hired to provide technical or administrative services, who seek to fit me in between their child’s  play date, dinner prep, and their dog’s needs.  If you plan to hire yourself out to provide business support services, and hope to provide this service on your own timetable, you won’t succeed.  My deadline is your deadline, and if you don’t see it that way, that’s a problem.  business support services are just that…you exist to support another business, not to dabble in being a junior executive while your clients tasks are stacking up. 
6:  Being an entrepreneur is always satisfying.  No, it isn’t.  There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to run and no way to spread the blame around when things go wrong.  All it takes is one disgruntled customer to write a bad review about you, and your reputation is shot.  If you have never had the experience of taking the fall for something that went horribly wrong at your traditional workplace, you are unlikely to enjoy the feeling when you are on your own. 
7:  At least when you’re working for yourself, you’re not enriching "The Man."  Well, you’re probably not enriching yourself, either.  Most entrepreneurial ventures do little more than to provide some sort of income for the business owner.  Starting your own business is not tantamount to winning the lottery.  Long gone are the days when you could throw up a web site and expect the dollars to roll in.  There are now more web sites than there are humans on the globe.  You are just as anonymous, if not more so,, on the Internet as you are in the brick-and-mortar world. 
8:  But by working from home, I’ll  be saving so much money on transportation and child care.  Perhaps so, but that savings will be offset by the unpaid insurance, unpaid flex time, unpaid holidays, unpaid sick leave and forfeiture of other benefits.  most workers overlook the monetary value of the traditional workplace benefits.   Once you realize that bridging that gap can be very costly, these benefits become hard to take for granted.  Plus, you will have to pay your taxes in a completely different way than before, a much less convenient way than having them automatically deducted from your paycheck.  Just filing business taxes is more expensive than filing personal income taxes, and you may need the assistance of an accountant and tax professional.  The "hassle factor" of working from home and doing it all yourself can make the mindless efficacy of corporate benefits distribution very appealing.  You may not have considered automatic tax withholdings to  be a benefit until you have to prepare your own quarterly tax return.
 
These insights are not intended to discourage anyone from starting their own business, rather, it is an attempt to paint a more realistic picture as to what is required, as opposed to the romanticized notions that may be brought about by workplace dissatisfaction.  Of course there are positive and gratifying aspects to being an entrepreneur, not the least of which is that in many ways, you can make your own rules, rather than live by those of others.  Ask yourself, if you are the type of person who cannot "play well with others," are you really well suited for an endeavor that dictates "the customer is king?"  Along with confidence and a drive to succeed, a good deal of humility is also recommended if you intend to work in the service of others, which is a different mind-set than that of working WITH others.         
 
Please comment below and share your views.  What attributes do you believe to be fundamentally necessary to be an entrepreneur?  What advice would you give to someone thinking about quitting their day job and going solo? 

 
LL

Help bridge the gap of holiday hardship


I really struggled with finding the right tone for this post, fearing hyper sentimentality, offensive chastisements or a thinly-veiled projection of my own feelings of vulnerability.  Really, what I want to do is to find ways to bridge the gap for those reluctant to reach out.

 

Not to belabor the obvious, but many are struggling these days.  Our economic woes may affect us both physically and emotionally.  What more depressing notion, for example, than to be turned out of your home just prior to the holidays, be unable to afford gifts for your children, or even be able to put a Thanksgiving feast on the table?  To paraphrase a Chinese proverb, when life is going well, you may have a few problems, but when you have no food, you only have one problem.

 

Yes, there are charities and food banks and soup kitchens, but with so many people struggling with poverty, perhaps for the first time, taking advantage of these services may feel humiliating , and that feeling may keep many away.  Besides, it might be pretty hard to gather the family around to give thanks when you feel as though you have failed as a provider.  I believe we have paid too little attention to the emotional fallout of our recent economic decline.

 

Perhaps someone is forced to make the tough cuts in their budget, making it impossible for them to fly home for the holidays, and they will be alone, possibly for the first time.  I have spent several holidays alone, and the first time you have to face it, you may feel like it’s the end of the world.  I did.  If that’s you this year, my best advice is to do whatever you have to do…and I do mean whatever…in order to get through it.  If that means you simply regain consciousness on the other side, far be it from me to judge.  Or, you can do what I’ve done, and make a holiday just for yourself.  This can include decorations, a special meal, and yes…even gifts.  Hey, if I don’t take care of myself, who will?  This year I’ll be alone for Thanksgiving, and I have big plans.  You may think that’s pathetic, but if anyone out there has survived it, then you may have some important advice to impart.  Comment here and share your own tips for coping with  tough holiday times.

 

Posted below are some links to past holiday related articles that I hope prove useful to anyone seeking ways to reach out and lift the spirits of struggling friends, family members, or neighbors.  Isn’t that what the holidays are all about?  Share your story of hardship and healing, give us the gift of you.

      

 

How to Bring Home the Season for Seniors

Great Gifting Ideas for Your Donation Dollars

Holiday Tunes that will Make You Laugh

Tips for Giving Assistive Technology Gifts

 

Oh, and happy Thanksgiving!

 

LL