Eyes-Free Academy Has A New Name and Location

Just a short note to let you know that the Eyes-Free Academy has changed name and moved.

The new name is Mind’s-Eye View (MEV) School and the new location is MEVSchool.blog.

Mind’s-Eye View much better captures what it is we’re aiming for, hence the new name.

Lots of things are percolating through iHabilitation Canada’s system and this change of blog is just one of them.

Follow us at the new location and see!


Courses and Coaching and Gadgets, Oh My!

Welcome to another edition of the EFA blog and chronicle. We are pleased to report that things have been zooming along quite nicely around here, especially in regard to “tech issues”.

This has left us free to get on with not only our Course Builders Laboratory course from Mirasee, but also another of their courses called “The Art of Offer Craft”. It’s all about effective communication with clients, aimed at finding out what they really want, so that we can provide a product that will be of high value when it comes to teaching what they want to learn. It’s hard to communicate just how effective these Mirasee courses really are, other than to say that we’re feeling much more stimulated these days, and we’re always busy doing something.

In addition to updating all of our contact and mailing lists, we have had several conversations with our new web developer, so that many processes are being set up, and aligned in preparation for communicating more widely for the pilot phase of course launch and beyond. The more work we do, the more there seems to be. But nowadays, we’re definitely feeling much more motivated to get on with it.

Our First Zoom Coaching

Not long ago, we got a request on Facebook from a friend who was confused about going live on Facebook. So I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for some coaching practice. We’re in Victoria, BC and my guinea pig was way back east in Kitchener, Ontario. The lesson went well, and the objective was achieved. And since we actually went live in the process, we actually acquired an “audience” and some amusing comments like “Why is your camera pointing at the ceiling?” Well, I just got focused on the coaching and put the phone down on the desk. Whoops! So let’s hear it for “imperfect action” and the learning experience it provided. And our friend can now go live on FB!

We are especially excited about coaching because we have received info from several industry experts who say that coaching is becoming a top trend in 2018. I guess that’s why the popularity of platforms like Zoom are growing so quickly.

YouTube Channel Features Gadgets That Help with iHabilitation

Yes, our Youtube channel has gotten a bit more content, which will also give us more blog content moving forward. Plus, we’re soon going to be blogging about everything we share each week during The iHabilitation Man’s visit to Kelly and Company.

Aside from short demos that provide a clearer idea of just how Eyes-Free access can be achieved, we feature apps and gadgets that can increase one’s level of independence.

WayAround tags

The WayAround tagging system is definitely a good example. There are tags everything around your home – clothing, office items, kitchen stuff, personal care products, etc. Each WayAround tag has a RFID (Radio Frequency ID) that takes advantage of the NFC (Near Field Communication) built into iPhone 7 and higher. A Bluetooth scanner is available for earlier iPhone models. A lot of information can be written to each tag and retrieved selectively in the future. Have a look: tinyurl.com/ihabilitationcanadavideos.

o6 Remote

This remote is a very innovative device for folks who have difficulty with the gestures required to operate an iPhone touch screen. When installed with Voiceover running, the o6 automatically goes into a mode designed to work in conjunction with Voiceover. One need only turn the wheel clockwise and counter-clockwise to move back and forth through screen elements and press the center button or ring button with various numbers of clicks and lengths of hold time to carry out functions. Many Voiceover functions are supported and more will be added, as this is only the first release. This will be a useful device for many people. Have a look: tinyurl.com/ihabilitationcanadavideos.


That’s about it for this edition. It’s great to have a definite feeling of things moving forward. We’re off to Montreal in mid-April for three days of sessions with our mentors of course creation. Then, a week later, we’re in Vancouver to meet with the folks at Thinkific our Learning Management System platform. And the day after that, a presentation at the AEBC (Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians) conference to talk about everything from increasing iPhone proficiency to apps that help with personal productivity, to accessing resources used by today’s online entrepreneurs.

Could it be that this approach is more viable for people with disabilities than the more traditional job search route? Stay tuned and see what we discover as we go along.


Zooming Into The Future

Zooming. Yes, this is definitely the case, and in more ways than one, too.

Lots of folks probably know about the www.zoom.us cloud meeting and webinar platform. But what a lot of people do NOT realize is that Zoom’s creators really “get” accessibility. That accessibility is further enhanced by www.mosen.org/zoom, a tutorial from our ever-creative friend, Jonathan Mosen, who places particular emphasis on making the most of audio when it comes to sharing it in various configurations along with screen sharing.

So, when friends arrived for Sunday dinner last week, I was all ready for them! Before they arrived, they received an e-mail containing an invitational link to join a Zoom meeting. I had the meeting all set up on the Windows 10 machine, sharing screen and audio from my iPhone. Once settled, they all logged on, and from the office, I was able to give a multi-media (video/audio) tour of my home screen and how Voiceover works. Participants saw and heard it all on their respective devices.

Of course, you can imagine the implications of this technology when it comes to creating an inclusively designed remote learning experience. Now, with Zoom, text entered by designated captionists can be sent directly to refreshable braille displays to assist participants with serious hearing loss. We are very excited about this potential, as it is becoming obvious that individual and group coaching is going to be an integral component of our courses.

And yes, we’re zooming forward in a number of other ways as things come together, simply because several frustrating technological issues have been resolved. For example, the Apple Accessibility folks finally got my Apple ID vs. iCloud issues resolved so that I can now have all of my notes, documents, and the music collection on all devices at the same time, thank you! At least Apple was able to fix this frustrating situation even though it was they who caused it in the first place. I suppose one could argue that the music isn’t that important, but curating and listening to an eclectic collection of music from around the world is my favourite stress reducer, so that I was pretty freaked at the idea that it might have to “go away”.

As well, after a couple of months of serious angst, caused by someone’s inability to follow through on their commitment, we are most pleased to announce that we have a good web developer and support person who I’m sure will have our website up and running again before long, thus ending a very unfortunate situation which has existed since well before Xmas. We welcome and thank Damashe Thomas www.damashe.org for his wise and knowledgeable consultation and we highly recommend him.

In other news, we had a great first meeting with our www.mirasee.com Course Builder’s Laboratory coach Bill Doerr, who is particularly supportive and enthusiastic about what we’re doing. His challenging questions really make us think. And thanks to Zoom, there is a one hour drop-in office hour Monday through Friday, facilitated by one of the coaches, where people can share info about their course development journeys. It’s a lot easier to move forward through a complex and sometimes daunting process when you realize you’re not doing it alone. There’s also a very active Facebook group where experiences are shared.

Finally, I’m happy to report that the “Made for Everything” (MFE) hearing aids are now working beautifully after a couple of final adjustments. All we’re waiting for now is the remote microphone that can broadcast from the podium at the front of a large room right to the hearing aids. This accessory will prove particularly useful for a couple of conferences that we’ll be attending in April – one in Montreal and one in Vancouver. We’ll have more info on those over the next post or two.

Meanwhile, we’ll be rewriting website content and LinkedIn profiles, conducting research interviews to help us determine pilot course content, and tightening up our time management. That last point is much, much better than in the past, but it tends to slip a bit, especially when there are too many grey, rainy days in a row. Then again, such days can be perfect for writing blog posts, can’t they?

We’ll be adding more to our YouTube channel tinyurl.com/ihabilitationcanadavideos and you can hear news from me, The iHabilitation Man, every Tuesday on www.ami.ca/kellyco

Until next time, have fun, do good, and Zoom along smoothly in your journey too!


Course Building, Social Media and Made for Everything Hearing Aids

Hello again! We spent most of last week dealing with a couple of technological challenges that we’ll review momentarily, but it’s looking like we’ll have much more to blog about in the near future.

The big and good news is that we officially got rolling with Mirasee’s Course Builder’s Laboratory, with an assigned one-on-one coach and an amazingly comprehensive collection of resources to help us along. What’s really great is that the website is virtually 100% accessible. Every lesson (and there are a lot of them) includes an excellent video with transcripts in both Word and PDF formats. There are also reflective exercises and multiple choice quizzes that are definitely helping us modify our thought processes and to understand just what is involved in things like market research. This is leading us to course development that truly meets identified customer needs.

Aside from totally changing the way we were thinking about how all of this might work, Mirasee’s program is causing us to experience a really productive combination of excitement and confidence. We are now scientists in a laboratory, and, if we try something that doesn’t quite work, well, it’s a learning experience, not a failure. And by doing the work, it all feels very positive and we happily spend several hours a day doing our homework.

As far as social media is concerned, we’re happy to announce the official launch of the iHabilitation Canada YouTube page, where we’ll be discussing our progress and providing ongoing glimpses into the kind of material that you can expect to find in our first pilot course. It sure feels good to be putting our new audiovisual equipment to use in the production of real live content!

Also, I can’t end the social media comments for this issue without thanking my new pal, Rick Cooper, of Social Media Outcomes for his great coaching session about online publicity work. Not only was he full of great advice, but our 30-minute call turned out to be a minute or two short of a full hour. Furthermore, he’s very supportive of the work we’re doing and we look forward to future collaboration.

But getting back to the “laboratory experience”, one of the things we’re learning is how to be better at handling diversions and roadblocks that keep us from just getting on with it. Our roadblock for this issue (not that we’ll feature one every time!) has to do with an unfortunate experience with Made For iPhone (MFi) hearing aids.

A friend and I, working with two different MFi brands, have discovered that the folks who make these things appear to have not given much consideration to hard-of-hearing blind people who may want to use their products in conjunction with a Bluetooth braille display and QWERTY keyboard. Well, after a week of static in both ears, freezing braille displays and repeated keystrokes that were never physically executed, I said enough, thank you! So now I have Made For Everything  (MFE) hearing aids that work like a charm. And no, I don’t care about having to wear a Com-pilot box around my neck. Furthermore, this particular product will work with Android and Windows. What more could one want?

I mention this technological diversion so that others might be aware, should they find themselves in a similar situation, but there’s another reason. Even at this early stage of our official entrepreneurial training, I found that I was already much less stressed out by the situation than would have been the case last year. The usual “OMG, now what!” was over-ridden by “Well, let’s see. This isn’t the only choice. Guess I’d better ask around.” And sure enough, thanks to Jonathan Mosen, I learned about the wonderful MFE hearing aids that are in my ears as I write this. They’re definitely keepers!

So, that’s it for this time. We hope you will check out our YouTube channel and subscribe for more updates. We’ll have a couple of other exciting announcements very soon. Incidentally, we know there are some serious problems with our website – another slight roadblock. It’s not easy to keep good and consistent tech help, but we already think we know who will fix it. But watch for iHabilitation on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We’ll be there!


Coming Back From The Dogs, New Location, New Year

Greetings to one and all at the beginning of a bright new year, full of positive energy and potential. We are hopeful and optimistic about 2018 in that some sort of emergency situation won’t disrupt our entrepreneurial effort, stopping us dead in our tracks the way it did half way through 2017. But to quote some of our favourite comedians, “We’re not dead, just restin’”. In fact, we ended up about as far from “restin’” as we could get!

At the end of June, we got “the warning”. Some of our wonderful American Guide Dog School friends alerted us about a human rights-threatening process happening within our federal government – the establishment of a national service dog “STANDARD” that, if implemented in its current form, would render many American schools unable to provide dogs to Canadians.  Learn more at www.hooh.ca.

Thus, for the next few months, we found ourselves completely diverted from any kind of serious entrepreneurial endeavors, as we busily created a mailing list, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter resources to ensure that the importance of this political action would be widely known and supported, and that people would become informed advocates for their rights.

Also, over the spring and summer, downtown Victoria proceeded to come into full bloom as a booming (literally) construction zone – roaring machinery, rock blasting, hammering, banging, yelling construction workers, poor street people freaking out at the top of their lungs, etc.

Considering that the core of our entrepreneurial process was to get a lot of good video/AUDIO content put together, well, we pretty much gave up, at least for the moment. Furthermore, we weren’t getting much sleep at night either. I mean, the only difference in the night-time noise scenario was that construction activity was replaced by drunken yahoo neighbours on their balconies at all hours, in an eight to 12-storey complex, where the concrete courtyard formed a veritable megaphone for the racket!

So, in August, we focused our consciousness and reached out with the desire and message: “Dear Universe, please get us out of here to a place where we can function!” And literally, within three or four days of putting it out there, it came to pass.

Suddenly, we found ourselves preparing to move into twice the space – without a rent increase – including a patio where it’s so quiet most of the time, that we can hear the ocean waves arriving on the beach just across the road. It’s a very cozy space with great acoustics which make for an excellent recording environment.

Now, with each day, things are getting done. We have a new camera, a couple of cool mics, some live streaming software, and even a green screen that comes across the office/Laundry to make the perfect background for videos. The washer and dryer look fine, but authenticity has its bounds, I suppose.

Of course, some of last year’s “incompleteness” also lay in the fact that we ran off far too often to enjoy the beautiful weather and take the dog to the beach. After all, we were “semi-retired”, right? Obviously, if “semi-retired status” is ending this year, we’ll have to do a better job of time-management.

The latter is especially true, since we have made quite an investment in hiring some experts to guide us through the process of course development and marketing. We’re paying them to coach us, so we’ll obviously have to be busy and do the required work.

Most important will be the support of the folks who have been there for us and encouraged us along the way, as they wait patiently, wondering when we’ll actually get it together. Fact is, we’ve been “tinkering with retirement” since 2014 when we left the Toronto day jobs and came to Victoria. First, there has been a certain level of day job burnout to recover from. But ultimately, it turns out that being retired gets quite boring in the end. It’s like, what’s the point? Turns out that the reason for feeling a bit depressed and miserable is because We Need To Do Something Purposeful!

Our concrete accomplishment for 2017 was definitely the creation of our little six-lesson pilot course on how to navigate the iPhone without having to look at it. Totally free, so people can explore and give us feedback as we plan the courses for our online school with its courses and coaching, and live appearances on Facebook, YouTube, etc. We’re waiting to see what our coaches suggest.

For now, you can check out the sample by visiting www.ihabilitation.com/eyesfree/

Also, on November 1 last year, the iHabilitation Man celebrated the first anniversary of his weekly appearance on AMI.ca’s Kelly and Company show (http://www.ami.ca/kellyco), plus the posting of a bunch of app walkthroughs on SoundCloud. So, a bit here, a bit there! It all adds up and we look forward to a much higher “bit rate” in 2018.

Here’s a big thank you for being a part of it, even if just by following along as we progress. Despite a recent lack of output, we have been doing a lot of reading and participating in webinars, all of which advise that frequent and diverse blog and social media posting is great for business. I think we’re now pretty much poised to make good on that advice. So, be on the lookout, we’ll be back soon – and more often.

Gone to the Dogs

When we last posted on June 26, we happily watched while somewhere around fifty people signed up to explore the free beta version of Eyes-Free Academy’s first course. It was a great learning experience, even though much of the feedback had to do with accessibility issues rather than course content. This was also a good sign. So, there we were, poised to move forward.

Then, without warning, everything “went to the dogs”! That happened in the form of a letter from The Seeing Eye (and several other American guide dog schools) to their Canadian graduates.

This letter was a warning that the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) was considering the adoption of a new service dog standard that could well preclude ability or willingness to provide Canadians with guide dogs in the future. Of course, this nonsense needed immediate community action with a view toward stopping the development of such a standard.

Immediately upon receipt of this correspondence, I arranged teleconference time, thanks to Albert Ruel of the Canadian Council of the Blind, promoted it widely through social media and Email, and ended up with 30 people on a very productive teleconference one week later.

Out of this teleconference came the Service Dog Standard mailing list which has been the basis for a very successful ad hoc coalition to deal with the issue. In fact, a lot of us don’t remember ever experiencing a feeling of solidarity and consensus such as is represented through this group. We are planning action, and many people are contributing great writing in the form of sample letters to MP’s, the Ministers of Veterans’ Affairs, Sport and Persons w/ Disabilities, etc.

Most importantly, we completely overwhelmed this “standards committee” with our responses between the end of June and when the comment period ended on July 14. Even though the comment period was open from the beginning of May, somehow nobody really paid attention until the letters came from the American schools.

There have been two subsequent teleconferences, one of which actually included people from the committee, who admitted two things during the call:
1. Some members of the committee appear to have misled the rest of the committee, and
2. There has been a complete disconnect within the entire process.

Needless to say, this sudden and unexpected struggle to preserve our rights as guide dog handlers has been a very distracting and stressful experience. So many of us can’t imagine life without a guide dog, and this standard, if imposed as is, would literally cause service dogs to disappear from the streets of Canada, because no animal or handler could ever meet it.

But amidst all of this, there’s a good side. We have been studying the www.zoom.us app and learning a lot from “Meet Me In The Cloud”, a fully accessible tutorial about fully accessible Zoom webinar software, available on Johnathan Mosen’s website. We will soon be able to have all the teleconferences we need for dog coalition work, while at the same time becoming more experienced at running webinars for the business side.

We recently did a trial webinar with Zoom including Windows 10 and Mac computers, an iPhone and a dial-in from a regular landline. Everyone communicated just fine. Of course, there needs to be some more practice at being a webinar moderator, but it’s easy enough to arrange that.

And thanks to a set of very good webinars from Iman Aghay of www.successroadacademy.com we have managed to do some market research about course content to be released in the fall. This has been a great learning experience as well. For one thing, we’ve discovered that we can sell our courses in two ways. First is course by course, which will be more expensive. There will also be a monthly subscription to a membership site where all courses will be available for one low monthly fee. This will also include small group webinars and even individual coaching sessions. All of this thanks to the online course management platform offered by www.thinkific.com where we are getting all sorts of expert assistance.

So, though we did indeed end up going to the dogs over the last month, well, it needed to be done, and it’s not like we haven’t been learning some useful stuff in the process. And if you know of guide dog users who may not be aware of the current situation, but who might want to know more or get involved, there’s a lot of healthy discussion being carried on via the mailing list. To join in, send Email to: servicedogstandard-request@lists.screenreview.org

To subscribe to the guide dog blog, go to handsoffourharnesses.wordpress.com

Also check out the #HOOH and #IGDFFreeChoice hash tags. IGDF is the International Guide Dog Federation, creator of international guide dog standards now observed by over 90 schools in 40 countries. You can even see a draft of the standard on the blog, and you won’t believe it when you read it. But you’ll sure know why some of us have gone to the dogs to deal with it.

And we can’t go without a big thank you to Kelly MacDonald, Sharon Caddy and the other folks at www.AMI.ca who allow me to mention “things doggie” every week during my “iHabilitation Man” segment on Kelly and Company. Have a listen on Tuesdays.

OK, we promise that the next issue will be about course content under development, experience with Zoom, etc., with only a very small dog update. Meanwhile, thanks for your interest and support, iPhone and doggie people alike. It is greatly appreciated.

Tuning Up the Accessibility Engine, or, Grinding Gears and Pleasurable Growing Pains

When we last wrote, people had begun to sign up. We were all excited and hopefully anticipating all sorts of helpful feedback. And by George, we got it, though it wasn’t all quite what we expected.

Those of us who have been poking around on the web are used to the idea that accessibility is not always what it should be, even if it’s getting better all the time. So, if the “play video” button turns out not to work for whatever reason, well, we tab one more time, find the “Wistia” button and try that. Or, if there’s no heading that says “video player”, we’ll look around until we come up with some controls, somehow or other.

However, as we discovered, much of our potential market doesn’t have this kind of experience. And so came the feedback, much more to do with frustration around inability to access the content than anything else. But on a positive note, the assistive tech professionals who were able to access the content gave very positive feedback about the approach we’re taking, so we were not to be discouraged.

Once again, Aaron Morin and Nick Foster at thinkific.com have demonstrated their commitment to becoming a fully accessible platform. After a couple of private support webinars plus an ongoing exchange of correspondence, accessibility of The Eyes-Free Academy has been dramatically improved. We are thrilled to know that we can now get on with content creation in an accessible cross-platform environment.

So, there you have the biggest and latest news from the iHabilitation partners. Of course, there are several other recent and even brand new technological developments that are going to make it that much easier for us to get content out there. For one thing, iOS11 will sport a native screen-flow and audio recorder. With it, when we want to show you how something works, we’ll soon be able to turn on the recorder, do the demo and shoot it on over to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo… wherever, and no extraneous equipment required. Gee, we’ll be able to record the stuff while sitting down by the ocean! Doesn’t sound too much like hard work, does it?

We’ve also been checking out www.zoom.us and all its accessible webinar possibilities. This process has been seriously augmented by the release of Jonathan Mosen’s latest book “Meet Me In The Cloud”. So, all the little demos that we record in the phone will easily be incorporated into live webinars. Amazing how all these things fit together.

Finally, there’s all the work happening as we slowly learn more about automation and all the ways in which it can be productively utilized by a very small team to better serve a large customer base. But more about that as we go through the learning process. If you want to join in, rest assured that you’ll be doing it in an accessible way. We suggest that you check out the podcast series from Damashe Thomas and Michael Babcock at www.yourownpay.com/dm

That’s it for this time. We hope you’ll check out our new and shiny accessible free beta course and help us do a good job on our Fall multimedia course offerings, one of which will be “What’s New In iOS11 For Beginners”. We’ll keep you posted as we bring it all together, and thanks in advance for your support.