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Spencer's Spotlight

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Spencer's Spotlight published in 2017

January 2017

in 2000, my 2nd guide dog Delta was approaching 10 years old and was nearing the end of her working life. I was so attached to her that I was dreading the day she would no longer be with me. I was missing her before she was gone. I heard about and obtained a miniature horse as my next guide primarily because of their life span. A miniature horse can live up to 35 to 40 years. I refer to her as my "guide for life.” I cannot remember the exact year but it was around 2005-6-or 7, after I had been successfully working with my miniature horse Confetti for around 5 years or so, that the Department of Justice was going to rule that the only service animals recognized were dogs. Well, you can imagine my reaction to this. I sent materials to the Department of Justice that included news articles, pictures, and videos of Confetti working in several different situations. When the ruling was finalized, miniature horses were included in their decision. I was so relieved. Confetti has been everywhere with me; on a cruise ship, on an airplane, on buses, on elevators, stores, and that’s just to name a few. however, having said all that, the abuse of "service animals" has been rampant and really getting out of hand. People, establishments, and airlines are confusing the difference between "service animals" and a therapy or comfort animal. There have been birds, snakes, ducks, turkeys, pigs, and monkeys passed off as "service animals." I was approached by a local television news station about participating in an investigative piece about service animal abuse and asked to share my feelings and thoughts on the subject. I stated that it did bother me after all I went through, finding a professional horse trainer, then finding Confetti, and all we went through to have her trained. I even worked with a local Service dog organization making sure she was properly trained and certified for public access. I was awarded an id card issued from Florida Service Dogs. this card was not just handed to me, we earned it. This station partnered with a news station in Atlanta and aired its story on the31st of October. A doctor was falsely issuing letters stating she was treating a person for depression or mental disorders in order for the person to obtain a "service animal" status to travel with their pet. In fact, the doctor had never seen the person at all. To listen to the actual news report, copy the below link into your word processing program, click onto the link, and then scroll down and click onto the play button to listen. the airlines which seem to see most of the abuse really do not have a definitive definition of what constitutes a legitimate service animal. So, don't be surprised when next you fly, you will be sitting next to a Turkey or some other strange animal. I guess we can no longer say, "when pigs fly," because they already have.

February 2017

Do you have Echo fever or are you like me and just have a slight temperature elevation and long for the Dot? Well, the Amazon Echo is not new, it has Benn around for a couple of years now but up until recently, I haven't heard much about it or shown much interest in pursuing one. The high price tag was one reason I never considered looking into the Echo. Well, Amazon solved that problem by releasing a much smaller, but still powerful version of the larger Echo called the Dot. a friend of mine told me, "you don't know it yet, but you are going to get one." I thought to myself, sure I will.. Well, it was during the Christmas season and Amazon being one of my favorite shopping sites, and the app is pretty amazing and almost too easy to use according to my wallet, I tapped on the icon. The first thing I saw, was the deals of the day. Guess what, the Dot was on sale for$39.99. I Thought to myself, well, hmmm, I have been known to pay more than that for dinner out on occasion. So, I ordered two, one for me and one as a gift for a friend. The set up was a bit tricky and because I am a button pusher, I had unknowingly muted the voice. so when I called Alexa, she ignored me. I chased my tail for a while about that, until I pushed yet another button. Then low and behold, yeah! She responded. Set up was successful. If you are not familiar with the Echo or the Dot, the Echo is about the size of a Pringles can, and has, I believe, about 7 microphones on it so it can pick up your voice from anywhere in the room. The sound from it is mind boggling. however, having said that, there is no way to hook it up to an external speaker if you wanted to expand the sound. the Dot is about the size of a hockey Puck, and the sound is pretty darn good considering its size. It does have an auxiliary jack to connect to an external speaker to boost the sound. The Echo and Dot connect to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, to provide information, answer questions, play music, read the news, check sports scores or the weather, and more. All you need to do is ask. It would be a shorter list to tell you what she does not do than to list all that the Dot does. the list of skills is impressive and there is something to make just about anyone happy. The Echo & Dot can even control smart home devices so you can open or close the garage door, switch off the lamp before going to sleep, or turn on the fan or space heater while relaxing in your favorite chair, without lifting a finger or raising your voice. For those learning braille or just wanting to have a quick refresher, there is the braille challenge. Enable the skill, ask Alexa to open the braille challenge, and answer five related braille questions. You can stay up to date by asking Alexa “Alexa, do you have any new features?” When the Dot went on sale the second time, I decided to get members of my family one so they could share in the fun. It would not surprise me if in future versions of the Dot or Echo, a cloud of smoke will rise from it and the face that appears will look amazingly like Barbara Eden.

March 2017

Normally, I write about some gadget I have seen or heard about, but this month I am going to stray a bit and shine my spotlight on one of the members of the I Access iPhone users group I attend. Let me introduce you to Don Arsenault a friend of mine. he retired from the IRS about a year ago and turned poet. He read one of his works for us at the last meeting and graciously agreed to let me share it with you.

Goal Train poem
By Don Arsenault

What was now is, and what is once was.
Why we are the way we are, well it's just because
Hap-hazard happenstances brought on by a certain set of circumstances
Along with our proclivity for seruptitious serendipity
And Vola, there you are
A super star
On the stage of life for all to see
But are we to be merely not to be?
No! We have a nobler mission
Inspired by an inner vision
Like a conductor on a train rolling down the track
Always going forward while constantly looking back
My goal is to find a word that rhymes with orange.

I've been told that my quest is an impossibility
With no chance of success or tranquility
However, I vow to persue my dream
Through valleys low or pastures green
Come what may I shall persevere
For I feel I am very near
I am confident in my ability
Though at times I question my stability
Sometimes I feel like I'm walking a tightrope
But through it all I refuse to lose hope
As I sway from Side-to-side as if I'm on an invisible door hinge.

Hmmm: (orange door hinge)
It is time for celebration
I have reached my destination
When on my face you see a smerk
It's because I got close enough for government work
And now before I head off to the stockyard
I'll find something else that's equally as hard
Dare I ask the same of you?
Chugga chugga chugga chugga chu,,chu,,chu.

April 2017

This month’s item is going to focus on light portable, and pocket friendly. there are times when you want to share your music or a song from YouTube. Well, if you are not home I have found the cutest little speaker that will literally fit in your jacket pocket, it is that small.

it is the Anker Soundcore Nanobluetooth with big sound. Super portable speaker with built-in mic. and it is available on Amazon in the US, Canada, and the UK. When I bought it, it was an astounding low price of just $16.99. However, the price has since gone up to $24.99. Still a bargain for the sound and portability you get.

Further details:
Small Body Big Sound: Incredibly slim and compact but pumps out crystal-clear sound via a 3W audio driver.
• Premium Design: Sleek aluminum-alloy shell is both elegant and resilient. Available in 4 stunning finishes that perfectly match your phone.
• Advanced Technology: Bluetooth 4.0 gives universal compatibility with all Bluetooth-enabled devices.
*Instantly connect to your smartphone and use up to 33 feet away. Extended battery life delivers 4 hours of continuous playtime.

What you get:
Anker SoundCore nano, hand-strap, Micro USB charging cable, Micro USB to Aux cord, welcome guide, our worry-free 18-month warranty and friendly customer service.

I took this little baby out of the box, and at first could not figure out how to even turn it on. But after giving it an extensive brailling, I discovered a soft spot on the bottom of the unit. I pushed it and low and behold it turned on with a musical intro. I then paired it to my I phone and played a song. Wow! It blew me away. The sound was exceptionally good coming from such a small speaker. I was very impressed.

. I demoed it for my friends and they all ordered one. I also took it to an I Access I phone meeting and shared it with the group. They were surprised at the quality of the sound. Most of the members ended up ordering one or two for themselves.

This little thing makes a great traveling speaker and excellent for the on the go excursions.

May 2017

I am stuck on the "gadget of the month," so I will shine the spotlight on something that blind people from all over the world can initiate in your own town. Thank you Tali for this wonderful idea for this month’s article.

Before I tell you what it is, I am going to give you a brief history about where the idea came from in my own life. When I first met my late husband, he was living and working in the Boston area. In his spare time he ran a bulletin board for the Apple Boston Society. It was call the Apple Boston Connection. It was the first multi-user bulletin board in the country. Chris Spencer was the system operator. His duty was to maintain the bulletin board and assist the users with any technical issues associated with the board.

Also, for the Boston Computer Society, he conducted seminars on telecommunications. Back then, in 1988, computers connected via a modem. In these seminars, he taught people how to use the modems to connect to bulletin boards and servers such as Apple Link, jeannie, and Compuserve. I am sure a lot of you remember using some of these services.

Since my husband died, I had wanted to honor his memory by doing something similar. One day while on the phone at work, I was SPEAKING TO PETE LANE, AND I mentioned I wanted to start a user’s group for blind people to assist them with learning how to use their iPhones with voice over. Pete was extremely interested in this idea and after a few conversations and a few ideas tossed back and forth, the I access group was formed in 2015.

Pete facilitates the meeting and we meet at a library for 2 hours every 2 weeks. Some of our members came to us not knowing anything about the iPhone, and now they are using them! In addition, they now come to the meetings sharing different tips, tricks, and aps they have discovered.

How we got it started was word of mouth, and e-mails to the local chapter of the NFB. The first meeting had about 7 or 8 people, and since then, there are anywhere from 6 to 20 plus people attending the bi-monthly meetings.

So, the purpose of this article is to spark an interest to those of you all over the world that would like to start a similar group. Share your knowledge and help your fellow blind person open their horizons through the wonders of an iPhone, or even an Android.

June 2017

Hi folks,
well, back to the techy stuff. I attended our last I Access meeting a couple of weeks ago and part of the meeting consist of a show and tell session. This is when we all take turns asking a question, sharing a tip or trick, or showing off a new gadget or toy we have acquired.

This brings me to the spotlight gadget of the month. it is a taDaaaa, an Omoton Bluetooth keyboard. I hear you, what's ALL THE FUSS? Well, this keyboard is lightweight, sexy, slim and has a tactile on off switch. There is also a pairing button you can actually feel. It works well with iDevices and will pair up with other devices as well. Another thing I especially like is that it takes 2 triple A batteries as opposed to having to be recharged.

So, I can still hear you muttering, well, big deal, and that brings me to the big deal. Yes, it is a big deal, the price is what I call a deal! On Amazon, it has a $13.99 price tag. I couldn't pass on a deal like that so I ordered one for myself and have since ordered a few more to give as gifts. I highly recommend it!

I have had other keyboards, but found it difficult to turn them on and off. However, with this one I just push the switch on and off. I love this keyboard!

July 2017

The United States is approaching her 241st birthday. For all you international readers, I hope you pardon me while I shine this month's spotlight on our Independence Day. Here is a very special poem from Mr. Don Arsenault.

a cry went forth throughout the land
Gather ye brethren arms in hand
Time has come to take our stand
"I pledge allegiance…”...
To keep us from the weight of taxation
We must form an independent nation
And the constitution was written in affirmation
"To the flag"...
To remove the rule of oppression
The founding fathers declared secession
The Redcoats marched with their allies the Hessians
"Of the United States"...
valley Forge, Trenton and Bunker Hill
What wasn't done by might was done by will
It began when tea did spill
"Of America"...
With liberty and justice to unite all
The people answered the nation's call
All gave some and some gave all
"And to the republic"...
"Give me liberty or give me death
Was the speech none would forget
And Nathan Hale spoke his one regret
"For which it stands"...
In their hearts their cause was true
Battles were fought, volleys flew
When the smoke cleared, up went the Red White and Blue
"One nation"...
They agreed to fight the fight
To meet dominant force with resolute might
And keep before them their Guiding Light
"Under God"...
We've had our struggles through the years
Met them with courage, blood sweat and tears
Our history helped us conquer our fears
Some say we haven't come too far
Cause where we were we still are
Let us keep before us our Shining Star
"With liberty"...
To honor those who went before
We must keep the faith and wage the war
When freedom is threatened we cannot ignore
"And justice"...
This country "tis of Thee"
"Home of the brace", "land of the free"
America you're still the beautiful to me
"For all"
Our destiny is still ours to control
Freedom is the bell we must continually toll

August 2017

July was a busy month for me, most of which centered around getting ready for, and attending the NFB national Convention in Orlando, FL. The highlight for me other than all the interesting workshops is the exhibit hall where once a year technology from all over the world is congregated in one place.

My focus this month, and let me tell you it was a tough choice, is on an organization based in Canada. The company is called Key 2 Access. They offer a service not yet available in the US. They have designed a tool in the form of a app for smart phone users and for non-smart phone users, a remote. What is does is aid a person in pressing the button on the pole to request the cross light. This allows the user to maintain alinement and keep their orientation in order to travel in the direction they are heading.

For example, if you are requesting to cross Main Street, the app will let you know when Main Street is being crossed. You simply point and click the button on the smart phone or the remote and it activates your cross button.

This company can provide this service at the same cost as the buttons currently being used. So, everyone would benefit from this technology. Think how much safer travel would be especially for those of us that have trouble with directional hearing. So far, it is only available in Canada but if we all went to our local governmental offices and let them know this technology exist, and can be installed for the same as other crosswalk buttons, they could go with the more accessible option. They also have boxes that can be retro fitted on current buttons as well as their own buttons that have all the features currently being used as well as having wireless access.

I am excited at the prospect of being able to use my iPhone and point it in the direction I want to go, tap, and have the app indicate when that street is currently being crossed. Key 2 Access promises to make traveling safer for all pedestrians!

To learn more about this amazing technology, go to:

September 2017

What a pair! There are Two old products that has been combined into a fantastic one. It’s kind of like a Recees Peanut Butter cup. It promises to be equally delicious to all you tech lovers. I actually saw this product at the NFB Convention in July and yes, you guessed it on the first try. I ordered one.

I am referring to the Victor Reader Trek. Humanware is combining their popular talking book player with the technology of the GPS Trekker Breeze to make one powerful little gadget. This device can fit easily in the palm of your hand or in a pocket.

A few goodies are added into the mix, like FM radio, Bluetooth, and beacon detection just to name some. There are many more features this little baby will have on board. The gps features will also have all the functionality trek users are familiar with and are used to using.

With a press of one button Trek will tell you:
*your current nearest address
*cardinal direction you are traveling
*description of the next intersection
* next instructions if you are following a route

Two of my friends had asked me why get something like a gps when you already have it on your iPhone. My reply was why not. Furthermore, it's a gadget and I have to have it!

There have been podcast and interviews on the Victor trek but it has not officially been launched as of the time of this writing. Ok, time to get down to the money, how much? The introductory price which is valid till the end of this year is 599 dollars. The price increases 100 dollars in January. So, if you are sitting on the fence about whether or not to buy it, you have until the end of December to jump on it. There is free tech support and a 30-day money back guarantee with some exclusions.

There is a brief overview of the Victor Trek on the Humanware website. Keep checking it out for additional information. Preorders are due to ship towards the end of October.

Humanware web site is:

October 2017

Editor’s Notes:
Cheryl was unable to submit an article for October since she spent most of the month in Northern Ireland. She was visiting her friend Jim. Read the International Perspective article and see what life is like as a blind person living in Northern Ireland.

So, readers, I thought to share something I recently purchased at the convention in July, a magnetic domino game. The white, magnetic board measures 13 X 16 inches, with a playing surface of 11 X 14 inches. The magnetic board is similar looking to a cookie sheet, in that it has raised sides.

The white, magnetic dominos are 1 1/4 X 1/2 X 1/8 inches. The dominos have raised markings to represent the numbers 1 through 6. There is a small raised zero to represent the blank dominos.

The dots are brightly colored; each “number” having its own color. There is also a small raised line that is placed between the two numbers. It comes with both braille and print instructions.

This Magnetic Dominoes set is great! The dominos stay in place during the entire game. I have played many many games with family and friends since bringing it home. The price tag for all of this accessible fun was only 20 dollars, well worth it!

For this domino board set I write about, you can get it here:

November 2017

I am going to preface this month's spotlight with a hopefully not too long story.
A few years ago, I had a couple of kittens to take to the vet. The plan was to get a cab since I had not made a reservation with paratransit. Well, an hour before the appointment, I could not get a cab, nothing was available. I thought, if I had an iPhone, I could call Uber, but, no all I had was an iPad. Having gone through my list of cab companies, I was forced to call the Vet and admit I had no way of getting there. I had to cancel the appointment.

Now, to the spotlight, had I known this service existed I could have made my vet appointment without a problem. It's called GoGo Grandparent for Uber. makes getting a ride for seniors and disabled citizens a bit easier and at a reasonable rate. This company is for those who do not have, nor do they want the expense of having a smartphone. Independence is once again possible and affordable. Here is how it works.

Once the registration process has been completed, you simply call the designated toll free number to schedule your ride with Uber Technologies. Even those who do not own a computer can also create an account and use the service, with Uber Technologies via telephone by calling 855-464-6872.

You will be asked to provide your name, address, home and cell phone numbers, date of birth, the name and phone number of a family member as an emergency contact and the debit card information to be used for future trips.

Making a trip is just as easy. Call 855-464-6872 at least 15 minutes prior to the time you wish to be picked up.

The menu options on the automated system are:
“Press #1 on your telephone keypad if you wish to be picked up from home.”
“Press #2 to be picked up from where you were dropped off.”
“Press #0 if you wish to speak to an operator.”

After providing the address of your destination, the name, license number and type of vehicle for your Uber driver will be given along with an estimated time of arrival.
You may then select option #3 if you wish to speak to the driver to provide specific instructions.

CHARGESBase amount to access the vehicle = 2 dollars and 90 cents.
Mileage rates vary between locales but are approximately 81 cents per mile.
Time rate = 30 cents per minute.
The tip is not calculated in your bill; therefore, if you wish to tip the driver, cash is the only payment option.
No need to present your credit card; the computer will debit your account.

Upon arrival at your destination, you will receive a call regarding the trip charges and the total amount of the transaction.

For the return trip, call the toll-free number and select option #2 to be picked up from where you were dropped off.

For further information, visit:
Or call toll free at : 855-464-6872, 24/7.

December 2017

I cannot believe it is December already! It was just two months ago we celebrated Christmas, right? Well, okay, so this is my subtle way of saying time flies. Here's hoping I ring a few of those sleigh bells for you with this month's spotlight item.

Twenty-dollar alert! For those of us on a severe budget, and let's face it, who isn't this time of year. This little gadget packs quite a punch and it will not hurt your wallet a bit I promise.

It is the M fine portable mini U S B fm radio speaker music player, flashlight, an external speaker all rolled into one little package. It has a micro sd card slot (micro sd card not included) and can take a USB flash drive, and uses rechargeable batteries.

The sound is pretty darn impressive. It has all buttons for easy operation and is so portable, it can fit in a pocket or a purse.

Ready for the price? Drum roll please, it is a stocking stuffer price of 12 dollars and 45 cents. Depending on the color and model you choose, the price may even be less. You can pick your favorite color, and it is available on Amazon with free shipping for prime members.

I really like this little player, it is fully accessible with buttons you can feel and an actual on off switch. It even has an earphone jack for private listening. there is a cable included to connect an iPod device to the M fine and twa la, your iPod has a pretty amazing speaker.

This is such a bargain of a price you can actually sweeten the stocking by getting a micro sd card or a U S B flash drive. Why not fill it up with their favorite movies, books or television shows?

I bet this little stocking stuffer idea will turn out to be one of their favorite gifts. Until next month, stay safe and be well.
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