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Technically Speaking APPetizers: Byte size tidbits

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Technically Speaking APPetizers: Byte size tidbits published in 2018

January 2018

Exploring Workflow in iOS
I am at my doctor’s appointment and I need to let my wife know I am done and ready to be picked up. I could swipe and tap and use the on-screen keyboard to create my message, Or, I could use SIRI. Nope. I want a third option. I want to automatically create this message and then I can send it to my wife. I found a great app that will help me do this project and a whole lot more. Best of all, the app is free from the Apple app store.

The Workflow app ( can help you save time and frustration by automating a process on your iDevice. The process is called a workflow, like the app. Consider the swiping and typing you spend to send one message. You can create a workflow to do this for you. You can also use a workflow that will email a monthly meeting reminder to a group, speed dial that important someone or a group call, message your family when you arrive home, convert a document to .PDF, remind you of a task when you get to work, or send a tweet or a Facebook post.

A workflow is like cooking from a recipe where you follow the steps or actions in your recipe to create something yummy. Workflow actions are the tasks you can perform in the apps on your iDevice. The Gallery includes a lot of recipes or sample workflow examples that you can use or customize. You can also build a workflow from scratch and choose your actions from a list. For example, you can add a new event in your calendar, select a contact, record audio, dictate text, select a photo, or specify a GPS location and address. You can run a workflow from the app, from an icon on your Home screen, or from the Today Widget in the Notification Center.

The key to a good recipe or workflow is defining your task and identifying the actions needed. I want to send a simple message to my wife when I double-tap an icon on my Home Screen. I would like to create it once and reuse it any time. Basically, I want to set it and forget about it. This recipe translates into two actions: specify message text and create message to a recipient.

Now it is time to do some cooking. I need to create a workflow and add my ingredients. I create a new workflow by double-tapping Add Workflow button. I will choose Normal Workflow. Next, I switch between Actions and Workflow view. In the Action list, I find and drag a “Specify Message Text” action to the right of the screen and drop it to add it to the Workflow list. I write the text, “I am ready” in the text field. Next, I will add a “Create Message” action and add my wife’s mobile number from the contact list. Finally, I will try my workflow by double-tapping on the “Run Workflow” button. I can easily edit or change each action. Finally, Under Workflow Settings, I name my workflow as “Ready.” Now, I can run it from the Workflow app anytime.

I want to add my workflow as an icon on my Home screen. I will choose Add to Home Screen in the Settings Menu and follow the on-screen instructions. Now, I can run this workflow by double-tapping on a screen icon. You can also share your workflow with someone else, by choosing Share Workflow.

I am Ready Workflow Recipe:
1. Create workflow and choose Normal.
2. Add the Text action from the action menu.
3. Enter your message text.
4. Add the Send Message action.
5. Choose the recipient from your contact list.
6. Play workflow to test it.
7. Add to Home Screen.
8. Enjoy and share with friends!

The Workflow app is a powerful tool that will save you a lot of swipes and taps. Take some time and try a few of the workflow examples in the Gallery. Start with something simple and useful like the workflow above. Once you understand how it works, customize a workflow or create a new one. If you create something that helps you, consider sharing it with another iUser. Have fun and you will get the hang of Workflow in no time.

Resource List:
You can learn more about Workflow from the getting started tutorial in the app. The Workflow app website has helpful documentation and examples. I also included some links to videos that provide a good overview of the Workflow app and how students with disabilities are using it.

Workflow Website:

Workflow Documentation:
How to use Workflow

Closing the Gap - Luis Perez presentation:
Getting started with Workflow

Luis Perez Workflow app video tutorial:
Creating a Workflow

Logan Project - How Workflow can assist learners with disabilities:
Workflow and those with disabilities

March 2018

Speed Dial Telephone Conference Call Using iPhone

I participate in various blind discussion groups by dialing into an automated telephone conference system using my iPhone. The group leader provides me with the phone number and an access code that I need to enter for each session. After many swipes and taps, I get into the call. I want to enter this information once and have my iPhone speed dial for me thereafter.

Getting Started
I’ll show you how to create a new Contact where you can enter the phone number and access codes to dial into the conference system. I’ll also show you how to create a favorite and include it in your notifications center. As a bonus, I’ll provide a Workflow that you can create and save it to your Home screen or to your notification center.

Create Contact
The Contact app allows you to create an information card for a person, a company, or even a blind discussion group. (If you are new to creating contacts, please check out the resources below.) Let’s create a contact that will connect you to your telephone conference and mute your phone when you join the call.

Create a new contact and enter the name of your telephone conference name under “Company.” The address card will appear in alphabetical order in the contacts list.
Next, add a corresponding phone label or create a custom label. Enter the telephone conference number using the number keypad.
Select the Shift key and double-tap. This menu allows us to add a comma (pause) and a number sign (hashtag). Add 2 commas to allow time for the conference system to give voice instructions.
Next, insert the access code and then a number sign (hashtag). You can also add 5 to mute your phone when joining the discussion.
SIRI will read Number as: 605 475-4120 comma comma 4452 number sign comma 5.

Contact Example
Company: Blind Tech Discussion
Label: Telephone Conference
Number: (605) 475-4120,,4452#,5

Edit the address card to change/add other information. You can share it with other participants via a message or by email.
Select “Share Contact” at the bottom of the screen and follow the prompts. Now, you can call the contact and join the call.

Speed Dial using Favorites
Let’s add the telephone conference contact to the list. Open Favorites in the Dial app and add the telephone conference discussion contact.
You can re-arrange or delete a contact in your Favorites list by choosing the edit button at the top right of the screen.
You can access this favorite from Today view in the Notification Center from your Home Screen or from your Lock Screen.

Speed Dial using WorkFlow
Let’s create a new Workflow from the Gallery and add it to “My Workflows.” You can save the Workflow on your Home Screen or in Notifications for speedy access.

Speed Dial Telephone Conference Workflow Recipe
1. Open Workflow app and choose Gallery tab.
2. Find “Speed Dial” under Quick Shortcuts.
3. Choose “Get Workflow” and go back to Workflow Screen. Choose “My Workflows” tab.
4. Open Workflow named “Speed Dial.”
5. Select “Add Contact” and select your telephone conference.
6. Open “Workflow Settings” and change name to your telephone conference.
7. Choose “Access the Workflow from Home Screen and follow the prompts. You can also add it to the Today Widget in the Notification Center by selecting “Today Widget” in the “What Type Menu.”
8. Test workflow and make changes as necessary.
9. Your Workflow will appear in the “My Workflows” view tab.
10. You’ll get the hang of it in no time.

Final Thoughts
Creating a speed dial for your telephone conference call can save you time and frustration. Consider creating a speed dial for or other automated menu systems like your doctor’s office or pharmacy. Create your contact and decide where you want to speed dial the call: in your Favorites, Home Screen icon, or Workflow app. Add the speed dial to your notification center and join the call on the go from your new iWatch. Make some notes so you can create other speed dial contacts and workflows. Maybe you can help another person connect to the telephone conference. Good Luck!

Making and Receiving Phone Calls

Adding a New Contact

November 2017: Make a Quick Call on Your iPhone

January 2018: Exploring Workflow in iOS

Using Workflow App

May 2018

Rafting the Rapids of iOS Updates!

I got a notification that iOS 11.3 was ready to download and install. I’ve learned by experience an update may cause a favorite app to stop working or settings and tones to change. “Change is hard!” Getting older and losing your sight makes it more challenging. Let’s face it, we don’t like running the iOS technology river all the time with its twists and turns of updates, white water app changes, and rocks and rapids. But, sometimes, the update may be worth the trouble by giving you better app stability and new features.

Getting Started
Apple usually releases a major update each year like iOS 11 to take advantage of new hardware like 3D Touch. Beta testers use the software before it’s released to help find and report issues. Then, incremental updates like iOS 11.3 are released to provide new features like battery monitor, to fix known bugs, and to enhance stability. Apple will release specific updates like iOS 11.3.1 to enhance security or to fix something that was not included in a previous update.

Resources to Explore When Updating iOS
I try to learn as much as I can about an update before I download and install it. So, I did a little bit of research on iOS 11.3 in the Apple News app and Google to learn more about it. Next, I checked the Apple support site for update issues and questions from users. Finally, I looked for other resources to help me learn about new features. I’ve included a resource list at the end of this article.

Apple Support
Apple Accessibility website provides articles on using VO on your iDevice including gestures, the Rotor, VO keyboard commands and braille commands. You can download a free updated iOS 11.3 User Guide in iBooks, download a braille file, or request an embossed copy. You can also search the support site for specific issues like setting up mail on an iPhone.

iOS and Technology News
iOS comes with “News,” an app where you can read current articles on topics from various newspapers, magazines, or news agencies. You can search for topics like “iOS” and then “love” the article or topic. News will compile these articles into a channel where you read them with VoiceOver. You can also Google for iOS updates.

Apple Disability Line
Nobody wants a major surprise after they perform an update. Talk about rocks and rapids. I bought a new iPad and I couldn’t get my Alva BC640 to pair or connect. I searched the Apple Braille Support site and found my display was listed, but the bottom of the page posted, December 2016, says my Alva BC640 Perkins keys are not supported. This means I could pair and read braille on the display, but not type. I contacted the Apple Disability Line, the group who knows accessibility and VoiceOver. The Apple Support Specialist was wonderful. He understood my problem and contacted the engineering team. The Apple Support Specialist worked with me over the phone and he was able to control my iPad and perform technology magic. My Alva BC640 and iPad are now happy together and I can read and write braille. I also sent a message to Optelec in the Netherlands, who made the Alva BC640, about the pairing issue and I heard back from an engineer who said it should work.

Other Resources
Invest in yourself and stay current with iOS. A good resource is the Mosen Consulting ( They offer books, classes, and training to help you learn iOS and other technology. I would recommend, “iOS 11 Without the Eye.” They also have a podcast called “The Blind Side” where they discuss assistive technology.

Remember, The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired produces the “iFocus Video” series with tutorials on new features in iOS.

Cool Blind Tech also has articles and podcasts about iOS and other technology. One nugget I found is an article with a list of iOS 11 braille commands and how you can customize your braille display.

Final Thoughts
We don’t like running the technology river all the time, but sometimes we need to just do it. Get a group of friends together and find a good technology outfitter to help you down your iOS whitewater adventure and to avoid the rocks and rapids. Take advice from an experienced river guide: “Get your head up, hang on tight, and look ahead!” Yes, the technology river is running high and fast, but the journey is worth it. You may get wet, but it just may be fun!

Apple iOS News app

Apple Support Website

Apple VoiceOver Website Accessibility

iOS 11 User Guide Comprehensive list of updates
Support.Apple.User Updates

Apple Disability Support Team

Mosen Consulting

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired “iFocus” Instructional Videos

iOS Braille Commands and How to Customize Them
CoolBlindTech.Braille Commands

July 2018

Exploring Podcasts in iOS!

It’s summertime in the northern hemisphere and everyone is on the go, off on holiday, or relaxing on the deck with a cold beverage. And in the southern hemisphere its wintertime so grab a mug of hot cocoa and get comfy in your favorite chair. Either place you may reside, it’s a perfect time to listen to a podcast on your iDevice.

As of February 2018, Apple had over 525,000 active shows and over 18.5million episodes to choose from. Plus, there are thousands more from other websites to explore. You can listen to an old-time radio program while you travel, learn more about your hobby while you relax, explore cooking with your new Instant Pot pressure cooker, or learn more about your iDevice.

Getting Started
A podcast is a digital audio file that you can access and manage through a subscription process. The iOS “Podcast app” is the Apple digital content manager that keeps track of all your shows and episodes that are available in iTunes. The Podcast app allows you to search, download, and play an episode on your iDevice using VoiceOver gestures or SIRI voice commands. The Podcast app allows you to browse popular shows or you can search for a specific show. Once you find and enjoy a show, you can subscribe to it and the Podcast app will automatically add new episodes to your list when they are available.

A Quick Podcast App Tour The Podcast app in iOS 11.4 has four areas: Listen Now, Library, Browse, and Search. These options are listed across the bottom of the screen. The default view is Listen Now. Flick-right to access each show and hear a short description of the latest episode or double-tap and hold to access other options to download, save, delete, share, or play the episode. Manage your shows and episodes in the Library view. Explore featured Shows by Apple in the Browse area or search for a podcast in the Search area. You can unsubscribe from a podcast any time and old podcast files are deleted.

Here’s how the process works. My son suggested an interesting podcast on National Public Radio (NPR). I opened the Podcast app and did a quick search for NPR. “NPR Planet Money” is listed under Shows. I explored available episodes, and the podcast, “Swamp Gravy” sounded interesting, so I decided to listen. It turns out that the story is about economic development in a dying small rural town, like mine. They took a gamble of putting their resources into the Arts to revitalize their town and it paid off. I enjoyed the episode and subscribed to the show.

I can also search for a specific episode in a show. I’m looking for a recent episode in AppleVis about braille in iOS 11. My search in the Podcasts app returns the episode, “Reach out and Touch: The new Braille Features in iOS 11, by Scott Davert,” I choose to download the episode to my iPhone so I can listen offline.

There are so many podcasts to choose from. I like podcasts because they are generally produced for the ear and not the eye like YouTube videos or broadcast TV, and the episodes are shorter than a digital book. Keep in mind that just about anybody can create a podcast so production quality and content varies. Here are some of my favorite podcasts:, The Blind Side Podcast, Cooking in the Dark, NPR Planet Money, NPR Fresh Air, and TED Talks Radio. You can learn more about using the Podcast app at:

Final Thoughts
Podcasts will provide you with many hours of entertainment. Take the time to explore using the Podcast app and please share any good episodes you recommend. If you don’t find what you want or have something to share, consider creating your own podcast show and episodes. Enjoy!

September 2018

Voice Dream Reader!

I’m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to collecting technology information. I enjoy reading and collecting articles and resources for future writing projects. Currently, I add them to my Safari Reading List and Voice Over reads them to me. I found an amazing iOS app that will do this and much, much more. It’s called Voice Dream Reader and we’ll explore what this gem can do for you.

Getting Started:
Voice Dream Reader is a “Text-to-Speech” iOS app that won Apple App of the Day. For 9 dollars and 99 cents, it will read a document to you in a synthetic voice. The app comes with standard iOS voices or you can purchase additional voices from Acapela, Ivona, or NeoSpeech for a few dollars more.

Exploring Voice Dream Reader:
Using Voice Dream Reader is easy. You can add documents into Voice Dream Reader from the Home Screen, download books from your Bookshare account, or use the iOS “Share” button to import email attachments or documents from other apps. You could listen to this article or The Blind Perspective Newsletter. Voice Dream Reader will recognize many file types including .PDF, Word, PowerPoint, Pages, Keynote, EPUB, Daisy 2, Web Pages, .RTF and many more. You can also access your files in your DropBox account or Google Drive. Plus, you can search your documents for specific text and add bookmarks.

You open a document or book in Voice Dream Reader and navigate it with simple VO gestures. I can use the VO gesture, double-finger-double-tap to start and stop reading or two-finger swipe left to rewind or right to fast forward. You assign a voice for all new documents or set a specific voice for a book or document. Choose from 186 voices in 30 languages. Plus, you can adjust the voice pitch and speaking rate. I like being able to listen to documents and books on my iPhone using the audio controls on my lock screen. Voice Dream Reader will keep track of your place when you exit the document.

Searching for Text:
I really like using Voice Dream Reader because you can listen to an email attachment or a file downloaded from a website. You can search for text and add a bookmark. I have a lot of resource documents in .PDF format that I refer to often that include tables with text in rows and columns. I can search for specific text if I need to remember a braille command for my braille display, what the “@“ sign is in UEB braille code, or the cooking time for 2 pounds of pinto beans for my InstantPot. It’s easy to find the information you need.

Final Thoughts:
Voice Dream Reader has been around for a while and has received many awards. It’s a gem for 9 dollars and 99 cents. You can learn more about the app below. The “Apple App of the Day” story on the App Store provides a good overview. You can learn how to use the app from an iFocus video from the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Douglas Walker does a great job giving you an overview of Voice Dream Reader. I also included a link to the manual. Enjoy reading via text-to-speech on your iDevice!

Voice Dream Reader Resources:
Voice Dream Reader Website:

App Store Link:

App of the Day Story:


Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired; iFocus; Using the Voice Dream Reader App

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