On Creating My New Podcast, and Joining Clubhouse

While I am loving the technological changes we are experiencing of late, they also make me feel like we are speeding ever more inevitably to a “Ready Player One” world. In this book by Ernest Cline, society basically lives behind computer screens and does all of its transacting from bedrooms and other places at home, because a disaster has struck. With the pandemic possibly having no discernible end, it is not hard for one to imagine this kind of world taking hold for real, but even so I guess I’m embracing the possibilities it might create. It’s especially promising, hopefully not taken to extremes but existing in whatever form it does, for persons with disabilities.

I’ll talk more about the part that really makes one feel we are headed in that direction towards the end, but first I have created a podcast! Well sort of. At this point, only the trailer exists. But the idea, as you can hear in said trailer, is that I will interview different authors who have written works concerning disability in whatever way it is portrayed. I certainly want more than just blind and even deaf people to be represented, since I believe that we can actually be a more powerful block of “people with disabilities” if we work together. I think book portrayals are an important element of our ability to fit into society, because people make strong associations with the characters they read about and what they expect to see when encountering someone who seems to fit that description. I’ve not tried to land interviews yet, but I have composed an initial list of eight authors with whom I would love to speak. The tricky part will be coming up with a proposal that succinctly communicates the goal of this podcast and hopefully makes them want to do it.

Creating the podcast has been something of a challenge as well. I dithered on which platform to use, but when I went to re-evaluate Anchor I discovered that it has come a long way from what it was even a couple of years ago. I guess this is because they were acquired? I’m not aware of the exact relationship) by Spotify. They walk you through the whole process of setting it up, and even seem to provide the auto-transcript which I can then go in and edit, a much faster process than trying to write one up myself. So I’m going to continue developing the show, and I’ll let you know when it officially launches.

And speaking of things launching, I suppose, I’ve finally been invited to Clubhouse. By now, I suspect you’ve heard of this invite-only app that I’ve been told is, unfortunately, only available on iOS. I certainly hope they can change that soon. Anyhow, I was invited by two different friends within a couple of hours, so I signed up and started exploring. So far it looks neat, and I learned a lot by attending a presentation specifically about using Clubhouse with a screen-reader (I suppose the only screen-reader is VoiceOver at this point). I did find one book club of interest, and I think they’ll notify me if the club has another meeting some time soon. That’s one thing I’ve noticed, you can end up getting a lot of notifications about various rooms you might be interested in entering. I’ll have to go and look at settings to see if I can adjust what I want to hear about.

So those are some of the exciting happenings in my corner of the world. I’ll have my annual Job Days post coming soon, in which I will look at how things are shaping up at my employer and with my side hustle of book reviewing. In the meantime, I hope you are keeping well and staying safe.

To The Max: On HBO’s New App and Accessibility Challenges

Yay, Fresh Prince is finally available through streaming. This was my thought as soon as they rolled out HBO Max this past Wednesday, as I’d heard that this one of already so many streaming services would be the one to cary that show. So I knew I would immediately try to get it and see what, if anything, they have in the way of accessibility.

The short answer, at least at the time of this article’s writing as I know and hope that things can change quickly, is not a whole lot. The challenges began as soon as I downloaded and launched the HBO Max app. Fortunately you can connect the app to Apple TV and find shows that way, but in order to do that you must first subscribe.

At first, I swiped around on the screen and it just kept repeating the immediately viewable icon, until I had the bright idea of touching the screen in different places, a method called Explore by Touch. I eventually encountered a button labeled Subscribe Now and tapped it. I was able to enter my username, email and password, but when I tried to press “done” it wouldn’t take. I later deduced that this was because I had not checked the box accepting their terms, as I could not even find said box except on the HBO Max website. So I was forced to use that to sign up, after which I discovered that the web site worked little on the Mac and I could not actually sign in once the account had been created. So back to the phone, I guess somehow shutting and restarting the app made a usable sign-in button appear that I could press and enter my account info, and finally I was ready to go!

A subscription costs $14.95 a month, but it could be worth it as they have several good movies, documentaries, and series. In addition to the Fresh Prince, which I intend to watch in its entirety over the next few months because of the nostalgia (ah, simpler times, well not really but they always seem so when looking back right?) They have the series From the Earth to the Moon, which chronicles America’s Space race with the Soviets. I also saw The Big Bang Theory, which I didn’t watch when it initially came out but might catch now.

However, if the app does not make accessibility improvements in the coming months, honestly it boggles my mind that they would release it without these in the first place these days, then I probably will no longer fork over my dough. I am glad they have closed captioning for individuals who are deaf. I had hoped that, at least with HBO programming, they would include audio description for those of us who cannot see, but as far as I can tell this is not available. Also, because of the way one must interact with the screen, the app is completely inaccessible with a refreshable Braille display. If one could not connect it to Apple TV, then I would definitely have to hold out for some kind of improvements. Please take a look at your competitors, Amazon, Netflix and the like, and follow some of what they’ve done. After all there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. But we blind folks and others with disabilities want to be able to come along for the ride.

The short answer, at least at the time of this article’s writing as I know and hope that things can change quickly, is not a whole lot. The challenges began as soon as I downloaded and launched the HBO Max app. Fortunately you can connect the app to Apple TV and find shows that way, but in order to do that you must first subscribe.

At first, I swiped around on the screen and it just kept repeating the immediately viewable icon, until I had the bright idea of touching the screen in different places, a method called Explore by Touch. I eventually encountered a button labeled Subscribe Now and tapped it. I was able to enter my username, email and password, but when I tried to press “done” it wouldn’t take. I later deduced that this was because I had not checked the box accepting their terms, as I could not even find said box except on the HBO Max website. So I was forced to use that to sign up, after which I discovered that the web site worked little on the Mac and I could not actually sign in once the account had been created. So back to the phone, I guess somehow shutting and restarting the app made a usable sign-in button appear that I could press and enter my account info, and finally I was ready to go!

A subscription costs $14.95 a month, but it could be worth it as they have several good movies, documentaries, and series. In addition to the Fresh Prince, which I intend to watch in its entirety over the next few months because of the nostalgia (ah, simpler times, well not really but they always seem so when looking back right?) They have the series From the Earth to the Moon, which chronicles America’s Space race with the Soviets. I also saw The Big Bang Theory, which I didn’t watch when it initially came out but might catch now.

However, if the app does not make accessibility improvements in the coming months, honestly it boggles my mind that they would release it without these in the first place these days, then I probably will no longer fork over my dough. I am glad they have closed captioning for individuals who are deaf. I had hoped that, at least with HBO programming, they would include audio description for those of us who cannot see, but as far as I can tell this is not available. Also, because of the way one must interact with the screen, the app is completely inaccessible with a refreshable Braille display. If one could not connect it to Apple TV, then I would definitely have to hold out for some kind of improvements. Please take a look at your competitors, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, and the like, and follow some of what they’ve done. After all there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. But we blind folks and others with disabilities want to be able to come along for the ride.