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TAVIP newsletter December 2023

Dear Members,

A very warm welcome to the TAVIP Christmas Newsletter 2023!

I have now met or spoken to quite a few of you, but for those of you that I haven’t had contact with yet, please allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Clare, and I recently joined the TAVIP Board and have become Chair of Trustees.

I take over from Jeff Bashton, who has led TAVIP very successfully over the last 5 years. Jeff decided to step down to pursue his many other interests but I am very thankful that he has agreed to stay involved in some of our projects, and I would like to thank him for his handover in my first few weeks.

I live in Epsom in Surrey, and I am also the CEO of Sight for Surrey.  As you would expect, I love technology, and take any opportunity to check out new and emerging tech products and software.  I am particularly excited about the recent advances in artificial intelligence, and what these could mean for us all in the future.

It has been a fantastic couple of months on the tech front, with the TAVIP TechABreak event in Harrogate, TechShare Pro in November and Sight Tech Global earlier this month.

It was my first TechABreak, and it was lovely to meet so many of you there. I would like to say a huge thank you to all our wonderful presenters, to the other TAVIP trustees, and to all our volunteer sighted assistants for all the hard work that went in to making TechABreak a huge success. We continue to hold the family and friends of Mike Townsend in our thoughts. Mike, ably supported by Mark Owen, played a central role in TechABreak for a great many years and it will feel very different planning the 2024 event without his leadership.

Over the coming year I look forward to talking with as many of you as possible, at events, at our Masterclass sessions, or at the monthly Tech Chats.  I am committed to ensuring that TAVIP remains a supportive, inclusive, and forward-thinking organisation. Your support, participation, and passion are the lifeblood of TAVIP, and I am excited to see what we can achieve together.

I hope you enjoy reading this edition of the newsletter. We have shared lots of resources with you, as well as some Christmas wishes, so you’ll have lots of reading material to keep you occupied over the holiday period!

We would love to share your product and software reviews in future editions – if this is something you might like to be involved in then please do get in touch by emailing

Clare Burgess,

Chair of Trustees, TAVIP.

TechABreak 2023

The TechABreak weekend was one of our most popular ever, with 45 of us meeting from the Friday evening through to Sunday lunchtime. Despite train and travel challenges caused by the weather, it was a great opportunity for people to meet up with old friends and new, and to hear about some of the recent developments in assistive and mainstream tech.

We had sessions on accessing TV through Apple TV and Amazon Fire sticks, an update on some of the latest braille displays, a session on making the most of WhatsApp and an interactive session with live testing of the Be My AI app which was informative and great fun.

Members were able to try out a range of equipment in the afternoon, including the Apple TV and Amazon Fire sticks, the Bristol Braille Canute 360, the Mantex Braille Display, the 20 and 40 cell braille displays from Humanware, the new Rayban Meta Smart Glasses, the Envision AI glasses, the Stella Trek GPS device, the new Victor Stream 3 portable reading machine and a We Walk smart cane.

Survey feedback after the event was really positive with some constructive pointers which will help us with the planning for next year. A few comments included:

“I have participated in many different conferences and events over the years, credit where credit is due, this was one of the best I have attended. Thanks to all on the TAVIP board for their hard work in making it such a success.”

 “It was one of the best, and I’ve been to many. The mix of people, organisation and arrangements all seemed to work very well and it was a great weekend. Thank you.”

A good mix of learning and socialising; a welcome weekend break; a comfortable venue; for me, relatively easy to travel to and from using public transport (rail). Definitely worth attending and I would recommend it to others.

The Board are considering the option of running the event alongside Sight Village, but initial feedback has been that people would prefer a separate event again in the Autumn. We would value any further views on this before the Board Meeting on 11th January so do email us at

TAVIP Masterclasses

Sandra Gayer ran a very popular Masterclass session in October looking at the use of Zoom – a platform which people are needing to use more and more for work and pleasure. A recording of the session is now available via our web page: Recording of the Masterclass on using Zoom – Session 1.

Members requested a follow-up session so that will take place on Wednesday 17th January 2024 starting at 7.30pm. We will send a link and reminder nearer the time.

The ‘Zoom 2’ Masterclass will recap keystrokes from last time including the toggle functions for mute, video and raise hand.

We will move onto tackle:

  • How to schedule a Zoom meeting.
  • How to join and leave a breakout room.
  • How to share your screen.
  • The theory of answering a poll.
  • Coping with interruptions from the chat.

Thanks also to Paul Porter for his Masterclass on the HIMS SensePlayer earlier this week. You can listen back to it via our web page The SensePlayer from HIMS.

Recommended resources on tech for 2024

Thank you to members who sent in suggestions for good podcasts and other sources of information to help people keep abreast of new tech in 2024, as well as ‘tech’ wishes from Father Christmas. Thanks especially to Maurice Press, Melissa Shaw, Gary Eady, Sarah Mellor, Edward Green, Kate Fensome and Patsy Graham for their contributions.

Recommendations for your bedtime reading included:

The Apple Vis newsletter and podcast

The AppleVis podcast concentrates on all things Apple, primarily with VoiceOver.  It includes demonstrations of apps and iOS features as well as news from Apple (new hardware and software releases, sales figures and much more).  A must listen if you use an iPhone or iPad with VoiceOver.

Signup for the newsletter at the Applevis webpage

Here is a link to the the Applevis podcast

RNIB Tech Talk Podcast

Tech Talk is a podcast and radio show for blind and partially sighted people who are interested in accessible technology. Find out about the latest products from specialist equipment to off the shelf solutions.

RNIB Tech Talk on audiboom

Living Blindfully

This is presented by the highly regarded Jonathan Mosen. It covers breaking news in the world of Assistive Technology, questions and answers regarding existing technologies, demonstrations and listener comments.  Additionally, it includes topics such as advocacy, cooking, politics and pretty much anything else.

Here is the Living Blindfully website

Here is Living Blindfully on Apple Podcasts

Double Tap On Air

This is presented by Stephen Scott and Shaun Preece, formerly of RNIB Tech Talk.  It’s humorous, informative and up-to-date with technology news.

Double Tap Podcast episodes

The Blind Android Users Podcast

This is a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about Android.

Here is the Blind Android Users website

Here is the Blind Android Users Podcast on Apple Podcasts

The AbilityNet Podcast

The AbilityNet Podcast features insights, interviews, and the latest updates from key movers and shakers in the world of accessibility and digital inclusion.

Here is the AbilityNet Podcast on Apple Podcasts

We had recommendations for three Facebook groups (You may need to join to the group to participate):

1) JAWS Screen Reader Users.  Discusses all things JAWS.

2) NVDA Screen Reader Users.  Discusses all things to do with NVDA and Windows.

3) iPhone and iPad Apps for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Other podcasts and programmes which were highly recommended included In Touch on BBC Radio 4, Talking Tech (Vision Australia radio), PC Pro, the Freedom Scientific Training Podcast and the Sight and Sound YouTube channel. If you’re interested in AI, you might also like to follow the ai podcast from NVIDIA.

We have put all these resources on the TAVIP website. Here is the link to podcasts, videos and other resources.

A box of chocolates is on its way to Gary Eady for highlighting some less familiar resources.

What would you ask Father Christmas for?

We asked members “If you could ask Father Christmas for a piece of assistive technology or inclusive design that hasn’t yet been invented, what would it be? Be as creative as you like! Well there were some very creative responses!

Wish 1 – AI pin

“This is a really tough question.  However, for complete inclusiveness, I’d love a device, similar to the Humane Pin (read more about the Pin here), which clips onto a lapel, which has a screen, say 2.5” square and connects to the internet.  This device would be capable of answering questions in much the same as Alexa does.  However, it would have a range of built-in AI apps installed.  One of these would allow me to speak verbally to a deaf person.  Upon doing this, a British Sign Language video would play, of what I just said.  The deaf person could then sign back to me and the device would translate it into speech.  We could then continue our conversation in the same way.

Also, I’d love this device to be able to inform me of obstacles in my way, such as overhanging branches, cars parked on the footpath, bins, roadwork signs etc, as I walked towards them.  Finally, I would love the device to translate in real time languages.  This would be great when travelling abroad.  You could hold conversations with waiters in restaurants with no problem at all, purchase items in shops and pretty much anything else!

I know my wants are very high, but I don’t think we are many years away from such a device.  The Humane Pin is the first in what will be a long line of products like what I want!”

Wish 2 – Bread Maker

“If I could ask Santa for a piece of technology that didn’t already exist, we really miss the taste of homemade bread as we no longer have an independent bakery near us so we have always loved the idea of a talking bread maker. It would be great to have something that talks you through the menus just like the Synapptic phone does and the cancel and go back button at the top left hand corner of the screen works just as well as an escape key so you can’t go wrong.  After the bread cools down, it would be nice if one of the settings could slice it for you and you could even decide whether you wanted it thick or medium which is something I don’t think normal bread makers even do.

PS I have been craving fresh bread ever since I wrote that!”

Wish 3 – The “Try It” box

“Well, This is something I’ve been talking about for a while.  It sounds a bit Star-trekkish, but here we go. It seems to me that as so many shops are online now, it’s difficult to try clothes, sit on furniture or even try out new instruments etc.

So, I would like to invent the “Try It”  box. This would be a small box sitting in the corner of the room connected to either the PC or Alexa. The way it works is this. If for example, I wanted to try on a jacket or pair of trousers to see if it fitted, or sit on a chair to see if it were comfortable, I go to the relevant shop and click on the “Try It Now” button. Then, the clothes or furniture appear in front of me and I can try it, sit on it, play it etc. After 45 seconds it then disappears.”

Wish 4 – Personal mobility aid

“If I could have a piece of tech for Christmas that did everything I wanted, I would have a mobility aid that I could use to cross roads, go for walks in the forest or in fields on my own. The tech would show me the safest route, and know exactly where I was inside a building, or outside in a town, city or park, etc. I would be able to ask it where a shop was, and it would take me to the door. It would navigate me around the shop. The equipment would be simple to use, and not lose its signal. I would also like a computer car, so that I could drive myself to places.”

Wish 5 – Quadrophonic headphones

“Interestingly enough, talking about ideas, I was discussing with a colleague last night something I would find really helpful and maybe it exists. Whether I like it or not, the various governing bodies and committees I sit on often meet via Microsoft Teams, Zoom or most recently, Google Meet.

Now as a blind person, what I find meeting online is that it feels like one is on one’s own so to speak.

Of course I hear other people talking but still it’s not the same as being in a room face to face.

So, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have a headset where you could feel you were actually in the room, hearing people on each side or even behind you.

I was saying to my wife that, back in the 1970s, when George Harrison brought out the album “All Things Must Pass”, he made it in Quadrophonic. In order to get the best out of this I purchased a set of Quad headphones which were quite remarkable. Sadly, very few albums were made in this media so they became a bit pointless.”

Wish 6 – A car

“A self-drive car, pop in the postcode and go!”

Wish 7 – NaviLens everywhere

“I am a sighted person but support people with sight loss, and the thing I would ask for Christmas would be for NaviLens to be integrated into all public service buildings, particularly hospitals & transport services. Merry Christmas to all at TAVIP!”

A box of chocolates is on its way to Maurice Press for the very creative “Try It Box” suggestion, but thanks again to everyone for sharing such great ideas … and I can still smell fresh bread!

TechShare Pro 2023

The mission of the TechShare Pro event, and of AbilityNet, is to foster a better understanding of digital accessibility and inclusivity, addressing the needs of individuals with disabilities.

I know that some of you will have attended seminars as they happened, but if you weren’t able to attend then they are now available on YouTube and there is a link below, and they are well worth checking out.

TechShare Pro Playlist on YouTube. The final panel session of the conference is at the top of the list, and the list runs back to the introduction on day 1 at item 28.

Sight Tech Global

Sight Tech Global positions itself as “the first global, virtual conference dedicated to fostering discussion among technology pioneers on how rapid advances in AI and related technologies will fundamentally alter the landscape of assistive technology and accessibility.”

There were some great sessions looking at AI and how it might develop through conversations with industry leaders from Meta and others. You can now watch the sessions on YouTube with the following links:

Sight Tech Global 2023 Day 1

Sight Tech Global 2023 Day 2

Request for support from the European Blind Union

The European Blind Union are working to improve electronic braille and would appreciate braille users completing a short survey to enhance the use of braille displays.

Braille displays become more and more important to read and edit text in an electronic way. But the performance of electronic braille should get better. So EBU wants to talk to braille display and screen reader producers to improve the access to electronic braille.

For this we ask you about your experiences, needs and suggestions in the use of braille displays with computer, smartphone and braille display as a standalone device.

Answering the following questions takes you maximum 10 minutes.

Please answer our questionnaire until 29th February 2024.


More information on braille of EBU and the EBU braille working group:

Best wishes from the EBU braille working group

and Reiner Delgado, Head Social Affairs, German Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted.

And finally …

So that brings us to the end of our Christmas Newsletter.

We hope you have a wonderful festive period with friends, family … and of course lots of new technology!

See you all in the New Year.


As always send any feedback, comments and suggestions for future newsletters to