Book Scents and E-Reader Sense (Part 1)

Woman holding a book to her face. Text in picture says: Happiness is the smell of a new book.

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

I am a person who loves the smell of new books and bookstores.  I am not, however, one who loves reading from paper books.  They can be cumbersome, sometimes older books can be smelly in an unpleasant way, and physically distracting to hold and use.  And there isn’t really any Assistive Technology built into the features of paper books.  I purchased a Kindle Paperwhite last year I’ve been hooked on my e-reader ever since; it has made such a difference to me and how I absorb information via text.

I was speaking with my mom recently and commented that I wished e-readers would have been available when I was in K-12 school.  Reading didn’t come easy to me growing up; it took me significantly longer than my peers to understand how letters came together to form the words I heard and said.  I was distracOld book, open with pages face upted by font, size, placement, etc. of text, sometimes the musty book smells, and the cumbersome way some books had to be physically held in order to read their contents.   All of these factors seems to pile on top of my difficulty processing what I read and did not offer me an incentive to enjoy reading.  Though not diagnosed, I think that I had dyslexia as a child and still do as an adult.  “Dyslexia is a specific reading disability due to something in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols. It is a learning disability that alters the way the brain processes wriLetters on a page, some letters are arranged to spell "dyslexia", but it is not spelled correctly.tten material and is typically characterized by difficulties in word recognition, spelling, and decoding.  People with dyslexia have challenges with reading comprehension.” –Definition: part of an article by Medical News Today.

On my e-reader, I can add and set up the supports that I need to process text and really understand the meaning of what I am reading.  I can adjust the contrast of the screen and text, the spacing in between words, the margins, size of the text, and the fonts.  I can also choose to have the screen be horizontally oriented so that pages are wider (versus taller as most books are “portrait”).  The experience of reading horizontally-oriented text makes a difference to me because I seem to loose my place less if more words are on less lines.
E-reader with the screen in landscape mode E-reader with the screen in portrait mode

I love the built-in dictionary feature that allows me to press on a word I am not familiar with and view the definition of it!  Also, my e-reader weighs 5.7 ounces/161 grams (which amazon says is “lighter than a paperback”) and it is easier for me to hold than a paper book; taking away another distraction/barrier.

Before getting my Paperwhite, I was worried about reading on a screen because of the glare and light that might give Outline of a human head with 2 band aids on it.  Text reads: headache no moreme a headache while reading on it.  I selected the Paperwhite over all of the other e-readers out there because I can read for hours on it and not get a headache.  “Kindle Paperwhite guides light toward the surface of the display with its built-in front light—unlike back-lit tablets that shine in your eyes—so you can read comfortably for hours without eyestrain.”
Do you use an e-reader?  Which one?  What do you love about it and is there anything challenging about it?   Do you miss paper books?

The words: to be continued
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post where I’ll share information about various types of fonts; specifically one called OpenDyslexic!

No Please, Don’t Drop that Mic!

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Standing, human shape dropping a microphoneRecently I attended a professional conference in a facility which was equipped with newer technology.  On my registration form, in the accommodations space, I requested in advance that presenters use microphones so that I could hear what they shared.  At the conference, no microphones were used.  Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience which I or others have had.  Microphones have not typically been used at many of the conferences/events I’ve attended.  Years ago, a colleague explained that even when a presenter thinks they are “being loud”, the sound of their voice is coming out of only one source and is not at a constant, even volume.  When a typical microphone & sound system is used, the volume of the speaker’s voice is constant/level, and the sound is evenly spread out around the room; making sound more accessible to more people.

Microphone in an auditorium of peopleEven if someone has not specifically requested that the presenter use a microphone, I usually use one when I am in the presenter role.  Hearing loss is much more prevalent than many realize.  The Better Hearing Institute provides these statistics regarding hearing loss:

  • 3 in 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss;
  • 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), or 14.6%, have a hearing problem;
  • 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), or 7.4%, already have hearing loss;
  • At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems;
  • It is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss.

In an article by by Gilda Bonanno, 5 Reasons Why Presenters Won’t Use a Microphone, Bonanno states, “Used well, a microphone can demonstrate that you’re a smart and respectful presenter who cares enough about your audience to use every tool at your disposal to ensure they can hear and understand your presentation.”  To me, it just make sense to use a mic!  When in a presenter role, I want to know that more people can hear me, rather than question if the information I’ve spent hours putting together is really being received as I intended it to.
Presenter using a handheld mic in front of a group of people during a presentation

A Piece of Candy or a Fish Cake? Up for Interpretation!

A grouping of various, different EmojisBy Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Let’s set the record straight, is it “Emoji” or “Emojis”? Merriam-Webster tweeted that it’s both and defines Emoji or Emojis as, “small images, symbols, or icons used in text fields in electronic communication (as in text messages, e-mail, and social media) to express the emotional attitude of the writer, convey information succinctly, communicate a message playfully without using words, etc.” I really enjoy using Emoji and Emojis! I use them daily in text messages, facebook posts & comments, and sometimes in emails. I feel I’m able to express a little more of my own meaning when I text a sarcastic message to a friend and include a winky face with it.A classic winky emoji; winking and smiling.

I know how I interpret Emojis, but (as with many things) how others interpret them can be very different. National Public Radio’s (NPR) article, Lost In Translation: Study Finds Interpretation Of Emojis Can Vary Widely, states, “Emojis were supposed to be the great equalizer: a language all its own capable of transcending borders and cultural differences. Not so fast, say a group of researchers who found that different people had vastly different interpretations of some popular emojis. For example, the researchers found that when people receive the ‘face with tears of joy’ Emoji face smiling while crying tears of joy emoji some interpret it positively, while others will interpret it negatively.”

Emojis can be a visual representation of something, and by use of screen readers/VoiceOver, they can also be something we digest audibly. Screen readers/VoiceOver may interpret an Emojis differently than we do. For example, the Emoji of an index finger touching thumb to make an open circleemoji represents something that means “excellent” to me, but when I use voice over, my iPhone calls it the “okay hand”. Though ‘excellent’ and ‘okay’ are two, typically positive responses, they can always be interpreted differently based on the sender, receiver, situation, etc.  Side note: many of us type a word and then insert an Emoji that represents that word right after it.  When a screen reader/VoiceOver reads this, it’s read as double.  For example “french friesEmoji for french fries” is read as “french fries french fries”.

When in doubt about what a particular Emoji means, I’ve found that the Emojipedia site can be helpful. Once on the site, users can type in what we’re wondering about. For example, I’ve been using what I thought was an Emoji that represented a piece of candy for a while now. It has a pink swirl on it so I searched for “pink swirl”. The result that was returned informed me that the Emoji I had in mindEmoji fish cake actually represents a “Fish Cake with Swirl: A fishcake (or fish cake) that is used in some Asian meals, known as Narutomaki in Japanese. Each slice includes a spiral design for visual flair.”  A fish cake is definitely different than a piece of candy and its Emoji symbol is still very much up for interpretation!

Can You Hear Me Now? What about now? … Good!

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Sound waves projecting into an earHearing loss is something that’s common in my family.  Since my late 20’s, I’ve noticed a decline in my hearing.  A concern in the back of my mind is that I will grow older and have to wear large, ill-fitting, analog hearing aids that don’t seem to work how I need them to; that was my Grama Ann’s experience and frustration with her own hearing aids.  As a child I remember many crowded family gatherings where I could hear Grama Ann’s hearing aids whistling shrilly until she manually turned them down or off all together.

Technology is ever evolving and I feel heartened that assistive tech for better/amplified/more intuitive hearing devices has improved over the years; namely by way of digital (DSP, or digital signal processor) hearing aids (versus the analog hearing aids my Grandmother used).

Ear surrounded by a variety of hearing aids
Both analog and digital hearing aids are used today, though analog are becoming a little less common, and digital hearing aids are becoming a more popular choice.  Analog and digital hearing aids both have similar components. Both types pick up sound using a microphone and use circuitry to amplify sound.  Analog hearing aids work by making continuous sound waves louder, amplify all sounds (speech and noise).  [DSP hearing aids] convert sound waves to digital signals, producing an exact duplication of each sound, instead of just amplifying it. Computer chips are used to analyze speech and other sounds, allowing for more complex processing of sounds during amplification.”  This text is from the HUH?!? Help U Hear Center.  

Woman wearing a futuristic-looking hearing aid

With the ways that Google Glass and Bluetooth technology work today, I can’t even imagine the possibilities of hearing aids of the future!  By learning about what’s out there today and thinking about what’s in store for the near future, I feel more comfortable planning for my own hearing supports.

Thanks for reading!