Episode 137 – Unstoppable Software Engineer with Joseph Stephen

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Joseph Stephen is indeed a software engineer. However, he is much more which is why I say he is unstoppable. Joseph also not only happens to be blind, but he operates a farm in Northern Tasmania. He has been married for 27 years and has nine children. More importantly, he is successful at all these activities.

Among his software jobs, he has been a force in coding for the leading screen reading program for blind and low vision people. He also spends time creating and editing music which is where I first encountered him. I must admit I wonder when he sleeps although he says he does get enough rest every night.

Joseph is an extremely interesting person and has some really fascinating and interesting stories to tell. I hope you find him as unstoppable as I do.

About the Guest:

Joseph Stephen is a totally blind software engineer. He has been married for 27 years and has 9 children. He lives on a farm in northern Tasmania. He was the first totally blind student in Adelaide, South Australia to complete higher math and physics in Braille at matriculation level, and university and was the first totally blind student in South Australia to complete a computer science degree.

Joseph’s career started as a programmer in Malaysia where he helped a company implement solutions to manage oil plantations for the government. He then worked as an assistive technology specialist at the Royal Society for the Blind of South Australia. For the past 27 years (24 full time and 3 part-time,) he has worked as a software developer for Henter-Joyce/Freedom Scientific/Vispero, where he has been one of the main designers and implementers of many of the screen reader features that blind people have come to depend upon.

Joseph has also spoken extensively at churches, camps, and conferences. His hobbies include music production, writing, woodwork, walking, and amateur radio

Ways to connect with Stephen:

Website: www.faithfulgenerations.com

Band Camp: https://twoservants.bandcamp.com

About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.

Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.


accessiBe Links
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Transcription Notes

Michael Hingson  00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i  capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson  01:20
And hi, once again, guess what in case you didn’t guess it is time for another episode of unstoppable mindset. And today we get to talk to Joseph Stephen from Australia. He is a long way timewise from us here in Southern California as well as distance wise, Joseph and I met because we both use an audio editing program called Reaper. And we’re on a list together called Her It Comes Reaper Without Peepers. Guess what that means? Of course, it’s all about blind people using the program and Reaper is an incredibly good program from an access standpoint, because some people have devoted a lot of time to making it. And ancillary scripts that go with it very usable by blind people who otherwise couldn’t use the program and the sophistication that it brings. Anyway, Joseph and I met on that and we’ve been chatting someone I finally prevailed on him to come on unstoppable mindset. So Joseph, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Joseph Stephen  02:25
Thank you. It’s really great to be here. And yes, it’s it’s funny, actually, we heard about you a long time ago because some old gentleman who came to our house church once the he gave my son’s a book called Thunder dog. And they read it and then they read it to me. And I thought, oh, yeah, that sounds fantastic. And it was, you know, it’s quite, quite inspiring. And I love this Reaper without peepers list and this name comes up, you know, Michael Hinkson. I said, I’m sure that name sounds familiar. I reckon. I reckon that’s the author of that book. So I checked with the boys. And then I contacted Michael and I had to get the boys to say g’day to him. And you know, and yeah, here we are. Yeah, there we are. And now we’ve got to get me to Australia. We got a workout some speaking things some time to get us down there now that travel is opened again.
Michael Hingson  03:19
Oh, yes. Yeah, that’s another story. Well, why don’t we start by you telling us a little about you growing up and what a younger Joseph was like, and all that sort of stuff. And we’ll go from there. Well, interestingly, I was born
Joseph Stephen  03:35
with about 2% vision with the same condition that you were, but it was never explained to me that retinal inter fiber pleasure was the same thing as prematurity of written retinopathy of prematurity that no one ever explained that to me. They just said my retinas didn’t form properly. And I was born with cerebral palsy, and brain damage, as the doctor explained to my mom, and and my doctor said to my mom, that I would never live a normal life. Does that sound familiar? Yeah. And of course, no one defines normal either, but anyway, well, this is true. But But yeah, I hear you. I had parents, I guess similar to yours. They, they were risk takers. They didn’t treat me any different at all. But it took a long time for them to even get a response out of me because I did have the brain damage. And it was probably I don’t know, when I was two and a half or three when Mum sort of started making any progress with me. I mean, I wouldn’t even I couldn’t even sit up. I couldn’t do anything. But if you knew me now, you would just have no idea that that’s where I started. So now I’m married. I’ve been married for 27 years. Last week with our 27th anniversary. We’ve had 10 Children nine living one with the Lord. I’m a software engineer who’s worked for freedom, scientific Despero and enjoys going back. We’re close on 27 years. I do radio firmware for amateur radio to make radios accessible, I do music production. I do original music drummer singer keyboard. I’ve written about six books. I can use all power tools, you know, circular sore, I live on a farm 200 acres. So you know, I do fencing and repairs of goat sheds. And yesterday we were out plucking, plucking geese. I did three geese yesterday. And so like you there’s there’s not much that is stopped me. And I never think about those things. Although i i One thing I’d have to probably disagree with you with within that is? Well, blindness isn’t the issue. Sometimes we don’t understand how our blindness affects others. And I think that’s that’s particularly been true with me having known nine children, that has been quite a difficulty. So, you know, when when, when you’re by yourself, and you’re living your life as a blind person, really nothing needs to stop you. But there are things that that happen in life and that are quite difficult as a blind person, where attitude alone isn’t going to solve the problem. But you know, having said that, I’ve still accomplished a lot more than a lot of sighted people have. I also was the first totally blind person to do a maths and science degree, in fact, the first totally blind student in South Australia to do matriculation maths and physics, and then the computer science degree at Flinders University. In 1987, I rode to Canberra to raise money for the bike Bible Society for bike for Bibles, that was a distance of 1486 kilometers. So there’s, there’s a lot that I’ve been able to accomplish in life. And not that I’ve ever thought about it, I don’t kind of think, well, what’s my next accomplishment? I just do what comes in front of me to do. And we’ve got there’s a proverb that says, whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. And that’s what I believed in. So that’s, that’s kind of been my ethos. So
Michael Hingson  07:29
one, one question that that comes to mind in well, and going back to the discussion that you had about blindness can be difficult. And that is absolutely true. I don’t disagree with that. What I would say, however, is that attitudes, or maybe it’s better to put it a different way, a lack of education makes the difficulty a lot more of a barrier than it needs to be. And what a lot of us don’t get to do don’t want to do or don’t know how to do is to, to allow the teaching part of us to come out so that when there are issues that arise, and we’re different, because blindness isn’t the only thing that can create difficulties. And anytime anyone is different. There are difficulties that inherently come from what people accept as the norm. And the sooner that we recognize that the norm is not what we think of it, the better chance we have of dealing with all the other challenges that we face. And that would be what I would would say about blindness is that blindness isn’t the problem. It may be our approach. It may be the approach of other people. But the reality is that the problem comes because we don’t learn how we societally don’t learn how to deal with things that are different than we and that’s where the real challenge comes from.
Joseph Stephen  09:11
Yes, and I think actually, we’ve gone backwards a lot in our education system because I wrote an article a couple of years ago about the rise and fall of life skills of blind people, particularly the here in Australia, like, you know, we we’ve heard of, like 13 year olds who can’t turn on the shower for themselves. And children who can’t use scissors at school because they’re, you know, they’re dangerous. I mean, my goodness, if they knew what our school did in Adelaide back in, in the in the 70s and 80s. And where we went into the, you know, tech Studies Center and we used a bandsaw and, you know, Sandy Gascon would lay the drill and you know, as I said, I use a circular sore all the time and, you know, they I’ve still got on my 10 fingers. Yeah, but but These days there. And I think, I don’t know whether you’d agree with me, but there is a place for specialized education. And there’s a place for integration into into the sighted world. But there’s a delicate balance between them. Because if you don’t have the the special education where where teachers are challenging, and blind students can can key off of each other and compete and, and realize and be part of the well, let me put it another way, teachers still need to teach things in a way that that are optimized for a blind person, for instance, teaching tech studies is very different to a blind person than a sighted person. And if you don’t have that education, obviously, you know, it’s going, it’s going to be difficult. So I loved what you said in your, your introductory speech about Braille, for instance, that, you know, well, you know, you teach you teach sighted people print, right? Well, why not teach blind people Braille. And it’s the same with, with all such skills, you know, we we throw, I think, we’ve, we’ve thrived because I had the opportunity, you know, to learn to cook to learn to do wood work, to learn to do clay to learn to do leather work, to learn to do, you know, plastic, basically, everything, the only thing I didn’t get to do was metal work, which was, which was a shame, because I do know, a blind guy that can world and I’d love to be able to do that. And my sons are learning that now. They’re sort of 12 and 14. So maybe I’ll maybe I’ll take that up, too. But, you know, blindness in the in the context of education certainly isn’t the the issue. You’re right, it is, it is the attitude and the, the willingness of others to, to take risks. It is
Michael Hingson  11:56
we, we do need to recognize, though, such as a society that there is nothing wrong with having good, knowledgeable, and this is the part that I think’s most important, philosophically sound teachers that can deal with the blindness issues. The problem is that a lot of the teachers, so called experts in the field of work with the blind, themselves, aren’t necessarily doing the best job and providing the best services, for example, Braille. Now in this country, according to the National Federation of the Blind, has a lid it has a literacy rate of under 10%. When I was growing up, the comment was, was around 50%. The difficulty is, the difficulty is that we we’ve done several things, we’ve got a lot of blind kids who are not totally blind, they’re low vision, I won’t say visually impaired, because I think that is a total disservice to everyone. But low vision. And teachers say, well, as long as you’ve got some eyesight, you should use that. nevermind the fact that with that eyesight, you may only be able to read a few words a minute, you’ve got to use high magnification devices, and so on. Whereas if you also learned braille, you would be able to read more, you would be able to read faster and probably more effective. But
Joseph Stephen  13:30
I absolutely agree with that. Because, you know, I didn’t I didn’t learn braille till I was eight or nine. And the only reason I learned it was because the print in my textbooks was starting to get too small. And I think we should have learned it right from the beginning, like you said, because who knows when your sight, you know, whether your sight condition is going to be stable. And also, even whether the print? Well, it’s a fact, as yougo on in your primary education, that print gets smaller in the books. Yeah.
Michael Hingson  14:03
And, yeah, and the reality is that Braille is a true alternative, not a substitute for print. And now with technology, we can do a much better job even of creating graphics and so on, and providing graphical representations, you know, when you were growing up, you don’t know how much access you had to good drawings and physics and so on. But it it is better now. Because there’s more technology to help with that. And technology has made a great deal of difference in our access to information overall. But still, it isn’t the technology that’s the ultimate game changer that needs to happen. It’s still full education.
Joseph Stephen  14:52
And let me tell you a story about that. Yeah, I was spoiled at school because I had a an orientation and mobility too. He who was brilliant at mapmaking, he was absolutely brilliant about making, he knew he knew how much detail to put on. So that it was useful that it wasn’t too much, and it wasn’t too little. And when I moved to Tasmania in 2018, I asked for a map, a roadmap. And the binders agency told me that no one in the history of Tasmania had ever asked for a Braille map. And so they had to send away to get it made. And it was atrocious. The first one came back with just roads, so you had no town. So you referenced the towns from the roads, the next one came back with towns without roads. So you had no way of of mapping them together. And it was just I gave up after the third attempt, I gave up, because this the skill level of mapmaking was gone. And yeah, I did radio electronics. And it was a real frustration to get diagrams, because for some reason, sighted people don’t know how to do tactile diagrams in such a way that either they’re either they’re too small, and you can’t feel the detail, or they’re too big, or they don’t have enough detail. And like with road maps, you know, they use like, they do a map with a single intersection on it and think it was useful. Yeah, it’s like, come on guys. It’s a
Michael Hingson  16:27
problem is that we are viewed as inferior and not as equals in society, who need to have the same access to information I had up of an interesting experience happened to me recently. And if, if you listened to enough of podcasts, from unstoppable mindset, you’ll hear about my view that disability does not mean a lack of ability, and that everyone has a disability. People who can see have the disability of light dependents, and you don’t do well when the lights go out. And you want proof. I want to contest to go to the Kelly and Ryan Oscar after party, which was at the Dolby Theater where the Oscars were held. The Monday morning right after the Oscars. Somebody entered my name I didn’t even know they did. It was very nice to them. And when I got a call saying you’re a winner, and I was at a winner of what and the person told me and when I, when I went back to the person who I figured had entered my name. She said, Yeah, I entered your name, I didn’t think you stood a chance. Well, hello. Anyway, we go to the hotel, we arrived Saturday afternoon, bought 10 after three, go in, put up our luggage, it was me my niece and nephew. And we started walking downstairs and suddenly everybody started screaming around us. And I said to my niece, so what’s going on? We lost power in the hotel. And in the surrounding area. She said she knew me. She wasn’t worried. But everyone was screaming because suddenly they couldn’t see because there was no light. And all of a sudden the little flashlight started going on. Don’t tell me for one single second, that sighted people don’t have a disability. It’s just that technology has covered it up so much. It doesn’t mean however, that the disability isn’t there. And the sooner that we recognize that all of us have challenges of one sort or another and that we need to accept people where they are, the better off we’ll be. Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, I’ve I’ve got lots of stories like that too, even at home, you know, when the lights go out, but But you know, we can I I’ve been up fixing doors and putting doors back on, on their, you know, hinges and stuff on the 11 o’clock when all the lights are out and, you know, doing doing repairs. And, you know, one of my favorite stories is when I was in college, I think I was a junior and I was in my room. I had a single dorm room because I had enough Braille books that there was no room for anyone else to be in the room. And I was reading something studying away. And some people walked by outside my open window. And just for for just general sociability, I said, Hey, how are you guys doing out there? And they stopped and they went, we’re fine. Who are you? And I said I Mike. Well, the lights are off. And I said, Yeah, what are you doing? I’m reading my physics book. And of course they couldn’t get it. And I finally said it happens to be in Braille. But as you know, who cares about the lights right? Now I understand that I need to care about the lights for my sighted friends who are less fortunate than I
Michael Hingson  19:49
but we all have challenges where we’re less fortunate than others in some way. And you know, we all need to deal with that and you you have done it.
Michael Hingson  19:59
No so many different things, I took woodshop, but my shop teacher would not let me work the bandsaw or the lathe, or any of those things, which I kind of regret, I do believe that I would have had no trouble learning to do them. But he was pretty restrictive in that way. So someone else had to cut out wood things for me that I’ve in. All I basically did was a lot of sanding, you know, but that was the way it was. So it was better than a lot of things that that could have happened. Mostly at the high school, the teachers were pretty good. And so I did pretty well in in high school overall. But that one shot thing, you know, that was just kind of the way it was. And so you do what you got to do. But I believe that, for me, I learned braille in kindergarten, but then I forgot it because I didn’t get to use it for the first three years, we were out in California, so I had to relearn it. So I appreciate where you’re coming from. But I did learn it again, and was able to keep up with it. And believe that Braille is absolutely something that any person who is totally blind, and any person who is otherwise partially blind should learn. And I like I love the National Federation of the Blind can definition of blindness, which is your blind. from a functional standpoint, if your eyesight has diminished to the point where you have to use alternatives to pure eyesight in order to function. And if you’re at that point, you should learn blindness techniques, because the odds are, as you said earlier, you’re going to lose the rest of that eyesight. But also philosophically, you get to use both blindness techniques and the eyesight that you have to be able to function. But if you learn to use them both, you’re much better off.
Joseph Stephen  21:54
It’s interesting, because when I lost my sight, I didn’t actually know that I completely lost it. What happened was, as I said, I was born with about 2%. And that doesn’t sound like much but it was enough to walk around. It was enough to walk to the deli, the shop the I guess you guys call it a drugstore from my house. It’s a couple of kilometers, maybe three or four kilometers without a cane. Yeah. So 2% is quite quite a lot. Even though it doesn’t sound like much. But one day I was riding a bicycle behind my friend and I kept running into them. And all of a sudden, I realized that I actually couldn’t see any more. See, what happens is my brain recreates what should be there. It’s like watching a video. And I have lapses in that video sometimes when I’m really concentrating on something and all of a sudden, I realize I’m not seeing what I’m out my eyes. But actually what I’m seeing out my eyes is all created by my mind. And so I don’t know that I can’t see until I go to try and touch what should be there. And it’s not because my brain has has, you know, got the wrong picture for the wrong situation sort of thing. So it’s very interesting. And so someone asked, someone once asked me, What’s it like being totally blind? Because one is totally blind. The other one? Well, it’s, it is totally blind now to but one I have. I have mental video. The other I have nothing. And I like to say to them, it’s like looking out your left ear. Yeah, if you could look out your left ear is absolutely nothing. It’s not darkness. It’s not darkness. People need to understand that it is not darkness. It’s nothing. And there’s a big difference. Yeah, there’s a big difference. Yeah, sorry, what we can say?
Michael Hingson  23:52
 No, no, I was just agreeing with you. There’s a there’s a big difference. Well, but you, you know, I grew up and didn’t use a cane or a guide dog until I was 14. But I learned the areas and I learned to listen extremely well. So our elementary schools were very open. They weren’t just like a single building. And so walking down sidewalks, there were roofs over the sidewalks. And they were held up by polls. And I didn’t run into the polls because I learned to hear the polls and could have weighed them. And and so I was able to do that I was able to ride a bike around the neighborhood and so on. Eventually, my brother and I started doing a paper route together. And so we did he had a tandem bike to do that. But still, for a lot of the area around my neighborhood I could ride a bike and and do all the same things that the other kids did. In reality, I didn’t do a lot of things that they did. I didn’t play baseball or other things like that. And I found other ways to entertain myself or to watch them if you will. But you know the Act is that the brain is a wonderful thing. Well, look at you, you had cerebral palsy, you worked through that your brain worked through that. And probably, you developed other neural pathways to be able to accomplish the things that that you needed to do, which are now just part of what you normally do.
Joseph Stephen  25:20
 Yeah, exactly. In fact, I was able to remember pi, you know, pi 3.141592653589703, I was able to, I was able to remember that to 200 decimal places, there. Yeah. So, so the doctors were, I mean, I, I honestly, attribute all of all of what I’ve been able to accomplish to God, because it’s a miracle compared to where I was at. It was a lot of hard work. Yes. But it was also a lot of determination on the part of my mother, and on the part of my teachers on the UN, and also constantly being challenged. I guess I’ve always felt like, I want to be one step ahead. Yeah.
Michael Hingson  26:12
It’s what you got to do. Yeah. So you went to college, which is pretty cool. What did you do then when you got out of college? Well, it’s,
Joseph Stephen  26:23
well, for the first few months, I actually went back to Malaysia with, with my, well, who’s now my wife. And I had an interesting story there. Because we went to Malaysia. And we were staying there. And I really needed to get a job, I needed to get some money and, and I applied to all these places to do computer programming. And this one place, I ended up, they gave me an interview. And I walked in there and I was really trying hard to pretend I wasn’t blind, and marry my wife. Now she, she, you know, she went in with me. And you know, we just casually sat down and did the interview said nothing about my blindness or anything. And right at the end, the guy looks at me and he goes, How do you do this stuff? Okay, what do you mean? You, you look like you’re, you look like you’re blind. I said, Oh, I’ve got a talking computer. Anyway, he gave me the job. I mean, he gave me the task to do that afternoon that they had this massive of this bug that they couldn’t fix in their system, that it had overflowed their capacity. And I, I went home, and three hours later, I had solved the problem. And I went back and they gave me the job. But there was a lot of prejudice in Malaysia far more than then in a Western country. I mean, it was so bad, that that my wife didn’t like me having a cane. And because it just drew so much attention. And it ended up causing us to fall into a storm drain, which is, you know, like six feet deep and full of machines and slash at the bottom. And we had to climb out of that. And but, you know, the stigma there is far worse than here. In fact, it was so bad, we ended up coming back here. But I was able to get a job there. Through sheer, you know, determination and, and well and, and in a sense, good on that boss. He was perceptive enough. But more important than that, he asked you rather than just turning you down and shut he was great. Yeah, I mean, he’d studied in Australia. So I think he had a bit more exposure to, to the fact that people with disabilities had more opportunities here than they did there. I mean, they’re blind people, I only ever met one that had like a job as a telephone telephony in a bank. But most of them were, you know, sniffing lighter, fluid and, you know, busking on the street with a keyboard just playing random notes. And if they had, if they were even able to do that there was one lady there was selling tissues, and helped by a granddaughter to get to that spot on the bridge every day. And you know, that there was a lot of, I feel, I truly do feel blessed. I mean, I know that 75% of blind people are out of work. So, you know,
Michael Hingson  29:38
 yeah. But we can only do what we can do. And and like I said, the other side of it is that for those of us who can and are willing to do it, we need to allow our teaching skills to come through to help educate, because that’s really what it’s what it’s about and there are there even in this country. There are so many Times that the so called experts are the ones that are the biggest roadblocks. There’s an organization that started this whole thing about dining in the dark. And their, their logic was. So eat in the dark, and you can see what it’s like to be a blind person, which is totally false, which is totally obnoxious. And it doesn’t teach you anything except to be more prejudiced about blind people and blindness. Because what you don’t get is the training. And every sighted person gets training on how to eat and tie their shoes and so on. Why should it be different for us?
Joseph Stephen  30:37
Michael Hingson  30:40
Well, so you had that software job. And, and then, but then you went back to Australia and, and started conversing with the kangaroos I trust?
Joseph Stephen  30:51
Oh, yes. Yeah. So when we came back here, I actually still work for that Malaysian company for a little while, but it became, well, it wasn’t, it wasn’t profitable enough, because the dollar was like a third of our dollar. So I ended up giving that away. And I worked went to work for the Royal Society for the blind business as a as a Assistive Technology Officer finding solutions for blind people, because someone had put a recommendation into the that they should hire me. And I went over to see son conference in 1999. Because I’d already done some contracts with, with the Henty Joyce, in terms of scripting before that time, but only 99. I went over to the CSUN conference, and I met Eric dammar at and he said, so will you work for us? And I said on one condition, he goes, What’s that? I said, I work from home. Okay, so from July 1999, a couple of months after our first child was born, I started working full time for them. And then I went into systems programming rather than just scripting and the rest is history. I have about 10, patents 10 inventions that I added to the company and yeah, all of the lots of the heavy lifting for JAWS has been done from either Adelaide or Tasmania.
Michael Hingson  32:25
Well, and for those who don’t know, JAWS, that stands for Job Access With Speech is a software program called a screen reader. And what it does is it verbalizes, the text video that comes across the screen isn’t necessarily itself great at graphics. But it’s not intended to be the artificial intelligence solution, at least at this point, unless there are things going on that Joseph isn’t telling us about yet, but they’re coming, I know it will come. But the reality is that it is the predominant piece of technology that we who happen to be blind use to interact with a computer. It’s the the most popular screen reader on there, there’s a charge for it, there are a couple of screen reader software packages that are out there that are that are free or much less cost. But the other part about Freedom Scientific and JAWS is that they’ve been doing this a long time. And so JAWS has clearly gotten a lot more done and can interact in a lot of ways that the others are still playing catch up to get to.
Joseph Stephen  33:39
I remember, we were the first screen reader to work with Microsoft Office. And the things we did was so unconventional, I mean, I can’t go into the the technical stuff, but we really did everything possible to get information out of the application. And so, you know, a screen reader doesn’t just build a model of the screen, it figures out what’s going on in the application, what needs to be spoken, what the user wants to know. Because there’s a big difference between accessibility and productivity, and usability and usability something can be something can be totally accessible but totally unusable. I won’t name any applications right now. But the blind people out there who knows who knows what’s going on in the world knows what I’m talking about. But the reality is you need both you need accessibility and usability and the idea of Jaws is to try and allow blind people to be as productive as their sighted counterpart not just to give the ability, not just the give them the ability to to hear what’s on the screen, but to make them productive.
Michael Hingson  34:52
What is so frustrating about being a JAWS user is when Microsoft For example, updates windows. And at least this is the way I’ve heard it a number of times doesn’t quickly or ahead of time, pass along to the screen reader manufacturers, the things that are about to be updated so that when the updates actually roll out, the screen reader updates can roll out as well. And the result is, you’re always playing catch up, and we’re always the victims of things not working for a while until you can play catch up.
Joseph Stephen  35:30
 Yeah, I mean, that, that that’s generally true, although I must say Microsoft have been a lot, a lot better in recent years. Yeah. Giving us leeway, and time. But But there’s always, always the issue of, you know, cycles, whether our cycle matches with meshes with their development cycle and, and things like that, you know, we have to do a lot of  to jumping through hoops to get stuff done on time. Still,
Michael Hingson  35:59
 do you find that Microsoft makes life any more difficult because of course, they want to promote narrator which is the built in screen reader inside of Windows?
Joseph Stephen  36:09
Oh, it’s very frustrating because they People often come to us and say, well, Nurten Narrator works. But Narrator doesn’t work in the same way that Jaws does. And quite often, what, what what they pass for accessibility is just it doesn’t it just doesn’t cut it. So while Narrator might say something. Anyway, I guess I’m not really here to bash Narrator But
Michael Hingson  36:39
 Well, no, I don’t want to and I didn’t want to bash Narrator It was more of a curiosity. But But But you’re right. And look, there are a number of screen readers. And there’s an advantage to having been around longer. I think my first exposure to Jaws was in 19 96.21 or something, something like that. Yeah. And it came, I came in this big box with a whole bunch of tapes that I cassettes, and I went through all the lessons. But it was it was the best thing. And at that time, it was probably about the only thing around. And so I’ve been using JAWS ever since and, and thoroughly enjoying it. And love to see how it continues to progress and all of the various clever things that are that are going on.
Joseph Stephen  37:36
I remember back in those days, the I was such a skeptic, because they were they were other screen readers that just crashed all the time that were absolutely atrocious. And when someone said, Oh, we tried yours, I really didn’t expect anything of it after I’d already tried like a handful of screen readers. I was so pleasantly surprised. And the fact is that the reason why it was such a success is because of the number of blind people that are involved in its development. Yeah, we know what we need, and we have to get it done for our own job. And so, you know, JAWS for me is far more than a job. It’s, it’s my baby, it’s another one of my children. It’s my oldest child, in fact. And you know, we, as a company, we absolutely listen to us as the biggest trouble is, we’ve usually got way, way, way more stuff to fix and do then then you know, we have people to do it. And that’s typically why things take longer. And of course, you make one little change in a mature package like this. And you’re likely to break something for someone somewhere. Yeah. And so it’s really hard now to get fixes in because you really have to be so careful that you don’t mess up someone else’s job. Just because you make a change for one person who’s screaming loudly enough. So it’s it’s a balancing act for sure.
Michael Hingson  39:06
And you know, then the other part about it is you’ve got people like Eric Dan Murray, who really got it. And it’s right, and to truly understood it. Eric is going to definitely be missed for retiring. Oh, yeah. And it’s like with Kurzweil education system, Steven Bomb, the same way. I’m a person who, who got it who understood blindness as well as anyone could. And who was committed to truly making a product that worked, which is what it was really all about. And so people like that are sorely going to be missed, and other people will hopefully come along who will do the same thing but Freedom Scientific has done a really great job with what’s happened with JAWS. And you’re right, there’s so many different definitions of accessibility, it’s amazing, right
Joseph Stephen  40:03
, which I guess leads us to the next topic, which is, you know, accessibility in general, I am such so passionate about accessibility, I get very frustrated when someone comes out with a new invention, supposedly for the blind, and it’s so bug ridden that that is just not usable. But anyway, that leads me to amateur radio, which I also wanted to make accessible. And I know that you’re an amateur radio operator, too. And so since 1964, wow, a lot longer than me, I only got my license in 2015. But there was this guy who was reverse engineering, Chinese firmware. And we got hold of that project. And he started adding voice prompts. And I really appreciated what he did. But it became a closed project. So we sort of branched it off and kept it open and added heaps more features and also added. So what we do is we, we go to Chinese radio, we reverse engineered the firmware, we added voice prompts, so that everything on the radio spoke, including, you know, entering frequencies, and literally everything, there was nothing, there was 100 100%, accessible and usable. And this is for a whole bunch of Chinese radios with a similar chipset. And there’s another open source project that I’ve been doing that with as well. So even even that landscape has changed dramatically. And you know, it’s a lot of work. But it’s, it’s been very rewarding doing that, too.
Michael Hingson  41:40
Yeah, and the the landscape changes, the sophistication changes. And so there are a lot of things like that, that make it even, you know, much more interesting going forward. I have a Kenwood 570. So that’s old. I mean, I bought it in 2000. And I actually haven’t set up an antenna here, and I’ve lived here for quite a while and really should. But I’ve been using a service, partly on the phone called Echo link to be able to communicate, but I also do have a Kenwood two meter walkie talkie, and love ham radio, but it will like everything, as you said the whole landscape is changing. Yeah, I mean, I, I did amateur radio for I mean the firmware for about two and a half years. Because I was doing programming during the day I started to get burnt out. So now I’ve sort of switch gears. And now I’m doing music production with an old friend from Adelaide, who I started singing with back in 1986. So now, that’s what I tend to do in my spare time. And that’s what you use Reaper for. That’s right, what a game changer that is. Well, I’m so grateful to those guys. Yeah, Reaper, and then there are a couple of scripts, like Mr. Snow Barker, among others, but also other things that have truly made it accessible. And I know that I use it in a very simple way on dealing with editing a lot of audio and so on. But still, it is such a such a game changer, as you said, and just reading so many things that are being done by so many different people who happen to be blind in the whole music production world. And they’re, and they’re talking about things that are way above my paygrade I could learn them. But I’m not really interested in doing music production. But I love Reaper. And it works really well. And again, it’s one of those things that isn’t even a very expensive product for anyone. It’s like $60 to get a license for it. And in the US, and it works really well. So it’s a way to be able to edit these podcasts and do all the things that are necessary to to make them sound reasonably decent and so on and which is a lot of fun.
Joseph Stephen  43:45
Well, again, I think this brings me back to the labia one of our it’s such an important topic. This unstoppable mindset. This unstoppable mindset is not something that other people do, and everyone just enjoys the fruit of everyone can be part of it. You know, I’m I do my bit in the community, you do your bit in the community. Someone else does their bit in the community, but if everyone excels and does the best that they can do, it contributes to the whole blind community and everyone’s lives can be impacted the whole blind community and beyond actually, right. But if it if everyone’s just the consumer, leaves it to everybody else to do well. Nothing gets done.
Michael Hingson  44:59
I, my wife passed away in November. And so I have more time on my own. We were basically married for two years. And I know that she’s around here. So I need to continue to behave, because if I don’t, I’m going to hear from her. So I got to watch my P’s and Q’s, which is fine. But one of the things that happened here last year, was that, like, every year, our homeowners association has a board of directors and we have elections every year. And last year, by the time the elections were supposed to happen, they didn’t have a quorum. And I think it took two extensions before they finally got enough votes to have a quorum. This year, I decided to run. And one of the main things that I’ve said, at meetings that we’ve had, and I’ve said it emails and so on, is I want your vote. I really appreciate you voting for me. But even if you don’t want to vote for me, please vote and get other people to vote. Because we need to reach that quorum. And you know what, Joseph, the quorum is 25%. So that’s 1200, roughly property owners that have to vote in order to certify an election, which is a crazy low number. And I have no idea yet where where we stand last week, we were at only about 16 and a half or 16.7%. Still, and the election is supposed to be held this Saturday. I’m hopeful because I and I know others have also sent election information out and I’m hoping that we will definitely have a quorum. And as I said, I I would love to be one of the people elected there three board seats open. But either way, people should take an interest in the community, at least enough to vote for the board for heaven’s sakes, we all are part of the same community, wherever we are. And we should be involved, we should take enough of an interest to be involved to some degree wherever we can. That doesn’t mean we need to do everything. But you’re absolutely right. We do need to be involved and take an active interest,
Joseph Stephen  45:00
Right something go down the well and others hold the rope. But you know, be part of it be.Someone once said to me, and I’ve always loved this quote, you know, don’t curse the darkness, light a candle?
Michael Hingson  47:25
Yeah. And I’ve heard people say, pictures are worth 1000 words, but they also take a lot more memory. So But you’re right, and a candle, or whatever you do. Be a part of it. That’s one of the things that I think is, is so discouraged as people being a part of things, and there are too many people who are just not used to being active. And it doesn’t mean that you need to be an activist, but you should be involved and have enough of an interest that you can help the community and without always help yourself as well.
Joseph Stephen  48:06
Right? Yeah, fine. Find what you’re good at. And do the best at what you do. Yeah.
Michael Hingson  48:13
So you have nine children, you’ve been married 27 years. And when you went to Cambria on a bike now, was that a tandem bike? Or did you ride? Yeah, that was a that was a tandem. How long did that take?
Joseph Stephen  48:25
11 days. And it was a distance of 1486 kilometers. And it was interesting because there was maybe, I think it was 12 people that rode all the way from Perth, across through Adelaide, where they met up with us and on to Canberra. And so what happened was, as we got closer to Canberra, more and more bikes would join us. So by the last kilometer or so we had like 300 bikes. 300 cyclists it was it was fantastic.
Michael Hingson  48:56
Did you make your monetary goals?
Joseph Stephen  48:59
Yes, but thankfully back then I had other people sorting all that out. I just had to write.
Michael Hingson  49:05
Yeah, yeah. You didn’t get involved in the money counting in the money changing? No. That’s okay. But you were a participant and I’ll bet how a lot of fun and fond memories of that yes, indeed.
Michael Hingson  49:23
Go on. Your your your children, I assume are are not none of them are blind because they didn’t have the same issue of premature births and so on are correct.
Joseph Stephen  49:35
None of them are blind. A few of them wear glasses though, but for totally different reasons.
Michael Hingson  49:41
Well, a lot of people wear glasses though. It’s okay. Yeah. So you, you you do you do a lot of different things. Do you do any extracurricular activities or do you think you’re doing enough things that you don’t get involved in sports or any of those kinds of things?
Joseph Stephen  50:00
I don’t have any spare time. I mean, if I’m not if I’m not doing family things, and I’m not doing fun things, and I’m not doing work things, and I’m not doing music things, and I’m not doing writing, I’m usually trying to get a bit of sleep. But people have often joke that I don’t sleep because I get so much done during the day. I just like being productive. I think I’m hyperactive, so I, I can’t stand doing nothing.
Michael Hingson  50:27
What do you I hear you What do you farm?
Joseph Stephen  50:31
We have sheep, a few cows and sheep or goats. I tend to do more of the maintenance sort of stuff on the farm. The children look after the animals. I have done hay baling and fencing and irrigation and repairing goat shed floors and things like that. But I usually let the children do the animals.
Michael Hingson  50:52
Everybody seems to remember something someone has to take the executive responsibility. Yeah, exactly. Which is, which is perfectly reasonable, which is not a problem. Tell me about your writing and your books, if you would.
Joseph Stephen  51:08
I’ve written six books on very, very different topics. So I’ve got a poetry book, I’ve got a book on, it’s called more than meets the eye. I’ve got a book on my my journey as a Christian and the things I’ve learned doctrinal things that I want to pass on to my children called sufficiency of Scripture. I’ve got another book about biblical relationships. And I’ve got a homeschooling curriculum, which I did with my wife on Braille and blindness, bright blindness, Braille and the Bible. I have a book on computer programming as a homeschooling curriculum, called the perfect programmer, referring to God as the one who’s programmed everything in the DNA. And I’m currently working on a book for a missionary friend who’s who’s really at the end of his life, who worked in West Papua for 25 years. And he’s got interesting stories of cannibalism, and aeroplane crashes and all kinds of stuff. So I’ve been doing working on that one, most recently. So yeah, very, very varied.
Michael Hingson  52:16
Do you publish the books yourselves? Or do you have a publisher?
Joseph Stephen  52:21
I did have a publisher, but they went broke, thanks to my books.And no, so I managed to get the manuscript back from them. And then we self published after that, which was a lot cheaper to do.
Michael Hingson  52:39
Well, but you seem to be doing pretty well with him. I was just looking And I don’t think that you sent me any photos of book covers. But if you want to promote any of those, send those to me. And when this goes up, I definitely would be happy to make sure that the the book covers are featured as part of what of what we put up if you’d like. Okay, yeah, that’d be great. That would, that would be fun to do. But, you know, you’ve you’ve clearly accomplished a lot and are more important than anything, you’re having fun doing it. And I think that’s the really big issue that if we can’t have fun doing what we’re doing, then, you know, where are we?
Joseph Stephen  53:21
 Oh, absolutely. And I think that’s the thing that we can live extremely fulfilled lives, and lives that are meaningful in our community. So, you know, as I said, there are pros, there are consumers, and there are producers. And I think it’s just like the Bible says, and so it’s better to, it’s more blessed to give than to receive, I think it’s far more exciting to be a producer and a consumer.
Michael Hingson  53:54
And it’s always better to help people learn to fish rather than just giving people fish. Yes, exactly. If you were to give some advice, of any sort to, let’s say, people who could see what would what would you like people to take away from this? There’s a toughy huh? Yeah.
Joseph Stephen  54:18
Are you talking specifically about how sighted people see those with a disability?
Michael Hingson  54:25
Um, you can start there if you’d like, but whatever you feel would be relevant. advice to give people certainly, talking about disabilities is one pertinent thing but I didn’t know whether you wanted to even go further.
Joseph Stephen  54:42
Find out what you what you like doing, do it to the best of your ability and help others in the process.
Michael Hingson  54:54
It doesn’t get much better than that. Clearly, what would you say about disabilities in four two? The people who don’t view themselves as having a disability, sighted people about blindness and so on?
Joseph Stephen  55:07
Well, I agree with you that attitude is everything, I would also hit those say that it is difficult as a, as a person with a disability related or interacting with those who don’t have a disability in a family situation. And I don’t think anyone prepared me. Let me rephrase it, because of the, the tight, the time at which I grew up, the emphasis was on buying people can do anything. But what they didn’t tell me was how my disability was going to affect my family. And so it is, it is one thing to be proactive in terms of education and to and to break the glass ceiling, so to speak. There is also though the reality of living in a world where most people are different from you, and being responsible and reasonable and sensitive about how your disability affects others. And particularly, you know, your your wife and your children. They are often the wings, the wind between the wind beneath our wings. And they oftentolerate a lot from us that other people don’t necessarily notice the carers and the people who, you know, we don’t make it by ourselves. We really don’t, we’re all interdependent. And I guess I want to emphasize that too, that there are people in our lives, who don’t have the disability that we have, who really helped us to be who we are, and we must give them credit.
Michael Hingson  57:25
Absolutely. The other side of that, though, is that those people also, whether they recognize it or not have had help along the way, I believe in something that Gandhi once said, which is that interdependence ought to be as much the ideal of man as his self sufficiency. Because the reality is, we are absolutely an independent dependent world, all the way around. And, and I think it’s important to, to recognize that, that all of us get help in so many different ways from so many different people, whether we realize it or not. And it is also true, that sometimes we don’t even know how we’ve helped other people. But if we’re living our lives, we’re helping other people as well.
Joseph Stephen  58:18
Yep, that’s right. No, I really, I really like that. I think that the problem is, when you don’t have a disability, you tend not to think of yourself as interest interdependent, right. And that’s part that’s part of that’s part of our problem, as well. Yeah. I mean, that’s why that’s why people don’t recognize their need for gardening in a lot of ways is because they’re, they’re too self dependent.
Michael Hingson  58:46
Or they think they are and they think they are, yeah, exactly what what kind of advice would you give now and say to a blind person, about whatever,
Joseph Stephen  58:57
as a blind person, don’t, don’t expect everyone else to make your, your life accessible, get out there and do it, and contribute and be a producer and not a consumer.
Michael Hingson  59:15
It’s so true, right? I mean, that’s exactly what we all need to do. And we need to learn to do it. It is so unfortunate, and in society, we just don’t teach enough of that to people in general. I think we used to do it more than we do it today. But we really need to teach people to learn to step out. Take risks, when appropriate, and learn what when appropriate means but don’t just sit back. It’s better to be a driver than a passenger.
Joseph Stephen  59:48
Yeah, I think the in all fairness though, because of the the move to integrate blind people into sighted schools very very, very early without the special education Quite often blind people don’t have the, the networks that they once had. Not that you want to only be in a blind world, you need to be in a sighted world and a blind world. But the problem is if you don’t, if you’ve if you’ve never had the opportunity to learn how to do sighted things in an efficient way, I mean, we really need, like blind people to be helped be mentors and things like that, too. You know? And I’m certainly willing to do that.
Michael Hingson  1:00:46
Yeah, I hear you. And the but the other. The other part about it is that I think there are a lot of in this country there, there are a lot of attempts to provide teachers to help. The problem is that from a philosophical standpoint, and a practical standpoint, they themselves don’t get the training that they truly need to help blind people truly understand what independence is all about, and how to be independent. And the result is that they don’t teach some of the skills that they could teach, or that they could contribute to teaching better than they do. So the teachers themselves can be a part of the problem, and shouldn’t be, but they are.
Joseph Stephen  1:01:30
Yeah, no, I agree with that, particularly in Australia, as I said, with this article, The Rise and Fall of life skills, it got to a peak, you know, back in the 50s and 60s, people blind people weaving baskets, then there was the, the the attitude of blind people can do anything, then we move to integration. So we had special education, then we moved into early integration, and it got earlier and earlier and earlier till the special education went out the window. And some people say it was because of budget and government spending, etc. But, but the reality is we’ve gone backwards now. 1234 Yeah, go ahead. Yeah. To before. The, the, the upward trend. Yeah, just quite sad
Michael Hingson  1:02:12
. On the episode number five of this podcast, we interviewed a lady named Peggy Chung, who is known as the blind history lady. And she specializes by choice in learning the history of blind people and blindness and so on. And she, among other things, talks about the fact that in the past as late as in the 1940s, or around 1940, I think I’d have to go back and listen. We had as many as three blind congressmen in the United States, and there’s been one blind senator, now we have none. Because society has decided, once again, that blindness is really more of a problem in the wrong way than it is. And I think that can happen so much in the world, which is truly unfortunate. She has a lot.
Joseph Stephen  1:03:11
Go ahead. I ran as a candidate for political party twice in 2010 and 2016. So yeah, there’s a lot of stigma attached still, in getting blind people into places of leadership.
Michael Hingson  1:03:27
She also tells us a story about the invention of the typewriter, which was really for a blind Countess to want Countess who wanted to be able to exchange or have notes go to her lover without her husband finding out fascinating stories. So if you get a chance, go back and check out Episode Five. It’s really kind of fun. Well, I am going to thank you for being here. We’ve been doing this an hour already. We could probably go on but I think we’ve given people enough to think about don’t you?
Joseph Stephen  1:03:56
Oh, absolutely. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate you being here.
Michael Hingson  1:04:00
How can people maybe reach out to you and learn more about you or learn about the books and all that?
Joseph Stephen  1:04:06
We have a website called faithfulgenerations.com www dot F A I T H F U L G E N E R A T I O N S faithfulgenerations.com That’s where you can read about my testimony and books. It doesn’t have anything about our music musics on Bandcamp two servants, T W O S E R V A N T S two servants on Bandcamp and b a n d c a s t B A N D C A M P band camp actually actually have our our first album is actually available on most of the platforms now like Spotify and that two servants. It’s called further down the road. The next album coming out is over the hill and then maybe it will be under the turf. I’m not sure. Yeah, because the guy that I started singing with back in 1986. He’s now 73. And I’m 51. And so it’s just a little private joke between us. The well I’m 73 He’s okay. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it sounds 73 He doesn’t sound 73
Michael Hingson  1:05:20
Well, we keep trying. Exactly. Well, this has been fun. And I want to thank you for listening. Love to hear your thoughts about any of this and you are welcome to reach out to me. You can reach me Michaelhi at accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com. We’d love to hear your thoughts. We didn’t even talk about accessibly or anything today, but we had enough other fun things to talk about. We could have a whole hour probably you and I on artificial intelligence in general anyway, right?
Joseph Stephen  1:05:49
Oh, absolutely.
Michael Hingson  1:05:52
But I hope people will reach out to me Michaelhi@accessibe dot com or go to www dot Michael hingson.com/podcast. Singular, and listen to more episodes. But wherever you’re listening, please give us a five star rating. We appreciate it. We value your thoughts and your comments and your ratings and reviews. So please give us a five star rating and let us know your thoughts. And don’t ever hesitate to reach out and Joseph for you and for you listening. If you know of anyone else who might make a good podcast guest, please email me please let me know. We are always looking for more folks to interview and we appreciate your help to find them. And the number of people have done that over the past year and a half plus, and I’m sure we’ll get more of those. So don’t hesitate to give us your suggestions. We are always looking for people to talk with. So Joseph once more. Thanks very much. And I really appreciate your time and all of your your good thoughts today.
Joseph Stephen  1:06:53
Thanks for having me.
Michael Hingson  1:07:00
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.

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