The Way We Receive News Just Got Even Better

With the recent release of iOS 9.1 came Apple’s much anticipated News app. Now I am a bit of a news junkie, so I was very keen to try out this new addition when I downloaded the latest build.

When you launch News for the first time, you are asked to tap on any category to begin using the app. There are literally hundreds of publications to choose from that you add to the items you are interested in reading. Once done, sign up and begin, it’s as easy as that. And no, it doesn’t cost you a penny!

Among the categories I ticked was science, technology, health, news, sport, astronomy, entertainment and, of course, news. Every time I open the app now, it searches for all the latest stories in the categories I have chosen. I can share any item in a variety of ways including on Twitter, Facebook and by Email. I can save stories to refer back to at a later date, and I can search the app for topics I might want to read more about.

It is not possible at present, to my knowledge, to receive notifications from any of the categories you select like you can on specific apps such as Sky News or BBC News. But perhaps that will come in a future app update.

For me, this is one of the only real benefits of iOS 9. The bugs still exist, and I don’t think there is much else in the latest update to jump up and down about. But News has been worth waiting for, and makes the half hourly radio bulletin a bit redundant!

The British Computer Association of the Blind’s TechaBreak Weekend

I was both proud and privileged to be invited to BCAB’s TechaBreak weekend, held from 9 to 11 October. This year’s bash was held at the Crewe Arms Hotel, Crewe, Cheshire, and I was asked to present a seminar on Internet Radio.

As get-togethers involving a group of blind and visually impaired people go, this was really worthwhile and good fun. I decided to combine the trip to England with a visit to my good friends who live fairly near the venue so that we could travel to TechaBreak together.

The hotel facilities, food and staff were excellent throughout, and I don’t think anybody had cause to complain, (apart from piling on the pounds!(

There was something for everybody during the seminar presentations: learning about an upgrade to Windows 10; networking with a Mac; using Team Talk for social media; mulling over the pros and cons of the Apple Watch; discovering all the accessible ways to read; and streaming Internet radio.

BCAB also held its AGM, and I was elected to the Board as one of its Trustees. For me though, meeting new people, catching up with old friends, and sharing the common theme of assistive technology, was the highlight of the weekend. I look forward to more of the same next year!

For more about the work of BCAB and how to join, visit

My Volunteering Commitments

It has been a hectic couple of weeks since returning from a lovely weekend in Scotland with my son. It gives me great pleasure to say that Ian went for two interviews in the last two weeks and was offered both jobs! He has accepted the post of Security Officer at one of the Scottish airports; I can’t tell you how thrilled I am for him.

It has been a busy and exciting time for me too of late. It was Guide Dogs week between 3rd and 10 October, and I took part in my first two fundraising events during that period. On both occasions, Bumble and I went to supermarkets in our area to collect, and I met some smashing people as has been the case since I first stepped foot on Northern Irish soil. For those who don’t know, it is worth stating that Guide Dogs does not receive any government funding, but it is a popular charity up and down the UK for receiving donations, so a heartfelt thank you to all who donated.

I have a couple of school talks lined up for the coming week where Bumble and I will go and meet the children, and I deliver my talk on the work of Guide Dogs. This is always very rewarding for me because it not only allows me to meet people in the local community, but gives Bumble an opportunity to interact, which is what she is so good at.

I am attending a comedy evening performed by William Caulfield on Friday 16th October. Mr Caulfield has chosen Guide Dogs Northern Ireland as his charity of the year, so is raising money at his shows for the organisation. Bumble and I are going along to his gig to make a brief stage appearance!

Finally on the furry front, I have just set up my own Guide Dogs fundraising branch for the Mid-Ulster area of Northern Ireland. This should give Guide Dogs a greater presence in the area, so do please get in touch with me if you would like to get involved, or know someone who is interested in becoming a fundraising volunteer.

I have also just returned home from one of my other volunteering commitments, a weekend with members of the British Computer Association of the Blind, (BCAB.) I was invited to present a seminar on accessible Internet radio. I took several gadgets with me to the conference, held at the Crewe Arms Hotel in Crewe, Cheshire, and it went very well. At BCAB’s AGM, held at the weekend, I was made a Board Trustee. I am really pleased to be involved with BCAB in this way because they are a thoroughly nice group of people who are doing their best to serve the needs of blind and visually impaired technology users. We all have the same aims in mind, so the weekend for me was a great success. Find out more about BCAB and the work we do by visiting our website,

My interest in technology and gadgets has provided a platform for me to be involved with RNIB’s Sound Vision Online podcast team where I review equipment or services in my Tech That section. My contributions are now often broadcast on RNIB’s Insight Radio station during their Tech Talk programme that goes out on Thursday evenings at 9.00 pm. For more info about Sound Vision Online, go to
And for further information about Insight Radio, visit

I have come to the conclusion that there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to fit everything in. But volunteering is very rewarding, particularly if you are looking for work, or you have some time to spare, and you are like me and love being involved with things that interest you.