Playing around with Aiko, an amazing, accessible transcription app for Mac and iOS

I recently heard about this fantastic app, available for both Mac OS and iOS, called Aiko which leverages AI technology to transcribe audio. What sets Aiko apart from similar solutions though include, in part:

  • It’s free, totally free.
  • Audio can be dictated directly into the app, or a pre-recorded file can be imported. I’m particularly excited about this second piece.
  • Everything happens on the end-user’s device, nothing is sent to the cloud.
  • Multiple languages are supported, we’re talking a lot of languages: 100 languages according to Aiko’s home page.

I was excited to test out this fascinating technology and so to really put it through it’s paces, in a sub-optimal recording environment, I decided to record some audio using my Apple Watch, while standing outside with lots of traffic and other background noise. What follows is the unedited output of my little experiment. I’m also adding the actual recorded audio, so that you can get a sense of the crummy audio I gave Aiko to work with.

Hello, and thanks for joining me today.

I’m playing with an app called AIKO.

It’s an app that leverages Whisper, which is a technology made by OpenAI, the folks that brought us ChatGPT.

Now unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of months, I’m sure you’ve heard quite a lot about ChatGPT and the fascinating possibilities it opens up to us.

Anyway, Whisper, and on top of that this AIKO app, allow transcription of audio.

The interesting thing about it is that you can record directly in the AIKO app, or you can import audio, say from a file that was pre-recorded.

For example, you might have a pre-recorded audio file of a lecture or a class.

You would be able to import it into this AIKO app, transcription would happen, and then you would have the output as text.

For my test today, I’m standing outside in front of my house recording on my Apple Watch with traffic going by.

And the reason I’m doing this is because I wanted to come up with a very sub-optimal recording environment, just to better understand how the technology would deal with audio recorded in such an environment.

I’m also trying to speak as naturally as I can without saying words like um and uh, things that I think often get said when speaking.

The interesting thing about AIKO and the way that it transcribes audio is that it supposedly is able to insert punctuation correctly.

I’m not sure if it does anything about paragraphs or not, but as the speaker, I don’t have any way of controlling format.

Once you run a file or recording through AIKO, the output is rendered as text.

However, there are a few things you can do with it.

First, you can of course copy the text into some other application.

The other thing that you can do is have the text be timestamped.

The reason that this can be handy is that you can use that then to create files that can be used as closed captioning for videos.

Anyway, it is kind of loud out here, and so I will go back inside.

I also didn’t want to make this too long because I’m not sure if it’ll work at all or how accurate it’ll be, but my plan is to post this to the blog without editing it.

Stop, stop, stop.

Aiko-generated transcription from my Apple Watch recording.

One final note, the dictation ends with the words “stop stop”.  I didn’t actually speak those words, but because I have VoiceOver activated on my Apple Watch, they were picked up in the recording as I located and activated the stop button.  This is definitely incredible technology and the price certainly can’t be beat. From an accessibility perspective, I found Aiko to be extremely accessible with VoiceOver on both Mac and IOS and since it is a native app using native controls, I feel confident that it will work with other assistive technologies as well. You can find more information about Aiko, including FAQs, links to app store pages and more here.


An open thank-you to @YNAB for improving accessibility in an incredibly meaningful way..

For years, I’ve been a fan of YNAB, You Need a Budget. I love the principles behind their budgeting methodology, I love the app, I love the company, I’m just a really huge fan. YNAB has helped me to pay down debt, feel more confident about where my money is coming from, and going to, and generally feel way more in control of my financial life. Unfortunately, on 07/14, I downloaded an update to YNAB’s iOS app, an update that contained significant accessibility issues.

Tweet from Steve

I was hurt. I was up-set. I was not sure if I had set enough money aside to cover my rent payment — in short, it was not a very good day.

When it comes to making products and services accessible, it’s really important to understand that accessibility isn’t a nice-to-have, or a feature request. This is especially true if you offer a product or service that people might depend on. Sure I could have changed to another app, but I also would likely have had to change my budgeting method to one that would align with whatever new app I had chosen. That would have been especially challenging as I couldn’t put my financial life on pause while I figured it all out.

Fortunately, the fine folks at YNAB were extremely responsive and understanding, indicating that they were already working on fixes and, more importantly, were working to ensure that issues like this wouldn’t happen again.

And so here we are, roughly three weeks later, and I again get a notification that an update to the YNAB app is available. Even better, the “What’s new” section of YNAB’s App Store entry mentions:

• Two major accessibility wins:

◦ We made many improvements to VoiceOver interactions.

◦ We changed our background colors so that the Increase Contrast accessibility setting will now apply to the YNAB app and actually increase the contrast.

What’s New section in YNAB’s Apple App Store entry for version 3.01

I downloaded the app and was absolutely blown away. YNAB is now more accessible than ever, it’s a complete accessibility transformation. Because of their work on accessibility, I can use the YNAB iOS app way more efficiently than ever before.

Steve’s tweet thanking YNAB after being blown away with their 3.01 update

So, what does all this mean? Certainly this is a win for me personally, but it goes way beyond that. By

working to improve our approach to accessibility concerns to prevent instances like this in the future

Mentioned by YNAB in a follow-up tweet

YNAB has helped ensure that I remain a loyal customer: I’m happy to continue using their product, and I’m happy to continue paying for it because I feel listened to and I feel valued. And that’s a big part of accessibility that often gets left out of the conversation; accessibility is about equal access to products and services, but it’s also about listening to, and responding to, customer needs; and isn’t that a key component of many brands? When a company values me, and goes the extra mile to show me that I am valued, they create loyalty because like most consumers, I appreciate companies and brands that appreciate me.

So Thank you, YNAB team, for your work on accessibility over these past few weeks. Not only have you transformed your iOS app in an incredible way, but you’ve also demonstrated, by taking action, that you value me and others who use assistive technologies. I’m proud of the tremendous amount you’ve accomplished and am excited to see what comes next.


It may be just an app, but sometimes, it’s why my life sucks.


On July 26, I received yet another support Email saying in part,

Dear Steve,
Thank you for contacting Weight Watchers.  My name is [Name redacted] and I will be more than happy to assist you with troubleshooting your application.
I do apologize for this inconvenience.  Your email has been escalated to me.
In order for us to be sure we offer you the best support for Weight Watchers Mobile, please answer the following questions for us:
* Are you using a mobile device or a computer?
* What is your device model and Operating System?
* If you are using an iPhone, iPad or iPod, please confirm whether you are using the Weight Watchers Mobile app for iPhone App or accessing our mobile site ?
* If you are using a computer, what internet browser are you using.
* If you have not already done so in your initial Email to us, please let us know what error you are receiving.
* If your issue is technical in nature and you have not already done so in your initial Email to us, please describe as best you can what is occurring and what steps you took prior to running into the problem.  Also please provide any error messages you may have received.
As soon as we receive your response we will investigate on your behalf.

OK, clearly, they’re still confused.  That said, this issue is obviously on someone’s radar as there most recent app update has fixed the SmartPoint values reading on foods.  The daily and weekly totals still don’t read correctly, but at least now I am no longer disillusioned by chocolate cake having a 0 point value. 🙂



While the title of this post may seem a bit dramatic, I assure you it isn’t, at least not to me.  In a nut shell, the situation is this:  I pay for an app or service, use the app or service and then, with one update, it suddenly becomes impossible to use the app or service any longer.  This may not seem like that big a deal to those who are able to see, but for those of us who depend on VoiceOver or other assistive technologies, it’s a situation that is very real.


As many of my social media followers know, I’ve been a member of Weight Watchers for quite a few months.  After all, I can definitely stand to lose a few pounds and I’ve seen the program be successful with many who have benefited greatly from it.  I was also very encouraged to learn that Weight Watchers has a page dedicated to accessibility which says in part::

In our ongoing commitment to help as many people as possible to lose weight, including those with disabilities, Weight Watchers is dedicated to improving accessibility for people with visual impairments in the following ways.

The page then goes on to describe how to use the Weight Watchers online service with the JAWS screen reader, with VoiceOver and Safari, how to request information in alternative formats, how to optimize the Tracker for accessibility and much more.  I felt their commitment to accessibility to be genuine and in all fairness, their web site and iOS app worked extremely well, that is until the latest version.


For those unfamiliar with Weight Watchers, the program is essentially a points-based system where by individuals are allocated a number of points to be used throughout the day and foods are also given a point value, healthier foods receiving lower values than non-healthy foods.  A person can eat whatever they wish, the goal being to stay within their allocated number of points.  In short, it’s totally fine to have a big slab of chocolate cake, but because that slab of cake has a high point value, a smarter decision might be to opt for different, more healthier foods.  Using their iOS app, it’s possible to look up a food’s point value and to track it against the daily total.  Not only is this an efficient system, but the app can be instrumental in making healthy food choices by allowing the user to look up point values before deciding what to eat.


Like many of their customers, I update the Weight Watcher’s app regularly.  I certainly didn’t anticipate any problems when installing the latest version described as:

What’s New in Version 4.9.1
Fixed an issue with the barcode scanner.

We’re always working to improve the app and maximize your experience — thanks for sharing your thoughts so we can make it even better. More exciting improvements to come!

Imagine my surprise when, after installing this harmless-looking update, all the point values suddenly started reading as ‘0’?


After getting over my initial euphoria over chocolate cake suddenly having a ‘0’ point value, I realized that the problem was in fact an accessibility one.  For whatever reason, VoiceOver is no longer able to read point values accurately.  What this means is that in search results, when adding foods, when reviewing meals and anywhere else a point value might present itself, it is simply read as ‘0’.  Given the critical part the point values play in the program, this is a real problem.  How can I utilize a system based on points when I can’t read the actual points?


So, what to do?  My first step was to utilize live chat functionality which is built directly into the Weight Watchers app.  This chat system is pleasantly accessible and since it’s available around the clock, I thought it would be a quick way to describe the issue and see if it had already been reported.  After explaining the situation to the chat representative, my chat was “transferred”; I never knew a chat could be transferred.  Anyway, I get a new representative to whom I again explain the situation only to have my chat disconnected.  By this point my hands hurt from all the typing in addition to my already-mounting frustration, so I figure the next best thing to do is to contact them via the web site.  I do this, being sure to mention that I’m blind, this is an accessibility issue followed by a descriptive explanation of the problem.  Over a day later, I receive this response:

Dear Steve,
Thank you for contacting Weight Watchers. My name is [name redacted] and I’m sorry about the challenges that you have encountered in accessing your account through the WW Mobile App. Rest assured, that I will help you with your concern.
I appreciate your subscription with our Online Plus  plan.

We want to take this opportunity to thank you for trying our site and for making us a part of your weight loss journey.
Please try the following troubleshooting steps:
1. Please log out from the App and log back in.
2. If that does not work, force close the App if you have an Android device. Then relaunch the App. For iOS, close the App by double-clicking on the home button, swipe up on app snapshot, and click home button. Then relaunch the App.
3. If steps 1 and 2 do not work, delete the App and reinstall. Please note that recently scanned items are stored locally on the device and will be lost when you uninstall. If you would like to keep a recently scanned item, please save it as a favorite.
The Mobile App requires iOS 8.0 or later. It is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. For Android users, it requires Android 4.0.3 and up. While it might also work on an Android tablet, it is not yet fully supported and may not be compatible.
Let us know how things go! If the troubleshooting steps do not help, please reply here with details about what you are experiencing. We’ll investigate further and reach out should we need to gather additional details.

Clearly the rep misunderstands what’s meant here by “accessibility” despite my having mentioned blind, VoiceOver, and referencing their own accessibility page in my request.  No matter, I decide to be a trooper and try all the steps which, as expected, don’t accomplish anything at all.  I’ve sent an even more descriptive reply and as of this writing, have heard absolutely nothing.


So why the dramatic post title?  It’d be one thing if this were a situation pertaining to one specific company or app, but this is a situation that occurs again and again.  Right now on my phone, I have an entire folder of apps that fall into this category, apps that I either want to use or that I’ve come to depend on which have become partially or completely useless to me.  Some of these apps are health-related, some are social and more disturbingly, some are productivity apps that help me maintain employment.  The company may change, the app or web site may change, but what it all amounts to is that I spend a lot of time feeling frustrated and navigating the realm of tech support when, like everyone else, I just want to live my life.  It’s especially sad in this case though, given Weight Watcher’s

“ongoing commitment to help as many people as possible to lose weight, including those with disabilities,”.



How the W3C Text Alternative Computation Works – SSB BART Group

This is a rather technical article, but if you’ve ever wondered why screen readers sometimes read one type of information, such as a label on a form field and sometimes another, such as a description, this may help explain.

The Text Alternative Computation Over the years, there has been a lot of confusion about the W3C Text Alternative Computation and how this works, especially when influenced by the addition of CSS and ARIA attributes. As a bit of forewarning, this article is not primarily meant for general web developers, though having an understanding of …Read more

Source: How the W3C Text Alternative Computation Works – SSB BART Group


Thank you, MNsure, for giving me one more reason to hate ARIA

As a member of the accessibility community, I have the pleasure of getting to work with a wide variety of folks, all of whom approach accessibility with a somewhat different mindset. There are those, for example, who feel that accessibility is more of a technical challenge, an exercise in ensuring mechanisms exist for technologies like screen readers to understand what’s happening on any given web page. Others approach accessibility from a more user-centric standpoint, can users of all abilities understand and control the page? Most though, including myself, fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. As I write this today, however, I’m approaching accessibility from the perspective of an extremely frustrated blind guy who just wants to get something done and can’t.

The problem

Like many Americans, I’m opting to change my health insurance coverage due to rate increases with my current plan. My state, Minnesota, has a resource, a marketplace, called MNsure which allows people in my situation to search for and compare plans. Health insurance is pretty overwhelming, what with the myriad of options out there, and so I was excited to give this resource a try. Unfortunately, the more important aspects of the site are virtually unusable by screen reader users, a situation ironically caused by poor implementation of standards that were designed to help sites like this be more accessible in the first place.

A super non-techie explanation of ARIA and why it matters here

According to the W3C, the folks that make the standards that enable us to have a World Wide Web, ARIA is:

WAI-ARIA, the Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite, defines a way to make Web content and Web applications more accessible to people with disabilities. It especially helps with dynamic content and advanced user interface controls developed with Ajax, HTML, JavaScript, and related technologies. Currently certain functionality used in Web sites is not available to some users with disabilities, especially people who rely on screen readers and people who cannot use a mouse. WAI-ARIA addresses these accessibility challenges, for example, by defining new ways for functionality to be provided to assistive technology. With WAI-ARIA, developers can make advanced Web applications accessible and usable to people with disabilities.

To put this in plainer language, this means that ARIA provides a way for developers to take really complex webpages, such as those with constantly updating information, and make them more understandable to screen reader users without sacrificing visual design or functionality. Pretty cool right? One of the more powerful aspects of ARIA gives developers the ability to force a screen reader to output specific information immediately, even if the screen reader is currently in the process of reading something else on the page. While this might come in handy in certain cases, such as a chat or messaging application, it can have a serious impact on a user’s ability to read page content since the screen reader will interrupt whatever it’s doing in order to read whatever information the developer wants to force through. Getting back to MNsure (remember MNsure?), they are using an ARIA technique to provide extra information about links and form fields throughout the site. Examples include

  • “enter date in mm/dd/yyyy format”
  • “you can limit the number of plan listings”
  • “You can view more features about this plan”,
  • “clicking this link will take you to the provider’s web site where you can search for a provider”.

While all of these messages provide additional information and context, MNsure has implemented this in such a way that this additional text immediately interrupts the screen reader when encountered. This means that when reading through a page, I hear things like “You can view more features and details about this plan” but I have no idea what plan it’s actually talking about. The reason for this is that while the screen reader would normally read the link correctly, ARIA is being used to interrupt the screen reader from reading the link, so that it can read the descriptive messaging in its place. “Enter date in mm/dd/yyyy format” is helpful to know, but not when it’s done in such a way that prevents the screen reader from telling me what kind of date it wants in the first place — does it want my birth date? Coverage date? Today’s date?

What we have here is a situation where something that was developed to enhance accessibility, was used inappropriately and has wound up totally degrading it. Unfortunately, as the end-user, I don’t have a way to prevent this from happening. Put another way, even though it’s my screen reader, the developer has more control over it than I do .

Where to go from here

When things like this happen, and they sadly happen more often than one might think, it’s hard to figure out where to go, or what to do. When I mentioned this particular situation to a friend, their response was, “why don’t you submit feedback, so that the issue can be fixed?” That’s a great idea and normally I love submitting feedback and doing what I can to help make the web a more accessible destination, however right now, I’m needing to shop for insurance and I really don’t want to get side tracked by trying to figure out how to submit feedback. Put another way, yes I can do this but right now, this isn’t going to help me complete the task that brought me to the site in the first place. So I call, and I wait on hold because as much as my call might be important to them, I can’t help but feel that my experience as a blind user of their site is certainly not.

I mention in the title of this post that this gives me one more reason to hate ARIA. As I write this, I realize that it’s not ARIA that I truly hate, but the hap-hazard way it’s often implemented. When I think of ARIA, I think of an extremely sharp knife. When used properly, it can be a fantastic aid, but when used incorrectly, it can cause incredible harm. ARIA has the potential to give screen reader users access to all kinds of dynamic information. If used incorrectly though, it can cause incredible harm as evidenced by my particular experience. If you’re a screen reader user, I would encourage you to learn more about ARIA and the kind of control it allows developers to wield over your interaction with web applications. Maybe not an in-depth technical understanding, but enough to possibly know what’s going on when things aren’t behaving the way you might expect — maybe I should do a blog series on this? If you’re a developer, please please please be careful with ARIA. Yes it can provide fantastic solutions to complex accessibility problems, but it can also create complex accessibility problems where simple solutions would suffice. Understand the impact of what you’re doing, there’s plenty of resources out there to help with this including many kind folks who use the technology every day and can sey “hey, this isn’t working the way I expect it to.” So please ask, learn, grow and help make whatever experiences you’re creating on the web usable and enjoyable by all.


Looking for accessibility resources on the Apple Watch? David Woodbridge has you covered

Like many, I had so many questions about the Apple Watch: what would its accessibility be like? Could we actually use all the watch’s features? And most important to me anyway, what’d it sound like? David Woodbridge has been tirelessly blogging about his experience with the Apple Watch in addition to having created a fantastic series of podcasts detailing just about every watch feature using VoiceOver. In addition, David has done a fantastic job showcasing various applications that he has found accessible, or problematic. Fortunately for the world, David has consolidated all of this into a blog making it easy to find these invaluable resources in one place. If you’re thinking of purchasing the Apple Watch, or if you’re just curious about it, David’s blog is a must-read.


Skype for OSX keyboard shortcuts

Now that Windows Live Messenger has essentially been swallowed up by Skype, I find myself suddenly a lot more interested in how I might more efficiently and effectively use the official Skype client. I was very surprised when the official Skype account on Twitter replied with this very handy list of Skype for OSX keyboard shortcuts. Looking through the list, there’s definitely a few I didn’t know about.


Accepting physical credit card payments, the accessible PayPal solution

For many small businesses, the inaccessibility of payment solutions have often posed barriers to accepting physical credit card payments. More recently, services such as Squared and PayPal have entered the arena with solutions that provide small businesses and individuals the ability to accept physical credit cards using a small device connected to an OS or Android device. Although ultra portable and ultra convenient, these solutions traditionally pose accessibility challenges as well, because the card reader devices connect via the headphone jack and this disables speech output which may be needed for accessibility.

Although I wasn’t able to make a great deal of headway with the Squared solution, I did have success with PayPal’s. In the following audio demonstration, I’ll show how PayPal’s solution works with VoiceOver and will describe how to overcome it’s accessibility challenges.



Can you hear me now?
I’m posting this file to complement my earlier post concerning the accessibility of Tumblr’s embedded media player. If you’re able to hear this, please let me know which screen reader/OS combo you’re using?


First Glance at Firefox Accessibility on OS X Snow Leopard

First Glance at Firefox Accessibility on OS X Snow Leopard