Category Archives: Ringtones and Accessibility

Instructions for Getting Local Tones on iPhones (Thanks to Kim Walter)

Kim Walter and His 1959 Citroën DS

Kim and His 1959 Citroën DS

Thanks to Locally Toned contributor Kim Walter for sending in these instructions so that our readers can try and get our tones on their iPhones.  Kim is one of Larry Rippel’s friends from back in the day.  Kim teaches in the Industrial Design department at Pratt Institute in NY.  He’s also an avid collector of Citroën cars–he helps to organize the largest gathering of Citroêns in North America.  Kim said that anybody’s who’s interested can read more about this Citroën Rendezvous at

Thanks for sending us this info, Kim!

Gettin’ Local Tones on iPhones

01–In iTunes 8, click on the song/mp3 file, and select “Get Info.”
02–Hit the “Options” tab.
03–Check both the “Start Time” and “End Time” boxes.  Set the start and end time that you would like to have.
04–Click “OK” and make sure the song you want is still highlighted.
05–Click on “Advanced” in your menu bar.
06–Select “Create AAC Version” or “Create Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) Lossless Version” (Make sure your iTunes “Import Settings” are set to “AAC” or “Apple Lossless” and not “MP3″).
07–A duplicate copy of your song will appear in iTunes – this new song will have the same filename but shorter “Time” and go back to the original song and uncheck those “Start Time” and “End Time” boxes.
08–Drag the duplicate song to your desktop.
09–Once the duplicate song is copied to your desktop, delete the duplicate file in iTunes.
10–On your Desktop, rename the file with the “.m4r” file extension – Use the new extension. This turns your song file into an iPhone ringtone file.
Your “songname.m4a” file should now be named “songname.m4r.”
11–Drag the newly renamed .m4r (songname.m4r) file back into iTunes.
12–Drag the file over the “Library” column and release when “Library” becomes highlighted.
You have to delete the duplicate song file (Step 12) otherwise iTunes won’t import your new .m4r file
13–You should see your new ringtone under “Ringtones” in iTunes
14–Sync your iPhone and you are all set!!


Filed under Locally Toned (all posts), Resource References, Ringtone Research, Ringtones and Accessibility

Trying to Get Ringtones on Peggy’s ICE Phone (Update)


Peggy Walsh contributed a few homemade tones to the project earlier this month.  She’s a non-sighted person who lives in the Oakland neighborhood of the city.  Today I went to try and see if we could get some of the project’s tones on her phone.  The plan was to call Verizon (her wireless service provider) from her landline while we were together, so she could give them account information, and I could navigate through the phone menu, if possible and necessary, to save and set the tones.  I’ve written other posts about ringtones and accessibility issues on this blog, so it was important to me to see if we could get this more personalized feature working on her phone.  The idea was to ask someone at the call center to walk us through a test (sending a “saved” sound on my phone to Peggy’s phone).

It turns out we could not get the ringtones on Peggy’s phone.  A wonderfully helpful and patient customer service operator named Toni (from the Michigan call center, we were later told) helped us with our task.  I spent about 40 minutes on the phone with Toni, telling her a tiny bit about the project and why I was calling on behalf of/with Peggy.  “I’m working on a public art project where I help people make ringtones through field recordings and then distribute them for free.  I’m a sighted person, so tones as identifiers are useful to me when I have my hands full, but blind people could really make good use out of setting and saving ringtones since they can’t see the picture or text caller IDs that come through like I can…”  I also let Toni know I’d be blogging about our conversation, and I mentioned Stevie Wonders’ advocacy on behalf of people with accessibility issues at this year’s consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.

Toni said that these models of cell phones had features helpful to non-sighted people:

The LGVX5500, LGVX8360, LGNV2, Samsung U430, Samsung GLEAM, and the Samsung Knack feature options similar to Peggy’s ICE “In Case of Emergency”) phone.  They offer voice command, and text to speech capabilites.  They can read the phone number of incoming missed calls and voicemail alerts, and the signal and battery strength.  These models also have what Toni referred to as “specialized ringtones.”  I’m not sure what she meant by that.

Because I was curious about this, I asked Toni if Verizon had specialists “on call” to work with the sight impaired, Toni said she wasn’t sure about, that but every operator had information on file that might be useful to Peggy as a non-sighted person.

We soon found out that Peggy’s current phone can’t store and receive ringtones; and that she was not eligible to upgrade just yet.  In terms of which model would be appropriate for Peggy if she upgraded, Toni said the LGNV2 easily allows a person to send, save and set ringtones to the phone (on my phone these commands are “save as ringtone” and “set as ringtone”).

But Peggy is not due for an upgrade until August of 2010.  I asked Toni if Verizon would make an exception and allow Peggy an early upgrade, now or some other time before 2010, based on here accessibility needs.  Toni said she’d forward that request to her supervisor, but that if Peggy wanted to have the capability to receive and save ringtones, she would also have to be on a calling plan of at least $49.99 (right now Peggy’s plan costs less than that).

I thanked Toni for her time, and asked to speak with her supervisor (to compliment Toni for having done an outstanding and thorough job).  Toni attempted to transfer me into her supervisor Andrea’s voicemail, but the transfer did not go through–the line went dead.  So we called Verizon back, and a gentleman at another national call center typed up the compliment for Toni in Michigan (he said that’s where she worked) on Peggy’s account information.

So I fired up my computer and played a bunch of tones for Peggy.  Which five would Peggy put on her phone today if she could?

Here is Peggy’s desired ringtone rotation (or playlist):

Mbira Tone No. C2 by DJ Soy S.O.S.
Old Fashioned Phone Tone Montage
Simple Wind Chime Tone
Trombetto’s Good Mood
Trombetto Blue

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Peggy’s Homemade Tones

Peggy Swings Wind Chimes for a Ringtone

Peggy Swings Wind Chimes for a Ringtone

Peggy Walsh lives in Oakland.  She heard my interview on Town Talk, and told the radio station (RIS) that she was interested in learning more about the project.  When we spoke on the phone, she wanted to hear a sampling of ringtones from the project.  She said she was tired of the rings that came programmed on her cell phone.  I played some of them for her on my phone (by putting it near the speakers on my computer).

I asked if Peggy might like to make a ringtone or two, she told me she wanted to think about that possibility.  When I called her back in a few days, she said she wanted to collaborate.  Here are her tones–a Simple Wind Chime Tone, Peggy’s Kitchen Phone Tone, Old Fashioned Phone Tone Montage and her Simple Symphony No. 9 [in D minor by Beethoven] Tone.

I was delighted that Peggy took me up on my offer to collaborate on some tones, since the major goals of the project are service, empowerment and sharing.  Being a sighted person, setting ringtones as identifiers for callers is interesting and fun, and most helpful to me when I have my hands full (am cooking or doing the dishes).  But most of the time, I can tell who’s calling just by looking–on my phone, I can see picture or text caller IDs.  For the blind, however, the option to set tones as caller IDs is potentially much more useful.

Peggy doesn’t like the electronic sound of the new rings on cell phones, so we recorded two of her “old fashioned” or land line phones ringing.  She likes the gentle sound of wind chimes, so we got that, too (if you listen carefully, you may hear birds chirping in the background).  And since Peggy plays the piano, I also asked her to do a very simple, right handed version of some copyright free music that would make a decent tone.

Peggy is a self-described would-be-writer, and she belongs to Western PA’s Blind Outdoor Leisure Development, where she’s served as their correspondence secretary.  She’s done a good deal of advocacy writing, and she loves good theater.  Her favorite TV shows are Masterpiece Theater and Law and Order.  I asked her if she ever turnS on the Descriptive Video Service, and she said that the shows she likes to tune into are so well done in terms of audio, that descriptive services are just a disruption.  She did note that when she visited friends in England, there were loads and loads of radio plays to listen to.  She wished that she had more access to radio plays here.

Peggy Using Her Cell Phone

Peggy became blind as a premature infant.  She has a Coupe phone, which has larger buttons and a talking menu.  She said she just called Verizon, where a “very nice salesperson helped me find this phone.”  When I mentioned to her that I’d heard stories this year about Stevie Wonder’s advocacy at this year’s Consumer Electronics show, she said, “I can use this phone, but there’s a lot missing.  If you’re not a sighted person, you can’t do a calendar or a schedule, which would be very helpful to me.  You can’t text message–I suppose the advantage there, though, is that I am saving a little bit of money.  The blind, in many respects, have access to, the 16th Century of accessibility.  That’s considering most [sighted] people carry around and using these little complete computers on their cell phones!”

As Peggy worked with her cell phone, I noticed that she had to memorize the menu choices.  A sighted person could just look at them and easily scroll through them.  Peggy had also memorized the layout of the numerical key pad and command buttons (something else I don’t need to worry about because I can see).

Thanks, Peggy for sharing these tones with the project (and for answering all of my numerous and “nebby” questions)!

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Foley Interview on Radio Information Service’s Town Talk program

With help and a connection from my project Adviser Kirsten Ervin, I was able to be a guest on an RIS radio show called Town Talk.  RIS stands for Radio Information Service–I’ve mentioned them before on the blog.  The interview  was recorded yesterday, and will be broadcast this coming Sunday.  I would invite everyone to hear it, but RIS is only available to anyone with a disability that prohibits them from seeing or holding print materials.  The host of the show, Marilyn Egan, explained that because copyrighted material is read over the airwaves to its constituency (such as the daily headline content from newspapers), the general public may not tune into the station.

I had a lovely conversation with host Marilyn Egan of Town Talk.  She’s volunteered for RIS (Radio Information Service) for more than 25 years.  I also know Marilyn from my collaborative work with the Pittsburgh Opera.  She is their Director of Education.  It was fun talking to Marilyn about the ringtone project because she has studied Ethnomusicology–she enjoyed describing the Gamelan and Mbira instruments for her listeners.  She’s also a very sharp thinker, so she sent some provocative questions and prompts my way regarding media literacy and nascent technology issues.  She talked about her experiences out in the world as an educator, when she observes people who are so engaged with localized media technology (texting, emailing, twittering via cell phones), that they’re not fully present or focused on experiences at hand.  I mentioned a term I like to use to describe this sort of situation called “continuous partial attention.”

And instances in which people aren’t very attentive because of their engagement with cell phones doesn’t just bother Marilyn–they also bother our President’s Press Secretary.  The Colbert Report had a funny segment which aired last night on how Robert Gibbs hates ringing cell phones during his press conferences.

The kicker for me, though, is that neither of the ringtones that went off during that session were very interesting!  I mean, if you’re going to interrupt the President’s Press Secretary, it might as well be at least somewhat interesting, like the Hobo’s Da Man ringtone or Taylor’s tone.


Filed under Locally Toned (all posts), Ringtones and Accessibility

Ringtones and Accessibility

BBC Interview with Stevie Wonder

BBC Interview with Stevie Wonder

While I was working on my proposal for the Old and New Media Residency program in January, I happened to hear an NPR story about Stevie Wonder’s visit to the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  Wonder was advocating for electronics manufacturers and designers to make their products more accessible for the blind.  I followed up on that NPR lead about Wonder’s attendance at the show, and found this BBC video interview featuring the superstar.  The stories got me thinking about finding a way to reach out to the local blind community as collaborators on the ringtone project, and, in general, about the heightend sensitivity to sound that many blind people develop.  I recall an approach that John Butler, a professor from Ohio University’s School of Film, shared with me back in the days when I was running the Media Literacy program at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.  Professor Butler gives an assignment to students in some of his sound production/design classes, asking them to construct “audio maps” so that each student would be able to find his or her way home, from the school, by the sounds they have on the map.  He also asks his students to chose a photo or a picture of any kind, and to use sound to “describe” the image, so that a blind person would know what it is.  His students may use music, sound effects, dialogue or any other field recordings or “Foley” sounds to aurally illustrate their selected images.

Keeping Stevie Wonder’s recent act of advocacy in mind, it was important for me to me to think of how Locally Toned may “tune into” and focus on the blind community, soliciting their expertise and contributions.  Because I can see and hear, I receive both audio and visual call-alert signals (ringtones and wallpaper photo IDs).  Since many blind people have a heightened sense of hearing, what sounds might they wish to amplify or set as ringtones useful or interesting to them? [ANOTHER IMPORTANT & RELATED THOUGHT:  Can deeplocal help me hack into the vibrate mode of cell phones to program them with a series of different alerts for the hearing impaired who use the devices for text and/or picture messaging?  Oh!  And will our website be easily accessible to the blind?]

Locally Toned advisor Kirsten Ervin, of Everyone an Artist, directed me to two important local resources–Radio Information Services of Pittsburgh, and the Golden Triangle Council of the Blind.  The mission of RIS Pittsburgh is to further the independence, education, and self-reliance of children and adults in Western Pennsylvania who are blind, visually impaired, or unable to read or hold print material, by providing current information from print media and other sources not readily available to them.  GTCB’s vision is to continue to be recognized as the leading advocacy organization in the Greater Pittsburgh area in employment, transportation, and accessibility for people with vision impairments. The aim of all of our activities is to encourage people to achieve their potential as valued members of society.  I hope to work with and/or through both of these organizations.

For now, I’ve followed up on these wonderful leads Kirsten shared with me, and look forward to considering accessibility issues within the project through collaboration with these local stakeholder-communities.  Right now there’s a possibility I might be able to visit on-air with host Marilyn Egan on her RIS show Town Talk, to share Locally Toned’s call for participation with her audience.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed!


Filed under Locally Toned (all posts), Ringtones and Accessibility