Assistive technology news and info.
This fall has been full of new software and hardware releases from Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the VFO Group. And now, Humanware has one to add to the pile. BrailleNote Touch 2.0 was released last week and delivers the features J.J. wrote about before. The only difference between what was reported, and what Humanware is advertizing is that it's being called "BrailleNote Touch 2.0" instead of Keysoft, the operating system name for all BrailleNote products prior to the Touch. Read more
Every October, VFO, formerly Freedom Scientific, releases a major update to the JAWS for Windows screen reader. Some years include more new features than others, but this year's update has a variety of changes that may effect you. This is the first major update since the VFO acquisition of AI Squared, makers of the ZoomText magnification software. We've detailed many of the new features below. Read more
The American Council of the Blind has announced their 2017 scholarship program. Approximately 20 scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 will be awarded to entering freshmen, undergraduate and graduate college students who are legally blind, maintain a 3.3 GPA and are involved in their school or local community. The application deadline is February 15, 2017. Check the source link on this post for more information.
Seedlings Braille Books for Children is hosting an online auction featuring a variety of items in an effort to raise $10,000 to pay for braille books for children. items range from restaurant and Amazon gift cards to themed experiences and also include a large variety of local and regional items for those in or near Michigan, their home base. The auction ends November 14.
Applications are now being accepted for the National Federation of the Blind's 2017 scholarship program. 30 students will win amounts ranging from $3,000 to $12,000, a free trip to the 2017 national convention in Orlando, and a variety of additional prizes. Those attending college in the fall of 2017 may apply. For more details or to view the application, visit the link on this post. Deadline is March 31, 2017.
A new update for the BlindSquare navigation app has just been unleashed on the iOS App Store which may make some iOS 10 users happy. Version 4.04 supports the new built-in voices which are included in iOS version 10, assuming they have been downloaded. Also, the new feature list includes the ability to repeat previously spoken messages in a speech history mode and a fix to reenable the use of the map in iOS 10. The complete changelog is below. Read more
Accessible Apps has released another free update to the Chicken Nugget Twitter client for Windows. Version 4.3 was largely necessitated by some changes from Twitter's API in how tweets are displayed. Some parts of a tweet, such as a picture or quoted tweet, no longer count in the 140 character limit, allowing for slightly longer tweets to be written in these situations. Version 4.3 accounts for this change and also includes some other improvements. You can download version 4.3 from the source link below, and look at the complete changelog after the jump. Read more
Apple has officially released iOS version 10.1, the latest update for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users. This update includes several camera improvements including a portrait mode camera, improves connectivity to some Bluetooth devices, and fixes a laundry list of other issues. As for accessibility, AppleVis reports that a couple of bugs were squashed, including a showstopper for some users which displayed extraneous information on a braille display while using the Mail app. We've linked to the AppleVis post which has more details on mainstream and accessibility updates in this release. iOS 10.1 runs on any device which received the iOS 10 update.
Often, students will decide to focus on blind or visually impaired individuals when developing a new technology as a part of a school project. This survey comes from Masterâ€™s students studying Human-computer interaction at the University College London and asks about technology usages and challenges for blind and partialy sighted individuals. The survey is on a single page and is estimated to take about 15 minuts to complete. Follow the source link to take the survey.
HIMS Inc. has announced a "maintenance" patch for the Braille Edge 40 that brings a few new added functions to the device. Some readers may be thinking this is old news, but it's not really. Though this patch was originally announced in September, it was pulled from the website shortly after due to some customers having the update fail. Read more
The American Printing House for the Blind has posted an early version of the manual for the forthcoming Orbit Reader 20, the sub-$500 braille display which is due to be released shortly. In the manual, we learn more about the unit's operation and screen reader support. The Orbit Reader 20 will include two modes: a stand alone mode is designed for reading already translated files from an SD card to display on the unit. Basic text editing is also available in this mode. In remote mode, the unit can be paired with a screen reader using Bluetooth or USB. Support for all major screen readers is currently possible, either directly or through emulation of a RefreshaBraille 18. Details may change between now an the actual release of the unit. Check out the manual to learn more. Thanks to Josh Kennedy for the tip.
MIPsoft, makers of the BlindSquare GPS ap for iOS, has been working on GPS software for Android for the past 18 months, though details are scarce. This according to some recent tweets from the @BlindSquareGPS Twitter account.
Android is getting better and better. We have been building something for Android for last 18 months or so
â€¦not BlindSquare, but something on same area. We donâ€™t have any release dates set yet.
Android users can currently use Nearby Explorer as well as Google's built-in navigation apps and some other free alternatives, but it sounds like more options may be on the horizon. If you care to speculate, post your thoughts in the comments.
Jaws 18 public betas have been flying out the door in anticipation of the upcoming release of version 18. After the recent acquisition of AI Squared, Jaws 18 and ZoomText 11 are advertised as playing much nicer together, with Jaws handling most speech output and ZoomText handling magnification. Touch support gets a lot of love in this update, including the ability to start Jaws using a hotkey from a touch-enabled device. Google Docs improvements include the ability to enter text using contracted braille and a variety of tweaks to improve speech output. Users of prior versions of Jaws may be happy to learn that you can once again import settings from a previous version of Jaws, though this will only work from Jaws 17 currently. No release date has been given, though new versions of jaws typically are release around the end of October. A laundry list of additional features and bug fixes included in the two public betas is listed below. Read more
Learning Ally, the U.S. based nonprofit that offers 80,000 books primarily aimed at students, has relaunched their suite of reading apps as Link, offering more flexibility when reading and searching for titles. It's available now for iOS, PC, Mac, and Chrome and coming soon to Android. Previously, users could not search for books directly from their device, an improvement present in the latest release. Here's a list of features in the new software from the iOS version. Read more
More details have been released regarding the forthcoming version 2.0 of KeySoft which will be available soon for the BrailleNote Touch. Humanware's Greg Stilson described many of the improvements in a recent webinar. Read more
Vision Australia and the CNIB in Canada have made the first exchange of books under the Marrakesh Treaty, which is now in effect in 20 countries. The treaty, which allows books and other materials to be shared in accessible formats across borders, took effect September 30 after Canada ratified it in June, pushing it across the 20 country threshhold necessary for adoption. Read more
Humanware has announced that The BrailleNote Apex will not be retiring. Instead, will be available at a slightly reduced price from what it was before the BrailleNote Touch took its place. The BrailleNote Touch 32 is currently selling for $5495, while the Apex is selling for $4995. The 18-cell Touch sells for $3895, while it's older counterpart is selling for $3495. The BrailleNote Apex, a notetaker first introduced in 2009, saw it's most recent update in May of last year with Keysoft 9.5.
If you have a BrailleNote Classic, mPower, or wish to replace your older Apex for some reason, Humanware is offering you the chance to trade it in for an aditional $500 off the prices listed above. Check the Source link for further details.
Hims Inc, has released an upgrade to its firmware for the U2 line of notetakers. This update includes some bug fixes and also introduces 2 new features. Read more
Humanware has released 2 new updates to its products. For Stream users, version 4.7, which adds support for the saving of NFB Newsline content and also adds the ability to subscribe to specific publications right from the device. Previous to now, it was not possible to subscribe to newspapers on the Stream directly, the user had to log in to NFB Newsline to manage what they would get on the Stream. But if you aren't in a place that supports Newsline, there is still a reason to upgrade. Version 4.7 allows you to synchronize the time you have set to an online server. This involves setting your Stream to the correct time in your time zone and then enabling this feature. The update is free, and you can update your Stream Second Generation by following the instructions in the source link. Read more
If you plan to attend the 32nd CSUN conference, The Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge have announced the call for papers in the General Track, as well as for Pre-Conference Workshops. If you plan to attend sessions, one of these opportunities could be a good way to get your name out there and to also save some money. The source link is to the announcement, which also lists guidelines for submitting proposals to the committee. CSUN will be held at its now traditional spot at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego from February 27 through March 4.
If you plan to attend, but are hoping to do so on a budget, J.J. has provided a lot of tips on doing so. Though this guide was written for the 2016 conference, many of the tips and ideas will carry over to next year's conference.
We now have some more details on the forthcoming tactile graphics display being developed by the American Printing House for the Blind and Orbit Research. For one, the device, which was announced at the recent AER conference, now has a name: Graphiti (notice the spelling). One of the reasons for the word graph in the product name is announced support for the Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator, also produced by APH and Orbit Research. Users will be able to connect to the calculator and feel resulting graphs in real-time. Read more
There are consumer braille embossers that cost under $5,000 and commercial models which can run you upwards of six figures, but not a lot of options in-between. Braillo Norway, a company known for its commercial-grade embossers, has announced an updated version of the Braillo 300 at a reduced price of $23,000. Announced at the World Blind Union and ICEVI General Assembly in Orlando, the embosser prints at 300 characters per second and comes with a free copy of the Duxbury braille translation software. That price may look scary, but to a braille production house, it could be a huge break. An earlier model of the Brailo 300 was being demonstrated at CSUN in 2013 at a price of $57,000. Preorders are being taken now, with shipping expected to begin in October. Check out the Braillo web page on the new embosser for more information.
An ultrasound is one of those magical moments of pregnancy, but to many blind people, it's just a flat picture. A company called IN UTERO 3D is providing accessible 3d-printed ultrasounds for virtually nothing. The free tactile models are available for blind and visually impaired couples around the world for the low cost of 1 Euro. Residents of Poland, where the company is based, will received the actual 3D printed model while those in other countries will receive a digital file which can be produced using a 3D printer. This news article provides more information.
As Windows 10 adds more hotkeys, especially with the new Anniversary Edition, other programs are trying to avoid keyboard conflicts. Many of the hotkeys for Twitter client Chicken Nugget have fallen into this trap and often didnâ€™t work properly in Windows 10. The new Version 4.2 resolves this and makes the program much easier to use in Windows 10. It also now plays audion from video service Vine, fixes YouTube support, and includes several additional bug fixes. You can download version 4.2 from the source link below, and look at the complete changelog after the jump. Read more
While we regularly see apps get ported over from iOS to Android, it's rare the opposite occurs. One such occurrence is APH's Nearby Explorer which is now live in the iOS App Store. Having a brief look at the Manual for iOS, and also a read through of the manual for Android, it appears that many of the same features appear in both versions. Read more
Michael Doise, who has developed several apps for iOS including PocketBraille Reference, Visual Brailler, VO Starter, and blind Bargains, has now brought his skills to the Alexa platform. The Braille Challenge is an Alexa skill that asks the user questions to test their knowledge of braille. Most questions deal with the dot formations found in uncontracted braille, though there are also a few questions about braille itself. The skill, like all others on the Echo platform is free to play and can be activated by telling Alexa to enable The Braille Challenge. While a simple utility, it can be a great reference for those trying to learn braille who just want a bit of practice and who may learn better with this approach.
The latest release of TalkBack, version 22.214.171.124, has now been pushed out for Android users. Despite the long version number, this is actually a major update with new features for web users, text editing and multipage views, among othres. Those testing Android N, the forthcoming version of the operating system, also get some love in this release including features which support the new multi-window mode that will be availavle. It's a free update and available now from Google Play. The complete release notes, as posted to the Eyes-free mailing list, are below. Read more
While some customers may still be waiting for their BrailleNote Touch to arrive, the ones who have it are now able to get a brand new update, with some major feature additions. Among the new functionality this update provides are access to the camera, louder internal volume/improved sound quality, updated video encoders and decoders for popular apps, and more. Read more
The Cisco Academy For the Vision Impaired is currently accepting enrollments for its fall slate of courses. These online courses are specifically designed for blind and visually impaired individuals and include online instruction via voice chat, one-on-one instructor time, and many other support tools. Courses generally require at least 10 students to enroll, and several offerings are already scheduled to run this term including three audio-related courses and instruction on HTML and Powerpoint. Learn the ins and outs of multitrack audio editing with Reaper, or how to design a good-looking web page with HTML. Use Powerpoint to create visually attractive and functional presentations. Other courses, including network-related offerings and a course on Linux, will run if more students sign up. Fee are well below comparable offerings at a college or university, and scholarships are often available. Check the source link for more information. Deadline to register is August 15.
LookTel Money Reader has been renamed, and at least for the moment, is a free app It is now known as NantMobile Money Reader. Read more
Microsoft has announced on its blog that, with the Anniversary update to Windows 10, Edge is now its "most accessible browser ever". This includes support for "PDF files, Narrator support for address bar suggestions and instant answers, and a wide range of improvements to common daily browsing features such as tabs, windows, and favorites." It is also worth noting that Edge 14, which is the version of the browser that comes with the Anniversary update was the only browser to score at 100% in the HTML 5 accessibility test. This test goes through browsers and measures how well the features are accessible with various adaptive technology without having to resort to work arounds to utilize specific features. See the link above for further details. Have you tried the new Edge and the Anniversary update? Feel free to sound off in the comments section about your experiences.
As promised, Microsoft is still allowing people who use any form of assistive technology to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. At this stage, no verification that you are indeed running assistive technology on your computer is required. Read more
Humanware has officially announced that the KNFB Reader app will be included as part of the BrailleNote Touch when the next version of Keysoft is released. While there was an announcement at the NFB convention, it was officially announced on Monday. Humanware has indicated that this update will be free for BrailleNote Touch customers, and will be released in September. BrailleNote Touch users will get a notification on their Touch when it is available and they are connected to Wifi. See the source link for more information.
Baum has released version 1.33 of its English firmware for the VarioUltra 20 and 40 cell braille displays. This update includes several new features and some bug fixes. Read more
At the 2016 AER International Conference in Jacksonville, the American Printing House for the Blind showed off, among other braille products, their latest collaboration with Orbit Research, a new product called the Refreshable Tactile Graphics Display. Read more
The American Foundation for the Blind has released a set of tutorial videos to assist the beginning computer user in setting up and using NVDA. Just like NVDA, these videos are free of charge. Topics include how to install NVDA, hot key commands, Windows basics, and use of the internet with the Firefox browser. The web page, listed as the source link, promises that more video tutorials are coming soon.
A big step forward for braille has been authorized by Congress. On July 13, legislation that was introduced by Senator Schumer of New York passed in the senate. This bill, s. 3207 authorizes NLS to begin to distribute braille technology to its patrons. While NLS has been previously able to offer Digital Talking Book Players for audio content it produces and offers through its BARD service, they have not had the authority to utilize funding to distribute the digital braille equivalent. As a braille user, for example, who did not have the money or funding to purchase a braille device, the digital braille files NLS also offers would then not be usable by these patrons.
it's not exactly clear what the next step will be to getting braille devices in to the hands of NLS patrons, nor is it exactly clear what hardware will be used. It may be worth noting that this Government Accountability Office report from April 2016 made mention of the drop in cost to braille technology, and also the fact that distributing said devices could net a huge savings to NLS. One such lower cost option is the Orbit reader 20 makes specific mention of supporting NLS downloaded content internally, that was formally introduced at CSUN the previous month. The Orbit Reader 20 is expected to be available for under $500 later this year. It may also be worth noting that when the Digital Talking Book Players were rolled out to patrons in 2009, [Veterans were the first to receive them.]( http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2009/09/18/blind-veterans-first-to-go-digital-with-new-%E2%80%98talking-book%E2%80%99-players/)
On Friday, HIMS released version 2.0 for the Blaze,it's newest line of DAISY and multi-media players. According to the release notes, this update improves the speed of text input, improves the speed when opening ePub files, allows for the text to speech to go faster and added several streaming formats to the Web Radio, among many other enhancements. There were also several new features introduced with the latest firmware of both the Blaze EZ and ET. Read more
HIMS has released a patch for the firmware in its Braille Sense line of notetakers. The new 8.5 patch adds a special Exam Mode for students taking standardized tests and gives the user the ability to connect to both a USB and Bluetooth device simultaneously in the Terminal For Screen reader. The patch also fixes email access with some email providers and enhances the Youtube app.
The bigger story for older Braille Sense owners is that this will be the last firmware update for owners of the Braille Sense PLUS, Braille Sense PLUS QWERTY and Braille Sense OnHand. The Braille Sense Plus was released in 2008, the QWERTY Plus in 2009, and the OnHand in 2011. If you wish to upgrade your Braille Sense using the online method, from the Main menu, press U for Utilities, and yoU again for upgrade firmware. As with all firmware updates, this one is also free.Check the source link for more details, including a link to the official release notes.
The developer behind Chicken Nugget, qRead, and qCast, has officially launched Captcha Be Gone, a way to bypass those pesky visual challenges which ask you to type the letters you see. For an interview with Christopher Toth, and to learn more about the project, you can listen to episode 51 of the BBQ. Read more
Another app has launched which hopes to be able to provide sighted assistance to people who are blind. Bespecular, is an app which allows you to take a picture, and then record a question regarding that picture either through text or by recording a question via audio. The picture and question will then be submitted to sighted volunteers who can assist with your question. It's also possible to take multiple pictures of the same item and to get multiple answers regarding the same question. Sighted volunteers will then respond with an audio answer to the question, and you then have the opportunity to rate the assistance they provided. At this time, there appears to be no way to get answers delivered in textual format, though the company stated on its website that this app is now in a public preview format. A source link is to a podcast with a walk-through of the app for iOS. It states that the app will always have a free version, and that it will be entirely free to use until the end of 2016. Bespecular is a free download in the iOS App Store, and is also a free download on the Google Play store It does require the creation of an account before you are able to use it, but this process doesn't appear to have any issues. Have you used this app yet? Feel free to leave your experiences in the comments section.
If you are attending either the ACB or NFB conventions, the pricing [I wrote about earlier]http://www.blindbargains.com/bargains.php?m=15384) Freedom Scientific is offering deep discounts on many of their products. While this is still the case, it's also true of AI-Squared products. As we know, AI-Squared was acquired by the VFO Group earlier this year. As such, the discount is similar to the group's other software packages. For example, for a new copy of ZoomText Magnifier/Reader, attendees will pay $75. If you want Zoomtext Fusion, you will pay $100. Check the source link for further details and other discount options from AI-Squared.
Canada has ratified the Marrakesh Treaty, becoming the 20th country to do so. This follows the signing of the treaty by Ecuador and Guatemala earlier in the week. Canada's ratification was done Thursday, which also marks the 2 year anniversary of India passing the treaty, which was the first country to do so. The ratification of this treaty will bring many advantages to Canadian citizens with print disabilities. Read more
As I reported earlier this month, the developers of the social media platform VORail were seeking funding for the development of an Android version of the app. Though at the time of this writing, only $1729 of the $10000 goal has been reached, it appears the developers have begun work on the Android version of the app. It is, like its iOS counterpart, free of charge, but is limited to only using the questions and answers tabs of the system. In a statement recorded on VORail announcing its availability on the Google Play Store, Tom Rosenthal said that it was a "placeholder" version only, and that they were looking for feedback from Android users as to what feature to begin building next. Check out the source link to download the Android version.
As part of a business deal earlier this year, HumanWare has officially announced the availability of the new Romeo 60 and Juliet 120. These product lines were brought out of retirement, [as J.J. reported in the spring, Enabling Technologies, now distributed of Humanware sent out a teaser email prior to CSUN hinting that the Juliet may return. It now has, along with the Romeo. According to the press release, the new embossers feature wireless printing over Wi-FI, the ability to produce tactile graphics, and a built-in translator. The Romeo 60, a single sided embosser, sells for $3495. The new Juliet 120, which can produce double sided embossed documents sells for $4495.
The developers of Vorail, a rather popular social networking type app which just uses your voice, are looking to bring this platform to Android by raising money through a Kickstarter Campaign. At present, the app is a free download in the iOS App Store. Using voice only (there is no text, video, pictures etc), the app seeks to generate discussion by allowing users to pose questions which other users can respond with answers if they feel like joining the discussion. The app does not require you to give your phone number or to create a password, as it is associated with your iCloud account. At the time of writing, the campaign has raised $1659 of it's goal of $10,000. There appears to be no indication from the developers as to whether the development of an Android app will take place if the financial goal is not met, though the Kickstarter campaign says it will not be funded if the $10,000 amount is not achieved by July 18. For more information, please see the Kickstarter Campaign which also lists several podcasts interviewing the developers and a podcast demonstrating how the app works.
A video was posted as part of Apples World Wide Developer Conference, which discusses a few new accessibility features in the soon to be released Apple operating systems. A summary of the video is provided below. Read more
NV-Access has released NVDA 2016.2.1, which fixes a bugs in Microsoft Word. It also removes their grammar reporting feature in order to correct the issues. This was done in response to Windows XP users having Word crash on start up. Like NVDA itself, the screen reader is free, though donations are encouraged. If you are using the grammar feature successfully, as this is the only fix in 2016.2.1, it may be worth considering skipping this update.
If you live near Redmond Washington, and use twitter with a screen reader, Microsoft is interested in observing you using Twitter. They will allow you to use your platform of and client of choice, and will then ask you questions related to this activity. Participants will receive a $75 Amazon gift card, and will be reimburse for a taxi ride to their office. They didn't list any limit on the amount they would compensate for the taxi ride, though it's unlikely they would fund your ride if you live in Miami, for example. Follow the source link to get in touch with Microsoft if interested.
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