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Indiegogo Campaign for Voice My mail

by Alena Roberts
A team in Italy hopes to make accessing email on the web a much better experience for the visually impaired. As it stands now, many email providers do not offer a quality experience for screen reader users when accessing their mail on the web. Some providers offer simplified options like basic html, but this strips out some if not many of the features that are available to sighted users. To solve this issue, the team has created "Voice My Mail", a web ad on that gives blind users a more feature rich experience when accessing email on the web. Since it's not a stand alone program, the idea is for it to work with any email provider website. The team has created a working demo for people to try out, but according to the Indiegogo page, they won't be able to make the project global without extra funding. Users of JAWS and NVDA can test out the demo in the Firefox browser. Let us know in the comments what the experience is like and if you would use the app if it was available.
Posted Friday, 20-Dec-2013 10:21 AM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

A List of White Cane Laws by State

by Alena Roberts
The American Council of the Blind has compiled a list of the white cane laws for each state. These are the laws that give rights to blind pedestrians while crossing streets and outline penalties for drivers who do not yield for travelers. It is easy to navigate to your own state by heading and there are links to each law. Having access to this information is very important. If you ever feel like your rights as a traveler with a vision impairment have been violated, be sure to check this list.
Posted Thursday, 19-Dec-2013 3:56 PM ET in Resources     Post a comment

A Review of Audio Books HQ

by Alena Roberts
I am always on the look out for finding more ways to get access to books, in fact, I think I have more book apps on my iPhone than is really necessary. Well now I've added one more. Audio Books HQ is an app that provides access to almost 8000 free audio books. This app was previously not usable to Voiceover users, but now I can say with pleasure that the app is easy to use. The app currently has access to books from LibriVox, PodioBooks, and the Globe Radio Repertory. Each of these three catalogs is easy to search through. Finding books can be done in a number of ways including: looking by genre, title, author, most downloaded, or in order of when books were posted. There is also an option to preview the book before choosing to download it. For me, I really appreciate this feature because it means I get to hear the narrator and decide if I like their voice before I download the book. There are a number of features when playing books that you've downloaded. You can adjust the playback speed to be slow or very fast, add a bookmark, skip forward and backward by time or by chapter, and even start a sleep timer. Just as a final note, the app itself is $1.99 but all of the books available in the app are free.
Posted Friday, 13-Dec-2013 2:59 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

The Braille Authority of North America Votes to Have Full Implementation of UEB by 2016

by Alena Roberts
In November of last year, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA), decided to adopt the Unified English Braille code (UEB). After a year of discussions which included a forum in October of this year, BANA voted at their annual meeting to make January 4, 2016 the date that UEB will be fully implemented in the U.S. What this means for braille readers in the U.S. is that our braille code is going to change. Some of the changes are minor, and some will feel very strange to those of us who have been reading braille for years. BANA has put together a list of many of the changes to the literary code. The most significant of these changes is the removal of nine contractions and no longer joining and, for, of, the, and with. There are likely those who are still wondering why BANA made this decision since it's going to be disruptive for braille readers and transcribers. In effect, children who are learning braille now will have to know both the literary braille code and the UEB code because they are likely to encounter both. According to BANA's website, there are a number of reasons why they decided to make this change. The primary reason was to allow for more braille books to be sent across borders. The U.S. was the only English speaking country that still was not using UEB which made it challenging to provide braille materials to other English speaking countries. It will also mean that braille readers who go to other countries will not have any problem reading braille produced in those nations.
Posted Tuesday, 03-Dec-2013 10:19 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

Tutorial Videos for BARD Mobile from NLS

by Alena Roberts
The National Library Service has put together a set of 12 videos to help users of the new BARD Mobile app learn how to use all of the features. The videos include topics such as how to read an audio book, how to adjust visual settings, how to pair a braille display and read a braille book, and both basic and advanced VoiceOver gestures that are used within the app. Check the link on this post to view the videos.
Posted Tuesday, 03-Dec-2013 10:19 PM ET in Resources     Post a comment

Odin Mobile Adds the Nexus 4 to it's Lineup of Accessible Phones

by Alena Roberts
Odin Mobile is a new carrier that is only selling phones that would be accessible to people with vision impairments. The first three phones that Odin offered were either very simple, or modified Android phones. They are now offering a mainstream option with the Nexus 4. The phone costs $299, and comes with no contract. According to the Odin Mobile website, when you purchase a Nexus 4, the phone will come with Android 4.4 KitKat preinstalled, and a custom desktop with apps that will help visually impaired users access the features of the phone. Purchasing the Nexus 4 also comes with an instructional package which includes one on one training with a blind Android user and access to a help line for the first month. It is encouraging to see that Odin Mobile is choosing to sell more feature rich phones and that they're hiring blind Android users to teach new customers how to use their new devices.
Posted Tuesday, 03-Dec-2013 10:16 PM ET in Phones     Post a comment

Try Out Any of Serotek's Products for the Next 14 Days for Free

by Alena Roberts
One of the reasons people often choose not to try new assistive technology is cost. The team at Serotek wants the blind community to have a chance to try out all of their products for free. So, from now until December 11, feel free to download and use any of their products for no cost.
Posted Wednesday, 27-Nov-2013 4:39 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

Nokia Create Challenges Developers to Make Accessible Apps for the Visually Impaired

by Alena Roberts
Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do if they want the visually impaired community to start using their smart phones. Nokia is hoping that their Nokia Create contest will encourage developers to make more apps for the Windows Phone platform. There are eight categories for apps, and one of them is to make apps that are accessible to the visually impaired. According to the Microsoft Accessibility blog, developers can submit apps that are as basic as adding vibration to the compass, or as complex as using the built in camera for image recognition. There are ten categories of apps that Nokia is looking for. These include "Image and Photo, Near Field Communication, Maps and Places, Music, Cross-8, Fun and Games, Work Life,Freestyle, Nokia Lumia Devices, and Remote Device Access." Developers have until December 15 to submit their apps. It will be interesting to see how effective the contest is at adding to the accessible app options. Having choice is the best way to encourage innovation. It is my hope that at some point, Microsoft can add their name to the list of smart phones that the visually impaired community will want to use because it meets their needs and improves independence.
Posted Tuesday, 26-Nov-2013 4:44 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

Learn About technology Options From RNIB

by Alena Roberts
The Royal National Institute of Blind People has deemed November "Switch on Technology Month". This month, they are offering technology seminars throughout the United Kingdom, and they've put together three guides to technology that can be downloaded in either Word or PDF. The topics of the three guides are: Making Sense of Mobile Phones, Getting Online with Computers and Tablets, and "Ebooks and Downloading Audio Books". As an adaptive technology instructor, one of the most common things I hear from clients is that they don't know what tools are available. I hope these guides can help people who are new to technology or those new to vision loss learn what their options are.
Posted Friday, 22-Nov-2013 3:16 PM ET in Resources     Post a comment

Accessing Spotify on the PC using the new app Blindspot

by Alena Roberts
If you're a premium subscriber to Spotify and have trouble accessing Spotify content on your PC, you now have a solution. A new app called Blindspot has been released. The app gives screen reader users access to their Spotify account and more. The app can be used in five languages including English, French, German, Spanish, and Swedish. The app uses a set of hot keys for navigation which users can learn about by visiting the documentation section of the website. At this time, the app only works with premium accounts, but the developer hopes that at some point, people who only want to use the free features in Spotify will be able to use Blindspot. Spotify currently only allows the use of their API for premium accounts, thus the limitation. Spotify Premium costs $9.95 a month and also gives you offline playlists and full access to their mobile apps.
Posted Thursday, 21-Nov-2013 1:49 PM ET in Software     Post a comment

WinAmp Will Soon Be a Thing of the Past

by Alena Roberts
Back in my PC days, Winamp was definitely my favorite music player. It was simple to use, and worked well with screen readers. I know there are still people who do internet radio shows using Winamp playlists. Sadly though, the times have changed, and the developers of Winamp have decided to bring this chapter to a close. There will be no new updates for the software, and you will only have until December 20 to download the application because after that day, it won't be available anymore. Tell us about your experience with Winamp in the comments. Will you find a new media player or just hold on forever?
Posted Thursday, 21-Nov-2013 1:47 PM ET in Software     Post a comment

Experience Descriptive Audio at the Theater with a New iOS App MovieReading

by Alena Roberts
Many theaters around the country are starting to offer the visually impaired the option of listening to the descriptive audio track while they're watching a film. Sadly though, this technology is not available everywhere, and sometimes it doesn't work. The team at Solo-DX wants to make the experience better by having the blind film-goer use a smart phone app to listen to the descriptive audio track instead. Last week, I had the opportunity to test out the new MovieReading app. The interface is very simple. Once you're logged in, you visit the Marketplace, download the descriptive audio track for the film you're going to go see at your theater, and than start the track when your film begins. The app will listen to the audio in the theater and sync the audio track with where the film is so that the user doesn't have to try and match the two tracks themselves. to test the app, I downloaded the Princess Bride track and then watched some Youtube clips from the film. In all three cases, the sync option worked perfectly. The app is now available from the iTunes App Store. The film "Philomena", opening on November 22 in select cities, will be the first movie to use the app's new features. MovieReading is currently available on iOS, and they hope to have an Android version soon. Pasted below is a press release from Solo-DX about the MovieReading app and "Philomena". Read more
Posted Tuesday, 19-Nov-2013 5:45 PM ET in Resources     1 comment

Access Films With Descriptive Audio on Verizon's On Demand Service

by Alena Roberts
I personally am a big fan of descriptive audio. Every time I watch a film that has a descriptive audio track, I get more out of the experience and I don't feel like I'm missing out on important parts of the film. It's great to see that many film studios are including descriptive audio, but you can only access the track if you watch the film on DVD or in the theater. Verizon has just announced that they will be the first streaming video provider to offer described films on their On Demand Service. According to the Verizon website, these are the first films that Verizon Fios users can access that have the descriptive audio track, "Wreck It Ralph, The Hangover III, Gangster Squad, The Great Gatsby, Iron Man 3 and Monsters University." Hopefully, more films will be added to the service, and maybe other service providers like Netflix and Hulu will follow their lead.
Posted Monday, 18-Nov-2013 3:08 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

Demonstrations of the Accessibility Features in the Kindle Fire HD

by Alena Roberts
Since Amazon has let the blind community down in the past, some might be skeptical about the accessibility of the new Kindle Fire HD, but thanks to the RNIB, those who are considering buying the Kindle Fire can see it in action before making their purchase. The three videos demonstrate how to turn on magnification or speech , how to use the magnification features when reading books , and how to use the screen reader features . The videos are very informative and give users a feel for what their experience would be like. It is encouraging to see that Amazon has finally provided access to the Kindle Fire. To see a list of all of the new accessibility features, read our previous post about the Kindle Fire HD.
Posted Monday, 18-Nov-2013 3:08 PM ET in Resources     Post a comment

tweeting Blind: The New Ebook from Jonathan Mosen

by Alena Roberts
. As a huge fan of twitter and the connections that it's brought me over the years, I feel like more of the blind community need to be informed about how easy twitter is to use, and how it can connect you to those who can answer questions, provide you information, and make you feel like you're part of a community. When I joined twitter I knew almost no one in the blind community, but by reaching out and searching for people who had my same interests I've been able to get employment thanks to my social media skills and even be asked to cohost a podcast. If you are someone who has been holding off on joining twitter because either you don't know how it works or you don't know how accessible it is, then the new book from Jonathan Mosen called Tweeting Blind may be for you. The book can bee purchased in many different formats including braille and BRF from the National Braille Press, or you can get the book in PDF or RTF from the Jonathan Mosen Consulting website for $19.95. According to the NBP website, the book is quite comprehensive. Readers will learn what twitter is, how to sign up for a twitter account, how to follow, mention, direct message, and block users, and how to access twitter on multiple platforms including windows, mac, iOS, and Android.
Posted Monday, 18-Nov-2013 3:07 PM ET in Books/Movies/Music     Post a comment

New Federal Regulations To Increase Access To Airline transportation for People With Disabilities

by Alena Roberts
Being able to order my own plane tickets online is very empowering, but even in 2013, not all airline websites are as accessible as they could be. There are also no accessible kiosks for passengers to check in at any of our airports, but this may be changing. The Department of Transportation (DOT), has just issued new rules to expand access to airline websites and airport kiosks to passengers with disabilities. A portion of the press release is pasted below. Read more
Posted Tuesday, 12-Nov-2013 4:57 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

KickStarter Campaign: Red Planet Rex - a voice controlled mobile adventure game

by Alena Roberts
After landing on Mars your job is not only to discover what is on the planet, but because you crashed onto the planet, you must now also survive. This is the premise of a new Interactive Fiction game called Red Planet Rex. The game is different from your average interactive fiction game since it's also voice activated. Instead of typing out your commands, you can just say them. It will be like having a conversation while you're playing. The plan is for the game to be released for both iOS and Android, and for it to be accessible on both platforms. As a player, you will have the option of using the voice commands or playing the game with just text. This makes the game accessible to both blind and deaf, and allows users to switch off voice commands when they're in a situation where it would be awkward.
Posted Tuesday, 12-Nov-2013 4:55 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

TapTapSee Will Soon No Longer Be Free

by Alena Roberts
TapTapSee is one of my favorite apps. I've used it to identify many objects over the last year. I even had a chance to interview the developers about the app. It is truly the best object recognition app available, and two of it's best features were that it is super easy to use and it was free. According to the TapTapSee website, due to the high cost of image recognition, the company will no longer be able to offer the service for free. Over the next few days, they will be rolling out their new paid subscription options. You can either spend $7.99 for 100 images to be recognized, or $9.99 for an unlimited monthly subscription. When you've hit the cap of 100 images or the month has run out, you'll be prompted to renew. If you find that you're not using the app as much or you find that you need more than 100 images to be identified in a month, you can change to the other plan when you renew. Many people are likely going to be outraged by this change, but it's important to remember that the company kept the service free for over a year. According to one of their staff, they really didn't want to charge for the service, but that the costs have just gotten too high for them to handle.
Posted Friday, 08-Nov-2013 10:01 PM ET in Software     1 comment

AI Squared Releases A Free Upgrade for ZoomText for the Mac for Mavericks Users

by Alena Roberts
AI Squared has just released a new version of ZoomText for the Mac that is compatible with the New Mac OS Mavericks. The upgrade is free for users, and you can find the download instructions by following the headline link. According to their website, this is only for users that are running Mavericks. If you're still using Lion or Mountain Lion then you don't need to upgrade.
Posted Friday, 08-Nov-2013 4:00 PM ET in Software     Post a comment

APH Developing Math Robot, a Math Tutor App for iOS

by J.J. Meddaugh
The American Printing House is currently developing an iOS version of their Math Flash software, currently available for Windows computers. According to APH's Research and Development Report, Math Robot will allow students to be drilled on math products using the touchscreen or a refreshable braille display. The software is currently being tested and a release is expected within the next year.
Posted Thursday, 31-Oct-2013 8:34 PM ET in Software     Post a comment

The Makers of Zombie's Run Are Making a New Game Called "The Walk"

by Alena Roberts
The makers of Zombie's Run are developing a new game that will encourage you to walk rather then run. The makers of the game find that when there's a narration connected with your exercise, you're more likely to enjoy the exercise. According to an article in Polygon, this is the premise of the game, "You're given a vital package that needs to be couriered to Edinburgh, Scotland. You're about to get on the train when terrorists, attempting to get hold of this thing you have, blow up the station. An electromagnetic pulse kills all things electronic — cars no longer work. Now you're forced to walk the distance with the police on your tail." So instead of running from zombie's, you're walking quickly away from the police. Unlike in Zombie's Run, the app does not just assume that you're exercising. The app will check in with you during the day, take samples of your movements, and estimate how much walking you've done for each day. Zombie's Run is accessible for both iOS and Android users.
Posted Thursday, 31-Oct-2013 5:22 PM ET in Software     Post a comment

FCC Grants Temporary Waier to the Coalition of E-reader Manufactures

by Alena Roberts
Back in August, the Coalition of E-reader Manufactures requested a waver from the FCC. It was their opinion that their dedicated E-readers should not have to comply with the 21st Century Video Communications Act because the primary purpose of the devices was to read printed text. ON October 22, the FCC decided to grant a temporary waver until January of next year to the coalition to give them more time to review the waver request. If you are concerned that the FCC will grant a permanent waver to these companies, make sure to contact the FCC and your representatives in congress.
Posted Wednesday, 30-Oct-2013 1:34 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

Rules Adopted Today By The FCC Will Make Watching Video More Accessible

by Alena Roberts
There is more descriptive video programming on television then ever before, but accessing that content is still a challenge for the blind. With the new rules that the FCC has adopted today, the challenges may soon become a thing of the past. Comcast has already announced a move to make a talking program guide and to enable a single button on the remote to turn on descriptive video or closed captioning. Now all other cable and satellite providers as well as makers of external devices such as the Roku Box will have to do the same. The official ruling of the FCC is pasted below. Read more
Posted Wednesday, 30-Oct-2013 1:32 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

Initial Impressions of Mavericks

by Alena Roberts
Earlier this week, Apple released it’s newest operating system for the mac, OSX Mavericks.. The best part, it’s free and it comes with some pretty cool new features. After playing with it for a few days, there are some things I’m really pleased about and some bugs that I look forward to Apple fixing. Read more
Posted Monday, 28-Oct-2013 10:45 PM ET in Software     Post a comment

JAWS 15 is Here

by Alena Roberts
If you've been waiting for JAWS 15 to be released, it's finally here. Now that Windows works with touch screens, JAWS has been updated to support touch screens and gestures. There are also a number of other new features. Read our previous post about JAWS 15 to learn more about the new version.
Posted Monday, 28-Oct-2013 10:43 PM ET in Software     1 comment

To Celebrate Disability Awareness Month: Comcast Announces New Ways to Support Disabled Customers

by Alena Roberts
This month Comcast has announced three new initiatives to support their customers with disabilities. the first is a dedicated support team that people can call directly when they are having difficulty accessing Comcast content. The team can be contacted by calling 855-270-0379 seven days a week from 9 AM to 10 PM EST. Along with a dedicated support line, they are also offering a set of movies and TV shows through their On Demand service that highlight people with disabilities being successful. Finally, their accessibility lab is working on designing new ways for customers to access their content including the Talking Program Guide .
Posted Monday, 28-Oct-2013 10:42 PM ET in Resources     Post a comment

Code Factory's Mobile Accessibility Suite Bringing Limited Access to the Next Version of Windows Phone 8

by Alena Roberts
A degree of accessibility is finally coming to Windows Phone. Code Factory announced that their Mobile Accessibility suite of apps will be available for free in the next version of Windows Phone 8. The apps will provide access to contacts, text messaging, email, web browsing, and settings. They will also have caller ID and access to Voicemail. This announcement is a long time in coming. The question is, how will the community react. Windows phone is far more popular in developing countries than it is in the US and Europe. Hopefully this means that the blind and visually impaired community in the developing world will be gaining access to technology they've never had. Unfortunately, the access available here may be far inferior when compared with iOS or Anroid. Still,it may be better than nothing for some.
Posted Friday, 25-Oct-2013 12:02 PM ET in Software     Post a comment

Start Sending Cash Through Email With Smart Cash

by Alena Roberts
If you're like me and you don't carry cash, there is a new solution for those times when you owe someone money. Smart, a company that is helping small businesses reduce the fees that are paid to credit card companies has just introduce a new service called Smart Cash. The service is totally free to use, and it can be done from any device with an internet connection and access to email. The process of sending someone money is very simple. You send the person an email by putting their address in the To: field, in the CC: field, and the amount you want to send in the subject line. Smart will then verify that the bank account that is linked to your email address has the funds, and they will then be sent to the person you've emailed. The recipient will have access to the money in one to two business days. Since there's an iOS app, I decided to download it to test the accessibility. I'm happy to report that the app works great with VoiceOver, and sending someone money was really easy. The best part is that the person gets all of the money you're sending unlike when you use Paypal.
Posted Friday, 25-Oct-2013 12:02 PM ET in Resources     1 comment

Ian Humphreys of Spoonbill Software Has Just Released Six New Games

by Alena Roberts
When I was a PC user, some of my favorite games were from Spoonbill Software. All of the games are free of charge and do not require a screen reader to play. Ian has just released six new titles in his Blind Gamers series. There are three new word games and three new card games. The three word games are Word Jumble, Word Builder, and Word Solitaire. the Word Jumble and Word Solitaire sound like games I would really enjoy. Word Solitaire is like Boggle, only backwards. You're given the 25 letters and you have to place them in the 5 by 5 grid to form as many horizontal and vertical words as possible. The three new card games are all versions of Solitaire. In Eleven's Solitaire, your goal is to discard as many cards as possible. You can discard cards if they add up to eleven or if they are a set of three face cards. Descriptions of all of the new titles, as well as the many other games available in the Blind gamers series, can be found by visiting the Blind Gamers section of the website. Games can be ordered by following the How to Order instructions. I hope everyone gets as much enjoyment out of these games as I did.
Posted Tuesday, 22-Oct-2013 11:39 AM ET in Software     Post a comment

President Obama Declares October 15 Blind Americans Equality Day

by Alena Roberts
October 15 is National White Cane Safety Day. There will be events around the country celebrating the use of the white cane. If you're participating in a White Cane Safety Day event, share your experiences in the comments section. Along with White Cane Safety Day, President Obama has also declared the day as Blind Americans Equality Day. The presidential proclamation is posted below. Read more
Posted Monday, 14-Oct-2013 10:43 PM ET in Miscellaneous     1 comment

Fittle: Helping Blind Children Learn Through Touch

by Alena Roberts
A designer and an Ophthalmologist have teamed up to create a new way for children to learn braille. Fittle puzzles allow blind children to practice their braille while giving them a better understanding for what the word means. An example would be a puzzle in the shape of a fish with the braille letters that spell fish. The goal of the company is to use 3-D printers to make the puzzles so that they can be made cheaply and with different materials. The Fittle website will post the designs for the puzzles so that anyone with a 3-D printer can print them out. In order to make this goal a reality they need funding. The company has set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds. Check the link on this post to learn more and support.experience braille.
Posted Wednesday, 09-Oct-2013 10:39 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

Introducing 64 Ounce Games: A Company Dedicated To Making Accessible Board and Card Games

by Alena Roberts
I have been playing complex strategy based board games for years. Many might know them better as Euro games since most of them are developed in Europe. These are not the type of games where you role a dice, land on a square and have something happen to you. They are much more complex and fun. The inherent problem with all of these games though is that they're not accessible. In some cases I've added braille to cards or modified the board, but the reason I'm able to play the games is because I have sighted help and I memorize everything. Since I love board games, I was excited to learn about a new company called 64 Ounce games, because they are committed to making their games accessible to the blind. The husband and wife team are both teachers. Richard teaches science and has been designing games for years, and Emily Gibbs is a teacher of the visually impaired. Read more
Posted Monday, 07-Oct-2013 4:53 PM ET in Toys/Games     Post a comment

A Look Inside Computers For The Blind: Providing Low-cost Accessible Computers for 24 Years

by Alena Roberts
If you are blind or have low vision, getting access to a fully accessible computer can be a financial burden. Apple offers computers that are accessible out of the box, but you will have to pay a premium price. And even though there is now a very good free screen reader for Windows, sometimes the cost of the computer itself is still too much. This is where Computers For The Blind steps in. For the last 24 years, the organization has been giving computers to people who need accessible software in order to use a computer successfully. Read more
Posted Saturday, 05-Oct-2013 5:31 PM ET in Resources     Post a comment

Harpo BraillePen Touch Introduces Optical Routing Keys

by Alena Roberts
If you're looking for a compact braille display that will work with a variety of devices, then the BraillePen 12 Touch may be a good option. The newest version of Harpo's 12-cell BraillePen has two new features. It now has Optical Routing keys which differ from other braille displays because they are not mechanical buttons, the idea being there are less parts that can go back. The other new feature is the Clipboard. You can now write with the BraillePen without being connected to a device. Once you connect to a device, you can then copy what you've written to the device. The BrailePen Touch is selling for $1,095 until the end of 2013, at which point the price will go up to $1,195. By comparison, the original BraillePen 12 sells for $995.
Posted Friday, 04-Oct-2013 3:50 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

Federal Websites including NLS BARD Will Likely Shut Down on Tuesday, Social Security is Safe

by Alena Roberts
The United States Congress has until the end of September 30 to pass a budget or the government will go into a partial shut down. The shut down will effect a number of agencies, including access to their websites. The National Library Service will close their doors on October 1 if the budget does not pass, according to an official. Users of the NLS Braille and Talking Book program will likely be effected and will need to make book requests or download books from the BARD website prior to the shutdown. This nearly happened during a similar situation in 2011 though this shutdown was avoided at the last moment. If Congress doesn't come to an agreement, access to NLS books will likely be restricted starting on Tuesday, and services will not return until congress passes a budget. While no official statement has been made from BARD administrators specifically, we anticipate loss of download functionality for the BARD mobile app as well. Books that have already been downloaded should still play. Government aid programs including Social Security and Food Stamps will not be effected as they are considered essential services. New applications for benefits would not be processed however.
Posted Sunday, 29-Sep-2013 3:52 PM ET in Miscellaneous     2 comments

Quick Take: Target Joins the Streaming Video Bandwagon With Target Ticket, but Is it too late?

by Alena Roberts
If your streaming video needs aren't being met by Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, or any of the other options, then you now have one more to choose from. On Wednesday, Target announced the availability of Target Ticket after months of beta testing. \"> Target Ticket is very similar to Amazon or iTunes since there is no monthly fee. The over 30,000 titles can either be rented or bought and then watched on many different devices. I decided to try out the service to see if it was accessible and worth the money. Read more
Posted Friday, 27-Sep-2013 4:11 PM ET in Books/Movies/Music     Post a comment

tell the FCC About Your Experience With Described Television

by Alena Roberts
The Federal Communications Commission is currently seeking feedback about people's experience with described television programming. Since the FCC commenting process is not easy to access, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is offering to help submit comments. All you have to do is write an email describing your opinions about described tv to Along with describing how you feel about described programming, also include your experience with accessing the programming whether it be positive or not, if you've found the description to be helpful or not, and any other details that will help make described television a more positive experience for everyone. The email must include your full name and physical street address for the comments to be accepted by the FCC. Send emails to AFB no later then September 30.
Posted Thursday, 26-Sep-2013 4:19 PM ET in Resources     Post a comment

NBC Announces Over 100 Hours of Coverage for the 2014 and 2016 Paralympics

by Alena Roberts
Before 2012, there was no television coverage of the Paralympics. Then, in 2012, NBC showed 5.5 hours. Now, they've just announced that the 2014 Winter Paralympics and 2016 Summer Paralympics will have over 100 hours of television coverage. The US olympic Committee will also be airing live coverage on their website, TeamUSA.ORG . This perhaps could mean much greater exposure for sports such as goalball which are largely unknown by the mainstream.
Posted Tuesday, 24-Sep-2013 2:59 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

After Hickups, Apple Releases New Software for the Apple TV

by Alena Roberts
In one week, Apple has come out with two new iPhones, a new version of iTunes, and now new software for the Apple TV. The 6.0 released actually came out last Friday but then was pulled after some users were experiencing some major usability issues. There are a number of new features in this update. Users will now be able to stream music, photos, and videos from iCloud, use the new iTunes radio, and buy music from the iTunes store.
Posted Tuesday, 24-Sep-2013 2:21 PM ET in Software     Post a comment

Japanese Students Using Voice Recognition To Print Out 3-D Objects

by Alena Roberts
Imagine if you could use your voice to request a 3-D printed object. Thanks to Yahoo! Japan, students at a school for the blind are able to do just that. The 3-D printer accepts voice commands. Students can ask for anything they want and the system then searches the database of 3-D printer plans and then prints out the object. If the object requested is not available, Yahoo Japan puts out a request for help in designing the desired object. Perhaps someday, all classrooms will have this technology.
Posted Monday, 23-Sep-2013 2:24 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment


by J.J. Meddaugh
Posted Sunday, 22-Sep-2013 6:44 PM ET in all categories     Post a comment

A Review of the BARD Mobile App

by Alena Roberts
The much anticipated BARD app is finally here. For me, this means I no longer have to carry more then one device, which in my opinion is huge. I can now access all of my books on my iPhone. So what's the new BARD Mobile app like, and what should you expect? Read more
Posted Sunday, 22-Sep-2013 3:29 PM ET in Software     2 comments

How to Use the New Handwriting Feature in iOS 7

by Alena Roberts
One important part of setting up VoiceOver is choosing what will be included in the rotor. The rotor options change depending on the app that you're in, but each setting can be very useful for navigating quickly. To change what rotor settings you will have access to, visit the Rotor menu within the VoiceOver menu in settings/General/Accessibility. One of the new rotor settings in VoiceOver is called handwriting. As with many features, there is no explanation of what this does or how to use it, but that's why we have this tutorial. Read more
Posted Wednesday, 18-Sep-2013 1:04 PM ET in Software     2 comments

Focusing on VoiceOver: a Quick Summary of Changes in iOS 7

by Alena Roberts
In June we learned about the 200 new features that would be coming in iOS 7. Most of the announced changes though had nothing to do with accessibility. With this in mind, we wanted to bring you a list of the changes that would be coming for VoiceOver users. To begin let's start with how you set VoiceOver to the settings you want. Read more
Posted Wednesday, 18-Sep-2013 1:03 PM ET in Software     Post a comment

Sprint Will Give You An iPhone 5C If You Switch From A Different Carrier

by Alena Roberts
In an effort to attract new customers, Sprint is offering $100 off the cost of certain smart phones including the new iPhone 5C and 5s. This means that you can get the iPhone 5C for free and the 5s for $99. The offer only applies to customers who are switching from a different carrier and who sign a two year agreement.
Posted Tuesday, 17-Sep-2013 1:08 PM ET in Cell Phones     Post a comment

Introduction to Web Accessibility Online Course Offered by Google

by Alena Roberts
Web developers who are interested in learning how to make their websites accessible can now participate in a free online course offered by google. The course starts today and runs through the end of September. Participants will be able to complete the course at their own pace. Topics that will be covered include: the fundamentals of using Aria within html 5 and tips and tricks hon how to build accessibility into your site without breaking code. Participants will also have the opportunity to test out their website using the Chromevox screen reader that is compatible with Google Chrome. Those who register should have a basic understanding of html, java script, and CSS.
Posted Tuesday, 17-Sep-2013 1:07 PM ET in Resources     Post a comment

Pre-order the Old Hat Guide to iPhone Accessibility iOS 7 Version

by Alena Roberts
Fedora Outlier is coming out with a new version of their Old Hat Guide to iPhone Accessibility. The new version will cover iOS 7 and all of the new features. You can pre-order the book through October 15th for $4.99. According to the website, some of the topics that will be covered include: accessibility settings and how to adjust them, voiceover gestures with tricks on how to master them, techniques of how to browse the web using Safari, and how to use Siri and dictation. The book also comes with video tutorials and voiceover tips.
Posted Saturday, 14-Sep-2013 1:54 PM ET in Books/Movies/Music     Post a comment

Survey from Researchers at the University of Washington About How the Blind Uses Technology

by Alena Roberts
A team of researchers at the University of Washington who design technology for the blind are interested in learning what barriers the blind and visually impaired face with technology and what strategies they use to overcome these barriers, as well as what technology they use. The survey should take about 20 minutes to complete and participants will have the option of being entered into a drawing to win one of five $20 gift cards to Amazon.
Posted Wednesday, 11-Sep-2013 7:45 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

#CSUN14 Opens It's Call For General Session Papers

by Alena Roberts
The Center on Disabilities at California State University Northridge has opened the call for general session papers today. Those that are interested in presenting at the 2014 CSUN conference will have until October 11th to submit their paper. The CSUN website lists all of the rules and regulations on what the paper should include as well as other important information.
Posted Monday, 09-Sep-2013 3:37 PM ET in Miscellaneous     Post a comment

Point Finder: A New Navigation App for Android

by Alena Roberts
GPS apps can be a great asset to the blind, but most of them will only get the person close to their destination. One solution for this problem is to allow the user to set their own points of interest (POI). A new app developed in Australia, called Point Finder, allows users to do just that. The app, which can be purchased for a dollar allows users to set their own POI's and get navigation instructions to reach their POI. If the destination is on a map, the user can interface with Google Maps to get turn by turn instructions. The app uses a continuous sound as the person moves toward the chosen POI. As they get closer, the pitch of the sound gets lower.
Posted Monday, 09-Sep-2013 3:37 PM ET in Software     Post a comment

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