Assistive technology news and info.
After being down for over a week the National Library Service's BARD website and mobile apps are back online. The outage started shortly after regularly scheduled maintenance to the James Madison Building caused several systems including BARD to go offline over a week ago. During this time, patrons were unable to download books or magazines using the website or the iPhone or Android apps. The site was online briefly after the maintenance but then experienced the longer outage.
The National Library Service's BARD website, app, and associated services remain down and won't be back up until late Tuesday at the earliest, according to an informational Email sent to patrons. The BARD service, which provides book and magazine downloads via its website and mobile apps, was disabled after regularly scheduled maintenance at the James Madison Building in Washington, DC resulted in an equipment failure. The outage also means that magazines and other materials that are normally sent to patrons on cartridges are also delayed, as these are loaded using the BARD service. Here's one sample message from South Carolina.
Voice Dream Reader is the latest popular app to make the jump to Android. Version 1 was recently posted to Google Play for the same $9.99 price and offers an accessible way to read a variety of formats including .PDF, .HTML, and unencrypted EPUB files. Like its iOS counterpart, features are designed to benefit both those with no vision as well as sighted users, with a variety of visual and auditory functions to customize reading. Direct BookShare integration is also included. Due to the nature of Android, any built-in voice can be used for reading, though premium voices will still be available which offer word by word highlighting. The author includes some additional notes on future plans for the app which we've included below. Thanks to Jerry for the tip.
The National Library Service's BARD application is continuing a prolonged outage, caused by network infrastructure at the Library of Congress. This is preventing users from downloading books or searching content on the online service. According to the website FCW, the outage occurred after an equipment failure after a regularly scheduled maintenance on August 29 in the library's James Madison building. Other services, such as the copyright registration system are also currently inoperable.
Below is a sample short Email sent out by one of the state cooperating libraries. Thanks to Bryan Smart for the tip.
Sendero Releases Seeing Eye GPS 2.0 for the iPhone with User Points of Interest; Adds Australian Version
The Sendero Group has released version 2 of its Seeing Eye GPS app for the iPhone. This version adds the ability to save user points of interest, similar to the feature on its other products for the BrailleNote and other note takers. Also, a version of the program will soon be available in Australia. It's available now from the iTunes App Store. Check below for the list of changes in this version.
If you'd like to provide feedback on rehabilitation services in the United Kingdom, the RNIB would like to hear from you. The organization is conducting phone interviews as a part of the Early intervention and rehabilitation project which seeks to improve the support provided to blind people in the UK. Participants will be given a 10 pounds shopping voucher for participating in a phone interview. Check the link on this post for more info or to fill out the survey.
HumanWare has evolved its Prodigi magnification system by combining it with an Android tablet. The Prodigi Connect 12 includes magnification up to 40x, speech output on documents and menus, and optional distance viewing. The 12-inch included tablet also functions as an Android device, which includes access to Google Play apps and services. The new Prodigi retails for $2,695, with a $300 cost for the distance viewing add-on. We've linked to the product page from this post.
Some ambitious blind gamers spend hours finding tools and workarounds to play the most popular mainstream titles. One of the latest surrounds the popular game World of Warcraft, and a new website has been created to offer tips, macros, and tutorials for players who wish to try out the game without sight. The page is in its infancy but promises to include information for users to play any class in the game. Check the link on this post to learn more and follow the progress of the site.
TuneIn, the mobile app primarily known for its streaming radio and podcast features, has added a premium tier which includes a variety of content. Users can pay $7.99 a month to access 40,000 audiobooks on-demand, including many recently-released titles. MLB Radio broadcasts and commercial-free music channels are also included. A free 30-day trial is available. The TuneIn Radio app is available for both iOS and Android, though users report some accessibility issues with the latest Android version.
It's over 6 months away, but the time is now if you wanted to present on a topic at next year's CSUN conference. Topic submissions are now being accepted for the 31st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, which will be held March 21-26, 2016 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. Presentations will once again be 40 minutes in length, and presenters will need to register for the conference. We've linked to more information from this post. The deadline for submissions is September 25.
Earlier this year, we heard about a new personal assistant service called Magic which works entirely via text messages. It can be used for everything from arranging deliveries to solving complex situations where you just don't have time to personally attend to every matter.
In their own words, "We have trained operators standing by 24/7 to answer every one of your requests." What exactly can Magic do? "Anything you want. As long as it's not illegal. Seriously. Just try it."
At Blind Bargains, we're always excited for new services that promise to make our lives easier. But we need your help in deciding a good test case for Magic. That's where you come in. In the comments, let us know what we should have Magic do. Perhaps you just want some sushi on your doorstep. Perhaps you need someone to come over and mow your lawn. Or maybe there's something access-specific that Magic could help with. We're clearly less creative than you tonight, so leave your best ideas in the comments. Who knows, we may act on your request.
To sign up for yourself, text the word hello to 83489. For now, you'll be put on a waiting list as the service expands to let in more users. We'll report back soon with our results.
Accessible Apps has released a major free update to its Chicken Nugget Twitter client for Windows. Version 3.0, which is perhaps the biggest update ever, includes support for Twitter's new direct message limits, which now allow users to send messages up to 10,000 characters in length. Among the long list of additional features is support for scheduling tweets using the Buffer service, per-user sound packs, and support for muting individual users. The complete list of changes is below.
If you had trouble receiving a reliable data connection while at one of the recent NFB conventions, network jamming may be the reason. Smart City LLC, the company which provides wireless Internet services to several convention centers including the Orange County Convention Center, has admitted to interfering with wireless networks to block signals from cell phone providers. Visitors instead were presented the option of paying nearly $80 a day for Internet access, often more than the cost of an entire month of 4G service from a cellular provider. Smart City has been fined $750,000 and has claimed to cease the use of their blocking technology.
According to the FCC order .PDF, "Smart City (i) admits that it prevented certain Wi-Fi users at these locations from establishing or maintaining a Wi-Fi network independent of Smart City’s network, (ii) will implement a compliance plan under which it commits to not engage in Wi-Fi blocking, and (iii) agrees to pay a $750,000 civil penalty."
Screen reading companies aren't the only assistive technology vendors needing to update their products to support Windows 10. Index Braille has released version 8.10 of their embosser drivers which includes Windows 10 support among other improvements. The drivers work for current generation V4 and previous generation V3 embossers, providing Windows 10 support for embossers more than 10 years old. The list of features from the Index website is included below.
Ian Humphreys of Spoonbill Software has added two game titles to his large roster of free games. This time, it's two variations on the game of Dominos, where you can play against the computer. As before, the games can be requested by sending an EMail to email@example.com. The announcement with more info is below.
Upgrading to Windows 10 has been a hot topic of late. We spent an entire podcast talking about its features and much more. AI Squared, makers of the Window-Eyes screen reader, has published a two-part series on how to upgrade to Windows 10 using speech hosted by Marc Solomon. Naturally, the videos use Window-Eyes but much of the information applies to users of other software. Part 1 focuses on the initial installation steps while part 2 is a more in-depth look at the rest of the process. Here's part 1 and part 2
The release candidate for the 3rd major update for NVDA in 2015 has been released. This release includes initial Windows 10 support, experimental support for the new Microsoft Edge web browser in Windows 10, improvements to allow for easier navigation in web apps and other sites, and a smattering of bug fixes. The complete change log is below.
A blind Paralympic athlete was recently prominently featured in a promotional video for the Uber ridesharing service. Matt Simpson is a member of the United States goalball team, which just took silver at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto, thanks, in part, to a thrilling overtime win over Canada last Friday.
The accompanying YouTube video shows Matt on the court and how Uber has enabled a more independent lifestyle where life isn't scheduled ahead of time for him.
PhD students from the Enhancing Ability Lab at Cornell University are looking for participants for a research study regarding using smart glasses while shopping for groceries. Participants must have some usable vision and will be compensated. We've included the announcement from the researchers below.
On the sad ccasion of the death of Jim Kitchen last week, Bryan Smart has released a mega pack which includes all of his Windows games in a single installer. It runs on modern versions of Windows including Windows 10.
In Bryan's words, "Jim was an extraordinary person that dedicated the later years of his life to creating free games for the blind community. Over the years, his games were released by the comically fictitious Kitchen’s Inc. As Jim’s game collection grew, the joke became that he had programmed everything except the kitchen sink. With his passing, I present to you The Kitchen’s Sink, containing all 37 of his SAPI-speech- based Windows games and apps, in one fun-packed place!" Follow the link to download the games.
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