Assistive technology news and info.
The NVDA Remote crowdfunding campaign, which accepted donations for the past month for a new add-on which will add remote access support to the NVDA screen reader, has completed and beta testing is now in progress. The campaign crushed its $10,000 goal in the first 3 days of the campaign, which was organized by Christopher Toth and Tyler Spivey. A total of $13,546 was donated by 187 people during the campaign, an average donation of $72.44. Of these, 69 people claimed awards at the $100 or higher level which included beta test access and a year of free tech support. To follow the progress of the add-on, visit the NVDA Remote website
A free patch has been released for the Hims Blaze EZ Multiplayer, enabling direct downloading of NLS BARD titles. Still numbered as version 1.10, this release also includes improvements to the update process and the built-in web radio support. We've linked to the download page and included the release announcement below.
Blastbay Studios, makers of the Q9 action game, and VGStorm, makers of Paladin of the Sky, have teamed up to release the new Windows audio game Psycho Strike. According to the description, "Psycho Strike is a mix between an RPG, a first person shooter and an adventure game. It captures the best parts of each genre in order to create a truly unique and groundbreaking gaming experience. In Psycho Strike, you take the roll of a gangster leader. Throughout your adventure you will have the opportunity to collect weapons, recruit new criminals for your team of violent outlaws, collect more and more powerful items to fortify your base, and just terrorize the city in general."
A demo version is now available with the game retailing for $24.95. Check the link on this post for more info.
For those who Have Received It, VarioUltra Firmware Released with Contracted/Computer Braille Toggle
If you're lucky enough to have received your Baum VarioUltra, a free firmware has been released with some minor improvements. Version 1.2 includes a "Master Switch" mode to quickly jump between contracted and computer braille and also returns more quickly from suspend. Here's a link to the complete release notes. Check the link on this post to download the update.
The Android TalkBack team has rolled out a significant beta release to Android's default screen reader. The first beta of TalkBack 4.2 offers the ability to customize gestures and keyboard shortcuts, a built-in screen dimming feature, and various other improvements and bug fixes. To get the beta, you must opt-in to the beta test group and be a member of the Eyes-free Android list from an account also linked to your device. Here's the complete changelog, as posted by Google's Kristian Monsen:
- More gesture customization available. All gestures can now be customized with all actions. .
- Assignable keyboard shortcuts.
- Option to suspend and resume TalkBack by long pressing both volume buttons. This must be enabled in TalkBack settings.
- Optional new local and global context menus. These can be shown as a regular Android list, the default is the circle style in this release.
- Optional screen dimming. If enabled the screen brightness will be reduced to almost zero when TalkBack is on and not suspended. The first three minutes after screen dimming is enabled it can be turned off by quickly pressing both volume button three times. During this time there are instructions on the screen on how to disable screen dimming for users who are not familiar with TalkBack.
All new features are opt in for this release.
- Sliders, or SeekBars, can now be controlled with the volume keys like EditText.
- EditText movement with volume control has been improved. Volume keys will now move cursor in EditText if it either has accessibility focus or if it has input focus and there is no accessibility focus on the screen.
- Checkboxes in preferences should now announce the correct value on Android L.
- Autoscrolling have been tweaked and will not mostly scroll lists.
Another television network is piloting audio described content online, this time in Australia. ABC, no not that ABC, but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, plans to post up to 14 hours of programming per week on its iview streaming platform. Programs will initially be available on its iPhone and ipad apps, with expansions to Android devices, computers, and high-definition televisions planned during the 15 month pilot project. You can learn more from Media Access Australia.
It's barely spring, but the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) wants you to think about submitting a paper for its 2016 conference. ATIA 2016 will be held February 2-6 in Orlando, and the call for papers is now open.
According to an Email, ATIA welcomes abstracts on the uses of assistive technology in a wide variety of settings - school, home, recreation, rehabilitation, university and workplace - from an equally wide group of qualified individuals including, but not limited to, accessibility professionals, administrators, advocates, AT specialists, communication specialist, consumers/individuals with disabilities, disability services, educators, government/non-profit agencies, IT professionals, occupational therapists, physical therapists, paraprofessionals, pre-service, professional development/training, rehab therapists, social workers, speech-language, pathologists, special education educators, visual impairment specialists and vocational rehab."
"Abstracts should cover the use of assistive technology from a practitioner or user perspective and may be in the form of a case study, demonstration, implementation study, panel discussion, poster session, research paper or tips and techniques workshop."
Submissions can be made through June 19, with a maximum of two submissions allowed per speaker. Accepted speakers will receive registration discounts.
As the release date nears for the first ever Apple Watch, there's been a lot of talk about what exactly is and is not possible when it comes to accessibility, especially when trying out demo units. Alex Jurgensen has done much of the dirty work and explains many of the watch basics in this post on Apple World Today. It includes a description of the watch layout, a list of many of the available gestures, and a workaround for getting the watch to function when it is in demo mode.
HumanWare has released the first in a series of snapshot videos highlighting features to be included in the next release of KeySoft for the BrailleNote and VoiceNote Apex. Version 9.5 will include an exam mode, which allows teachers to lock down most of the functions of the notetaker, essentially turning it into a refreshable braille display. With the proliferation of online standardized tests, a braille device which also includes a spell checker, calculator, and other features would likely not be allowed as an accommodation, so HumanWare is aiming to position the Apex as a suitable device for these exams. You can play the video to learn more about the feature from HumanWare's Greg Stilson (yes, it is descriptive). KeySoft 9.5 is scheduled to be released as a free update in May, according to the Email which we've linked to in this post. Interestingly, Greg states in the video that this is the second snapshot look into KeySoft 9.5, yet this is the first video to be posted on the company's YouTube channel.
A high school freshman has introduced a free and lightweight OCR app for IOS devices. Shalin Shah recently released Voice, a free OCR solution which includes a variety of image enhancement techniques, to the iTunes App Store. The app includes a field of view report to indicate when images are in view, adjusts brightness, and corrects skewed or angled images among other features. It's built, in part, using the Google Drive API which recently added optical character recognition as part of its available features. You can try it out now on the iTunes app store and give him feedback via Email at email@example.com.
A free update has been released for users of Jaws 16, and it may be a welcome one to users experiencing frustrations when trying to use Google Docs. In addition to bugs fixed when using Docs, improvements for Internet Explorer, Microsoft Excel, Word, and Outlook, and Skype are also included. The complete list of reported changes is listed below. If you get a chance to test out Google Docs with Jaws 16, let us know what you think.
A short survey has been posted to gain feedback from users of Android's TalkBack screen reader. The one-page survey includes several open-ended questions asking what users like and dislike about Talkback as well as what they feel is the biggest thing that needs to be fixed. Check the link on the post to take the survey.
As announced earlier, audio description tracks for Marvel's Daredevil series on Netflix are now available. Here's how to enable it using some of the most popular devices. Audio description is listed among the list of alternative language tracks, so any Netflix app which supports alternate languages should also support this new feature.
In a move that may have ripple effects across the industry, Netflix will be supplying audio description tracks for many of its original programs, according to a post on its blog. The descriptive audio tracks will start with Marvel's Daredevil series and then spread to other popular titles including House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.
"Netflix is actively committed to increasing the number of audio-visual translations for movies and shows in our English-language catalogues. We are also exploring adding audio description into other languages in the future," according to Tracy Wright, who authored the post on the Netflix US and Canada blog.
Netflix is also planning to work with studios to make audio tracks available for other programs as well as exploring the possibility of tracks for other languages. Have you seen the audio tracks on Daredevil or any other shows yet? Sound off in the comments.
If you are a low vision user and live in or near New York city, a research team is interested in your feedback on the viability of using smart glasses to attain information. Participants will be compensated for their time and travel costs. We've included the Email below.
APH has released another free update to its Nearby Explorer GPS software for Android devices. This release includes bug fixes and some incremental improvements, including a Voice Search button on the search screen, support for OpenStreetMap for addresses, and support for expressing the distance to nearby places using clock face, such as 11 o'clock. It's available now from Google Play, and we've included the complete changelog below.
We posted earlier about the array of new gestures and commands available in Samsung's forthcoming Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. While the phones aren't scheduled to be available until April 10, some T-Mobile stores, including a local store we contacted, have the devices on display currently, meaning you can try out the new accessibility features before you buy. If you go to a store and find a phone, you can go to Settings, Accessibility, Vision and enable Galaxy TalkBack. Be sure to enable Galaxy TalkBack as opposed to the Google version. Our previous post lists the gestures that should be available. The Galaxy S6 on T-Mobile should contain the same accessibility features as other carriers. If you're able to try out the phone, let us know what you think in the comments.
According to Media Access Australia, Samsung has introduced several new accessibility features with the pending release of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Active. The phones, which will be introduced on April 10, include an enhanced version of the TalkBack screen reader called Galaxy TalkBack, which feature a laundry list of additional gestures. For example, swiping up or down, which previously performed the same action as swiping left or right, will use the "most recent contextual menu option" according to the user guide - PDF. We're not exactly sure how this will work in practice, but the duplicated gestures were seen as a waste to many.
Several of the new gestures center around a new text selection mode which includes ways to select, cut, and paste text. Users can also pause and resume speech using a gesture as well as media playback. A two finger triple tap will speak the current date and time, battery status, and mode, with the exact information that is spoken configurable from the settings menu.
Another big assistive technology merger appears to be in the works. ABiSee, well-known for its line of scanning and reading machines including the Eye-Pal Ace, and Freedom Scientific, makers of the JAWS for Windows screen reader, video magnifiers, and the Focus braille displays has joined forces according to a press release. According to the release, Freedom Scientific will begin distributing ABiSe's line of reading products and ABISee founder Leon Reznik will become a member of the Freedom Scientific team. We've reached out in an attempt to get more details on this developing story and included the full press release below.
Following on the heels of their Newsline app, the National Federation of the Blind has released their second app into the iOS App Store. NFB Connect provides access to commonly requested information such as publications like the Braille Monitor and Future Reflections, a search tool to find a local chapter, and notifications for breaking news items among other features. Browse upcoming events, and read posts from NFB blogs. The free app is available now from the App Store.
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