Assistive technology news and info.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Blind musician Kevin Reeves is looking to raise $300 to add audio description to his soon to be released documentary detailing the making of his latest full-length album “Remember to Forget.” Several rewards are offered including documentary and album downloads, as well as signed CD’s and DVD’s. If you are interested in helping out, check out his GoFundMe page.
LoganTech is now taking preorders for the second generation of the 6dot label maker. Those who visit the link on this post and sign up to their Email list will receive a $100 off coupon, making the price $499 before shipping. Preorders are anticipated to last through April. You can learn more about the 6dot from our CSUN interview podcast.
A study posted by Shaun Kane, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Colorado, seeks to gain insights on how to best create accessible comic books. The survey examines various prototypes and will help them in their research to create more accessible comic books in the future. Check the link to complete the free survey.
A new product is available which offers an affordable way to place labels on food, bathroom products, and other items. Visus Labels use tactile patterns to distinguish items from each other, and are designed especially for those who do not have the time or inclination to learn braille. Kits, which include 90 labels and audio instructions, are available for $34.99 for paper labels or $39.99 for a more rigid plastic. For more information or to place an order, visit the Visus Labels website
A new app suite is now available for Verizon Wireless customers which provides a customized home screen and a variety of additional tools such as OCR, GPS navigation, and object recognition. VelaSense by Visus Technology runs on Android devices with version 4.3 or higher and is available exclusively on Verizon at the moment. It offers a variety of built-in apps including Contacts, a phone dialer, and currency recognition and features as well as a simplified home screen and voice recognition. Verizon customers can get a 30-day free trial of the app before paying the $14.99 monthly fee.
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