Assistive technology news and info.
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.
July 1 is a big day when it comes to video description on television, as stations in 35 additional markets will now be required to carry described programs. NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX stations in the top 60 television markets are required by law to carry at least 50 hours of described programming each quarter, or roughly 4 hours per week. In addition, the top five cable television networks are also bound by this requirement, meaning most cable systems, regardless of location, are also required to carry described programs. An FCC order released today outlines changes that will take effect in July, including the addition of the History Channel and the removal of Nickelodeon from the top five cable networks. This all means that in addition to new described programming, 35 additional television markets will now receive the described feed. We've included a list of the top 60 television markets as of 2014 below, so you can see if yours made the cut.
Microsoft has posted a survey to gauge opinions of blind users of Twitter and how they interact with posted images. As explained on the survey page, "This survey is part of a Microsoft Research project that aims to improve the social media usage experiences of people who are blind by gathering data about the extent to which people who are blind use various social media, the purposes for which they use it, and the challenges they face in participating in this increasingly important aspect of modern social life." The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete with roughly 25 questions total. Upon completion, $1 will be donated to one of several blindness organizations. The survey is available through March 31 or until 1,000 responses have been received. Check the source link to take the survey.
Update: The survey has now closed.
A WordPress.org team is looking for new members to test the accessibility of various WordPress themes and add-ons. The WordPress Accessibility group meets each Monday to discuss current projects and also has an Email list where testing results can be discussed. For more information, check out the source link on this post.
The NVDA Remote project we posted about earlier this week looks like it's going to become a reality, thanks to overwhelming support from over 150 donors and climbing. The project has raised $11,258 in just over two days, shattering its $10,000 goal with over a month remaining. Donations are still being accepted through April 21, and will mean more time is spent on the project. In addition, users can donate $100 or more to be a part of a beta test group for the project.
AI Squared has posted a free update to the Window-Eyes screen reader, version 9.1. This version includes support for the Chrome web browser, the ability to copy both plain text or formatted text from web pages, the return of the placemarker feature, and an enhanced element Many other bug fixes are also included. properties view for websites that may be very useful to developers. It's a free update for users of Window-Eyes 9.0 or the Window-Eyes for Office edition. We've linked to the complete change log from this post.
Remote assistance has often been one of those screen reader features that was out of reach for many, often due to its cost and complexity. Christopher Toth, the developer behind popular software programs including QRead and Chicken Nugget, is leading a team to change this. A crowdfunding campaign has been launched for NVDA Remote Access, a forthcoming add-on which will enable remote access support for the free and open-source NVDA screen reader. As explained on the crowdfunding web page, "NVDA Remote Access builds on the open source screen reader NVDA, allowing a blind person to send commands to and hear the speech from another user's computer. This provides an ideal tool for real time communication between workstations and opens doors for a variety of previously-inaccessible job tasks."
The team is currently seeking to raise $10,000 to pay for the development costs for the app, which will be released for free upon completion. In addition to helping the project succeed, various perks are available including beta access and a year of free tech support for the app. You can go here to read more or donate We've listed some of the advantages of NVDA Remote as described by the developers below:
The Android Talkback team has released version 4.1 of Google's built-in screen reader. It includes improvements which especially will benefit the upcoming release of Android 5.1, but also additional changes and bug fixes including Improved latency and enhancements to web support. We've included the changelog below and you can get it now from Google Play.
Apple has released a minor update to its iOS operating system with improvements in HealthKit and support for the forthcoming Apple Watch. iOS 8.2 is mostly a bug fixe release, and includes the new Apple Watch app which cannot be deleted. As one would expect, the Watch App is accessible according to some early users. It's available now as an update for anyone running iOS 8 or later. While VoiceOver improvements are mentioned, the changes seem minor. If you find anything we didn't mention, be sure to post a comment. Here's the complete changelog you'll see when you install the update, courtesy of BetaNews.
Hims has posted a free firmware update for the Blaze EZ Multiplayer, bringing it up to version 1.1. This version enables playback of National Library Service titles, includes a directory for Internet radio stations, and also features improved OCR capabilities for more typefaces. A smattering of additional bug fixes are also included. The update can be downloaded wlirelessly from the Blaze unit itself. We've included the complete changelog from Hims below.
Google's Roger Benz has posted several new educational videos on Youtube which describe and demonstrate features of many of the company's web apps. The videos include how-tos and demos for Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Drive recorded using Firefox and the NVDA screen reader. The videos have also all been subtitled. We've linked to all of the videos below.
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