Assistive technology news and info.
Window-Eyes 9 Released with Web Support Overhaul, Google Docs, MathPlayer, Increased Responsiveness, More
AI Squared has released Window-Eyes version 9, the biggest update to the screen reader in a couple years. Among the new features are completely rewritten web support for Internet Explorer and Firefox, which will handle modern web pages with dynamic content. In addition, support for Google Docs, the latest version of QuickBooks, MathPlayer, and preliminary support for the Windows 10 preview are included in the update among other features. Increased responsiveness is also included, especially when arrowing around documents or executing other keyboard commands. Window-Eyes is free for users with a copy of Microsoft Office 2010 or later installed. We've linked to the press release from this post.
For the past two years, blind individuals in Denmark have been testing an app which uses the video chat capabilities of an iPhone to provide sighted assistance. Now The app is set to launch worldwide on January 15. Be My Eyes connects volunteers with people needing assistance for cases where an extra pair of eyes could be useful. Examples given include reading mail or adjusting the thermostat. Currently, the nonprofit is looking for volunteers to help run the free service, and is using Thunderclap, a tool to generate interest on social media, to do this. To learn more about the app or join the Thunderclap, which will send their message to over 200 accounts on Thursday, check the link on this post. And, here's a link to the Be My Eyes site. Thanks to Bryan Smart for the tip.
Intel's keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show included a demonstration of how their RealSense technology has the potential to help the visually impaired be more aware of their surroundings. In the video, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich introduces us to Darryl Adams, a Technical Project Manager at Intel who also happens to be visually impaired. They explain how vibration and other feedback is used to convey nearby information, and how it has opened up new possibilities for Adams. While opinions may differ on the effectiveness of this approach, it's another example of a mainstream company giving time to issues that affect the visually impaired in a major and well-publicized speech. We've linked to the relevant portion of the video in the source so you can watch it for yourself and share your feedback.
Google Docs has received the lion's share of attention when it comes to accessibility, but Microsoft has posted a blog message detailing some current and future planned enhancements to Office Online. Included in the changes are increased formatting notifications, virtual buffer reading for smaller files, and improved documentation. While much of the post centers around Narrator support, the help documentation also gives tips for screen reader use with Jaws and Window-Eyes. Check the source link for the post and help files. Have you tried Office Online, and how does it compare with Google Docs? Let us know in the comments.
Southwest Airlines has now extended its flight schedule through August 7, 2015, meaning you can now book travel on the airline for the NFB and ACB summer conventions. Southwest is often the most economical way to travel to a convention considering they allow for two checked bags with your ticket. So if you take a lot of items to convention, there's a potential $100 savings or more. Contrary to popular belief however, Southwest does not always have the cheapest fares, so it's still best to shop around before making a purchase. Check the link to go to the Southwest Airlines website to book travel. The NFB convention will be held in Orlando from July 5-10 while the ACB holds its meeting in Dallas July 3-11.
One of the biggest changes to SSI benefits in decades is about to take place. Thanks to legislation passed by Congress this week, many recipients of SSI will be able to put money in savings without penalty.
So you're lying in bed and you can't sleep because your vent is blasting hot air into your room. But the thermostat is so far away. Now, thanks to Google and Nest, you can just talk to your phone to solve this dilemma. You can now use a Google Now voice command such as "raise the temperature to 72 degrees" to control a Nest thermostat, assuming you've linked it to your Google account. In addition, Google can use location services to automatically adjust the Nest when you are headed home, and will display this info in a google Now card. Google purchased Nest earlier this year. While this helps make the connected thermostat a bit more usable for the blind, there are still several hurdles which have not yet been addressed, including inaccessibility of the initial set-up process and poor app design. This all existed before Google's purchase, so perhaps things will improve in the near future. There's more details in a post on the Nest site.
The Cisco Academy for the Vision Impaired (CAVI) is offering an employment course in 2015. Topics discussed include motivation, traits that are helpful when marketing yourself, job readiness and more. There will even be an opportunity to receive feedback on your resume and a mock interview from staff responsible for hiring of employees.
Check the link on this post to learn more.
Jamie Pauls, host of the SeroTalk Weekly Podcast and content curator for Serotek, has decided to leave the company, according to a post on twitter. "I have chosen to bring an end to my relationship with Serotek. Thanks to the best group of people I have ever worked with in my life!" This brings the number of departures at the company to 6. Original CEO Mike Calvo is now taking a more active role in the company and promises that services such as the System Access Mobile Network will remain intact. This is a developing story and we'll post more as we learn of it.
AI Squared has released the first public beta for Window-Eyes version 9, formerly from GW Micro. Among the new features are completely rewritten web support for Internet Explorer and Firefox, which will handle modern web pages with dynamic content. In addition, support for Google Docs, the latest version of QuickBooks, and preliminary support for the Windows 10 preview are included in the update among other features. Increased responsiveness is also included, especially when arrowing around documents or executing other keyboard commands. The beta is free to try for users of Window-Eyes 8.4 or those with a copy of Microsoft Office 2010 or later installed. We've linked to the beta page which includes more information and download links.
AI Squared, who is now owners of the Window-Eyes brand after the merger with GW Micro, has posted several teasers leading up to the imminent release of Window-Eyes 9.0 Beta 1. Among the new features teased are completely rewritten web support for Internet Explorer and Firefox, which will handle modern web pages with dynamic content. The need for a rewrite to their web engine had been talked about by company representatives as early as the CSUN conference, and it appears to be the flagship feature for this update. In addition, support for Google Docs and preliminary support for the Windows 10 preview are included in the update among other features. The beta is expected to go public within the coming days and will be free to try for users of Window-Eyes 8.4 or those with a copy of Microsoft Office 2010 or later installed. We've linked to the beta page which includes more information.
Serotek has released a statement regarding the recent departures of 5 of their staff members, which emphasizes the company is not going anywhere. From the look of the press release and prior information we've received, it appears that Joe Steinkamp and Ricky Enger were given an offer to continue the Serotek Podcast Network with Serotek covering some of the costs. Both declined the new terms however and left the company. The three other departures happened later, and were perhaps not as expected by Serotek management. Other Serotek services, including the System Access Mobile Network, SA2Go, and the System Access Screen Reader remain in development. It also appears that former CEO Mike Calvo plans to take a more active role in the company which he founded over a decade ago. This is a developing story and we'll post more as we learn of it. The complete text of the message is below.
Comcast is set to launch new accessibility features for their accessible set-top television box, and a new blog has been created to offer podcasts and articles to demonstrate the new features. Liam Erven has launched "What does the Box Say" which will include demonstrations of the new service rolling out for XFinity cable subscribers over the coming weeks. Comcast is the first cable provider to provide accessibility to such features as the program guide, on-demand programming, and DVR viewing on a set-top box, a trend that is likely to evolve due to the passage of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Check the link on this post to view the blog.
Serotek, the makers of the System Access screen reader and the company behind the Serotalk Podcast Network, have parted ways with the majority of their staff, leaving the future of the company in doubt. Those losing their jobs include Buddy Brannan, Ricky Enger, Lisa Salinger, Joe Steinkamp, and Richard Wells. Steinkamp and Enger were let go last week while the other three announced their departures earlier on Friday. The staff members let go produced and participated in many popular podcasts including The SeroTalk Podcast, Triple-Click Home, That Android Show, and End of line among others. This leaves a bare-bones staff including long-time programmer Matt Campbell and producer Jamie Pauls who remain with the company, at least for the moment. According to a post on the @serotek twitter account, the 5 left on good terms and the company is alive and well. More information is promised from the company, according to founder Mike Calvo. We know a lot of you might like to post your memories, comments, or well wishes to those who have departed. Feel free to do this in the comments. Update: An earlier version of this post stated that the 5 were fired. We based this off earlier information we had received but are unable to 100% confirm, so have changed the wording to reflect this. We apologize for any confusion. We'll post more updates as we receive them.
Senseg is one of several companies that have been working on bringing haptic feedback to touch screens. Haptic feedback makes it possible for you to feel a textured surface when you touch a screen, rather than a smooth surface. Some primitive systems have provided some feedback by triggering a device’s vibration capability when a finger is located at a specific place on the screen, but the Senseg technology uses variable electrostatic force on the surface of the screen to create the sensation of different textures. This article describes one person’s experience with using a demonstration of the technology earlier this year. This type of haptic feedback is not intense enough to produce refreshable Braille in a style that would be expected from a dedicated Braille display, but would certainly revolutionize the way that people that are blind access maps, charts, and other simple graphics that are not easily expressed with speech.
You cannot currently purchase any tablets or phones that offer Senseg’s technology, but the technology is far beyond the prototype stage. Starting now, software developers can purchase a developer kit, consisting of a specially modified Google Nexus 7 tablet and software, and begin experimenting with the creation of apps to make use of this new way of feeling a screen. Availability on commercial devices is expected with-in 1-2 years.
Quickly after the release of iOS 8, Apple released iOS 8.0.2. This version included fixes for several issues that were discovered after the initial release of iOS 8, but few VoiceOver bugs were included in the update.
For users of the oldest devices capable of running iOS 8, including the iPhone 4S, iPad 2, and iPad 3, frequent VoiceOver crashes have been reported. On these older devices, switching to the compact version of the VoiceOver voices eliminates most all of these crashes. However, if you have one of these older devices, and haven't yet upgraded, you will likely be better served by staying with the faster VoiceOver performance of iOS 7. Feature and bug lists courtesy AppleVis
The highly anticipated KNFB Reader app for iOS converts printed text into high quality speech to provide accurate, fast, and efficient access to both single and multiple page documents with the tap of a button on iPhone 5, 5C, and 5S.
The app includes many features that make it possible for blind users to obtain better reading results than other low-cost reading apps. A Field of View Report function helps to insure that you have positioned the phone's camera so that the entire document is visible. Vibration cues from the phone help you to be certain that the phone is completely level before scanning a document. Analysis functions automatically correct for many situations where documents are scanned at angles, such as signs.
Scanned documents can be read aloud with synthetic speech, including voices from Acapella, or read on your Braille display. Individuals with print disabilities will benefit from the synchronized speech and text highlighting capabilities.
As of this writing, owners of the app are reporting great recognition results, though some iPhone 6 Plus and iPad users are reporting sluggish behavior. The developers say that the problems are related to iOS 8, and will be fixed soon. The iPad, like the iPhone 4S, will run the app, but is not officially supported, and recognition results are inferior.
For a demonstration of the app, including video of it being used, look here.
Another demonstration (audio only) is here.
CVS Pharmacy announced today that it will be providing accessible prescription labels for their visually impaired customers. This announcement is a result of an agreement between CVS, the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the California Council of the Blind. Customers who are interested in using the ScripTalk labels should call 888-227-3403. The press release is pasted below.
CVS/pharmacy Now Offers “Talking” Prescription Labels for Individuals with Vision Impairments Through its Online Pharmacy
New service on CVS.com is the result of a collaboration with state and national organizations for the blind
Woonsocket, Rhode Island (March 18, 2014) – CVS/pharmacy announced today that it now provides ScripTalk talking prescription labels for prescriptions ordered for home delivery through its online pharmacy, CVS.com. The ScripTalk labels provide a safe and convenient way to access information on prescription labels for individuals who cannot read standard print. The ScripTalk labels are free to CVS.com pharmacy customers who are blind or visually impaired. Customers can also obtain a free ScripTalk reader from Envision America that will enable them to listen to the information on the ScripTalk label.
We are pleased to offer the ScripTalk service to our online pharmacy customers who are visually impaired. Enhancing access to important information about prescriptions is in keeping with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.Josh Flum, Senior Vice President of Retail Pharmacy at CVS Caremark
Today’s announcement is the result of collaboration between CVS/pharmacy, the American Foundation for the Blind, American Council of the Blind and California Council of the Blind. These groups applauded CVS/pharmacy’s actions.
“The lack of accessible labels on prescription drug containers puts people with vision loss at serious risk of medication mishaps,” said Paul Schroeder, Vice President of Programs & Policy at the American Foundation for the Blind. “We applaud CVS/pharmacy for taking steps to provide speech access to label information for customers with vision loss along with its willingness to evaluate methods to improve large print labels.”
“This agreement is a positive step that allows for a greater level of privacy, safety, and independence for blind and visually impaired Americans of all ages who take prescription medications,” said Kim Charlson, president of the American Council of the Blind.
“The California Council of the Blind applauds CVS’s willingness to offer access to the information on prescription medication labels. As a result of this initiative, persons who are blind or visually impaired who use CVS mail order to fill their prescription needs will have the same direct, and independent access to label information as do sighted customers,” stated Donna Pomerantz, President, California Council of the Blind.
CVS/pharmacy, the retail division of CVS Caremark Corporation (NYSE: CVS), is America’s leading retail pharmacy with more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy and Longs Drug stores. CVS/pharmacy is reinventing pharmacy to help people on their path to better health by providing the most accessible and personalized expertise, both in its stores and online at CVS.com. General information about CVS/pharmacy and CVS Caremark is available at http://info.cvscaremark.com.
About American Council of the Blind (ACB) and California Council of the Blind (CCB)
American Council of the Blind is a national consumer-based advocacy organization working on behalf of blind and visually impaired Americans throughout the country with members organized through seventy state and special interest affiliates. California Council of the Blind is the California affiliate of the ACB and is a statewide membership organization with 40 local chapters and statewide special interest associations. ACB and CCB are dedicated to improving the quality of life, equality of opportunity and independence of all people who have visual impairments. Their members and affiliated organizations have a long history of commitment to the advancement of policies and programs which will enhance independence for people who are blind and visually impaired. More information about ACB and CCB can be found by visiting www.acb.org and www.ccbnet.org.
About American Foundation for the Blind
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB’s priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. AFB is also proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the over forty years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. For more information visit AFB online at www.afb.org.
Director, Public Relations
For the Blindness Organizations
President, American Council of the Blind
Chief Communications and Marketing Officer
American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
Tel. (212) 502-7615
Simplified Summary: CVS is now offering talking prescription labels to blind customers who order through cvs.com. People will be able to listen to important information about their prescriptions. CVS will use ScripTalk talking labels. If you are blind or visually impaired you can get a free device to read the labels. You can call the cvs.com pharmacy at 1-888-607-4287. To find out more about the free device you need to listen to the labels, call: 800-890-1180. Back to the Press Release
Filed under Accessible Prescription Information, Health Care Access, News and Articles, Settlement Agreement Press Releases, Talking Pill Bottle Press Releases on Mar 18th, 2014
Many YouTube videos have captioning, but almost none have descriptive audio. Now thanks to a new tool from the Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center, anyone can add descriptive audio to a YouTube video. According to the article from Media Access Australia, here are the steps to add the descriptive audio track:
"1. Copy and paste a YouTube URL into the YouDescribe search box and click on Search .
- The YouTube video will appear with an option to 'Create/Edit Descriptions'. Select this option.
- Using the 'Play/Pause' option on the video player, pause when you wish to insert audio description.
- Use the 'Record' option to record your audio description then select Upload to upload the new audio file.
- Continue this process until the end of the video.
- When the process is complete you can log out or return to the YouDescribe search page where your video should appear at the top of the video list. The video can be played with audio description."
Hopefully this tool will result in many more youtube videos having descriptive audio tracks.
The United States Visitors Center is one of the many destinations for tourists to visit when they come to Washington D.C. If you're planning a trip to the U.S. capital, and plan to stop at the Visitors Center, you can now get an audio tour. The tour can either be played on a special device that can be requested at the front desk, or you have the option of downloading the files onto your own personal device before you arrive. The audio files are more then three hours of content, and provide the visitor great detail of the exhibits at the center. The files are available to download in Mp3, Zip, and text. Having a text option means that the tour is even accessible to the deaf/blind.
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