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Now Available at Adaptations: Next Generation Braille Apple Manuals

Now Available at Adaptations: Next Generation Braille Apple Manuals

The LightHouse Media and Accessible Design Lab (MAD Lab) is the sole translator for authorized braille versions of a variety of Apple User’s Guides. Earlier this year, Apple commissioned the MAD Lab to translate a few of their new manuals into braille. This week, as the culmination of several months of work, free Braille Ready Files (BRFs) are available online. You may also purchase embossed versions of these manuals in our Adaptations Store.

Call 1-888-400-8933 today to order one of the following manuals in braille at the standard braille (rates may vary based on number of printed volumes):

  • Apple Watch User Guides
  • iPhone iOS User Guides
  • Apple TV User Guides
  • Mac OS with VoiceOver User Guides

For blind braille readers who use Apple products, this is a huge step towards tech literacy. The iOS manuals provide detailed insight into optimizing these products and leveraging the accessible features for personal and professional use. The embossed manuals offer a complete set of directions on how to use each Apple operating system, intelligently organized into multiple volumes of interpoint Braille.

Adaptations also carries a wide variety of low-vision and blindness products, including talking watches and alarm clocks, games, kitchen products, braille supplies and much, much more. Get in touch with us at (415) 694-7301 or adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org, or stop by our store between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Get even more familiar with your Apple products by attending a FREE weekly Access Tech Training at our headquarters on Tuesdays between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. To make an appointment, contact Access Technology Coordinator Shen Kuan at skuan@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7312.

LightHouse to Provide Apple Technology for Students with Low Vision

LightHouse to Provide Apple Technology for Students with Low Vision

 Reading is a simple pleasure; it’s also an educational necessity and a human right that millions of people with low vision are denied worldwide. Today, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco is pleased to announce an initiative that will put new technology into the hands of students with low vision, ensuring they have easy, continuous access to books.

Partnering with LightHouse Guild and the San Francisco-based American Academy of Ophthalmology, the LightHouse will train qualifying low vision students to instantly access over half a million books and read text with a whole new comfort level. Each student who meets income and eyesight requirements will receive an Apple iPad loaded with Spotlight Gateway, a new app designed specifically to expand access to digital reading materials for people with low vision. The program also includes complimentary trainings at LightHouse’s new headquarters at 1155 Market Street in San Francisco.

“The highest priority for a young person is a level playing field for learning,” says LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin, “and we won’t take exception to that for students with low vision who need better tools for reading. This is a program to ensure that hundreds of students across the West Coast get access to the printed page through the latest software.”

The LightHouse is launching its West Coast iPad Program in tandem with Lighthouse Guild’s program in New York as well as VisionServe Alliance members, who also provide services for individuals who are blind or have low vision throughout the United States.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s community of member ophthalmologists — physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care —  will support this effort by certifying qualified students across the country for the program. Participation in this program is part of the Academy’s ongoing effort to quickly refer low vision patients to vision rehabilitation services that lessen the impact of their change in vision, providing them with tools for greater literacy and, consequently, a fuller life.

“Patients can learn how to maximize their potential by using assistive devices and techniques,” says Philip R. Rizzuto, MD, American Academy of Ophthalmology. “This initiative supports ophthalmology’s commitment to helping these young people in every possible way.”

Apple Inc., has become a leader in the field of accessibility, ensuring that every one of their products functions off the shelf for blind users: Bookshare® is the national leader in providing texts to K-12 blind students; and Spotlight Gateway is built to utilize the full, vivid screen of the iPad. The combination will facilitate a huge leap forward for many struggling and underserved students across the country.

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco and Lighthouse Guild in New York City will distribute a limited number of iPads in their respective regions, and VisionServe Alliance members (with offices across the country) will provide locations where students can access iPads if they are not in NYC or Northern California.

February 1, 2017: Ophthalmologists may begin registering students at the AAO website’s low vision rehabilitation page.

Mar. 1, 2017: Distribution program begins with tech trainings at LightHouse in San Francisco and Lighthouse Guild in New York City.

For more info on referrals, contact sblanks@lighthouse-sf.org. For press, contact press@lighthouse-sf.org.


About The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Founded in 1902, San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired promotes the independence, equality and self-reliance of people who are blind or have low vision. LightHouse offers blindness skills training and relevant services such as access to employment, education, government, information, recreation, transportation and the environment. LightHouse also pursues the development of new technology, encourages innovation, and amplifies the voices of blind individuals around the world. Headquartered in downtown San Francisco, the LightHouse offers training programs and short term residences to accommodate students from the San Francisco Bay Area and abroad. LightHouse also runs the Superfest International Disability Film Festival and Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa, and the newly announced Holman Prize for Blind Ambition. Visit lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-431-1481 for more information.

About American Academy of Ophthalmology: The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, the AAO protects sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit aao.org.

About Bookshare®: Bookshare®, a Benetech initiative, is the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Through its extensive collection of educational and popular titles, specialized book formats and reading tools, Bookshare® offers individuals who cannot read standard print materials the same ease of access that people without disabilities enjoy. The Bookshare® library has over 500,000 titles and serves more than 450,000 members. Access to Bookshare® is free for all U.S. students with a qualifying print disability. Bookshare® is an initiative of Benetech®, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that develops and uses technology to create positive social change. For more information, visit bookshare.org.

About Spotlight Text: Spotlight Text, developed by Focus Reading Technology, Inc. and Dr. Howard Kaplan, is the first eBook reader specifically for individuals with low vision. With scrolling text available in marquee or teleprompter mode, The Spotlight Gateway iPad app provides a large, easy-to-use interface for people who require larger text. For more information, visit spotlighttext.com

About Lighthouse Guild: Lighthouse Guild, based in New York, is a leading not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization with a long history of addressing the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities or chronic medical conditions. With more than 200 years of experience and service, Lighthouse Guild brings a level of understanding to vision care that is unmatched. By integrating vision and healthcare services and expanding access through its programs and education and awareness, we help people lead productive, dignified and fulfilling lives. For more information, visit Lighthouseguild.org

About VisionServe Alliance: VisionServe Alliance, founded in 1987, and now celebrating its 25th year, provides a forum for top executives of private agencies and organizations specializing in blindness and represents the interests of such agencies before many organizations, professional, governmental and non-profit groups. VisionServe Alliance is the only organization whose members directly represent every aspect of services to people who are blind or visually impaired, including dog guide schools, adult rehabilitation agencies, private residential schools, early intervention and pre-school programs, career placement/employment and manufacturing, membership organizations, advocacy organizations, low vision clinics, and services to those with multiple disabilities. For more information about VisionServe Alliance, visit the website visionservealliance.org or call 314-961-8235.

App Report: Voice Dream Founder Winston Chen Explores New Frontiers in Accessible Design

Voice Dream Writer logo

Apple has always been on the leading edge of accessibility design, and as most blind people know, the iPhone and App paradigm has dramatically sped up the rate of accessible software development. There are many developers who still don’t understand the mantras of accessible software engineering, but thankfully, there are many that do. As of late, Apple has made a special effort to highlight apps that make particularly effective use of VoiceOver, and in turn we’ll be highlighting the developers who are making strides for blind design here on the LightHouse blog. Today, we have an exclusive interview with the founder and iOS engineer behind Voice Dream Reader, and now the new Voice Dream Writer.

Winston Chen wanted to start over. After serving as a big data CTO for ten years, he wanted to try something new, but he didn’t know what. So he did what any reasonable person would do, and moved his family to a small island north of the Arctic circle. At first it was warm and pleasant; he relaxed, learned how to fish, hiked, and spent time with his family. Then it got cold, and suddenly the great outdoors weren’t as welcoming. So he decided to write an app.

Voice Dream Reader is now one of the best-used reader apps in the blindness world — it’s straightforward, efficient interface has won the hearts of many blind and low vision folks, some of whom had all but sworn off “books” altogether. Its integration with Bookshare, Dropbox, Gutenberg and ability to import PDFs and web pages alike eliminates the pain of switching between platforms, Chen, in concert with one other developer who now builds Voice Dream for Android, has spent the last few years building the application into the go-to reading software, not only for the blind, but for those with learning disabilities, long commutes, and as of late those with a love for speed-reading. And now, with this year’s release of Voice Dream Writer, Chen is taking advantage of iOS devices’ new gestural options to make the reading and writing experience more productive than ever.

“3D Touch,” the newest gestural rollout from Apple, allows a new level of subtlety when it comes to touch-screen operation. Now able to tell the different between a soft and “hard” push, 3D touch promises to reduce lots of unnecessary finger-tapping that VoiceOver users are familiar with. In particular, Chen is implementing the new “peek and pop” feature, which allows users to preview a document or set of actions, and then choose to open or not open the file, literally without lifting a finger.

“I think in the end it’s all about efficiency,” said Chen over the phone this week. detailing what sets apart Voice Dream Writer from other accessible apps “You can find out where the cursor is, move it precisely where you want it to go. The other thing is proofreading — it uses all the Voice Dream voices to read. And you can set a bunch of different rules for how it proofreads for you: should it read punctuation, should it read spaces between the word, the stuff you generally wouldn’t catch if you were using VoiceOver.”

Though Chen got the idea for Writer after hearing his blind friends complain about how hard it was to word process on an iPad or iPhone, much like Reader he also sees Writer as an appealing tool for the sighted — an idea he got when he saw some author friends using text-to-speech to proofread their manuscripts. “I got this inkling that there’s a role for speech in the writing process.” Chen even claims that he himself as sighted is more comfortable proofreading using speech. It’s also a less bulky option than lugging around a computer just for its word processing engine. “I have one blind friend — I thought this was so cool: he was on a flight; he kept his iPhone in his pocket, and he had his bluetooth keyboard on his lap, and he was writing, with just the keyboard! He must have looked crazy.”

Follow Winston Chen and the LightHouse on Twitter.

Persistence Over Ignorance

apple store

“Honestly, it’s not that great,” the sales rep told me last week. He was trying to make me go away.

This was at my local Apple Store, where I was hoping to try the accessibility features of the new Apple Watch. If the device turned out to be as life-changing as the iPhone, it would certainly be worth the price tag. The display models at Apple currently run a video loop, demonstrating — for those who can follow along visually — how the Watch’s features work. But for anyone who wants to use the accessibility features — VoiceOver, zoom, and voice commands — you need a fully-enabled Watch, tethered to a real working phone.

But this guy wasn’t selling anything; he would rather I walk away. When I asked for a fully-enabled version, as I’d read is available, he balked. He said they didn’t have anything like that at that store, and he could get someone to show me the demo version, but it wouldn’t be any good for me. “Honestly,” he said, “the accessibility features are not that great. It’s just VoiceOver, and a couple other things.” He obviously didn’t know what VoiceOver meant to many people.

Perhaps the Apple Watch wasn’t the right product for me — or anybody for that matter — but somebody else was not going to make that decision for me.

I was miffed, but resolved to try again a few days later. In the meantime, I got an emotional email from a blog reader, responding to our post from the week before where we reported that Apple wants blind people testing the Watch. This particular person had followed our instructions and called the Apple support line to see about scheduling an appointment to test the accessibility features of the Watch; but got no help at all.

“I was very embarrassed,” they wrote to me, still annoyed from their interaction with Apple, “the man that I spoke with acted like I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

Normally I would turn on my journalistic skepticism here, but after my experience the day before, this sounded all too familiar. Still, I was hearing conflicting reports. Multiple readers wrote in to say they walked into their local Apple Store, many without any appointment, and were taken through all the accessibility features, with no problems whatsoever. What explained this gap in treatment from place to place? For Apple being the biggest, most tightly controlled corporate chain in the world, it almost seemed like we were dealing with different companies.

A few days later, I was back at the same Apple Store. I asked a sales rep the same questions — could they please show me a fully enabled Watch? — and got the same, uncertain answer: Let me show you to one of our trainers, and they’ll show you the demo version. I allowed myself to be led over, and once I got to the different person, I asked again. She gave the same, canned response, but I kept my cool. This wasn’t her fault, she just didn’t know, I told myself. “I’ve been told that every store has a fully enabled Watch,” I suggested, “I read online that Apple wants blind people to be able to test the Watch.” She didn’t know about it, but I had checked my facts, so I kept asking, politely, and in different words each time.

Finally there was a tipping point. She paused, thinking more creatively. She thought for a moment and came up with a different answer.

“We have a workshop model…” she said slowly. She said it was for the store employees to experiment and learn with. That sounded like a better lead than any. “Let me go ask if it’s available,” she said.

She came back in two minutes with the workshop model, beaming, “I asked my manager if we could borrow the workshop model to show you accessibility, and he said,” — wait for it — “that’s exactly what it’s for.” All along, there was a simple solution, but having not yet encountered a blind customer, hardly any of the employees knew about it. I was vindicated, and she seemed relieved to have been able to help.

“We have all these guidelines that we’re given,” she admitted candidly, “but we go around them all the time.”

As for the Watch, it’s fun, but I can’t weigh in yet. The accessibility features are very similar to the iPhone, and if you’re already used to operating the phone without looking while it’s in your pocket, or under a table, strapping a new screen to your wrist does at this point seem a little redundant. Also, if you’re like me and the biggest pain about VoiceOver is taking ear buds in and out, you’d be much better off investing in a nice wireless headphone setup than immediately springing for a new piece of hardware like this one. I still need to be convinced that the Watch is a useful tool, and that might not happen until my friends start showing them off.

I tell this story not to advertise the Watch or disparage Apple, but to remind everyone that when it comes to dealing with the blind and visually impaired, most people are terribly ignorant. It’s not that they have a vendetta against the disabled, or a superiority complex, they’re just uninformed about how to reach the right solution. Even at Apple, one of the most tightly-managed shopping experiences in the world, there is still a widespread lack of understanding and training about how to treat those with disabilities.

To be served, we have to push. Not aggressively or with self-righteous assertions, but patiently, quietly and with purpose. The solutions are there, the answers are relatively easy, the gatekeepers just don’t know it yet.

Contact Will Butler at communications@lighthouse-sf.org.

Apple Wants Blind People To Buy Apple Watches

a gold-plated Apple Watch with deluxe black leather band and classic clock face

Blind and low vision users who want to test drive the Apple Watch’s accessibility features can now call 1-800-692-7753 and make a special Apple Store appointment to try on a fully-functional model. Test one out for yourself, then let us know how it went, by either commenting on this blog post or by talking to us on Twitter or Facebook.

It’s a little counterintuitive, even surprising to the general public: the idea that a smooth, buttonless touchscreen display could work for someone with little or no vision. And yet, since Apple’s release of VoiceOver in 2009, the iPhone has become the flagship product for what the National Federation of the Blind calls a “revolutionary breakthrough” in access. And they’re not exaggerating, either. The independence, information, and entertainment that the iPhone has given to its blind and low vision users has not only made it the go-to device when it comes to accessible technology, but has put significant positive pressure on apps, websites, and other services which rely heavily on iPhone users for their business.

Enter the Apple Watch — the newest, perhaps fanciest mobile device ever from Apple. The Watch has been buzzed about more than almost any other Apple product before, and now, months and months after its initial announcement, it’s finally reaching the public. We’ve been waiting with baited breath, watching over previous weeks as technology professionals, journalists, and advocates all over the world unboxed their Watches or walked into stores to find out if Apple had put the requisite thought and care into the accessibility of this new product. In an interview with Pacific Standard, Michael Hansen of the accessibility blog AppleVis preaches cautious optimism, but like many blind and low vision Apple fans, we’re ready for answers, sitting around at the LightHouse wondering: can we use this thing?

The answer, as far as we can tell, is an emphatic yes. And Apple has gone out of its way to reassure blind users that they will have ample opportunity to test out the Watch’s accessibility before they make the big purchase.

But at first this didn’t seem like an option. The demo models that sat lashed to tables in Apple stores around the world were, for blind users, no better than toy mockups. You couldn’t turn on the supposed Accessibility settings, least of all send a message or recreate an action that you might actually take in your daily life. The #a11y (accessibility) community started to cringe, but luckily, Apple identified the issue, and swooped in with a more than adequate solution.

As AppleVis points out, testing the Apple Watch as a blind consumer is now as easy as making a single phone call and scheduling an appointment. The number is 1-800-692-7753 (US and Canada), and all you need to do is say you’d like a Watch appointment, then pick your Apple store. Make sure to specify that you’d like to test its accessibility features, and they will have someone fully equipped to show you how it all works.

There’s never any way of telling if a product is going to be a huge success or a huge flop, but already outselling all previous Android wearables, it’s hard to imagine that at this point Apple can go very wrong. And as long as the company is providing access to everyone, regardless of their physical differences, we’re behind any new product that could improve quality of life. Some potential uses for the Apple Watch include improved guidance, fitness apps, and not losing track of hardware that’s fragile or too small to find. Sounds good to us.

If you take all these steps, what we’d really love is your feedback. Let us know how it goes!

Note: Be advised that, though you don’t need to bring anything to the appointment, the Watch itself is meant to function only in tandem with an iPhone.

Got tips, other comments or questions? Email communications@lighthouse-sf.org.