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Technology

Does the New Book Sense Make Sense?

The review below appeared on Blind Bargaisn yesterday.

There are two types of blind people in the world. Those who own a Victor Stream and those who don’t. The decision on whether or not to purchase the new Book Sense from GW Micro may largely fall on which of these groups you come from.

First, the basics. The Book Sense is yet another entry in the market for portable audio book readers. With a form factor similar to a candy bar style cell phone, the Book Sense is smaller than the stream. It includes a numeric keypad, a five-way navigation pad, and dedicated buttons for playback, recording, hearing the date and time, and other functions.

Compared to the stream, there are several inherent advantages with the Book Sense. It plays more formats including Microsoft Word .DOC and .DOCX files. It can record directly to high-quality .MP3. You can charge the Book Sense directly from your computer’s USB port. And the XT version includes an FM radio, 4GB of built-in memory, and Bluetooth headset support.
 
To read the rest, go to www.blindbargains.com. LightHouse is curious to know how well the FM radio actually work…? Anyone?

Jessie Lorenz (SF LightHouse) Reports on the New iPhone Accessibility

(Note: Jessie is totally blind. iPhone use for low vision individuals will be soemwhat different.) 

I received my new iPhone last Friday afternoon. I took my new phone to the AT&T store and had it activated. I had to change cellular providers to become an Apple Fan Girl… I asked the man working at the store to turn on the “Voiceover,” screen reader on my phone. Good thing I knew how to direct him- because he had no idea what I was talking about… (smile)

Turning on the screenreader was really easy. Tap Settings, General, Accessability and than turn on Voiceover. Though magnification does not help me, it is worth mentioning here that Voiceover and the magnification program cannot be run concurrently.
 
The first thing that happened when I got my new phone was pretty cool. I was still in the AT&T store showing off my talking phone to all of the employees at that store. I received a text message. My phone vibrated and the Rio Speak Samantha voice read both the phone number and the text of my new text message out loud. It was very clear and very easy to understand. Samantha is the same voice used on the Victor Reader Stream. Caller ID on the new iPhone works great and unlike Mobile Speak and Talks, it does not stutter. 

The iPhone is a very thin device with one round button on the front, up and down volume buttons on the left side and an on/off/lock button on the top. That is it. four buttons total.

The operation of the phone is  controlled by the touch screen located on the front of the device.

For me, text entry on the phone is challenging. I text message very very slowly using my new iPhone. In addition, editing text on this device is something I have not mastered. This is one area of the phones interface that could use some improvement.

When the phone is powered on, the home screen appears. The home screen is important because from it you navigate to the phones applications and settings. To return to the home screen you press the one and only round button on the phone one time.

The iPhone 3g “Home Screen,” displays the most commonly used applications such as contacts, keypad, maps, mail, iPod, Safari and weather.

To hear the choices on the home screen tap the screen once. To cycle through the list of choices tap the screen. again until you hear the control you want to open. This is very different than traditional screen reading technology. You operate this phone by taps, flicks and turns of your fingers- not by memorizing keystrokes. Here is a page where you can find a description of the gestures: http://www.apple.com/iphone/how-to/#accessibility.iphone3gs-accessibility-features

When you want to activate an item on the iPhone you tap the screen twice in rapid succession.

The coolest parts of the iPhone have nothing to do with making phone calls. The weather, iPod, Maps, Compass and Safari web browser are really neat applications and I have been able to use them all rather easily. Listening to music on the iPhone is easy and fun!

I have had more trouble making calls  on my iPhone than I have accessing these more non-essential functions. That said, those, “non-essential functions,” are a lot of fun!

In order to dial a call you have to activate the keypad icon on the home screen. Tap the screen until you hear it say the numeric digit you want. When you hear the digit announced, don’t lift up your finger. With your finger still held down, tap somewhere else on the screen to confirm that is the digit you wish to dial. Keypad entry for me is still slow going.

The fastest way to call someone is to synch your contacts with your iPhone and than to either dial through the contacts list or using Voice Command. Contacts can be accessed through the home screen.
Voice Command can be accessed from anywhere. To access Voice Command press and hold the round button until you hear a beep.

Sometimes Voice Command works, and sometimes it does not. There is no way around that. Speech recognition just isn’t where I’d like it to be- and this device is no exception. One thing about Voice Command worth noting is that it seems to work better if you do not have the headphones plugged in. In addition, if you know someone’s number it seems to work better if you say a number digit by digit rather than someone’s name.  That said, I am not impressed with the Voice Command.

Mail is pretty neat. You can get the account information from your computer simply by telling iTunes to sink your mail accounts. No more account set-up wizard.

Reading mail is pretty easy–so is reading text messages and web pages. You read by flicking your fingers across the screen. 

Entering information is slow and inefficient for me so far. When I want to write text I turn the phone so that the keyboard appears in landscape view. Like the phone keypad, the quarty keyboard appears on the flat touch screen. You type the same way you dial a number- holding your finger on the letter you want and while holding that letter using another finger to confirm that is the letter you want to appear in the edit field. 
Text entry is slow. Correcting a mistake isn’t something I have been successful at just yet. I do hope I get better at this in time.

Finally, The iPhone has what is called a proximity meter in it. This means that when the phone is near your ear you can hear the speaker and Voiceover in your ear. When you remove the phone from your ear it automatically goes to speaker phone. In addition, Voiceover has a different set of commands when the phone is near your ear verses when it is simply resting in your hand. This is especially important when you want to end a call. To end a call the phone must be in your hand and you must tap the screen twice.

So, in closing, this is the most accessible device I have ever purchased and been able to use out of the box. That said, it feels like I have taken a step backwards from the nimble Windows Mobile phone I used prior to the iPhone. I can do all sorts of cool things- and yet- the two primary reasons I have a phone are really challenging for me, making calls and sending text messages. I believe that there is a learning curve that I have not yet gotten to the other side of. When I get to the promised land I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, any iPhone tips or tricks are welcome!

Personal Connections Key in Creating Access On-line

“Access on-line is no different than access anywhere else. Locking people who are blind or visually impaired out of web-sites because of inaccessible security features is no different than denying a wheelchair user access to the built environment, such as public buildings, houses, street crossings and the like,” said Anita Shafer Aaron, Executive Director/CEO of the LightHouse of the use of CAPTCHA, the wavy letters and numbers used by many web-sites as a primary security protocol. Because CAPTCHAs are inaccessible to screen readers, a screen reader user has to rely on a sighted person to assist in navigating around this feature. This compromises the security of personal information – the very thing that web-sites try to avoid by using CAPTCHAs.

With the proliferation of internet use in all areas of contemporary life, ensuring equal access on-line is becoming ever more critical. According to a February Nielsen report, the total amount of time people spent on-line globally increased by 18% between December 2007 and December 2008; two-thirds of the world’s internet population visits social networking or blogging sites, accounting for almost 10% of all internet time; and use of social networking sites has surpassed use of email. “Because social networking takes people spread over large geographic areas and connects them to one another, it takes people from being alone and isolated to being part of a group, part of a community. For people with disabilities, there’s nothing more empowering than realizing you’re not the only one experiencing something,” said Jessie Lorenz, LightHouse Director of Public Policy and Information.

Recently, Twitter made news by improving access to their popular site by making the shift from CAPTCHA to reCAPTCHA, an accessible security alternative: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/techchron/detail?entry_id=41686.

Twitter’s use of inaccessible CAPTCHA technology was a battle members of the blind community had been fighting since 2007 (see this Blind Access Journal blog post for more: http://blog.blindaccessjournal.com/2009/06/twitter-quietly-fixes-broken-audio.html). But when Lorenz attended TWTRCON in May 2009, she had the opportunity to connect personally with the folks at Twitter, describing firsthand how the inaccessibility of the site affected her as a blind user. Just days after this conversation, Twitter implemented use of reCAPTCHA.

“This change at Twitter is the result of tenacious advocacy by folks who are blind and took place over a period of time. That said, hearts and minds change slowly. In the case of disability rights, those hearts and minds have not caught up with regulations. Human connection is a critical component of social change,” Lorenz commented in response to Twitter’s move to improve accessibility.

Using accessible alternatives to CAPTCHAs is one important way that social networking, and other web-sites, can promote equality for all internet users. If you come across sites using CAPTCHA we want to know!

Bloggers, please post links to inaccessible sites in the comments section below and tell us about communication you’ve had with web-site administrators, pointing out accessibility issues and recommending alternatives to CAPTCHA. Let’s work together to make connections and improve access.

CTAP to Provide Jitterbug Cell Phones in Select Counties

3 Easy Steps
Apply Today!

1. Live in or near the cities of Fresno,
Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego,
San Francisco, or Santa Ana.
2. Be CTAP-certified as blind, low
vision, mobility-disabled, or
cognitively-disabled, and
California LifeLine eligible.
3. Complete a Wireless Technology
Pilot Program User Agreement.

Need more information?
Call 1-866-845-8761 (Voice)
1-866-271-1540 (TTY)

Visit: http://www.ddtp.org/CTAP/brochures_and_publications/default.asp

Call for accessible applications or email: wirelessinfo@ddtp.org

CTAP provides the Jitterbug equipment at no cost, monthly service charges apply.
Limited availability–Respond now!

Apple Introduces Many New Accessiblitiy Options

Here’s a rundown of just some of the new options:

iPhone 3G S now with VoiceOver
Apple introduced a new iPhone model, the iPhone 3G S, that includes a full-featured screen reader called VoiceOver.  It is completely touch-based. You use gestures to control it. It works with all of the applications included on the iPhone including Mail, iPod, Safari, Maps (with walking directions!), and Apple is working with developers so they can make their applications accessible too. It also speaks 21 languages. Through touch, VoiceOver on iPhone delivers an extraordinary new experience that makes using the iPhone simple and fun for those with visual impairment.

For making calls and controlling the built-in iPod, you use your voice with a new feature called Voice Control.  You just say the name of a person in your contact list or their phone number and iPhone 3G S dials the phone. You can also play music and ask what music is playing, all with your voice.

iPhone 3G S also includes a full-screen zoom so you can magnify the entire screen up to 500% ; reverse video changes the display to white on black to increase contrast; and, for those with hearing loss in one ear, mono audio that plays both left and right channels in both ears.

VoiceOver 3.0 in Mac OS X Snow Leopard.
Apple announced more details about Mac OS X Snow Leopard, the next release of Mac OS X, including a thoroughly updated release of VoiceOver. Snow Leopard will sell for $29 and be available in September.

VoiceOver introduces many highly requested features and a few innovations you won’t find anywhere else. For example, VoiceOver in Mac OS X Snow Leopard supports the same revolutionary gesture control as iPhone. With VoiceOver 3.0, you can use the same gestures to control a Mac laptop with a Multi-Touch trackpad that you use to control your iPhone running VoiceOver.

VoiceOver 3.0 also introduces support for wireless Bluetooth braille devices and adds support for the latest USB braille displays. In addition, you can connect multiple braille devices from different vendors simultaneously—great for classrooms and instruction.

VoiceOver also introduces auto web spots, a new technology that makes it easier to navigate poorly designed or complex web pages. It creates virtual HTML tags that are easy to navigate based on the visual layout of the page.

Apple is also responding to customers by addressing many highly requested features, VoiceOver 3.0 also supports custom labels, AppleScript automation, customizable verbosity settings, auto-read web pages, web page summary, web tables, and more.

These are just the highlights!

There’s a lot more to learn so take a few minutes to read more about these and other accessibility features on Apple’s web site.

http://images.apple.com/accessibility/
http://www.apple.com/iphone/iphone-3g-s/accessibility.html
http://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision.html
http://images.apple.com/macosx/accessibility/

If you have an opportunity to forward this message or reprint an article about these announcements, it would be greatly appreciated.  You can find a press release for iPhone 3G S and Mac OS X Snow Leopard with images at Apple’s web Public Relations web site, www.apple.com/pr.