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New York (February 1, 2013)—For the millions of Americans with vision loss looking for a simple, convenient way to take notes at work, at school, or at home, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today launched the AccessNote™, a specialized notetaker for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
“Apple products have earned high points from us for their out-of-the-box accessibility for users who are blind or visually impaired,” said Carl R. Augusto, AFB president and CEO. “We designed this app to complement the iPhone’s other popular features, like web browsing and email, so that users who are blind have all the tools they need in one, handy device.”
A traditional notetaker is a portable electronic device that enables users who are blind or visually impaired to take notes, create documents, and access applications. These devices, extremely valuable for people who are blind or visually impaired, usually provide either speech or braille output (or both). They retail for upwards of $2,000 and much more for those with a built-in braille display; AFB’s AccessNote app is available for $19.99.
In addition to being a low-cost alternative to traditional notetakers, AccessNote allows users to combine efficient notetaking with many other features and functions of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This allows people who are blind or visually impaired to use the same popular devices that their sighted peers are using in classroom or business settings.
This is the first notetaking app developed and designed specifically for users with vision loss. AFB evaluated many of the other available notetaking apps, but found none to be very efficient or user-friendly to people who are blind or visually impaired.
What sets the AccessNote apart includes:
- Seamless Navigation. Customized keyboard commands make notetaking more intuitive and productive than ever before, including quick access to important features like Search All Notes, Search Within a Note, as well as several navigation options.
- Automatic Saving. With an automatic save on every few keystrokes, notes will never be lost.
- Cursor tracking. When navigating among multiple sets of notes, users can always pick up right where they left off.
- Unparalleled Simplicity. With a clutter-free interface, users can create, read, find, and sync, making it easier to spend more time with actual content and less time with tools.
- DropBox Integration. All notes, always on hand. DropBox keeps AccessNote in sync with the user’s desktop (and other devices) so their notes are always available and backed up.
- Compatibility with Bluetooth keyboards. AccessNote is optimized for efficiency with the Apple Wireless Keyboard and for today’s wireless braille displays.AccessNote was developed in conjunction with FloCo Apps and is available on the App Store(sm).
Apple has released iOS 6.1 today. It seems that some issues have been fixed for VoiceOver users.
- Fixed VO focus issue while navigating the Home screens.
- Fixed VO will save language setting when changed using the Rotor.
- Fixed VO will save custom labels.
- Fixed VO background music in app not choppy.
- Fixed VO calendar will now display number of events in month view.
- Fixed VO remembers Screen Curtain state.
- Fixed VO now more responsive on older devices.
You can update your iOS device by going to the Setting app.
Now go to General and then Software Update. It will search for the new iOS.
Once it has been found you will see a button that says Download and Install you will want to activate this button and it will install the new iOS. Please note that the button may just say Install if your device has already downloaded the iOS. That is fine just activate it and you will be off and running.
Keep watching for more information.
Re-posted from the April 2012 Braille Monitor:
Every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern there is an iPhone conference. If you are interested in purchasing a phone or would like to talk with other iPhone users, come in and join us. The number to call is (616) 883-2999 followed by the pound sign. The room number is 2428.
Barack Obama, President of the United States
Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was among the greatest of American innovators
—brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.
By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.
The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.
Here is a post I found on the net that I thought was worth re-posting. You can find the original at: http://tinyurl.com/3t4bc8o.
Jay Yarrow’s 12 Most Annoying Things That Tech Companies Need To Fix Right Now gets a lot right, but misses what I consider to be a significant technology problem: lack of accessibility and poor usability for people with disabilities.
Designing for accessibility is making products and services so that people with disabilities can use them. One could easily assemble a long list of technology accessibility failures. As a budding librarian, I am dismayed by the accessibility problems of library services. Kelly Ford has written about accessibility issues with ebook services and ebook readers (e.g. Kindle). As a music lover, I am disappointed by accessibility problems in online music services like Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes for people with visual impairments who use screen readers like JAWS or Apple VoiceOver to read digital text.
1. Avoid Litigation
Many countries have policies mandating access to information technology and specifying web accessibility. These policies typically require that all web pages follow accessibility guidelines (Foley and Regan, 2002) established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
In the United States important laws to know about are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The ADA applies to most entities that serve the public, and Section 508 applies to US government agencies, and organizations directly providing services to the US government. In addition, the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 mandates accessibility for emerging technologies.
One IT accessibility strategy is to do nothing to make services accessible to people with disabilities. Organizations that go this route put themselves at risk for being sued, and this is likely to increase in the future. Target and Southwest are examples of two companies who have recently found themselves in this situation.
The US Department of Justice has indicated that it is interested in internet accessibility. This means that more accessibility suits could be coming from the DOJ. The 508 web accessibility standards that apply to federal entities are being refreshed and harmonized with the latest WCAG Guidelines, and other Federal standards (e.g. telecommunications requirements) are being evaluated.
2. Costly Retrofitting
Organizations that fail to design for accessibility might avoid litigation, but end up engaged in expensive retrofitting when they decide to make their services or products accessible. Retrofits are almost always more expensive than designing for accessibility up-front. In addition, retrofits tend to be inelegant and less ideal for users. Retrofitting often means paying more to get less.
3. Bad PR
Accessibility failures can result in bad PR and loss of sales and customers. For example, JetBlue’s accessibility solution (customers for whom their website is inaccessible can receive assistance via telephone) satisfied the judge who heard the case, but resulted in negative PR. Also, many universities are exploring using ebook readings to distribute textbooks. Amazon has stumbled in its efforts to provide an accessible ebook reader, and received bad PR as a result.
4. Reach a Broader Audience
People with disabilities are a large group, and their numbers are growing. Most of us will experience a disabling condition at some point in our lives. The population in the US is aging. Product developers and marketers are increasingly seeing the benefit of targeting this demographic. For detailed statistics on disability prevalence in the US, see the US Census Bureau’s report on disability.
5. Better Overall Usability
A frequent positive side effect of accommodating people with disabilities is creating better usability for non-disabled customers, for example:
- Providing information in multiple formats accommodates different learning styles and life situations.
- Curb cuts are useful for people other than those using wheel chairs – for example parents pushing baby strollers.
- Automatic door opening buttons are helpful when your hands are full of packages.
- Captioning on televisions make it possible to get news in noisy environments like the airport and the gym.
When accessibility is built into design for non-disability specific consumer products and services, the results can be beneficial for people with disabilities as well. The Apple iOS has VoiceOver technology built in, which makes it possible for users with visual impairments to use any iPad or iPhone without having to install special screen reading software. Many iPhone GPS apps designed primarily for people who are driving (e.g. Ariadne GPS and Navigon MobileNavigator) are also helpful for people with visual impairments. If these apps didn’t allow for accessibility, the designers would have lost an opportunity to serve those users.
Organizations who contract with or receive grants from the federal government are often explicitly asked to provide for accessibility. For example, The National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal preparation instructions encourage projects that broaden the participation of underrepresented groups including people with disabilities. In an environment where many compete for limited funds, accessibility can’t be overlooked.
7. Opportunity for Innovation & High-Impact Outcomes
Make the World Better: Many of us at the iSchool are looking for opportunities to innovate, and would love to be the author of the next big idea. Tim Rowe from the Cambridge Innovation Center at MIT says an important element of a successful pitch for an innovative idea is that it make the world better:
“…what you’re doing has to matter… there’s so much going on in the world today, there’s so many choices we have about what to spend our time on, that we tend to put a little extra energy into the ones where we say, this is a problem that really needs attention…of the investors I know, they would prefer to have an investment which both makes money and does something exciting that makes the world a better place…I’m talking about the investors who invest in new ideas, the crazy new ideas, if you will…that kind of person is a little bit of a quirkier person, and in my experience, is someone who is more about the outcomes and not solely about the economics (TAL Episode #412, 8 minute, 30 second mark).”
Improve Negative Outcomes: People with disabilities all over the world experience a disproportionate degree of negative outcomes (poverty, underemployment, unemployment). This presents opportunities to design product and service that improve outcomes for this group.
Reducing Stigma: People with disabilities want to be able to use the same technology everyone else uses, or something that looks cool (and not like a clunky medical device). Thankfully we no longer view glasses solely as medical devices that cause social humiliation, that we should try to make invisible, but there is room for improvement when it comes to other technology useful to people with disabilities (Pullin, 2009). Hearing aids could look cool! iPhones can be used by any blind user, without any special assistive technology fixes.
Increase Independence: There are many problems people with disabilities have where technology could potentially help. For example, the LookTell currency reading iPhone app lets a person who is blind discern a $5 bill from a $20 in seconds. The VizWiz iPhone app gives test descriptions of the objects in a user’s immediate environment (try it out–this app is free). Roger Ebert gave a fascinating TED talk on the benefits and limitations of the technology he uses to speak.
8. Fulfill Our Professional Mission
Though the types of work information professionals do vary considerably, accessibility is central to why it is we do what we do. The iSchool is committed to positive impact:
- Vision: “To expand human capabilities through information.”
- Goal: “ To transform the information field…”
- Points of Distinction:
- We recognize that information technology and management processes are means and not ends.
- Whatever we do, we do through information and for people.
- Through information we transform individuals, organizations, and society.
Mission of New Librarianship: Dave Lankes, iSchool Professor and Dean’s Scholar for the New Librarianship, says, “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.”
Mission of the American Library Association: Part of the mission of the American Library Association is to “ensure access to information for all.”
Some people have trouble with this topic because they think it is a foregone conclusion that people with disabilities have miserable lives, so the rest of us don’t need to bother figuring out how to include them.
Others don’t listen when accessibility is brought up because they think it’s someone else’s job to help people with disabilities. Neither of these are true. Steve Kuusisto, Director of Syracuse University’s Renée Crown University Honors Program, has written about how accessibility isn’t someone else’s problem.
My hope is that I’ve left you with enough information about what’s wrong in terms of technology accessibility to get you to care, and enough about what’s right so you know that it’s within your ability to do something about it.
People have been looking for a good app to access their Bookshare books for a while now. InDaisy has worked well for many people but getting your Bookshare books in to the app has not been a stream lined process. The new version of InDaisy will allow you to search, download, and read Bookshare books from within the app. Here is a list of new features:
- In-App download of Bookshare Daisy books by Individual, Organization and Anonymous members via Add Books button, +, in Bookshelf view. Direct access to newspapers/magazines from Bookshare will be added in the next release.
- Open password protected Daisy books or newspapers from Bookshare loaded via iTunes File sharing or FTP methods. You will be prompted for password when you tap on the book in the Bookshelf.
- Synchronized audio with word level highlighting for text only Daisy 3 books using embedded Acapela text-to-speech engine.
- Playback control using iPhone headset: Double click to fast forward and Triple click to Rewind.
- Jump by phrase via the Level Navigation menu in the Talking Book view.
- In Settings App, added Reset button for InDaisy to configure InDaisy Reader to always start from Bookshelf screen.
If you have not downloaded the free update you will want to. You can get InDaisy in the App Store.