Access Technology Blog

Welcome to our Access Technology Blog section! The NFB Jernigan Institute Access Technology team is always on the lookout for new and better ways to give blind people access to technology, as the ever-growing International Braille and Technology Center attests. In these tips we want to share some of the pointers manufacturers and developers share with us to help you learn about new applications and new programs, and to help you find new functionality in familiar products. The Access Technology team works with the relevant manufacturers and developers to obtain the tips listed here, to make sure that you get the best and latest about anything new in the world of non-visual access technology.


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Blog Date: 
Thursday, March 15, 2012

QRead is a new book reading solution being sold by Chris Toth, the blind programmer who is best known for creating the Qwitter  client for Twitter (no longer in development) and the Hope client for Pandora Radio.  It is intended to be a simple solution for reading a fair number of different file formats, and to provide bookmarking and search features within the text.  As a great lover of books, and a devoted reader of eBooks, I sat down with the program to give it a spin.

IOS 5.1 and Braille Displays

Blog Date: 
Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just putting this post up to warn users of HIMS products, and Braille iOS users in general that iOS 5.1 has broken support for some Braille Displays.  I discovered this the hard way after upgrading both my iPad 2 and iPhone 4.  In the case of my BrailleSense Plus notetaker, all input is disabled.  HIMS tech support has told me that Apple has said that it is a problem on their end, and it has been identified.  However, they also simply said that it will be fixed in a future firmware update.  This has not been confirmed by anyone on the Access Tech team, but there are reports of this being a problem for some Baum displays as well.  If you have not yet done so, it would be in your best interests to check with the manufacturer of your Braille display to ensure it is not affected by the upgrade bug before you upgrade.

Brailliant on iOS

Blog Date: 
Thursday, March 15, 2012

As of the release of iOS 5.1 last week, the Brailliant Braille displays from Humanware are now supported by iDevices, and they are supported very well.  I connected a Brailliant 32 to my iPad, and iPhone, and was impressed by a couple of neat features.  First, the 2 sets of 3 keys that flank the display can be used together to handle all of the “chorded” (space and dot combination) commands on the iOS platform.  So to go to the top of the screen a person could do a 1-2-3 and spacebar combination, or they could hit the three buttons to the left of the display together without the spacebar.  It’s a pretty slick way to implement the command structure if you ask me.  The other extremely beneficial feature of the Brailliant with iOS is just how easy it is to invoke the initial pairing.  A user would connect to the Brailliant in the usual way, by going to General>Accessibility>VoiceOv

Sometimes Contacting App Developers About Accessibility Issues Works

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

When I originally set out to write my blog entry on the accessibility of the top free news apps, I had started to review the top 5. And although I did test all 5, since I was writing a blog post and not a novel, I decided to simply use the top 3 for my review. One of the 2 apps that was not included in my review was the USA Today app. The accessibility issues in the previous version consisted mainly of the fact that you could not read the titles of articles in the app, much like the Fox News Channel app. I contacted the developers at USA Today with my suggestions for improvement, and was sent a reply stating that they appreciated my feedback and would attempt to take these issues in to account with the release of version 2.0. That's a typical response, if you get one at all, and I had totally forgotten that I had written it.

Upcoming: Training the Trainers

Blog Date: 
Monday, March 12, 2012

On May 9-11, the Access Technology team is hosting a Training the Trainers event. The full info is at - but here are some of the topics we will be tackling:

• Screen access software
• Braille
• DAISY eBooks
• Tactile graphics creation
• Apple’s iDevices
• Mac computers
• Notetakers
• Low vision solutions
• Other tools

Reporting from CSUN in San Diego

Blog Date: 
Monday, March 5, 2012

As I write this, we're in the San Diego airport and getting ready to head back to Baltimore after a very busy (as usual) CSUN in San Diego. The team presented to packed rooms on iOS vs Android, as well as on Google App accessibility, on Thursday. Today, Friday, we presented on 3D tactile graphics and on running Windows on a Mac to excellent reactions. It's always a pleasure to be at CSUN, but it is gratifying, I admit, to get such good responses.

News Apps

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One of the many things that one can do with a mobile phone is keep up with current news events. For users of iPhones who are blind and deaf-blind, this is no different. But are the most popular apps accessible? Below, the three most popular free news apps for the iOS platform are reviewed for their usability with VoiceOver and Braille displays.

DAISY videos from the eBook Accessibility Symposium

Blog Date: 
Thursday, January 26, 2012

The following are two recordings from the NFB's eBook Accessibility Symposium on December 6. These videos are also available on the DAISY Consortium YouTube Channel:

EPUB 3, A Foundation for Accessible Publishing


DAISY Pipeline 2

iBooks 2

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

GWSkype: Giving Easier Access to Skype

Blog Date: 
Friday, January 20, 2012


Over the years, Skype has become a popular means of communication for people around the world. This is especially true for those who are blind, deaf, and deaf-blind. However, as time has gone on, the accessibility of the actual Skype program has started to drop. And while many portions of the Skype program are usable with scripts that can be installed for various screen readers, each version of the Skype released brought about changes that needed to be made to make the program more usable for those individuals using screen readers and/or braille displays to access the service as each new version of Skype itself has been released.