VarioUltra Overview

By Karl Belanger

The VarioUltra is the latest Braille display from Baum. It comes in both 20 and 40-cell models, for $2,395 and $3,995 respectively. The 20-cell model will be reviewed here. The VarioUltra is a slim, well-built display that also has the ability to function as a basic notetaker on its own. The included applications include a word processor, PDF viewer, spreadsheet viewer, calculator, countdown timer, stopwatch, and an alarm clock. The display can connect with JAWS for Windows, Window-Eyes, NVDA, VoiceOver on both the Mac and iOS, and BrailleBack for Android. Currently, some screen access software and devices do not have VarioUltra drivers, so display emulation is needed, which will be discussed later.

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Health, Mobility and Navigation Focus Group at Washington Seminar

The greatest asset the National Federation of the Blind possesses is our membership.  In an effort to continue to ensure that our voices are heard in the evaluation and development of accessible biotechnology tools and strategies, we are recruiting participants for a focus group on health, mobility, and navigation on Monday, January 26 from 8:30 to 12:30 at the Holiday Inn Capitol. This is the morning of the Great Gathering In of our Washington Seminar. There is only room for 20 participants, so interested individuals should contact Clara Van Gerven at (410)659 9314 x2410 or at [email protected], as soon as possible. Whether or not you are able to participate, you are encouraged to take the time to complete, and share, the survey referenced below.  

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TRF Survey

The Therapeutic Research Foundation (TRF), with input from the access technology team at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the only research and training institute developed and directed by blind people, has created a survey on health, mobility, and navigation. TRF is inviting blind and low-vision participants to take the survey to help them create the next generation of navigational tools. The data gathered will be used specifically to do research and development, so please consider taking the time to complete the questionnaire and help them build a device that will serve your needs. Depending on your responses, the survey will take 5-15 minutes, and your impact will shape the future of the project.

You can take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XNZKWL8.

 

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Web Accessibility Training Day session recordings

For those of you who have an interest in web accessibility, but were not able to attend the Web Accessibility Training Day on September 9, the recordings of those sessions are now available at https://nfb.org/web-accessibility-day. There were some really great talks, and I especially recommend Eve Hill’s keynote. It was a real honor to have such a great list of speakers.

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Train the Trainer

In two weeks, the team here at the NFB Jernigan Institute will be conducting the second iteration of Train the Trainer. We’ve got an amazing line-up–Google has volunteered some of its trainers to talk all things Google, Earle Harrison from Triumph Technology will be here to share his extensive experience as a Mac trainer, and we’ll have our affiliated experts Jennifer Dunnam and Hoby Wedler here to talk about Braille production and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), respectively. That the AT team will be here goes without saying.

The full agenda is posted at https://nfb.org/training-the-trainers, though we are still reshuffling some of the timing (but not the topics). There are eight seats left, and we expect to fill them very soon. Join us if you can; it will be a great event.

 

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Braille Moves Forward in iOS 8

By Jennifer Dunnam

In the latest version of Apple's iOS, four Braille-related developments not only greatly improve the experience of using Braille with mobile devices, but also serve as a model for how the use of Braille can be integrated into today's digital technology. Three of these improvements relate to the interaction of iDevices with external refreshable Braille devices. The fourth does not require a Braille device at all—we'll start our review there.

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Kyocera Verve

By Clara Van Gerven

The Kyocera Verve, like the Kona reviewed on this blog previously, is an addition to Sprint’s line-up of accessible phones. It is listed on the Sprint accessibility page as such, but oddly enough the text-to-speech built into the phone is not listed as an accessibility feature. The booklets in the box don't reveal the text-to-speech feature, though the full manual online has details of the accessibility features, which is helpful. The PDF manual, while it has a few headings out of order and a few less-than-useful image labels, is quite well done. There is also an HTML manual, which is useful.

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Verizon Samsung Gusto 3

By Clara Van Gerven

There is a new answer to the recurring question about accessible feature phones that is worthy of a blog post. I’ve reviewed talking feature phones on this blog before, including, as part of the CSUN presentation I posted here, the Verizon Samsung Gusto 2. The Gusto 2 was not a particularly accessible phone, and I’m delighted to report that the new version is a significant improvement all around. The Gusto 3, a flip phone that looks almost identical to its predecessor, is available from Verizon for $0.99 with a two-year contract, and $149.99 without a contract.

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Tactile Graphics Issue

By Clara Van Gerven

 

Those of you who have an interest in tactile graphics will be interested to know that some of the presentations from last year’s Tactile Graphics Conference here at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute have made it into articles in the Tactile Graphics Issue of the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research (JBIR). The issue is available free of charge if you sign up at http://www.nfb-jbir.org/index.php/JBIR/index.

It gives me joy to see the small, but incredibly important, field of creating images for the blind find a scholarly voice in these articles, and I hope to see many more of them in JBIR and elsewhere. These articles are one more way to educate the public and to share knowledge between experts who are often continents apart.
 

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