What’s New in Accessibility for Blind, Low Vision, and Deaf-Blind Users

Introduction

It's fall, that means it's time for another iOS update to fall onto your iDevices. That is, if you are running the iPad 2 or later, iPod Touch 5th generation, or iPhone 4s or later. This year, Apple introduces a lot of new mainstream features such as the ability to share purchased items with family members on joint accounts with the iTunes and App Store, the further harmonization of iOS and OS X, interactive notifications, Wi-Fi calling-- just to name a few. Many mainstream sources will be covering these features in great detail, so this article will focus on changes in accessibility. Just like all of my articles dating back to iOS 5, this one doesn't claim to have everything that's new. I've taken time, along with a few of the other staff members of Applevis, to work with the betas of iOS 8 since its first build was submitted to developers in June.

Braille Moves Forward in iOS 8

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.

Tips on how to use ACE Plus

ACE Plus is the latest personal multifunctional assistant from ABISEE.  It scans and reads printed materials out loud, and it saves OCR-converted text on its internal hard drive or on a USB flash drive.  It does this quickly and accurately. It also alerts you when a scheduled activity is due, enables you to send and receive emails, downloads ebooks, stores your photo album to share with friends and family and wakes you up when your alarm clock is set. Here are some tips on how to get the maximum from the device.

Tip 1. Short cut to Scanning and Reading

Place a printed page alongside the base of the device, so that ACE Plus captures the entire 8.5 by 11 inch space. No matter where you were in the Main menu previously, just press the Scan button and enjoy listening to the content of the page.

Kyocera Verve

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.

Training, an integral component of accessibility implementation

One of the founding principles of International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), and one of the aspects that was most important in the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in joining IAAP, is the great need for clarity and education in web accessibility. The National Federation of the Blind, as a longstanding advocate for accessibility, has every interest in supporting the recognition of professionals working in the industry. By working with others in the industry, we aim to both contribute to the field by bringing more blind individuals into the profession, and learn from the experience of our peers in order to share this knowledge with our membership and blind accessibility professionals.

Verizon Samsung Gusto 3

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.

Comments on Voting Accessibility Innovations in Elections: Making Voting Accessible for Everyone

Press Club—Washington, D.C.

May 14, 2014

The National Federation of the Blind was active in the development of the HAVA legislation specifically to get nonvisual access included as a requirement under the law. Since 2003, our organization has operated a Nonvisual Election Technology Project under a HAVA grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living. The goal of our project is to increase the participation of blind voters in the elections process by providing training and technical assistance to protection and advocacy personnel, state and local elections officials, developers of accessible voting technology, and blind advocates.

Tactile Graphics Issue

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.
 

Ustraap System

CSUN is always an exciting time for the Access Technology Team. We get to explore all the new and interesting products that have come out, or are on their way to market, and this year was no exception.  We didn’t write about this product before now because its creator is still in the process of bringing it to market, but it’s a nifty little tool, and worth some exploration.

First, a brief caveat, this is a “first impressions” blog post, not a full-fledged review. I’ve not spent more than a few minutes with the device itself yet, though I have every intention of doing so when given the chance in the future. So with that… on to the review—

Odds and Ends - Bite-Sized Bits of Access Technology Goodness

It's been busy for the Access technology team in the last few weeks. Unbelievably, it has been less than a month since we returned from the CSUN conference. In that time we've seen some pretty exciting things going on around the world of accessible technology and we wanted to share a few of those things with you. None of these are super high-tech, nor are they overly complicated, but each of these projects are fun, or useful or both, and their creators deserve a shout-out for working very obviously to include everyone.

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