The Journey Toward Braille: Potential and Limitations of using Braille with iDevices

Today, with the right resources and in the right circumstances, it is possible for a Braille reader to purchase a book the same day it is released by the publisher, at the same price paid by the print reader, and read it immediately on a mobile device in reasonably good quality Braille. If a book in another language is acquired, the Braille reader can quickly make some adjustments using the Braille display, and presto, the book is displayed in largely correct Braille for the additional language.  Likewise, it is now possible to write a document, message, or anything else using the six keys of a Braille display, and the words are almost instantaneously translated to print, ready for sharing with anyone. Apple has been one of the major forces in making these previously unimaginable developments possible within the past few years.

NLS Bard for iOS! A long awaited App

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped ( ) has provided accessible materials to blind (and otherwise print-disabled) patrons for more than 80 years.  In keeping with trends of technology and the needs of its patrons, it has created and provided these materials in a number of formats over the years. Braille books, hard and flexible records, cassette tapes, Audio-Described VHS movies, electronic Braille files, and finally digital talking books, in both cartridge and downloadable DAISY format, have been provided by the organization at different times in its history. Suffice to say, it is a service that is of deep use and interest to many blind users, and the announcement that NLS was going to create an iPhone app was met with great fanfare and excitement.  It’s been a long process, but the wait is finally over.

Some news from Pearson Higher Education

Nothing quite takes the place of direct interaction with customers.  I was reminded of this in July, when a group from Pearson Higher Education had the opportunity to attend the NFB’s annual convention. There, we demonstrated the latest versions of some of our online products – MyMathLab and MyITLab -- and enjoyed talking with, and learning from, the folks who attended the session. The following day, in conversation with Anne Taylor, I mentioned that we’re expanding our list of accessible HTML eBooks to disciplines beyond Mathematics and Statistics.  Anne was thrilled to hear this and urged me to share some details with the community.

What’s new in iOS 7 accessibility for individuals who are blind, deaf-blind, or who have low vision

Just like the last several autumn seasons, this one comes with another new iOS release. And just like other releases, this release brings a lot of new features and functions to supported iDevices. Major changes include enhancements to Siri, a new Control Center available from anywhere within the OS giving you instant access to several essential controls, a revamped Notifications Center, and much more. Many blogs and Apple themselves will be highlighting these new enhancements to iOS, so I will not discuss them in great detail. This article, as the title implies, deals with enhancements pertaining to accessibility: specifically, those changes which impact individuals who are blind or deaf-blind. One of the joys and curses of getting a new release from Apple is that they do not actively document the changes in accessibility with their products.

The Braille Edge: new firmware, new case, almost like having a new device

The Braille Edge 40— a display which has been a solution preferred by many consumers with whom I work, can connect to Windows, the Mac, iDevices, and Android phones or tablets capable of running the Braille Back app. It has some built in features which make it in to a light notetaker as well. For a more in depth review of the device, see:

Talking digital magnifiers

Talking digital magnifiers have been around for some time now. As the novelty wears off, the question is whether they are worth the price tag, and where they sit in the low vision landscape. At this stage, there doesn’t seem to be enough sales data to see which way the experiment is going. This much is certain: the talking digital magnifier has come a ways since I first saw the machine from Koba, which stood out as a great idea somewhat imperfectly executed. Tracking text in the magnified view and full page recognition are now available, both in my opinion major (and intuitive) improvements to the original concept. Traditionally, tabletop digital magnifiers have been a type of lowest common denominator of access technology – easy to use single purpose devices designed to serve to most tech-wary.

Gaming resources

Editor's note: this post is adapted from Amy's notes for a presentation to a group of game developers, and geared toward that group, but includes sources for accessible games as well.

This list is not all-inclusive, instead it is meant to act as a springboard for further research and learning.  It provides a mixture of different resources including guidance and developer documents, example games to give developers an opportunity to try non-visual gaming, and sites for further reading.  

Guidelines and Best Practices

Inclusive gaming is still a fairly young field, however, there are already a number of reference materials that should be beneficial to developers when working to build inclusive games.  

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident: Part Two

On April 11, 2013, I wrote a blog post entitled, “We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident—Do You?” That post was the result of talking to many people about the shift in thinking that needs to occur with respect to technology and accessibility. My post was also motivated by a letter that my colleague, Daniel F. Goldstein, who has represented the National Federation of the Blind in many cases for over a quarter of a century, wrote to the Office for Civil Rights regarding an April 4 article that covered our concern over the use of inaccessible Amazon Kindle products in schools and similarly inaccessible educational technologies.

Grading Kindle Accessibility on iOS

Hip Hip Hooray!

The Tactile Graphics Conference Wrap-Up

When we started planning the first-ever Tactile Graphics Conference here at the NFB HQ we thought it would be more of a meeting than a full-fledged conference. We put out a call for proposals, and when we got more than we could really fit in our plans, we expanded the plan. The panel sifted through the proposals, and we managed to put it all into a conference schedule. Then we opened registration, hoping fervently that, having built this, attendees would come. A few people signed up. Then some more signed up. More followed. Before we knew it, we had once again outgrown our britches and had to scale up again.


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