Kindle Fire HDX

The Kindle Fire HDX is the latest tablet from Amazon, and it is again, claiming to include accessibility for blind users.  In the past, I have pretty freely lambasted Amazon’s accessibility efforts because in many cases they were downright insulting to blind users.  There has never been an eInk Kindle that allows for proper non-visual navigation of text, nor an accessible application for the Mac, or a Kindle app for the PC that allows for anything more than the crudest navigation.  Amazon made a big deal about their accessibility in the last Kindle Fire, and in truth, the tablet was so badly crippled for blind users, that it may as well have not contained accessibility features at all.  However, the Amazon stance on accessibility has begun to change (if far more slowly than one might like), as can be seen in the accessible Kindle app for iOS which arrived in May, and the Amazon Instan

The Sprint Kyocera Kona talking feature phone

Basic talking phones are few and far between, though the news of them manifests itself on the NFB tech line every few days. The Kyocera Kona is the first phone we've seen since the Samsung Haven that has full speech, and that makes it a very welcome addition to the market. It would be great if Sprint was a little less shy about letting people know about it. The documentation in the box is completely silent on the topic. Sprint Accessibility lists the phone as having good accessibility for the blind, but doesn't explain why. The entry for the Kona itself makes no mention of accessibility features other than hearing aid compatibility. The full user manual does provide details and setup.

The Prodigi Talking Magnifier

It's not too often that new and exciting devices appear in the realm of low vision, so it is not very surprising that the Prodigi talking digital magnifier is causing a stir. These talking magnifiers, as highlighted in an earlier blog post, have been making steady headway and are becoming more common. The Prodigi stands out from that group for a couple of reasons. First of all, it combines a standard (and might I say, sleek) CCTV with a talking portable magnifier. The portable magnifier--an Android tablet under the hood--slots into the arm of the CCTV. The tablet, though Android-based, can only be used for magnification and speech. It is a neat trick, and the transition from one screen to the other is mostly seamless. Secondly, it is not using a full computer.

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 (http://www.loc.gov/nls/ ) 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.  

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