A note from Pearson Higher Education

Note from the editor: Accessibility in higher education is a critical issue, and Pearson has worked hard to address it - so make sure Elaine gets your feedback!

Dear Readers,
It is a pleasure to be writing this guest post for the NFB’s AT blog.  I’m Elaine Ober, and I’m part of Pearson’s Higher Education division (www.pearsonhighered.com). In addition to working with our editorial teams on accessible content, I monitor an email mailbox specifically for college students and instructors who are blind or who have disabilities that impact access to our products — [email protected]

Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite arrived here today, and my review will be very, very brief. Unsurprisingly enough, it’s completely inaccessible. Other than having adjustable fonts in the books (not the menus), the device has nothing to offer a low vision or blind reader. It’s a shame, as, unlike the Nook Tablet reviewed earlier, the Kindle Paperwhite is a simple, seamless experience packaged in nice, simple hardware. A real shame.

A Somewhat Scathing Review of the Nook HD

I admit that we didn’t have high hopes for the Nook HD+ Slate accessibility features, but we were determined to give it our best shot. The device turned on without a peep as I searched through the Barnes & Noble site in search of any indications of accessibility features. No luck. Nothing in the documentation either, so I picked the chat option and asked a rep. No speech access to menus, they said, and speech in some books. Which books? I should tap the center of the page to see. That is how I discovered that some of the books I had previously obtained were not available, so no tapping availed me, sighted or with speech.

Microsoft Surface RT

So we decided it was time to try something new in the world of the Access Technology Blog.  That’s why, when we got our newest shiny in the mail we decided to do an official Unboxing Video.  The video really hits the highlights of our first impressions of the device, and gives you a glimpse at both the technology, and the people behind the blog, so we hope that you will give it a watch, but in case you are short on time, or just want a quick glance at the talking points and the highlights, we have a handy list of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the new Microsoft Surface RT, but first…

In-flight wi-fi

In 2010, when I took a 3 hour flight from Detroit to Denver, I was told that wi-fi was available for a small fee during our flight. How cool would that be? I could browse my email on my laptop, send out some messages bragging of my ability to do this over social networks, check out what my friends were up to, and maybe even get some research done for a tech article I was writing. With a great degree of excitement, I connected to the wi-fi network and began to sign up process using my web browser. And then, at the end of the page, I found every Braille and screen access software user's least favorite part of using registering for services online: a CAPTCHA.

What do you think?

The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind has long been the quiet mainstay of the Access Technology team, the mighty giant quietly chattering away behind my office. This year, as we put the finishing touches to the updates (the new computers, the new embossing area) we want to put the IBTC in the spotlight, and we want to invite you to visit, and to share what you’ve learned from the IBTC and how it’s helped you. So many feet have come through the IBTC – we’d like to hear some of your voices. Please email the editor about your experience, stories and anecdotes about the IBTC at [email protected], and we’ll share some of your stories on our new IBTC site.

Thank you!

E- text pilot

Recently, Dr. Maurer and Anne Taylor were interviewed about some of the e-text pilots going on in higher education, and the NFB’s reaction to the accessibility barriers in them. The article is up at Campus Technology and is a fascinating read, looking at both sides of the story. You can find it at http://campustechnology.com/articles/2012/10/02/national-federation-of-the-blind-takes-on-etext-pilots.aspx

Tactile Graphics Conference

Dear readers,

We’re very, very excited about our inaugural Tactile Graphics conference – I may have mentioned that before. It’s an impressive line-up of speakers, and the level of enthusiasm (and number of submissions!) has been very high. Due to some unforeseen logistical issues, we are having to move the dates – the new date is April 12-13. Other than that, the agenda looks like it will stay mostly as it is, thanks to the forbearance of our rather splendid speakers. If you have a chance to attend, it will be well worth your while – and the conference is free!

For more information, check www.nfb.org/tactilegraphicsconference

iOS 6 – The First Three Days. (With Commentary from the Twitterverse)

iOS 6 arrived on the scene Wednesday for all of us who were not privileged enough to be developers or beta testers. According to Apple there are more than 200 new features. (This seems to be their magic number by the way, because I am certain that Mountain Lion, and iOS 5 also came with more than 200 improvements, but I digress.)
This cannot be an “exhaustive” review.  As previously noted, 200+ new features, but let’s take a look at the upgrade experience, and what we’ve gotten to play with so far.  I’m certain that there will be more information to come from all quarters (including us) in the next few weeks, but this review should highlight some of the most visible new features of iOS 6, specifically from the point of view of a VoiceOver user. 

What's New in Accessibility with iOS 6

As with the previous release of a major iOS upgrade (from version 4 to 5), there are many enhancements to iOS 6 not directly related to accessibility. In this release, they include FaceTime over cellular networks, a redesigned App Store, a revamped settings menu, direct Facebook integration, a Do Not Disturb feature, among many others. Please see the link at the end of this article for a list from Apple about changes not directly related to accessibility. To list and discuss all new features which do not pertain to accessibility is beyond the scope of this article. Rather, this is to specifically focus on changes with respect to the different options available from an accessibility standpoint.


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