Archive for June, 2009

Blind Babbles Episode 2 Show notes

June 28, 2009

In this podcast episode I do a few quick guides into a few of the IpHone 3 GS applications and a third party app.

I start off with the Ipod and be warned there are a few clips of music. I’m no expert as yet, so if I have missed things feel free to comment and Tel us your findings.

I venture into the calendar and show how to make a new appointment and delete it while viewing different calendars.

then move onto notes and voice memos, easily demonstrating landscape and portrait mode, then record a brief voice memo before moving onto Twittelator and demonstrate the screens and post a tweet and show how to reply.

Finally I discuss a little about the maps application and my views on its accessibility and functionality in regards to mobility.

Find the podcast in ITunes under blind babbles or
Subscribe Blind Babbles in Itunes

or, Listen here

And I do apologise for the extra noise in the background. Enjoy the podcast and feel free to comment and I know i sound a little strange, 🙂

First Podcast

June 25, 2009

OK, so i finally took the plunge and any feedback or tips would be greatly appreciated after you hear this podcast. I have to say I had fun making it, I just hope you guys have fun hearing it, and if anyone wants to participate with me in the future, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

This podcast focuses on an introduction to the new podcast and introduction to the IPhone 3 GS with Voice Over.

Enjoy the podcast.
🙂

Subscribe in Itunes

Iphone 3 GS, worth it?

June 22, 2009

So on Friday I made it to the apple store to purchase my Iphone. Once there, I dove in and bought it, not even having played with it at the store. I figured why not? That is how much trust I had in Apple.

So I had it all activated in the Apple store, as usual their staff were impeccable and extremely helpful. Once it got home, I connected it to my trusty mac book and itunes shot up immediately. the phone repeatedly made lots of noises at me, I later discovered it was text messages from my network. So once I had registered the Iphone which was pretty painless, although I had to get my set of eyes to read the phone number on my sim-card, I activated voice over and ejected my iphone as I usually do with my ipod.

It was a strange but wonderful sensation to touch a screen and hear feedback. Up until two weeks previously, I never thought that this would be possible, for a visually impaired person to use a touch screen on a phone, let alone a popular phone like the iphone. I assumed at some point Apple would extend their access to all policy to its many products but I expected this technological advance to be a year or two away at least. But here it was, my shiny new 16 gig Iphone, ready and waiting for me to explore.

Findings so Far

Turning on the Phone

Once you have set your phone up, familiarise yourself with the buttons the Iphone has. to the upper right hand corner is the power button.
To turn the power on, hold it for a few seconds. There is no audio feedback but once the phone has loaded, it will play a jingle and voice over will start to speak if you have it enabled.

To the left hand side of the handset, on the side of the phone are your volume buttons. the top one is your volume up, the bottom volume down.

At the bottom of the phone is your home button, very useful for many things.

ports

At the bottom of your phone is your power/cable connector exactly the same as the Ipod nano cable adapter. This port will sync your phone and charge it. Note that you can externally charge with the power cord and the adapter for power outlet and also on your computer.

At the top left hand top edge of your phone is the 3.55 mm head phone socket. This is a great thing as most headphones sold are 3.55 and if you have a set you like to use for personal reasons it is likely you will be able to use your own.

Home screen

Status Bars and Indicators

So your home screen is what you see when you turn your phone on. It kind of reminds me of the doc on the mac. At the top left hand corner is your carrier’s status and if you have Wifi on or your 3G status.

this is very useful as it gives the feedback of bars of network coverage and of the level of the wifi connection.

On the right hand side of the screen, at the top gives the time and battery indicator. Finally, I have a phone that gives me the percentage rather than the visual bars. I do like the descriptiveness of the status bars. These bars are always visible, no matter what app you are in or where you are on the phone.

Page 1

On your home page as default, here is what is listed in the top row
Messaging, calendar, photos,camera.
The next row shows you:
youtube, stocks, Maps, weather.
The next row shows you:
voice memos, notes, clock, calculator.
And the final row on the first page is:
settings, Itunes, app Store, Compass

Move your finger around the screen and with one finger only tapp twice to activate the app you would like to view more of. I won’t go into details just now on each App, guides will be coming soon but I will say that the apps that come on the phone are mostly accessible from what I can tell.

Bottom of screen

You may be asking yourself where Mail, safari and phone apps are. They are seemingly on the home page but it does seem like they are there all of the time. Fore example, I have a few other apps on my phone now and they all appear on page 2 but Safari, phone, Mail are all still visible at the bottom along with Ipod.

Voice Over gestures

Move finger around the screen will highlight any item.
Tap twice with one finger selects/activates the app/button/edit area etc
One finger flip to the left or right highlights the previous/next item on the screen respectively.
Three finger swipe up or down scrolls up or down.
[especially useful in Safari]
Two finger tap twice either ends or answers a call or starts or stops playing music depending on where you are.
Turning your fingers in a rotatory movement like you are turning a dial highlight either words or characters on the home screen or elements of a webpage in safari.

And there are probably more that I will add when I either remember them or come across them.

Conclusion so Far

I do love the Iphone and keep observing new ways to do things. It took me a while to get used to the typing but I am getting there slowly now. It’s fast, especially compared to my old nokia and the speech is excellent. was it worth the money I paid for prepay? Absolutely! I just wish I wasn’t tied to O2 but hey what can ya do? It’s a snappy, easy to use phone, completely accessible out of the box with the prospects of having apps designed for it to make everyone’s lives easier. I am super pleased with Apple, they did it again and be sure to stay tuned for several podcasts and blogs over the next few weeks to explore different apps on the iphone. I intend to use the maps feature, a lot of social networking clients and who knows what else?

All I can say is excellent job Apple and keep the amazing achievements coming.

Iphone, what it proposes?

June 18, 2009

So with the introduction of the new iphone from apple tomorrow, many hopes within the visually impaired community are high. I am one of those people who hopes are rising by the moment. I have an appointment booked for tomorrow to play with the iphone for an hour. I hope it will meet my satisfaction.

Voice over being introduced onto a touch screen is beyond anything any of us could have comprehended for another year or so. What with the apps and the possibilities of new apps being developed with accessibility in mind, the possibilities seem endless. But do they? Is this another hope that might get dashed? I guess that with time we will only tell.

This time tomorrow, I may have more answers. But for now I will leave you with this thought,
Apple have already achieved things beyond my mind, so only time and experience will tell.

It Is Promised to deliver! Iphone 3GS

June 9, 2009

So after two hours of anticipation, my patience paid off. During the closing minutes of wWDC Keynote, the Iphone 3GS was announced to have accessibility with voice over built in. The new technology promises to deliver the universal access that apple boast for visually impaired and hearing impaired iphone users.

This is exciting to say the least, especially now that a phone out of the box will be ready for everyone to use. Apple were very insistent that you actually don’t need any sighted assistance and I for one was glad to hear that emphasis. so much of our society’s attitude dismisses the want and need of visually impaired people to be independent. so props to apple in that respect.

So you want to hear what the Iphone promises? I will give a brief outline but until I physically play with the phone, I am still a little bemused about how to do certain things. To see what apple have written about the Iphone and accessibility in regards to vision then Click here!

Briefly, the new technology means that a visually impaired user can now use the popular touch screen of the Iphone with the assistance of Voice over, mac’s innovative screen reader that comes built into the Os. As you place your fingers on the screen and move them around, voice over speaks the items beneath your fingers. Unlike the sighted users, VI users tap twice to activate an item on the screen.

Flip technology helps to move between characters or I’m guessing up and down menus, etc. The rotary wheel that they have introduced, allows a VO user to jump between elements on a webpage or change VO settings on the fly.

The voice activation feature sounds like it will be very interesting to use along side VO, giving VI users that much extra leeway and choice of how to use their iphone.

I have to say, this will take some getting used too but it’s a challenge I am excited to undertake. Praise to Apple for even attempting this feet that most of us were not expecting for another year or two. We knew it would happen on some scale but it is definitely sounding promising from what the website details. And we will all know once the Iphone 3GS hit stores, won’t we?

My only, and this is my only criticism of Apple and the Iphone. I really wish they were not limited to one network. This appears to only be happening in the US and the UK. i did hear Australia is not limited to a network and I only wish apple would implement that world wide. I will still have one, and just run out my contract on another network but it is a real pain in the ass. And I know some of my US acquaintances have informed me that upgrading customers are paying way more than the standard price. It does seem unfair and maybe in a few years to come, this will be sorted.

But let’s end on a positive note. The Iphone is here with accessibility and soon we will be able to see how accessible Apple have managed to make it.
JUNE 19TH

Iphone and Voice Over

June 8, 2009

So WwDC happened today and thousands of people have now learned what apple promises to deliver. Snow Leopard is due September and at a discount price for Leopard users. Very nice. New macbooks have been revealed with much higher processors etc. Very cool. And The iphone now has voice over.

wait! What?

Yes no need to go back and read again, I did say the Iphone 3GS has now got voice over built in. All you need is a mac or a p.c. with screen reader technology like voice over or Window Eyes, itunes 8.2 your shiny new Iphone and you are ready to go.

I will write a more detailed account of how to use the iphone once I get my hands on one. And I am afraid you will have to wait a few weeks as the pretty new phone is not available until June 19TH.

It has to be said, this is a very exciting moment in any disabled person’s life. Finally, a company has continually gone beyond its legal obligation in providing accessibility to all. First it was voice over on the macs. Then the wonderful voice of alex. Then the ipod nanos, followed by the shuffle with voice over built in, and now the iphone. Apple just keeps making me smile. Accessibility to all is what they aim for and they are succeeding incredibly. a few months ago, not many people thought this version of the iphone would have full accessibility and here it is. All ready to be shipped and to be used by us the consumer.

What I like, no correction, love about Apple is the fact that they continue to improve their products for everyone and when they say everyone, they mean it. At last, a company is not excluding the minority groups and is including the ability in its products to make them usable for all straight out of the box. No expensive third party applications, nothing to crash their system, just plain and simple tested products that come already enabled, at no extra cost.

So here is my personal big thank you to Apple. Keep up the good work and I hope that the iphone is as amazing as it sounds. If it lives up to the legacies of your other accessible products, i see no reason why it wouldn’t be.

Thank you Apple Inc. The true company for all!

Using Twitter and Clients with No Eyes

June 6, 2009

I have previously wrote an article about the popularity of the web-based mini blogging social network that has taken off in the past two years.

Briefly, Twitter gives you 140 characters to tell your “followers” what you are doing. even the text box at the top of the page where you input your mini blog asks,
“What are you doing?”

An odd conception to say the least but it’s addicting, informative and incredibly fun. Bringing many people together whether it be celebrities, friends, colleagues, or even organisations such as news networks, companies, sports teams, Twitter is there to give you all the information you could possibly want. Follow who you like and allow others to follow you and this ingenious way of communicating brings the technical world that bit closer.

As this is a blog about accessibility, I am going to discuss a few different ways you can get your daily fix of tweeting. First of all you can visit the The twitter Website and tweet directly from the web. On the whole this is a fantastic and obvious way to tweet although some of the features are hard to do with voice over, such as retweet, direct message without going through a whole lot of links and pages to do so. Following and unfollowing a person is relatively straight forward with the find friend feature on the website with no major issues once you’ve found who you want to follow and hit the follow button, you’re then “following” that person and proceed to receive tweets from that person. Unfollowing is just as straight forward, go to that person’s profile and hit block and an option to continue to follow or unfollow is given. Very straight forward and uncomplicated.

Another web-based twitter client is Accessible twitter which as it says gives the users more options that the regular twitter does not. The site is laid out so navigation short cut keys used by a screen reader user are plentiful. The ability to jump from one part of the page to another works well and there is a really cool feature that warns you how many characters you have left after a certain point. Under each tweet, options to reply, retweet, send a direct message or make a favourite are listed making it easier than ever to do whatever functions you desire.

Even though accessible twitter has a search option, I could find no direct way to search for friends like you can on the regular twitter website. Maybe I’m missing it altogether and I do assume that the search option aids in searching for people too but if you have a common user name you’re looking for, it might get a little tedious to search through all of the results. Again, I may have missed that particular option but it is not obvious on the home page.

Next I am going to talk about the first twitter application I used on the mac. Twitterific. This application is clean, straight forward and completely accessible. After downloading, enter your twitter user name and password, set the options like how often you want it to check for new tweets, the noise it will make when new tweets arrive, etc. The tweets appear in a table and you always start where you left off in the previous session. Replying, sending direct messages can all be done from the twitterific application. However, that is where your functionality pretty much ends. The only things you can do is add as favourite and refresh tweets or mark all tweets as read.

As I said earlier, the functions that are popular on the accessible twitter site include retweet which was not including in twitterific.

Enter Syrinx.

Syrinx like Twitterific is a desk top twitter client and has a bunch of features that are non existent in twitterific. Retweeting is just one of them. It has everything Twitterific has and more. It was not too accessible when I first looked at the application But after emailing the developer, MRRSoftware, a few days later an update was released and the inaccessible components had been fixed. The tweet list now has the names of the tweeters before the tweets which didn’t happen previously. A cool feature that it does have that you can follow and unfollow people right in the application. Syrinx has all the possibilities you would want from a twitter application. You are able to search within the app and add favourites, all the things people would love to do. The book mark feature works so you can book mark the newest tweet, allowing you to stay after the point of the tweets you have already read.
Another feature it possesses that Twitterific does not which is vital for someone like me who loves to share articles I’ve read/written ETC is the URL shortening feature. With other clients, it has been implemented but in the accessibility ones it has not until Syrinx. It’s a great feature and it works all from your keyboard.

The only feature it currently does not have is trending topics that other inaccessible twitter clients boast about. But who knows what the future will bring? When you have developers willing to make an app accessible, anything is possible.

So personally, if you don’t want to have safari open all the time and you need alerting when a friend has tweeted, go and download Syrinx. It’s fun, friendly and above all accessible. Although twitterific is good in the sense that it runs purely in the background but just hide Syrinx if you don’t want it up front all of the time. Both applications are great with pure use of the keyboard and both implement short cuts so it all works very well. But now I have Syrinx, I can’t see me going back.

Some useful links

Twitter home page
Accessible Twitter
Icon factory and twitterific
MRRSoftware and Syrinx

and of course you can follow me on twitter
follow me on Twitter

any comments will be welcomed as long as they’re constructive.
M.J