Archive for the ‘mac’ Category

Changing How Voice Over Says things

March 26, 2010

Ever wanted to change how voice over says something? Well you can. Here’s how

Hit VO-F8 to open the voice over utility.
arrow down through the categories list until you get to speech.
VO-right and on pronunciation hit VO-Space to select it.
Now to the right of the pronunciation button is a table. Mac automatically edits the way some symbols are spoken but to add your own vo to add.
You should be in the first column where you type your word. So for example, the phrase lol should read laughing out loud. So type lol in the first column and then VO-right.
You need to hit VO-Space here to enter your new word, otherwise it just types your word in the first column. So where it says substitution, hit VO-Space to ensure you’re about to edit the word in the write column, it should make a pop sound to allow you to know its in the right place, type laughing out loud.
To add another word repeat the process.

You can change a word for certain applications, so if you want Lol to only work in your IM client then you can select that from the applications menu within the table.

To delete an entry
Simply highlight it in the table by putting your voice over cursor on it, stop interacting with the table and VO-right to delete and vo-space to carry out the action.

To edit an entry.
Interact with the table.
Find the entry with your VO keys you want to edit.
Ensure you VO-space on the entry you want to edit whether that be the word or the substitution before you attempt to edit it.

Hope this helps you guys.
Any questions please let me know

Address Book: A Quick start

March 25, 2010

Quick start Address Book

This great app works fantastically for storing all your contacts, whether its full details or just an email. On the mac, Email and messengers can access the information stored in your address book and the beauty being if you are a proud owner of an IPhone, all your contacts sync so you have them on the go.

because Address book is a native mac application, you already have it. Unless you made any changes to your doc, it should be there so hit vo-d and hit ADD to get address book highlighted and hit enter or vo-space.

Once address book is open just to make a new contact hit cmd-N and a scroll area will come up.
Interact with it vo-shift-down arrow and enter your information.
The first box will be first name, then last name, [if you have it set to default] and then company.
The next field is phone and this is usually set to work. You can change this however by using the pop up box as seen in other applications.
The edit field is the box to write the corresponding number. all boxes are labelled so each field shouldn’t be too hard to edit to your requirements.

Editing a birthday
If you use ICal, this will be an easy thing for you to do. But I’ll go over it here.
When you get to the birthday, interact and use your vo-left and right to highlight date, month and year. To change each element use vo-up and down. It must be done this way or else it won’t move the columns as it should. Once you’ve finished stop interacting, vo-shift-up arrow.

You can add fields if they are not there as default. If its just for one card, do the following.
With the card in edit mode, [outside the scroll area to the right it will say edit card and if that box is checked you’re in edit mode]. Go to card menu and insert field, go into the sub menu and select your chosen added field. Then fill it in.

Groups
You may want to group your contacts as friends, colleagues, online contacts etc. You can do this too in address book. [note, at the minute a few extra steps must be taken to create or edit groups. This issue has been reported to apple and we hope for a fix in future updates].
to create a group interact with the groups table [if its showing]. If not, hit cmd-1. Then turn VO off, [don’t worry you’ll be fine without it]. cmd-F5 to turn VO off and then hit cmd-shift-N and type your group name and hit enter. Now using cmd-F5 turn VO back on. See, that wasn’t too scary now was it?
Too add a contact to your new group either highlight that group in the group table and hit CMD-N to create a new contact or VO to the names table and hit CMD-C to copy the contact and then highlight the group you want to copy the contact to and VO back to the names table and paste your contact, CMD-V.

You can edit the default card set out via going to card menu, add field and edit template.

That should get you going. Any questions let me know.

Anticipating The Big Bite?

January 25, 2010

And it is that time of the year again where we anticipate what Mr Jobbs and his buddies over at Apple have cooked up for us. As usual the rumour mill has been filled with all kinds of teasers and the grand unveiling is two days away but I had to report what I’ve learnt.

There is a rumour of an Apple tablet. a device that is somewhere in between a computer and a smart phone, all touch screen. But along with this piece of information, Sky News today reported that Apple are supposedly in talks with publishers, magazines and news Papers to allow the new Tablet to become some kind of reading device on the go. This of course is not new in itself but what is potentially interesting is the potential for Apple’s increasing scores of Visually impaired and Dyslexic users.

If as Sky News predict, and Apple are in talks and continue their dedication to their own policy of universal access then this could mean that books, news papers and magazines would be as readily available to not just their sighted users but to all of their users.

As a student, I really hope for this tablet to be three things.
1. accessible
2. the ability to buy and read books with voice over.
3. Relatively affordable.

If Apple can pull this off, surely some of the educational hypocrites could change their attitudes. But as I just told someone on Twitter never get complacent.

I hope for all of these things and would be shocked and very disappointed if the tablet isn’t in the least accessible to Voice Over users. So we will see.

Other trinkets of goodies may include an Iphone 4.0 update. That may be very interesting. Wish they’d sort the battery lives out, seriously. I’m tired of charging mine. And I personally suspect a new shuffle but we will see.

I’ll update when I know more.
Later Apple heads!

My Apple Mac

December 19, 2009

With all the choices on the computer market nowadays, the general consumer has more choice than ever before. However, as a visually impaired user, the only option I want to have is mac and Apple products. Here’s why.

On Thursday, I turned my trusty macbook 13 inch, 2008 model white onto to check my email and such to discover it wouldn’t boot beyond the apple logo and timer thing. I was so upset. I love my macbook so much, it recently travelled to the US with me and if I don’t take the time to at least boot it once a day, I’m sick.

Anyway, I called Apple care and booked an appointment to see an Apple genius the next day. The problem I next had was that I had to pull out my old sony Vaio laptop that runs Windows XP and has a version of Jaws for windows running on it. It wasn’t a prospect I was looking forward too, let me tell you. Nevertheless, I loaded it up and encountered twitter issues with the program I have running on that laptop, then had issues setting up my gmail account in outlook express, followed by issues with not only importing music to itunes but getting the damn program to work correctly for me. I was still fighting with Itunes at lunchtime when I left to go to my apple appointment.

I never realized how counter-intuitive windows was, and I missed my specialized features that voice over on the mac offers, such as spelling as I type. I missed hearing, “misspelled” which happens frequently when I’m typing a lot. Itunes was a complete nightmare, how anyone uses that program on windows with a screen reader is beyond me. And the screen reader itself frustrated me beyond belief, freezing on several occasions, jumping on others, it was just a nightmare I do not want to repeat.

Hasten to add, my macbook was fixed and is happily being used again. I know some people prefer windows but for me, it is mac all the way. snow Leopard can keep purring happily inside my pretty white macbook with voice over being its Captain. ☺

The New Cat’s On the Prowl!

August 30, 2009

So, like many other eager mac users, I purchased my £25 copy of Snow Leopard on Friday. Unfortunately, I was unable to install the new kitty until yesterday but I will now take you through the process and give a few feedbacks on the new cat prowling apple land.

Backing up and Installation

I am very pessimistic when it comes to installing important things onto computers. I can guarantee something will go wrong or I will forget to do something. First of all, I had to back up all of my data and precious mac settings, even though I was doing an update rather than a clean install. My macbook has been behaving fine and works no slower than it did when I purchased it so I saw no reason to do a clean install just yet. But, I had convinced myself I would somehow mess this up and with it being as a daunting task as it was, installing a new OS, [something I never thought I’d be able to do independently,] I was taking no chances. So I proceeded to back up all of my precious data by copying my library, home and app folders to an external drive. I already have my itunes library running from there so I didn’t have to worry about my music, books and movies. Once everything was safely backed up onto my externals, I cleaned a few things out of the trash and shut down the computer, ate dinner and returned to install my new cat.

What I like about apple is the simplicity of things. You get a DVD, stick it into your computer and the install does the rest for you. I currently have a macbook polycarbon 13 with a 2 gig memory, dual core processor and 160 gig drive. I had 120 gig, or there about, disc space free.

I started up my macbook, closing all applications and inserted the DVD. I attempted to read the instructions in preview, but for some odd reason they seemed non consequential. I had picked up enough on mac lists to have an idea of what I was doing. So I ran the installation, that asked me to confirm I wanted to install, agree to the license, which I did, and then it restarted with my user name and password being the key.

Upon restart, I waited for a good long time while the disc spun an spun and once it had silenced in the drive, I hit fn–cmd–f5. If you were on a desk top computer the keystroke would be CMD–F5 however. Once these keys had been hit, I heard another voice over voice telling me the process of the installation. It took around thirty minutes altogether and the computer restarted again. I personally wasn’t expecting this to happen and at this point really thought I’d hurt the kitty and the macbook. However, patience can truly be a virtue, for after waiting a few more minutes, I tried, gingerly the FN–CMD–F5 keystrokes and a man said, Welcome! This was where my smile got bigger as music started to play. I did have to hit the voice over command again to get vo running after the music, which I hit spacebar, just to learn the new features. being familiar with voice over already made this an interesting step, to learn the new features that I will discuss in the following sections. But the greatest thing of all was when I finished the voice over tutorial and my mac book launched my syrinx and mail apps which I have to start up as default. i felt the biggest sense of achievement, and I was totally proud.

The set up is easy, and as long as you listen and wait, everything should go just fine. It did for me and I can have the biggest disasters where computers are concerned. i’m forever tinkering and something was doomed to happen but it didn’t. In short, apple make it that easy! 🙂

New features!

All features will take some getting used too. The one feature I love is the quick nav mode, achieved by hitting the left an right arrow keys together. Voice over alerts you quick nav is on and you can simply use the arrow keys to navigate, including up, down, left, right and interacting. This has made for a great feature, although I sometimes forget to turn it off.

Another great feature is the rotor. If anyone uses the iphone this feature will remind them greatly of the iphone’s rotor system. By replacing the links chooser menu, you can now press vo–U and the rotor menu pops up. It basically tells you what different elements are on the page and by using left and right you can move between those elements, and up and down will take you to the elements. So if you have three headings on a page, you would move left and right to find headings and then up and down to see what each heading is. by selecting a specific element as you would in item chooser, vo–space bar or if quick nav is on, up and down arrows, you will be taken to that element on the page. Just another great way apple has made navigating a breeze on the mac environment.

If you thought their iphone ideas just stopped here, you were wrong. The sounds now remind you greatly of the iPhone 3GS sound scheme which are a lot more pleasant on the ears. It took some getting used to but now I’m quite at home with the sound scheme.

As well as the traditional numpad commander, voice over users now have track pad commander and keyboard commander to customize to their heart’s content. As I stated earlier, I have the polycarbon macbook so i do not, as yet, possess a multitrack pad. I have thus so far customized my numpad to my liking, as I work on an external for comfort sake while at my desk. However, these are great features and once I have the time, I’m sure the keyboard commander will be a great tool. Not only can you customize what voice over commands you need, but now apple script, automator and applications are implemented so the mac world is now our oyster. Set up keystrokes for all kinds of events. By default, option–T reads the date and time and so not to conflict with voice over, the right option key is used, but you can personalize this in system preferences.

There are features I too do not like that have been implemented, and most would argue I’m a mac snob, and fine, if that’s the case, so be it. I am disheartened that Apple felt the need to implement the insertion point change for voice over users. it was different when coming to the mac to suddenly not have the insertion point act as I was so used to, that it would always be to the right of the character. In using the mac, I learnt to use the cursor as sighted people do and now, it just makes sense. I realize Apple have been under great pressure from windows switchers, struggling to adjust, and the NFB to implement such features, but it seems sad that people cannot take the mac and voice over for what it is, a great built in access for visually impaired folks. Switchers argue it is a “real struggle” but others managed before it was implemented and now find it a hard time to go back to the babysitting ways of windows screen readers.

I recently wrote on an emailing list, stating the three implementations I do not like about the new voice over. I give Apple credit, they’ve really gone out on this update for voice over, I again, will emphasize, I feel sad that they seemed pressured by some that are unwilling to learn the OS to implement such features. The insertion point is my biggest gripe but here are the other two.

Web content can now be read automatically from top to bottom. The feature I don’t want you to confuse this with is the vo–a, which when pressed will read entire texts/pages, or VO–B which will read from the cursor onwards. These features are great, VO–A only worked in text areas previously, now works on the web also and I am glad they’ve been improved and introduced respectively. The feature I am talking about is the AUTOMATIC reading of the webpage. I hated this feature in Jaws, and am so glad Apple are giving me the choice to abandon that particular feature. If I wanted to sit and hear my entire web content to be read, wouldn’t I just hit VO–A? It just seems like voice over has been asked to be more like the windows-based screen readers, “babysitters”. Call me harsh, but I call a spade a spade and if you need your Screen reader to hold your hand, great! But it was a reason I left windows behind me, not the only one true, if I was to list all of them, we would be here all night, but it was a deal breaker for me to move.

The third one is voice over hints. OK, maybe I could let this one slide but until I changed it, voice over kept telling me I was in an HTML area, and I should interact. Erm, Voice over, didn’t I start using you because you did as I asked not what you thought I wanted you to do? If you learn the OS, learn how it is set out, it is very easy to know all of these things. As I said previously, thank God for Apple’s ability to give me choice.

There is so much more. For one thing, the ability to label, which I haven’t tested out as yet. If a button is unlabeled we are now able to label it. So much more has been given over the user in a way that makes it easy enough to customize and to be done well. The ability to export these customizations is also a great feature in my opinion and I look forward to using it.

Conclusion

So would I recommend upgrading? For the price and the stability and the new features yes. I know i bitched about the holding hand screen reader experience, but the beauty of apple is they are still giving their users the choice and not forcing the choice upon us. Plenty of opportunity to customize between users, to make things more accessible, have multiple ways of navigating, whether it be on the cool multitrack pad or by using quick nav, making endless shortcuts to make us all lazy, and for the constant care of Apple, keeping our screen reader experience up to date and always advancing with technology.

A Few Blindy Issues

August 25, 2009

Books for the Blind

I have discussed here previously of the lack of books for the visually impaired and yet still nothing seems to be progressing. rather it seems to be going backward all of the time. now iPhone app developers are also buying into the author’s gild’s incorrect perception of what text to speech really is and not considering for a second how imperative it should be for the VI individual to have the same access to books as their sighted counter parts.

this is becoming a frustrating issue because if there were more books available, study and recreational reading would be made so much easier. At present, we are either forced to pay subscriptions to audio book sellers, pay three times as much than we would have to for a paperback, or subscribe to organisations like Book share that still only has a limited amount of books on offer.

British charity, RNIBhave set up petitions to increase the three percent of all books published in the UK that currently get transcribed into an accessible format for the visually impaired but sadly no one seems to be hearing their pleas or the millions of visually impaired book users.

What do we have to do to make these people who deem it unacceptable to have all books published in a format that all vI users can use. Technology today makes it so easy for this to be done affordably for all. And the Author’s gild are trying to “protect” their “authors?” rather they are protecting the publishers. But if all books were made accessible, for example on Amazon as e-books, capable of being read on an accessible product like the kindle could be, or on their computers with their own screen reading solutions or on an app for a mobile device like the iPhone, then I can guarantee book sales would rise. You’d have a whole new market of readers capable of reading all books published.

The screen reader acts as the user’s eyes, both on the computer systems and mobile devices, so by refusing access for text to speech products, are you not indeed denying a visually impaired person of being treated equal? If a visually impaired person downloaded an ebook and read it with their designated screen reader, would it not just be the exact same way they would read a website, read an article or read their email? Text to speech is not a replacement for a human voice, and it never will be. No matter how amazing the developers make these speech engines, they will never truly sound like a human voice that is capable of interpreting and emotion. This seems to be simply a pathetic argument to keep the visually impaired community subsidising an extortionate, limited audio book market that cannot be a replacement or an open market. It is limited and expensive and without the visually impaired community paying for it, almost desolate, in my opinion.

The kindle with text to speech is not only a great solution for the visually impaired community but a safer method for people reading. Drivers, people cooking, no longer have to read pages and distract themselves, they can simply listen. It’s about time someone told the author’s gild about their severe misconception of what text to speech really is.

Adobe, flash friendly?

I guess I am giving you a few things to think about today. Adobe and its products is my second thinking point. Flash content has been difficult for screen reader users for a while now and it seems as though it just will never get any better. Jaws handles it, not well but sometimes is capable although users have to do a lot of guess work in order to use flash well. Mac users however, cannot do anything with the flash content or players in safari as the voice over will not detect it. This, according to apple is how adobe have designed their flash and apple have put out their accessibility API for a long time so this should not be happening. I do believe Adobe should do more to make flash and flash players accessible and the guide lines to design flash players should be a lot stricter and in accordance to the internet accessibility requirements. They suggest that it is not necessary to make flash accessible for the mac because there is not a huge visually impaired market on the mac platform but it is growing and this is becoming a poor excuse to say the least.

There are many and I mean many sites using flash that could be used quite easily if the content was accessible. And even though most web developers despise flash, the question remains, why does it continue to exist in such a poor way?
It would seem that this
issue has got to the point of voice over users wanting results and there is now a Petition that the Maccessibility network have put together and plan to submit to Adobe in January 2010. If you feel as strongly about this as I do, go to the petition and sign.

Blind Specific Products

This is purely my opinion but there seems to be two camps that visually impaired people fall into. First, the ones who’d rather mainstream products be made accessible and secondly, the ones who’d rather use everything that was specifically made for the blind. Don’t get me wrong, whatever products work for the individual but do we not all think that the blind specific market, that is to say, companies that specifically design products for the blind are benefiting from a unfair campaign that throws up incorrect facts about their mainstream counterparts.

Companies like Apple have had an integrated screen reader in their OS for four years now, with their third OS being made available this Friday that has enabled users to use their macs completely unassisted from the ground up. a visually impaired user can install their OS from the start and can set up their computers and freely use their computers both on a personal and professional level daily. True that some users choose to have windows also installed for a few applications but most of these users have to for work purposes. However, a computer can be bought at the same price as a screen reader for windows with its built in screen reader, not to mention all of the other benefits. So why does freedom scientific still hold ninety percent of the visually impaired market? Sure, the Mac OS with built in screen reader is fairly new and more and more users are migrating to the mac platform but is it not a question of those users who are brain washed into believing the “blind specific” product is better?

The iphone is also another example of a “mainstream” product capable of supporting the needs of a visually impaired person. Granted it may not suit everyone but should companies be pushing the visually impaired user into believing that the “blind specific” product is better simply because it is designed for them?

A small market demands more revenue from its customers to make the product viable but surely the cost of a whole computer for a piece of software does not get people thinking twice? i am the type of person who likes to keep my money close to my chest and find it hard to justify this cost when I can get a brand new computer with great specs for the same cost. The same deal goes with the mobile phone market. You would firstly have to get your phone and then pay a licence to have speech enabled. Yet, you can have a mainstream product work straight out of the box for a similar cost if not less in some cases, for example the UK. On O2 you could get a free iphone if you had a forty pound plan, and the most you’d pay would be ninety pounds which wouldn’t even come close to the one hundred and fifty pounds talks licence. What I am basically saying is that I understand why the market is so expensive but I am uncertain why some people won’t even give the mainstream market a shot? At least try it and then say it doesn’t work for you but there are too many individuals simply not trying the mainstream product because it wasn’t specifically designed for them.

Guess it costs you to be blind, you can’t read what books you may like as soon as your sighted friends or have a huge choice of what to read.
Flash doesn’t work at all well no matter what you’re using.
And it will cost you an arm and a leg to be able to do certain tasks if you stick with the “blind specific” products.

All of this is my opinion, feel free to post your thoughts.

Kiss Apple’s Feet

July 12, 2009

Some of us have already ventured into the mac world, I’m a mere baby I have to say, only being involved with  mac since last October and I only bought one because I was tired of MS, FS Viruses and constantly having to patch things. My Sony was dying a death and I really wanted an ipod nano. After listening to a podcast done by someone on Lioncourt I decided using a mac couldn’t be that hard at all. I had seen VO in Tiger and hated it, simply because I didn’t understand it or try to understand it. The people who were demonstrating it to me were ill informed and had no clue how to use the mac OS let alone VO so I swore, like many others did that I would stick to old faithful windows and old faithful jaws. But when I had a reality check on the price of a new laptop capable of running jaws and the jaws licence itself, I nearly had a heart failure. I hopped over to the apple website and check out a macbook. the mid range macbook cost me less than a licence of jaws by 70 pounds, not including the P&P so I took the plunge and I will never go back! as long as apple keeps doing what it is doing, making its products what they are, sleek, operational out of the box and everything I could possibly want from an OS both on my computer and phone, then I will never turn my back on them.

Kiss their feet! Why not? They have done far more than any other company has attempted too. They make their products accessible to all. And that is their beauty. not to mention they have a dedicated team for accessibility. MS will eventually lose a hold on the VI community, keep upgrading their Os with yet another version needed of an expensive Screen Reader, only to still be subjected to viruses and constant patches. Apple isn’t perfect, no one will say they are, but they are ears ahead of others in their attempt. I’ve seen people complaining about their iphones, did you honestly expect perfection? This is the first touch screen phone ever available to those with a Visual impairment. Was Voice over perfect the first time around? I highly doubt it? Is it perfect now? No, of course not, but that is the perfection in it. Where their is problems, there is always progress to be made. And apple are always willing to continue their progression.

even though I am not from the US, I have lived there and been amongst people who relate to the NfB and AcB and still hear of their policies through people I interact with online. I am appalled that an organisation is suing apple. For what? For making their products accessible? Their claim is to do with Itunes on the windows side. Now Jaws 10 is accessible with Itunes, and I know this from talking to people who use Jaws and Itunes together, I see no reason why the NFB should continue to sue. GW-micro worked with apple as i understand it to make Itunes 8 accessible last year and this coincided with Apple’s own built in screen reader becoming functional with itunes on Leopard. Did FS work with Apple? No, I doubt they did. And maybe this is a jump on my part but maybe this is NFB’s way of keeping FS with a strong hold upon the VI community. But can VI computer users continue to pay out the incredible prices FS are offering? For a programme that yes, works rather well, no one will say otherwise on it’s OS, but for the price of a Jaws licence here in the UK I bought a brand new mac with a built in screen reader that neglects to have the incredible amount of issues that I had with my PC and Jaws.

I see so many windows VI users constantly having to do something to their computer to make it work. I know that when I had skype on my PC, I was forever using scripts to make Jaws work with it well. Did the NFB try and sue Skype? no, because Skype posed no threat to them. Apple have the ability to take over the technical market eventually. The more of us using a mac independently, as most of us do, the more exposure Apple get within the VI community. Now the Iphones are accessible, and I personally think they have done an outstanding job on this product, the more every day people are aware of the accessibility built into the phone. If someone we know, also has an Iphone, and they see a visually impaired person using the same phone as themselves, it addresses the continuing knowledge that Apple have worked by themselves to integrate accessibility for all.

I’ve had several experiences within the short three weeks of owning my IPhone where people have asked me questions or been amazed that I didn’t have to pay any more than they did for their phones. Why should we be penalised for the fact we have no vision? Why should we continue to support an assistive technology market that costs us as individuals, an absolute fortune? I often couldn’t afford many of the products i would like to buy. So if this trend continues, and I hope it’s passed on to other major companies, of having mainstream products include accessibility to all in their products then I shall be a happy person. I see no reason why I should have to pay any more than my sighted peers for a product when I don’t have too. And of course, there are going to be people who believe I am wrong, and that is OK. I have my opinion, and you have yours. But let me just say this. Would you pay more for a piece of food just because you are visually impaired? Why shouldn’t companies like Apple include accessibility into their products for the same price as their sighted customers? Why should we support a market just for the sake of supporting it when there are products out there in the mainstream we could buy and use at no extra cost? And why should an organisation that is meant to be supporting the blind and Visually impaired stand in the way of those companies attempting to do what they can to make their products accessible? Why pick at the smallest thing you can find wrong and create a legal case about it? Shouldn’t these organisations work with this company to help the visually impaired community? We all know that many VI users can operate a mac, ipod nano, ipod shuffle and now the Iphone with no sighted assistance, so why does the NfB continually try to discount these facts? They are facts. no one can deny that. People operate these products both at a professional and personal level each and every day. I can only draw the conclusion that the NFB are aware of this but do not want to admit it for underlying reasons.

To those individuals who enjoy windows and their chosen screen reader, I’m glad for you. That is your choice. But please stop discounting the wonders what apple have done for not just our community but so many others. It is trying and that is far more than I can say about so many others. Would I kiss apple’s feet? Possibly not, but I would like to thank them and applaud what they have done, and continue to do for me as an avid computer and general technology user. What they have done is beyond my expectations and the thing is, I know in my apple shaped heart, there is so much more to come.

To the NFB, ACB, and to anyone who discounts what apple are doing, just sit back and wait and see, because I guarantee, there are greater things to come from this company who are about all of their customers, not just the general population.

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

a quick start guide to mac and voice over

March 1, 2009

I’ve had my mac for about five months now and i love it. I have talked to several of my friends about the mac and the benefits for visually impaired users. one of my friends has now invested in the mac and I decided it would be a good idea to share some of the knowledge I’ve picked up along the way to share with other new visually impaired mac users. I’m no expert and I may have missed things out, and i might not cover everything you think I should, so if that is the case, please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know. I’ll try and do a few tutorials, but i’m no expert and I may not be the most perfect speller in the world, but I will try and help anyone who needs it.
Please feel free to message me and let me know what you think. The mac is a wonderful thing, you just have to learn it and not compare it to windows. It’s vital for learning the operating systems.
Here’s the intro

Some definitions and tips for Voice over and getting started with your mac.

The doc
The doc is where all of your applications are situated. from here you can open regularly used applications and don’t worry if something’s not there. All you need to do is put it there which is easy. Standardly, regularly used applications such as safari, mail, ichat, itunes, etc are placed in the doc by default. So to get to your doc, all you need to do is press your voice over keys [control plus option] and d. then use your voice over keys to move left orright, [the doc is by default situated at the bottom of your screen. You can move it to the left or right if you like, later on]. once you found the application you want to open, press enter. Also remember that if you want to open itunes, you can press i while in the doc and it will take you to itunes immediately. pressing I and then c will more than likely take you to the first application with the first letters being I and C which could be ichat or ical, depending which comes first. so once you found the application you want to open, press enter and it will be activated.

menus
We have three menus in the mac, the apple menu which will also act as your application menu. if you are focussed on safari for example, and you press the menu, it will go to the apple menu first and then if you move to the right using voice over and the right arrow, it will take you to the safaris menus, such as file, edit, view, history, etc. to activate a menu, i.e, go into that menu, press voice over keys and down arrow and maneuver through the menus with your voice over keys. Pressing enter at any point will activate that action.

The apple menu
Here you can perform simple actions, such as turn your mac off, make your mac sleep or restart, force quit a programme, edit settings such as the doc, view recent items, etc. To activate any menu, hit voiceover keys and M.

Task bar menu
Here is where your indicators are situated. such as volume, if you have wireless enabled or in mac’s terminolgy airport, how many bars it is on, your battery and date and time and some other things too.
Here you can change the indicators values, so if you want to turn your mac’s volume up, simply press vo + M twice to go to the task bar menu, and then use your navigation keys to move along. you will hear voice over say a percentage and volume button, simply press the down arrow key to turn the volume down and interact with that slider or press up arrow to turn the volume up. the same things can be done to check your battery and what power source you are using by pressing vo + right arrow to move along the menu and find the battery menu. pressing vo + down will tell you what charge rate your battery is at and pressing vo + down arrow again will tell you if your mac is on power adapter or batter. [this will obviously not be applicable to imac or mini mac users].

Spotlight menu
This is really useful for finding things. If you need to find a application that isn’t on your doc, simply press vo + m three times and it will bring up the spotlight menu. or an easier way is pressing command spacebar. enter the name of the application/file and as you type different things will come up. once you’ve finished typing the item you’re looking for, press vo + down arrow and voice over will take you to the items displayed. Press enter to open the item you desire.

key strokes
here is a list of key strokes that should get you started, both in mac and voice over.

voice over keys– = control + option
to move right– = voice over keys [vo] + right arrow
to move left– = vo + left arrow
to move up– = vo + up
to move down– = vo + down arrow
to read content area, i.e, document/email– = vo + A
to read a sentence– = vo + s
to read a line– = vo + L
to read a paragraph– = vo + P
to interact with an area– = vo + shift + down arrow
to stop interacting– = vo + shift + up arrow
to go to the end of the window or interacted area– = vo + shift + end
to go to the top of the area or interacted area– = vo + shift + home
to move up or down a paragraph– = vo + shift + page up or page down

Navigating with lots of elements
Here is a list of keystrokes that will primarily help you around the web. be warned, some websites are not necessarily going to let these actions perform very easily. Hopefully the next version of safari will fix this problem.

lock vo keys [very useful if you’re mainly navigatin, just remember to unlock if you need to enter text]– = vo + semicolon
jump to next frame– = vo + command + f
jump to next graphic– = vo + command + g
Move to next heading– = vo + command + H
Move to next heading, same level– = vo + command + M
move to next different element– = vo + command + N
Move to next element [such as button, text box, check box, radio button, etc]– = vo + command + J
Move to next colour change– = vo + command + K
move to next hyper link– = vo + command + L
Move to next visited hyper link– = vo + command + V
move to next plain text– = vo + command + P
move to next font change– = vo + command + O
move to next italic text– = vo + command + I
move to next underlined text– = vo + command + u
Move to next bold text– = vo + command + B
move to block quote at same level– = vo + command + w
move to next block quote– = vo + command + q
move to next list item– = vo + command + X
move to next style change– = vo + command + c

mac and voice over keys together
go to the doc– = vo + d
go to menu– = vo + M
go to the task bar menu– = vo + M twice
go to spotlight– = vo + m three times or command spacebar
select an element on a webpage– = vo plus spacebar or vo + shift + spacebar or enter. [note, this depends on the element and the page. try each if the first doesn’t work! One usually does work. You’ll learn which ones do work for what on each webpage]
open a pop up menu– = vo + spacebar
select an item and leave a menu– = enter
select a radio button– = either vo + spacebar or just spacebar. if you use vo and spacebar it will read the action.

Item and link choosers
This is a really cool way to find things on a webpage. if you’re looking to find text within text edit for example, there is a way there too but I’ll focus on that later.

Item chooser is great if you want to find text, a control button, anything on a webpage. hit vo + i and it will say item chooser. sometimes this may take a few seconds, depending on how much content there is on the page. once it says item chooser menu, start to type the thing you are looking for. for example, on facebook, if you’re looking for your home link, type home and it will say home in the item chooser. press enter once to highlight the item and enter again or vo + spacebar, whichever you prefer to activate the link. This works for text too. so if you’re on a forum and you know roughly a word you wrote last time and you want to go to your last post to see if any other posts have occurred, type a word and the line of text your word is in will come up in item chooser. press enter to leave item chooser and use your navigation keys to move from there.
Link chooser works in a similar way, except it only works for links. To activate the links choser menu, hit vo + u. This has been useful, before hotmail redesigned their email page. the delete, move, new buttons were in some hidden files on the web page. Normally item chooser would pick things like that up but because they were hidden, voice over couldn’t find them with the item chooser. hOwever, by using the links chooser the item was found. However, unlike most elements, you had to use the vo + spacebar to activate the hidden elements. Happy to say hotmail have changed their site now so it’s all up and working with item chooser again.