Archive for the ‘voice over’ Category

The iPad: A Review

May 29, 2010

[Note to reader; I’m assuming you’re familiar with the iPhone OS to some extent in this article].

 

Since the US launch of the iPad at the beginning of April, worldwide customers hankered for the news of their own launch dates. Just a few weeks ago, UK customers, along with those from eight other countries, including, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Japan were able to pre-order their iPads for a 28TH May release date, while other countries still anxiously await their launch date, expected to be announced sometime in July.

 

I, along with many others, pre-ordered my iPad, opting for the 32 Gig wifi model and impatiently waited for it to arrive. It came early though, a day in fact and am I glad I was home Thursday morning to receive my new toy. I created an unboxing podcast and could not wait to play with the iPad.

 

Initial Reaction

GORGEOUS!

It’s sleek and very aesthetic, even to the touch. A slightly curved back with the smooth glass touch screen we were promised. Everything about the iPad, before you switch it on is beautiful. And I don’t believe I’m saying this because I genuinely love Apple products. The keys are seamlessly fitted into the device and nothing looks out of place on this sleek unit.

 

Setting Up!

 

The setting up process is such a breeze. Literally, plug it in, register it and turn on universal access and off you go.

[Note, the device needs to be connected to a computer running the latest version of iTunes for it to work so you do need a computer to utilise the iPad.]

setting up voice over or Zoom or contrast on the iPad is very similar to the way it is achieved on the touch, iPhone, nanos and the shuffles. In summary within the iPad, or as voice over calls it in iTunes, iPod scroll area, VO to universal access and select voice over on under the “seeing” section. Once the iPad has synced, voice over will come on as I’m sure the other desired methods will.

 

You have a choice to use back-ups from any other devices, I.E. iPhone or I’m assuming iPod Touch. I chose to not do this as I wanted to customise the iPad at my own leisure and although I have put a few of my iPhone apps on the device, I didn’t want them all there.

 

First Use!

 

Using the iPad is as Steve Jobs said, “Magical”. It feels at home under your fingers and when taking the experience at a leisurely pace, you can truly appreciate the style the iPad has. It is a lot bigger than other touch devices that people may be used to using but that is an advantage. Using apps like settings, mail and safari gives an intricate experience with the iPad screen. Now, you can select a general setting in the settings app and see all of your choices without having to go back to the previous page if you want to select the mail/contacts/calendar settings, for example in Settings. Mail is beautiful on the iPad, being able to see your emails in the left column and read the message in the main screen area. And Safari definitely utilises the screen giving the browsing experience a whole new level of smoothness and realness.

 

iBooks, worth it?

 

Although the UK store is not populated to capacity, and I am realistic about this fact, it will take time to become my primary book source, it is amazing. I’ve downloaded a few free classics so far and have searched the store for some titles and found a few that I shall be purchasing soon. The search function was a little tricky at first but this is where one of the new gestures comes into its own. Although, the four-finger-swipe can be used in apps like mail or settings to jump from the selection list down the left side to the content area and vice versa, I didn’t comprehend it would work in the app or iBook store. But it does. I four-finger-swiped and was able to type my search, swipe again and see the results. A wonderful edition to the Apple repertoire of gestures.

 

Actually reading on the app is wonderful. I can lay my iPad down and let it read to me or use my fingers to scan down the page. It’s a very personal experience of reading books I’ve not experienced before. Braille has to be read word to word and audio has someone else’s voice and interpretation while iBooks utilises the voice over voice, your own interpretation is very real.

 

Twitter, IM and social Networks?

 

As I no longer have a facebook account, I shall comment on the social networks I have used on the iPad. Twitter Apps are few and far between on the iPad right now. Some of my favourites have not yet transgressed to the iPad. However I’ve found an app for the iPad that is accessible and works good enough. Not had that much experience to comment on some features but it reads your timelines, you can reply, DM, retweet and such but no list support as yet. And I’m assuming there’s multiple account support but haven’t tried so don’t quote me on that. That app is Tweet and it’s free.

 

I haven’t found an iPad specific app for apps such as Fring or Nimbuzz which I use on the iPhone so I’m using the fring app for now. I have it in full screen mode and still works nicely. They tend to only work in portrait and seen as I have my iPad in landscape for the majority of use, this can be a slight annoyance but once the app is Ipad specific, [let’s keep hoping], it’ll work beautifully. There is a slight border around the screen in full mode but it is still workable.

 

Skype works nicely on the iPad too. In the UK, still no iPad specific app but I’m told they have one in the US now so we’ll just have to wait for our version to hit the App store.

 

Typing!

 

I immediately opted for touch typing mode which I love. This can be changed while in an edit field with the rotor setting. I am finding I’m becoming quicker all of the time but will still opt for my wireless keyboard for extensive use. Touch typing will become easier and feels very natural. When I go to type on my iPhone, I hold the key down to hear the phonetic letter and it of course never comes and often forget to split tap to enter text. I cannot wait for touch typing in 4.0 on the iPhone. Typing on an almost full sized keyboard feels good and even if your finger is a letter out, sliding it to the right letter and lifting up feels great. Double tapping here will lead you to the need of a lot of deleting.

 

The phonetic speaking letters are a welcome edition to the iPhone OS and will strongly be looking forward to utilising this function on the iPhone.

 

 

Sound quality!

One Word! Awesome! The speaker sounds wonderful and the US voice I opt to use sounds incredible. Music and videos perform nicely and even though I haven’t tried it yet, I’m assuming headphones will sound just as crisp and clear.

 

Weight!

 

It is heavier than the touch and iPhone but this seemed obvious to me. Its compact and durable and I like the weight so I don’t lose it somewhere. It is not so heavy you could not carry it around with ease and yet it’s not light enough that you will forget it’s on your lap.

 

Overall Impressions!

I waited eagerly since the announcement in January and I have to say I am delighted with the product. Is it worth the money? Ask me that after a few weeks of working with it but I will go out there on a limb and say yes, I’m glad I paid for such a revolutionary product. Do I think it’s an oversized iPhone? No! It’s a different product entirely and the beauty of it is, people will choose to use their iPads for their own uses. There’s no rule book when it comes to the iPad and that is what I love the most about it.

 

 

Opening The Door with Apple’s IPad?

April 1, 2010

With the launch of Apple’s next big thing on the US horizon, it is hard to escape the many articles either reviewing or speculating about the IPad.

When it was announced back in January that the IPad, otherwise known as the much anticipated Apple Tablet, rumours began to fly about all kinds of things. For those of us interested in the accessibility, Apple did not fail to deliver, including the much loved and used voice over feature on the IPad.

Since its introduction last June, the voice over feature on the IPhone and IPod Touch consequently in september, has enabled thousands of visually impaired users to utilise the products as freely as their sighted counterparts with no extra cost. Despite everyone being uncertain whether it would be introduced last year, it has possibly become an assumption that Apple would not leave out this excellent, innovative feature. And even as the IPad was launched, we soon learned that voice over was indeed featured on there too.

However, questions began to rise in conjunction with a new Apple store launching and what it would mean for the visually impaired and dyslexic users of the IPad and its technology. IBooks promise to potentially open up doors never as open as before. As true that there are organisations in many countries around the world that offer merely a fragment of printed materials in alternative formats, the amount of that content available compared to the general market is miniscule.

Enter the IPad

At launch, this product seemed as though it could be the answer to many avid readers’ dreams. Especially those with a “print impairment”. If the voice over stretched to the IBooks feature at least. However, anyone who has been around this debate for the last year or so, will know that there has been many fights about whether Text to speech is actually a violation of audio copyright.

Most of us sensible people would state that audio books are completely different to those read by a screen reader. However, the author’s gild did not agree with that notion and filed a suit against Amazon and its Kindle reader last year to ensure a feature was available to authors/publishers to turn off the speech functionality of the Kindle if they so desired.

granted, I realise that this protects the content somewhat from hackers but as no expert in the matter I will comment no further on this except to say, while you’re keeping the hackers out you are also blocking millions of readers from accessing the material because of an impairment. Even though the Author’s gild still seem rather adamant about the reading aloud situation, I’m not entirely certain Apple will back down as easily as Amazon did.

Apple’s policy of universal access would completely be in disarray if Apple allowed the voice over feature to be turned off on certain books. Not to mention the fact that it should be an individual’s right to choose how they read a book. For those who are print impaired, walking into a bookstore and picking up a book is not an option. Audio books are only on occasion made in comparison to publication of print books so Ebooks seems like the most viable option to not only avid readers but to students alike.

Imagine, trying to study and be unable to get hold of the core text because it is simply not available in the format you need. Thousands of print editions but no other alternative and if there is, I.E. an Ebook you are unable to read it because the devices capable of doing so have been blocked access because the author’s gild deem your screen reader as equivalent to a human voice.

It does seem Apple have not gone into this with their eyes shut, they rarely do but after reading and rereading the statement on their Ibooks feature page where it says,
“iBooks works with VoiceOver, the screen reader in iPad, so it can read you the contents of any page.” and maybe I am reading too much into this but it says can read the contents of “any page”. That suggests that the DRM ability like so many other devices has protected against the “print impaired” users accessing the books does not exist here. Apple does not state, will read all the content on an unprotected book’s page or anything to that affect. So, I do conclude that Apple have
A. Thought this through and
B. are keeping to their universal access policy.

The IPad, along with being a potentially fun and innovative way to do work on the go or watch movies in the car could also possibly open up the reading and studying world for millions of people that has remained firmly closed because of simple red tape.

Welcome the IPad and yet another product from Apple that just keeps making me and many others love their products more.

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

Mail App: a Quick start Guide

March 26, 2010

Quick start Guide to Mail

Mail is one of the most useful tools in modern technology. The mail app is complex yet so simple it is ironic. Like a lot of the native Mac apps it is accessible with voice over.

Setting up your mail is relatively easy if you use Gmail or AOL and is also doable on older Hotmail accounts. And there are plenty of guides around the net to help you but in this situation I will show you how to set up gmail in IMap.

From the doc hit M and mail should be the first app we come too. If not, type the letters and unless you’ve moved it off the doc it should be there as a default.
Open it by hitting enter or VO-space.
Assuming you have not yet set up an account, here’s how to do it. If you have, skip to the next heading.

Hit CMD-comma to open preferences. Interact with the toolbar and VO-space to select the accounts tab. Stop interacting with the toolbar and hit VO-shift-right arrow to skip to the end of the window, [note on a macbook this key combination would be VO-shift-function-right arrow.].
VO-left to where it says new and hit that button with VO-space.
This opens a new dialogue which will welcome you to set up your email account. It asks for your name, email and password. Mail is rather clever in that if it recognises the server I.E. gmail in this case, it uses the default settings to set up. This is great for setting up IMap and if you want to change it to pop3 later you can always edit your account.
Following the prompts are very straight forward, entering your incoming server which would be imap.gmail.com if you have a gmail account and outgoing server which would be smtp.gmail.com.
Once you’ve finished creating it should take your account online. And don’t worry if it doesn’t work, deleting or editing is very easy.

Assuming your account is set up now you can check your emails.
In the main email window there are two tables, one is your inbox table storing your inbox, sent messages folder, trash, junk, etc and if you have custom made inboxes too, this is where they would be. As the side bar acts as the top folder and whatever is highlighted there its contents are shown in the file table, the inbox table does the same thing. So if your inbox folder is highlighted in the mailbox list then your messages within your inbox/inboxes will be shown in the table. [note you can have more than one email account open in mail. All your inboxes are collected together so you can check all of your mail at once].
Each message shows you who it was sent from and subject line and date and which inbox it is located in. hitting enter will open the message in a new window. Although there is [by default] a preview mode which means whatever message is highlighted in the message table will show in a scroll area at the edge of the window [right of the message table. Some people prefer to turn this off and it can be done by doing the following.
Find the preview pane, it should say ‘message scroll area”.
VO-Up arrow and it will say horizontal bar.
Route your mouse to this by VO-CMD-F5 and then physically click the mouse twice in quick succession. On your macbook this will be the long rectangular button at the front centre of your macbook, on IMac or mac mini just double click your mouse.
This should work but some people haven’t always found it to work for them. [Thanks for my twitter friend for reminding me about this and suggesting I put it in the guide, Thanks Darcy].]
].
While on a message in the message table, you can hit enter and it will open up in a new window.

To compose a new message hit CMD-N and it will open a new window.
There is a to, CC, subject, from, Server, signature and message areas in this table. [note, mail will remember addresses you type regularly for ease as default but if you need to look up an address manually, while in the compose window, interact with the tool bar and find addresses,. This button will open another window with To, CC buttons and a search box along with a list of your contacts from address book. Highlight the address you want and click which box you want it to be put in, either To or CC. Once you close this window, your addresses should be in the selected fields].
Subject line is easy enough. From will only become an issue if you have more than one email account and this is just a pop up to help you decide which email account to send your message from, work or home, etc. The next box only needs to be changed if the server isn’t correct but providing you set up a valid server when setting up your account and its working, there’s no need to change this setting.
The signature box is very useful and again, a pop up box to choose from previously created signatures, [we’ll deal with this later on].
And finally your message area.
Once your message is ready to send, hit CMD-shift-D and away your message goes.

Replying to messages
We all need to reply or forward messages and mail makes this very easy. Either having a message open in a new window or merely highlighting the message in the messages table, CMD-R will reply or CMD-shift-F will forward.

setting up Signatures
We sometimes need to set a signature, either to let people know who we are or because we want to advertise something or merely be creative. Signatures is easy enough to do in mail, although a little buggy with voice over. But I’ve found a way around these issues.
Mail has crashed on several occasions when I’ve tried to set a signature so please follow the next steps carefully and precisely to avoid such behaviour.

hit CMD-comma to open preferences.
In the toolbar, select signatures.
First table will be a list of your accounts. If you need a specific signature for a specific account, highlight that account and stop interacting with the table.
VO-shift-right arrow to get to the bottom of the page and VO-left until you hear new. VO-Space and type the name of your signature, [not the actual signature, so for example- work]
Now you will be in the table, highlighting your new signature hopefully. If not, highlight which account you selected and VO-right to the signature table and highlight your new signature.
This next step is vital. VO-shift-right arrow to get to the end again and VO-left until you here edit text area. [its to the left of the new button].
Write your signature.
[note] if you want to enter more than one signature, I find closing the window and starting the process from fresh each signature works better. for some reason it won’t enter new text on new signatures unless you close the window first and reopen.

For those advanced users, I have found a plug in to stop mail auto-marking messages as read with the preview pane open. Here’s how.
Go to

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!

An Apple Update

September 9, 2009

OK so who said 09/09/09 wouldn’t be exciting? Me. Until I heard about the Rock and Roll event Apple were running.

We all suspected a new Ipod family would be born, and there were rumors about an itunes redesign, not to mention a probable Iphone OS3 Update.

And so we were right.

Ipod Nano

The fifth generation boasts a fm radio, a built in microphone and speaker, a built in pedometer and more accessibility features as were seen in the shuffle release earlier this year. Still in wonderful colors and as slim as their predecessors, these nanos will be no doubt popular Christmas presents later this year.

The voice over aspect is not clear as yet, but I suspect the technology that went into the shuffles, in regards to multiple language support will be implemented in the new nanos.

Ipod Touch

The touch is now available in an 8 gig, a 32 gig and a 64 gig. The latter two have been upgraded with powerful processors which means, yes, it’s here, voice over is now available on the Ipod touch.

The popular implementation of the Iphone has now graduated to the Ipod Touch and I am certain this will please hose who could not get out of their contracts or could not get good signal on the locked in networks. And as ever, Apple continue to develop their accessibility.

Itunes 9

Moving onto the software.

I haven’t explored Itunes 9 extensively as of yet, but a few accessibility bugs have been fixed again, I.E. the lcd area not reading with Voice Over.

Some cool features are that now you can view your applications and although there seems to be a few accessibility glitches in regards to the feature that you can move your apps from home page to home page does not work yet with VO, I have confidence this will be fixed in due course. You can not check or uncheck with vo which apps you want to sync, but lets all write to apple’s accessibility team and get this fixed.

The home networking feature rocks. She says, not having yet tried it. But in theory you can now not only share a library over the network but grab music from another computer in your house through this cool new feature. My dad being heavily into music makes my life so much happier again now. Wonderful music at my fingertips.

There is so much to talk about but this is the basic stuff in Itunes that I have explored so far. I’m sure there will be much more and I will report on it as I find it.

Iphone OS3.1

So we got another update, this was much more than a security update. In regards to accessibility, a few things have been achieved here.

First of all, voice over now tells you where your insertion point is. Very useful! And it also informs you when you’re shutting down. And finally, we got it, a quick on and off feature for voice over. turn it on in settings–general–accessibility–home triple tap and you can have it either switch vo on and off, white on black or ask. Shame there wasn’t an option for zoom.

Those are the trinkets I found so far. I will update you all as I find more jewels in the apple crown.

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.

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

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.