Saturday, July 28, 2012

Voice Dream Reader App For iOS

Voice Dream Reader is a text-to-speech app for people with reading disabilities or people who just prefer to listen to text. The app costs $4.99 in the App Store. Click here to download the app. Voice Dream Reader can extract text from ePub, PDF, Word, Pages, Keynote and web pages and then read them aloud using text-to-speech with synchronized highlighting. Watch the above video to learn more. Voice Dream Reader comes pre-loaded with the Heather voice, but additional voices can be purchased for $0.99. One downside is that all text formatting and all images are extracted and not visible.

While reading a document you can change the speech rate, text size and background color. While reading a document it is easy to skip around in the text and look up words. The app cannot read the definitions so you will need to turn on VoiceOver. It is unfortunate that the app does not read the definition because some people may not be familiar with VoiceOver. Voice Dream Reader can be synced with a number of cloud services including Dropbox to get documents into the app.
In all Voice Dream Reader is a solid app. For some, the built in Speak Selection feature may be good enough. With iOS 6 coming in the fall, Speak Selection will have syncronized highlighting which will make some features of Voice Dream Reader obsolete. If you want the ability to create playlists or read with multiple voices this app is for you.
Click read more below to view screenshots of Voice Dream Reader in action.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Apple Releases OS X Mountain Lion With New Accessibility Features

Apple's Mac operating system has been updated. The new update is called OS X Mountain Lion. The new operating system includes over 200 new features including a number of accessibility enhancements. One feature called Dictation allow users to speak their text input instead of typing. Mountain Lion also includes better syncing with iOS devices. OS X Mountain Lion also includes enhancements to VoiceOver. To view a detailed list of all new accessibility in Mountain Lion click here. Apple's website says the following about about OS X accessibility,

"Every Mac comes standard with a wide range of assistive technologies that help people with disabilities enjoy the power and simplicity of the Mac. We call this Universal Access, and it includes many features you won’t find in other operating systems at any price. In OS X, they’re built right in."
To view a detailed list of OS X accessibility features click here. OS X Mountain Lion is available for download from the Mac App Store for $19.99. Click here to download Mountain Lion. Click read more below to view images of Mountain Lion.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

First ASL Narrated iBook Hits The iPad

A new iBook called Pointy Three includes built in American Sign Language (ASL) video narrations. Click here to download the iBook. Pointy Three costs $4.99 but you can download a sample for free. It is the first iBook to include ASL video narrations. An iPad is required to read the ebook. These video narrations are great for people learning ASL or parents of deaf children. Hopefully, the selection of ebooks with ASL narration will increase.

Watch the above video to learn more. Click read more below to view screenshots of Pointy Three.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Learning Ally Audio App Now Free

Learning Ally, the audio book service for people with disabilities, has reduced the cost of their iOS app to free. The app previously cost $19.99. In order to use the app you must be a Learning Ally member. Click here to download the app which is compatible with both the iPad and iPhone. The app is the easiest way to listen to Learning Ally books on your iOS device. Now that the app is free it is a no brainer for members.

Unfortunately the app is still missing key features such as background audio play back, background downloads and the ability to browse the Learning Ally catalog directly from your iOS device. When listening to an audio book you cannot follow along with an ebook because the audio book will automatically pause. Also in order to download an audio book you first must add the book to your bookshelf via a web browser. These short comings weaken the user experience, but it is still great to listen to Learning Ally books on your iOS device.  Hopefully in time the app will be updated with these and other features. To learn more about Learning Ally click here. Click read more below to view screen shots of Learning Ally Audio in action.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Eyes Free Typing With Fleksy For iPhone

Fleksy is an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch that allows visually impaired users to type without needing to see the keyboard perfectly. Users press on the screen approximately where they think the correct letter is located on the keyboard. Fleksy is designed only for people with visual impairments. To use the typing feature in the app VoiceOver must be off, and then when you want to share the text you have typed you must turn VoiceOver back on by tripple-clicking the home button.

As the above video shows the taps on the keyboard can be fairly far from the correct letter without effecting the accuracy. If there are multiple possible words based on your taps. Fleksy will allow you to choose other likely words by flicking up and down on the screen.

After each word you must flick right to tell Fleksy that you are done typing that word. After each word, Fleksy will speak the word aloud using text-to-speech. To add punctuation you can flick to the right twice and the select the correct punctuation. If you have to enter a name, you can hold down on the keyboard and the letters will be spoken as your finger touches them, then you can release your finger to type the letter. To enter numbers and symbols rotate two fingers to switch between text, numbers and symbols. When you have typed your text, tripple-click the home button to turn on VoiceOver. Turning on VoiceOver automatically brings up the sharing menu which gives you the option to copy, email, text and tweet your text. Fleksy does not replace the standard iOS keyboard. I tested the app by closing my eyes while typing and found that the type was accurate and surprisingly fast. Fleksy claims that users can type up to 25 words per minute with practice. Fleksy is definately faster than typing with VoiceOver and the standard keyboard for visually impaired users. 

Fleksy sells for $14.99 on the App Store. Click here to download the app. Click read more below to view another video about Fleksy and to view screenshots.

Friday, July 13, 2012

EnableTalk Coverts Signs Language Into Spoken Words

For the millions of deaf people communicating is a large challenge. EnableTalk is attempting to solve this problem with a pair of computerized gloves that recognizes sign language and uses text-to-speech to convert the signs to spoken language. Watch the above video to learn more. The prototype gloves link with a smart phone and use a variety of sensors to recognized the signs. An app on the users smart phone then speaks the signs using text-to-speech so people who do not know sign language can communicate with the deaf user. The gloves could end the need for a sign language user to pass notes to non-sign language user, but the non-sign language user would still need to pass notes back to the hearing impaired person. The EnableTalk seem promising and will hopefully be available to consumers in the near future. Click read more below to view a picture of the prototype gloves.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Apple Configurator: Perfect Tool for Schools With iPads

More and more schools are providing iPads to all or some of their students. Setting up dozens of iPads manually can be time consuming and monotonous. Apple's free Mac app called Apple Configurator solves this problem by allowing schools to set up multiple iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch all on once. Click here to download the app from the Mac app store. Once the you have downloaded the app you can change settings and install apps on multiple iOS devices. Apple Configurator is a time saving app for anyone that needs to set up multiple iOS devices. Click read more below to view screen shots of Apple Configurator in action.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Kurzweil 3000-Firefly for iPad Released

Today the Kurzweil 3000 firefly app was released for the iPad. Click here to download the free app. The app, firefly, is the iPad version of Kurzweil's cloud-based reader and file storage product. If you have a firefly account all of your saved documents will be available to read on the iPad as well as any Mac or PC. Watch the video above to see firefly in action. Click here to learn more about firefly.

Firefly has many useful reading features, but will not replace the full desktop version of Kurzweil. Similar to the desktop version of Kurzweil, firefly highlights words as they are read, which makes following along easier. Firefly includes high quality text-to-speech voices. Users can adjust the text-to-speech rate and highlighting options with ease. The interface is extremely clean and simple to learn. The app can read documents with images and rich text formatting. Firefly is a simple and easy way for teachers to distribute accessible instructional materials to their students with dyslexia or physical disabilities. While firefly is ideal for reading documents, it does not offer any annotation features such as highlighting, text entry, note taking or speech notes. Also, documents cannot be added to the firefly app directly from the iPad using the "open in" feature. It would be very cool if firefly offered the ability to scan documents using the iPad's camera and then read the document using optical character recognition (OCR).

The firefly iPad app is a must have for current firefly web users. If you do not have a web account you can still try out sample documents from within the app. For people who do not want to be tied to a computer all of the time the iPad app is also very useful. If you are not a current Kurzweil 3000 user but do not have firefly the new app may be a compelling reason to get a firefly web license. Click read more below to view screen shots of firefly.