Saturday, August 25, 2012

Create iOS Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are a tool for improving typing speed on your iOS device. To create a keyboard shortcut go to Setting > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts. To add a new short cut click the plus button in the top right. You can create a short cut to write "see you" when you type the letters "cu." You could also create a short cut for your email so you can enter your email quickly with just a few key strokes. Watch the above video to learn more.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

iOS 6, iPhone 5 and iPad Mini Expected In Coming Weeks

Apple is widely rumored to be preparing to release a new iPhone, an all new smaller iPad Mini and iOS 6 with numerous accessibility improvements.

iOS 6: iOS 6 has been previewed by Apple at WWDC and will be released this fall. iOS 6 includes over 200 new features including new accessibility features such as Guided Access and word highlights with speak selection. iOS is the operating system that runs on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Guided Access will allow teachers and parents to lock the child into a single app and control what features of the app the child could use.

iPhone 5: Unlike iOS 6 the iPhone 5 has not been confirmed by Apple. But according to leaks and past history it is likely that the iPhone will be coming out it mid September. The iPhone 5 is likely to have a larger screen, a better camera and a faster processor.  

iPad Mini: Like the iPhone 5 the iPad Mini has not be confirmed by Apple. The iPad Mini is rumored to have smaller screen than the current iPad. The smaller size will allow Apple to lower the price compared to the iPad. If the rumors are correct the iPad Mini will be perfect for schools.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back To School Apps

The start of school is just around the corner. Teachers, students and parents are preparing for another year. Below is a list of iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch apps that could be helpful for the upcoming school year.

Read2Go is the best way to access books on your iOS device. Bookshare provides free accessible eBooks for people with print disabilities. Click here to learn more about Bookshare. Once you download the app you can download over 150,000 books directly to your device. The best part of Read2Go is that students can easily read books anywhere because of the portability of iOS devices. To learn how to become a member click here.

Learning Ally (formally RFB&D) provides audio books to people with print disabilities. Members must pay a yearly fee in order to download books. To learn about how to become a member of Learning Ally click here.

Prizmo converts a picture of a document into text which can be read using text-to-speech. In short from document to text to speech in just seconds. Prizmo is also the fastest and most accurate optical character recognition (OCR) app I have every tested.

iBooks is Apple's eReader app. It is simple to use and accessible using VoiceOver. With iBook Textbooks students and teachers can download select textbooks onto their iPad.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Enhanced Google Voice Search Coming To iOS

Google's enhanced voice search that debuted in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is coming to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch in the coming days. Google announced that the Google Search app for iOS will be updated in "the next couple of day" to include the new feature. You simply tap the microphone and ask a question and the result is spoken back to you. The enhanced voice search is similar to Apple's Siri. Stay tuned to learn more about Google voice search and how it compares to Siri. Google says the following about enhanced voice search,
"Often the most natural way to ask a question is by asking aloud. So we’ve combined our speech recognition expertise, understanding of language and the Knowledge Graph so that Voice Search can better interpret your questions and sometimes speak the answers back as full sentences. This has been available on Android for a few weeks and people love it."
Click here to download the current version of the app.

Update: The app has not yet been released and some are speculating that Apple may be delaying the update because it is a competitor to Siri.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

BlackBerry Screen Reader Review

The BlackBerry Screen Reader is designed to make BlackBerry phones accessible to the visually impaired. BlackBerry Screen Reader is compatible with the BlackBerry Curve 9350, 9360, 9370, 9320 and 9220.

Installation is complicated and may require the assistance of a sighted person. Unfortutantly, BlackBerry Screen Reader is not built into the phone. There are two methods for installing the BlackBerry Screen Reader. The first method is to visit this webpage from your BlackBerry. Another option for installation is to plug the BlackBerry into your computer and then install the Screen Reader. Connecting your BlackBerry device to your computer is the most accessible option for installation.

  • Physical Keyboard
  • Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Speak Everything On Screen
  • Free For Compatible BlackBerry Devices

Once installed  you will be greeted with a solid Screen Reader that makes the BlackBerry accessible. The visually impaired user benefits from the numerous physical buttons, including a full physical keyboard. Five buttons on the device are less tactile. These buttons include the answer, end, menu, back and end/off. While these buttons are flush with the device they are still used for the visually impaired once there location has been memorized. To be clear these buttons depress when pressed. The physical keyboard makes it possible to type eyes-free. Once you move away from the physical buttons and start navigating the screen, a text-to-speech voice begins speaking everything under your cursor. The BlackBerry I tested had a very loud speaker that made hearing the voice easy. To navigate the cursor you can use the trackpad. The trackpad is fairly sensitive so it may be best to turn down the sensitivity. Also, I found it helpful to turn on audible clicks when the cursor moves from one object to another. The BlackBerry Screen Reader also excels with the use of keyboard shortcuts. For example you can press a key combination to speak the time. Users can change the speech rate, verbosity and pitch.

Overall the BlackBerry Screen Reader is a solid screen reader that makes the BlackBerry accessible for visually impaired users. It is not as polished as other mobile screen readers such as Apple's VoiceOver. BlackBerry Screen Reader may not work with third party apps. Some work could be done in streamlining operations and stability. Also, the screen reader should be built into the BlackBerry from the start. Click read more below to view screenshots of the BlackBerry Screen Reader.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Prizmo Vs. TextDetective OCR iPhone App Challange

Prizmo and TextDetective are optical charactor recognition (OCR) apps for the iPhone. These apps use the iPhone camera to take a picture of a document and then convert the text on the paper to digital text. Because the apps rely on the iPhone camera they work best on the iPhone 4S. The apps were compared using a complex image with multiple images and columns. Both apps were used in a room with good lighting. Watch the video above to learn more about each of the apps.

Prizmo costs $9.99 in the App Store. Click here to download Prizmo. Prizmo is the fastest most accurate user friendly OCR app that I have ever tested. It is designed for sighted users. It allows you to crop and edit the picture before you start the OCR process. Once the text has been recognized you can read it using text-to-speech, email it or copy the text. It is important to note that users with visual impairments may have a hard time taking pictures of the documents they want to OCR. It also is impossible for a visually impaired user to crop the document to improve the accuracy. That being said for sighted users very easy to use.

TextDetective costs $1.99 for a limited time. Click here to download TextDetective. TextDetective is designed for people with visual impairments. The app is designed to make taking a picture of a document easy for the visually impair. In my tests I had a hard time taking a clear picture of a whole document. I could successfully capture a clear picture of one or two paragraphs. TextDetective was less accurate and slower than Prizmo. One problem I found is that TextDetective only works in landscape orientation but most documents are in portrait orientation. The orientation of the app makes it difficult to  take a crisp picture of the page. In all for only $1.99 TextDetective may be worth a try.

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