21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act: On June 12, 2012, Jim Tobias presented in-depth look into the provisions of this very important piece of legislation, as well the Act in the context of other legislation and how it will take its place in the mainstream accessibility arena. ADA Online Learning archived materials and audio.
Almost everyone who creates Web content or Web applications and services uses authoring tools, component toolkits and development systems. This session will discuss how authoring and development tools can be designed to support the creation of accessible content, even by authors who are neither motivated nor knowledgeable about accessible Web content guidelines. ADA Online Learning has archived the presentation slides and the audio for this event.
Engaging Citizens in the Development of Accessible Workplace Technology included Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, Greg Elin, Chief Data Officer, Federal Communications Commission, and Sheila Campbell, Director, Center for Excellence in Digital Government in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, General Services Administration. It was presented on 9/5/12. Audio and transcript are available.
Accessibility and Emerging Technology — Keys to Improving the Employment of People with Disabilities is the title of the webinar with Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, Jim Tobias, President of Inclusive Technologies and Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, presented on August 16, 2012.
In this September 2012 webinar from ISTE's SETSIG, Joy Zabala describes the UDL and AIM initiatives, and how they complement instructional technology and other strategies in ways that lead to flexible, engaging learning environments that support improved outcomes for all students.
Link to pdf of this presentation: Zabala.UDL.AT.AIM Presentation
Link to the webinar recording: http://iste.adobeconnect.com/p2azpeti8ws/
This webinar from 5/2/12 discusses the Universal Design for Learning supports that are available in the newly upgraded i21 Classrooms in San Diego Unified School District. Examples using Kurzweil 3000 and ActivInspire flipcharts to present accessible and engaging lessons are demonstrated. Handouts and the archive are online, thanks to the ISTE Special Education and Technology SIG.
In an article published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, the iPod Touch was found to improve the employability of people with autism. The article reports on three cases of workers with ASD who have been trained to use Apple iPod Touch PDAs as vocational supports in the workplace, resulting in improved functional performance and reduced behavioral challenges. The full article is online.
Blogger James Nuttall has figured out that his iPhone with apps is worth $8700 in assistive technology that he used to use or would have like to have. He uses his iPhone to find his way, to magnify, as a book scanner/reader, calculator, and more. He may be exaggerating but his iPhone clearly has a lot of essential functions and his point is, it's a game-changer.
DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) recently sponsored a Disability Employment App Challenge that sought innovative technology tools to improve employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities. Entrants were asked to build applications to promote the employment of people with disabilities.
Three winners were announced. The Innovation Award went to Access Jobs, which is a job search protocol specifically designed for job seekers with disability. The website can also be plugged into an existing accessibility resource, such as www.disabilty.gov, without having to create and maintain a separate widget.
The Above and Beyond Accessibility Award went to AccDC: Accelerated Dynamic Content, which is a content management system that automates content to ensure accessibility for screen readers and keyboard-only users.
The People's Choice Award went to VoisPal – Speak as You Think! which is an Android based Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app designed to help people with speech difficulties. VoisPal speech app helps people with speech disorders to express themselves fluently and effectively. VoisPal comes with more than 5000 commonly spoken sentences grouped in intuitive categories and sub-categories that help users quickly get to the sentences they want to speak. Users can customize and extend the list of categories and sentences. Users can also select a voice, accent and language of choice.
Science Daily reports that "Increasing the spacing between characters and words in a text improves the speed and quality of dyslexic children's reading, without prior training. They read 20% faster on average and make half as many errors. "
"An iPad/iPhone application known as "DYS" has been developed in parallel with these research results by Stéphane Dufau, CNRS research engineer at the Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive. Available initially in French and English and downloadable free of charge from Apple Store, it enables both parents and children to adjust the spacing between letters and to test the benefits of such modifications on reading. The researchers for their part hope to be able to collect large-scale data that will allow them to quantify and analyze whether optimal spacing exists as a function of the subject's age and reading level."
Google+ Hangout is a collaboration service that lets as many as 10 participants see and hear each other, sharing screens or documents. It all gets recorded as well and can be easily posted to YouTube. Google recently added a captioning capability, allowing users to see instantaneous text versions of what is being said. Real-time transcriptioning can be provided by StreamText, a Google partner in the new service, or by the users themselves, with one text window per Hangout.
NPR has posted a story on Graffiti Research Lab which developed the EyeWriter with one man in mind: Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Tony Quan. "In 2003, Quan was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, leaving virtually every muscle in his body paralyzed except for his eyes. Lieberman and developers from Free Art and Technology, OpenFrameworks and the Ebeling Group were inspired to create low-cost, open-source hardware and software for eye-tracking to help Quan draw again. Eye-tracking technology, in which computers and small cameras harness eye movements for writing, highlighting Web site text and other tasks, has led to digital tools for users with disabilities. However, as Lieberman tells NPR’s Liane Hansen, those devices usually have hefty price tags." They are selling the kit for about $50. The code is free.
Hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, this webcast is titled “AT Works: Accessible Technology’s Role in Today’s Workplace.” Panelists include: Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, Brian Hurley from National Industries for the Blind, and Christian Vogler, Associated Professor and Director of the Technology Access Program, Co-PI, RERC on Telecommunications Access, Gallaudet University. They cover various projects that increase access to the workplace. The archive link is listed for June 21, 2012.
On June 11, 2012, Apple announced iOS 6, a new update for its mobile devices.
"iOS 6 comes with even more features to make it easier for people with vision, hearing, learning, and mobility disabilities to get the most from theiriOS devices. Guided Access helps students with disabilities such as autism remain on task and focused on content. It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen. VoiceOver, the revolutionary screen reader for blind and low-vision users, is now integrated with Maps, AssistiveTouch, and Zoom. And Apple is working with top manufacturers to introduce Made for iPhone hearing aids that will deliver a power-efficient, high-quality digital audio experience."
In iOS 6, Siri will be able to answer even more of your questions. Siri is also making its way to the new iPad. Speak Selection will be improved with word by word highlighting. iOS 6 will allow the iPhone to work better with hearing aids. Also included are enhancements to VoiceOver: compatibility with zoom,, and maps. iOS 6 will be available this fall as a free update.
Verizon has announced its plans to make a nationwide system allowing cell phone users to text message 911 sometime in 2013. This service will be helpful for the deaf or hard of hearing who find voice calls difficult if not impossible. Verizon has said:
"While consumers should always first try to contact a 911 center by making a voice call, this enhanced SMS service, when deployed, will offer an alternative for customers on the Verizon Wireless network who are deaf or hard of hearing and cannot make voice calls or who could be placed in additional danger by speaking."
Apple's upcoming iOS 6 software update for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch will include a new accessibility feature called Guided Access, which will allow teachers and parents to lock app controls such as settings. Apple says "It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen." This will ensure that children and people with autism can not change settings or use distracting features. Guided Access will also allow teachers to give tests on the iPad or iPhone and ensure that the students will not be able to search for the answers or exit the test app. Guided Access will allow museums to use iPads as displays without worrying about people changing to another app.
EnableTalk is creating gloves with embedded sensors that will allow a person using sign language to communicate via a computer-mediated voice.
Legislation has been introduced in Congress to provide appropriate recognition and coverage of Complex Rehab Technology by creating a Separate Benefit Category within the Medicare program. The bill is H.R. 4378, the "Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act of 2012" The position of NCART, the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology, is that a separate Medicare category is needed for specialized wheelchairs.
According to the Eyes-Free Android blog, "All Android phones that have Android version 1.6 or later have built-in support for speech output and accessibility, completely free. While not all applications are accessible, Android is quite customizable. By downloading the right software and configuring the phone properly, a visually-impaired user can access just about any function, including making phone calls, text messaging, email, web browsing, and downloading and using many of the thousands of apps on the Android market." The site has a great overview of Android access including which phone to pick.
Designed for those of us with older parents, Family Ribbon is a new service that takes popular online applications like email, Facebook, Skype, and Flickr and integrates them into a simple interface that emphasizes usability and family connectedness. There's a free version, and one for $US5 per month. Easy, illustrated user guides can be printed for reference. Remote administration allows a family member to make sure everything is working properly. Native for iPad, there's a Windows 7 beta version. An Android version is on the way.
SpokenLayer is a new iTunes app that allows users to hear published content via speech synthesis or human narration. According to their site, "SpokenLayer lets you read with your ears. Choose up-to-the-minute articles from an ever expanding catalog including the best of the web. The Associated Press, TechCrunch, The Atlantic, Engadget and more read just for you, anywhere you are." SpokenLayer offers professional voice talent and encourages authors to record their own work.
The European Lotteries and the European Disability Forum announced the launch of their website on best practices on how national lotteries throughout Europe can contribute to improve the lives of 80 million European citizens with disabilities. Cooperating for Inclusion highlights programs that increase inclusion in education, employment, and community.
A new App for IOS and Android has been developed to allow people to experience the world through the eyes of a person experiencing one of nine degenerative eye diseases, including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.
ZDNet posted a great collection of tutorials, lesson plans, and apps that illustrate integration of the iPad in the classroom.
Voice Dream Reader is an iPhone and iPad app that lets you listen to any articles, blog posts, reports, papers, and books. It reads the text using the best available text-to-speech technology. The voice is clear and natural. The app does a lot for $2.99.
- Read de-cluttered Web pages with Read It Later integration
- Extract text from PDF, EPUB, Text, Word, PowerPoint, Pages, Keynote, RTF, and HTML files
- Open files directly from Dropbox
- Add or edit articles with built-in Editor
- Translate text from any language
- Highlight word being spoken
- Read using a playlist
- Articles stored locally for offline listening
RoboBraille is an email service which will convert digital text documents into either Braille or audio files. You can email or use the web to give them your file and the system will give you a document that is either an audio file or Braille file. Your file can be a .doc, .docx, .pdf, .txt, .xml, .html, .htm, .rtf, .epub, .mobi, .tiff, .tif, .gif, .jpg, .bmp, .pcx, .dcx, .j2k, .jp2, .jpx, .djv and .asc file. The file they send back can be mp3 audio, DAISY Consortium.">Daisy full text and audio, e-Book, document conversion, or Braille. For the audio files, you can choose 12 languages other than English, as well. While it is a computer generated voice, the speech is very high quality and is fairly engaging. It takes a day to get your file.
The inventors were honored with a 2010 BETTS Award. The system is being funded in Europe and users can make contributions. It is free to individuals and commercial users pay a licencing fee.
As reported by Raising the Floor, VoiceThread is a way of collecting comments on any type of content, including documents, videos, and slide shows. Commenters can use text, voice (computer microphone or phone call), or a webcam to annotate the content. VoiceThread seems popular in education; teachers are assigning media for review, and students post their research and opinions. The platform features an explicit approach to accessibility on its home page, and addresses screen reader compatibility via a separate interface, VoiceThread Universal.
Web Access Advocates: See some great examples of low contrast vs high contrast websites at Contrast Rebellion.
Perkins School for the Blind is calling all entrepreneurs to focus on improving opportunities and quality of life for people with disabilities. As part of MassChallenge 2012, Perkins is offering the Perkins Assistive Technology Prize. The $25 thousand grant, drawn from a donation earmarked for technological solutions, promotes Perkins’ mission to empower individuals with disabilities to reach their personal potential.
Administered through MassChallenge, The Perkins Assistive Technology Prize seeks to encourage competitors to develop new, low- and high-technology devices that could have a significant impact on the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Such assistive technology could apply to any sector of life (education, transportation, recreation, communications, vocational, etc.). The assistive technology could be designed for a certain group of individuals with a disability (vision loss, hearing loss, mobility, etc.), or have a more universal market application. Details and application information are at www.MassChallenge.org. Registration begins March 1 and runs through April 11, 2012, at noon EST.
BrailleTouch: A team from Georgia Tech, led by Post Doctorate Fellow Mario Romero (School of Interactive Computing) has designed BrailleTouch for touchscreen mobile devices. The prototype app allows visually impaired people to easily type and opens the door for everyone to text or type without looking at the screen. For more information, watch their video on YouTube or refer to their press release.
The W3C WAI Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG) has updated the Before and After Demonstration (BAD). BAD is useful for presentations, for learning about specific web accessibility barriers and their implications, and as an example of conformance evaluation reports. BAD shows an inaccessible website and a retrofitted version of the same website with the accessibility barriers fixed. BAD has in-line notes ("annotations") for you to get more information, and reports that list the accessibility problems for each page.
There is a 'wish list' for improving and expanding BAD in the future – such as adding WAI-ARIA, video, and scripting. Please send any comments or questions on BAD to the publicly-archived list: firstname.lastname@example.org
AT Specialist Jeannette Van Houten has shared her up-dated rubric for evaluating which app to select for a student. The rubric considers 12 different charateristics that can be rated, including connection to the curriculum, the type of skill to be practiced, age level, ease of use, and alternative access. You can download the Excel spreadsheet here.
If you need it in an alternative format, please email her at email@example.com.
Thanks to: Jeannette Van Houten, M.ED, ATP Advancing Opportunities Special Education / Assistive Technology Specialist Assistive Technology Services 1005 Whitehead Road Extension Suite 1 Ewing NJ 08638 (voice) 732-245-6063
The FCC is encouraging comments on VID-STS. If the FCC receives sufficient justification in the comments, they will issue a Notice of Proposed Rule-Making. Dr. Bob Seligman, President of Speech Communications Assistance By Telephone, Inc. (SCT) has prepared talking points and listed necessary information required for filing. Go to www.speechtospeech.org and click on “New FCC filing information request for Video Assisted Speech-to-Speech 12-22-11." You can file yourself at http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/upload/display?z=33fxx.
If you are not within the speech disabled community (as a consumer, family member, or allied medical professional), but know someone who is, would you please forward this email to them.
Most alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) devices assume that the user has standard vision and dexterity, which may not be true. Suzanne Robitaille, in her book The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology (pp. 151-153) lists six access strategies for AAC devices, several of which may be relevant to individuals with visual and/or physical disabilities, and three manufacturers that provide AAC devices with alternative access capabilities.
Blissymbolics, or Blissymbols, is a set of several hundred symbols, each of which stands for an individual word. Two or more symbols can then be combined to create new words. Although originally designed as a strategy for multicultural communication, Blissymbolics are today primarily used for alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) by people with speech and/or cognitive disabilities. The Blissymbolics Communication Institute provides information on how to use existing Blissymbolics and create new ones.