Getting the most from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped means keeping up with what's going on at your network library -- many of which maintain blogs.
I got an email from the New Hampshire Talking Book Library yesterday about their blog. I liked it. In addition to information on services and how to use technologies -- such as the new BARD Mobile app -- I found a great list of digital Talking Books on baseball.
I loved seeing those book lists back in the days of their print newsletter. I look forward to more appearing on their blog.
I'm glad the library is still working on ways to improve service as the technology evolves.
Central Access Reader (CAR) is a free text-to-speech program designed for students with print disabilities (e.g. dyslexia and visual impairment) that deciphers mathematical notations, equations, and symbols that most screen readers do not support.
The app recognize symbols from geometry and trigonometry, linear algebra, calculus, math, logic, or statistics and has attracted the attention of schools across the country, including MIT and Harvard.
CAR runs on both Mac machines and PCs. Download a free copy on the CAR project website.
Do you need help hearing what's going on in class, at the dinner table, or what someone in the front seat says during your morning commute? If you're and iOS user, soundAMP R may be the solution.
This app ($4.99 or $0.99 for a "Lite" version) amplifies sounds collected by the built-in mic on an iPhone or iPod touch while you listen in using your earbuds.
It can't amplify phone calls or music, but may give you that little extra bit of volume needed to hear airport announcements, TV dialogue, or what's going on at the table behind you.
Lovers of young adult mystery and fantasy fiction should check out The Heart of Applebutter Hill, the first novel from writer, musician, and disability advocate Donna Hill.
The novel follows 14-year old Abigail, who is legally blind, her guide dog, Curly Conner, and best friend Baggy as they explore Elfin Pond, sneak around Bar Gundoom Castle, and row across an underground lake. The three find trouble as they seek to thwart a spy sent to steal the powerful Heartstone of Arden-Goth, which is hidden nearby.
I'm not a fan of this genre. But the book's depictions of assistive technology caught my interest and kept me reading. This excerpt from Chapter 2 ("News, News, and More News") makes a concise, eloquent case for the crucial need for texts in alternative formats:
"Abigail was almost as excited about recorded books as she was about having a guide dog. All of her life she had been made to read print. Even if the light was just right, the best she could do was to see a few letters at a time. Words appeared to dance around, and pieces of them would go missing between the page and her brain. In spite of the burning eyes and blistering headaches which ensued, she had always loved reading."
I still remember the life-changing power access to audiobooks from Learning Ally gave me, beginning at age 13.
This sentence from Chapter 44 ("Return to the Carriage House") will no doubt resonate with every assistive technology professional:
"Susan was showing her how to scan printed material, convert it to documents and use the embosser to make Braille copies."
I like the power the novel gives its legally blind heroine. The Heart of Applebutter Hill has received pre-publication reviews and recommendations from professionals in education, vocational rehabilitation, and the arts as a tool for diversity, inclusivity and anti-bullying initiatives for middle school and older students.
Print copies are available on Amazon and CreateSpace, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and in several electronic formats from Smashwords. It's also available on Bookshare to readers with print disabilities.
Donna Hill is an online journalist, musician, and speaker on disability issues including braille literacy and the accessibility of work related technologies for blind persons. She is legally blind due to retinitis pigmentosa.
National Braille Press offers blind and visually impaired persons many reference guides and tutorials on iOS technology, apps, and devices.
The iPhone is extremely popular among the visually impaired, thanks to built-in and third party accessibility apps and the way it enables users to ditch dedicated devices such as DAISY book players and handheld video magnifiers.
The NBP books are accessible as well, available in braille, web braille, DAISY, and as Word or ASCII text files that enable readers to enlarge or listen to content using a screen reader.
As today is World Autism Awareness Day, it's fitting to tell you about the official launch of a new augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app, Ola Mundo Messenger.
Its developer, Ola Mundo, claims it's the world's first remote AAC app -- enabling parents, family members, and teachers to send symbols-based messages (converted from text) that appear on a child's iPad.
Ola Mundo Messenger's child-friendly layout is designed to help nonverbal children, especially those with autism, to communicate more easily -- whether they're sitting side-by-side with a parent or teacher, or are off by themselves.
The app is sold via subscription: $29.99 (one month); $59.99 (six months); $79.99 (one year). You can download and use selected symbols for free.
Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 7: An Introduction for Blind Users, by Anna Dresner ($24.00) provides tutorials on all aspects of iPhone orientation, navigation, and use.
The book covers iPhone setup, using built-in iOS apps such as VoiceOver and Zoom, and details how to access and manage content -- including all media files, contacts, and preferences. Its appendices include troubleshooting tips and a resource list.
In addition to braille, Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 7 is available in eBraille (BRF), DAISY, and Microsoft Word on CD-ROM or as a download. You can also download an ASCII text version. The DAISY edition uses a synthesized voice. Order online or by calling 800.548.7323.
Texthelp's Study Skills Highlighter Tools enable students to highlight and group key facts during research and collect words to look up later.
The free tools -- designed for all grade levels and types of content -- are available on the Google store in Add-On area for Google Docs and Sheets.
The Lime Lighter from Dancing Dots is a music reading system for low-vision individuals that enables singers and musicians to magnify and mark sheet music that they can follow along with on a PC monitor.
The solution combines Dancing Dots Windows-based music reader, notation, and OCR software, a PC, monitor, music stand, and foot pedal. Component options vary with each product.
Sheet music is scanned or loaded into the system for display. Users press a foot pedal to go forward or backward through music by measure and can magnify notation from 1.25x to 10x. They can also make onscreen markups with a stylus -- simulating how an ensemble player might mark music with a pencil.
The Lime Lighter is designed for low vision individuals whose difficulty seeing sheet music prevents their participation.
Mac users seeking a music enlargement solution should check out the Music Zoom iPad app.
Dragon Dictate for Mac is software that enables users to dictate and edit text and control desktop and web applications via voice command.
The program is designed to save time and increase productivity by enabling people to dictate (i.e. words appear onscreen as you speak them) rather than type -- a process Nuance Communications claims is three times faster than typing.
The latest iteration, version 4, features more accurate and robust speech recognition technology, including a transcription function that processes and displays text from prerecorded audio files.