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Andrew Leibs

Andrew's Assistive Technology Blog

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Enlarge iPad Contacts & Calendar with Low Vision Center App

Saturday May 24, 2014

Low Vision Center displays iPad contacts & calendar items in large print and in high contrast.

The iPad is becoming one of the most crucial pieces of adaptive technology for students who are blind or visually impaired.

For users seeking to further enhance the tablet's accessibility beyond Zoom magnification and VoiceOver should check out Low Vision Center, a free app from MeltedSpork.com.

The days of the month are numbered in ascending order at the left of the screen. To the right are the daily entries. Scroll either list, select a day to move it to the top, and tap to see the details.

ODIN VI May Be the Most Accessible Talking Phone

Monday May 19, 2014

The sleek ODIN VI Talking Mobile Phone is fully accessible to seniors & the visually impaired.

I've been playing around with and writing a lot lately about the ODIN VI Talking Mobile Phone.

It's a throwback. You can text, but finding letters on number buttons brings back memories.

I love the device's orientation that speaks everything aloud, making the phone fully accessible to seniors and persons with visual impairments.

Making calls, managing contacts, and changing the settings are all easy tasks. The slider phone is also sleek and simple to use.

Track & Share Personal Health Records with InstaMD Headset & App

Monday May 19, 2014

InstaMD enables users to track and share vital signs and consult with their doctor via the web.

Many nervous trips to the ER or doctor's office end with reassuring words following a quick Q&A and check of vital signs.
Better safe than sorry, to be sure, but even better staying put, when possible.

Technology enabling people to monitor vital signs and consult from home via video chat is becoming more prevalent -- great news for persons with mobility impairments.

One product and platform in development is InstaMD: a dual-purpose headset and app for tracking and sharing vital signs with healthcare providers via the web.

The headset attaches to a home stethoscope and amplifies sound up to 20x. You can upload recorded clips of heart, lung, or GI tract sounds and video chat with providers in real time. Clips are automatically archived and you can email links to the audio files.

The web app works on any computer with Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer. The mobile app currently works on iOS devices and will eventually support Android devices.

According to InstaMD, the headset and app should be available this fall.

ODIN VI Talking Mobile Phone is an Ideal Blend of Comfort & Convenience

Tuesday May 13, 2014

The ODIN VI Mobile Talking Phone is a slider with a keypad of tactile, well-spaced buttons.

Smartphones and apps do amazing things, but many of us -- including seniors and persons who are visually impaired -- just want an inexpensive phone to make calls on and stay connected.

The ODIN VI Talking Mobile Phone is designed to be fully accessible to persons who are blind. It accomplishes this with a tactile number keypad, simple navigation, and text-to-speech that speaks aloud what's onscreen, the keys as you press them, and verbal prompts to aid orientation.

There's no web access or third-party apps, but you can make calls, add contacts, and manage a call log -- all from a touch-tone-phone-style keypad.

You can also send, receive, and listen to text messages, set alarms, and program up to 3 emergency numbers activated by simply pressing and holding any key for a few seconds.

Like the Jitterbug J, the ODIN VI strikes that elusive balance between convenience and comfort.

AFB Press to Publish Spanish Orientation & Mobility Manual

Sunday April 20, 2014

AFB Press is publishing a Spanish manual for Orientation & Mobility instructors.

AFB Press, a division of the American Foundation for the Blind, will soon release Basic Spanish for Orientation and Mobility: a Phrase Book and Dictionary, edited by Brenda J. Naimy and Matthew W. Hogel.

The manual arranges step-by-step lessons side-by-side in English and Spanish to help orientation and mobility professionals -- whose clients often vary in age, ethnicity, and cultural background -- teach blind and visually impaired persons who speak Spanish as their primary language.

Early purchasers can save $5 on the print and e-book editions through April 28th by ordering from the AFB Bookstore. The book is also available via subscription or as an ASCII file from AFB as well as Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and iTunes.

For updates on the book's release, visit AFB's Facebook page for excerpts and contests to win free copies.

Blogs Help NLS Patrons Get More from Talking Books

Sunday April 13, 2014

An NLS digital Talking Book player & mailing container.

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 realized how much NLS material I get online now. I download books and magazines from the BARD site, transfer them to a blank cartridge, and listen to them on a Digital Talking Book Player.

I'm glad the library is still working on ways to improve service as the technology evolves.

A Screen Reader for LD Math Students

Thursday April 10, 2014

CAR recognizes mathematical notations and symbols most screen readers miss.

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.

soundAMP R Turns Your iPhone into a High-Tech Hearing Device

Wednesday April 9, 2014

soundAMP turns any iOS device into a high-quality hearing solution.

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.

Fantasy Novel Keeps it Real When Portraying Assistive Technology

Monday April 7, 2014

The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna Hill.

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 a Leader in Education Resources for Blind iOS Users

Monday April 7, 2014

Apple has improved VoiceOver accessibility in iOS 7

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.

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