July 23, 2024

Humanware Adds PDF Document Support to Keysoft 9.2

Humanware has announced the release of Keysoft 9.2 which promises “instant access” to PDF documents for the Apex BrailleNote and VoiceNote family of products. The update, which requires one count of SMA, “allows for any accessible PDF documents (PDF with imbedded texts) to be converted to a text file, enabling professional documents to be received on the Apex as email attachments and opened and read without the use of a computer or other external converter.” If editing of the file is not required,  the PDF document can be opened  with the same method that is used to open a standard book.

The press release also listed these new features:

  • Larger downloads with more information
  • More dynamic Apex QT keyboard
  • Better WindowEyes control

For a full list of features and downloading information, click on Humanware.

JAWS Convenient OCR is Here!

Today Freedom Scientific today announced the release of JAWS® for Windows version 13, including Convenient OCR. By performing Optical Character Recognition on text that is displayed in a graphic, blind computer users are now able to access such things as scanned-in posters and other such graphical images that might as well have been a blank page before. JAWS can even allow finding and clicking on control links and buttons that were once hidden, even, believe it or not, the menu of a DVD!

Another new feature for JAWS 13 is Results Viewer, which displays the results of  features like Research It. According to the Freedom Scientific press release, the new interface “enables faster navigation with Navigation Quick Keys and switching to other windows without losing the results of your lookup. Sports scores have returned to Research It and are easier to navigate than ever before. The INSERT+V keystroke now opens the new Quick Settings, which replaces Adjust JAWS Options and matches the easy-to-use Settings Center style interface introduced last year in JAWS 12.”

“This release represents a huge step in accessibility for screen reader users,” says Eric Damery, Vice President of Software Product Management for Freedom Scientific. “Whether trying to identify and read inaccessible PDF documents that are just scanned images or interacting with graphical controls that could not previously be located, the new Convenient OCR option built into JAWS 13 has been described as a real game changer. JAWS 13 is also packed with other features and enhancements that have been selected and designed to improve access and ease of use for all users.”

The upgrade is an SMA release and can be downloaded as either a 32-bit or 64-bit version from the JAWS downloads page. DVD shipments to SMA holders and new product customers will commence on Nov 1, 2011.”

Source: JAWS 13

Victor Reader Stratus M

HumanWare has announced that its Victor Reader Stratus M multi-media accessible audio book player is now shipping.

“The Victor Reader Stratus M model continues the legacy of HumanWare’s 13 year history of developing simple, easy-to-use audio book players that offer extended multimedia capabilities,” says Gerry Chevalier, Victor Reader Product Manager. “It can play many recorded book and audio formats including DAISY, MP3, commercial audio books or music CDs. And customers can use any of their preferred media: CD, DVD, SD cards, or USB flash.”

The Stratus M has reading capabilities beyond just listening to recorded books and music. It can also play text books and documents in formats such as BRF, DOCX, HTML, RTF, and TXT with high quality computer voices from Acapela .

Victor Reader Stratus M claims superb fidelity for a loud built-in speaker, with a pronounced audio tone control, variable speed playback control, built-in carrying handle, and rechargeable battery. Users can also directly copy CD DAISY books to an SD card without use of a computer.

The Stratus can play both DAISY recorded and DAISY text books from most DAISY libraries around the world. In the United States this includes books from NLS, Learning Ally, and Bookshare.

The Stratus4 M model features a simple 4-arrow keypad providing sequential navigation such as next/previous chapter, section, page, line, sentence, word, and character. In addition to sequential navigation, the Stratus12M model has a 12-key telephone style number pad allowing direct navigation such as “go to Page” and “Go to heading”. The keypad is described as having high contrast keys, well spaced, with tactile features, with all key presses returning audio feedback for the non-sighted user.


Source: HumanWare

AccessWorld Delivered to Your iPhone

The American Foundation for the Blind has announced that you can now download the AccessWorld app on your iPhone.

And it’s free!

According to AFBBlog, “it’s like having 10 years’ worth of AccessWorld at your fingertips! The app also allows you to locate the contact information for any member of the AccessWorld team, should you have any questions or comments.”

Optimized for VoiceOver and other Accessibility features, the app is designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Ricky Kirkendall, AFB Tech intern from Marshall University, worked in conjunction with his mobile development company, FloCo Apps LLC, to create the AccessWorld app

The AFB Tech staff  encourages you to download the AccessWorld app and to check for updates as they make improvements and add features and they look forward to hearing your feedback on the latest AFB projects.

Source: AFB

NASA Invites 150 Twitter Followers to Mars Rover Launch

We gadgeteers felt the need to boost this signal:

NASA will host a two-day launch Tweetup for 150 of its Twitter followers on Nov. 23 and 25 at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Tweetup is expected to culminate in the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch window open is scheduled to open at 10:21 a.m. EST on Nov. 25.

The Tweetup will provide NASA’s social media followers with the opportunity to tour Kennedy Space Center; speak with scientists and engineers; and, if all goes as scheduled, view the spacecraft launch. The event also will provide participants the opportunity to meet fellow tweeps and members of NASA’s social media team.

Curiosity’s arrival at the Red Planet is anticipated in August 2012 at Gale crater. During the two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether a selected area of Mars offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life and for preserving evidence about life if it existed.

Mars Science Laboratory is the fourth space mission launching this year managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The first three are Aquarius, launched June 10 to study ocean salinity; Juno, launched Aug. 5 to study the origins and interior of Jupiter; and the twin GRAIL orbiters, which departed for the moon on Sept. 10.

Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

› Register Now

Source and more information at NASA Upcoming Events.

Android Accessibility from AT&T (for a limited time)

AT&T is making Mobile Accessibility Lite, a custom version of the screen-access application, Mobile Accessibility,  available for visually impaired customers. And it’s free. Developed by Code Factory, the application “features a suite of accessible apps so customers can perform the most common wireless tasks enjoyed by most Android users.”

The AT&T Mobile Accessibility Lite application contains eleven accessible apps grouped together in a “suite.” The inclued apps–Phone, Contacts, SMS, Alarm, Calendar, Email, Web, Where Am I, Apps, Music Player and Settings–are intuitively designed for ease of use. The Nuance Vocalizer® voice reads text under a finger, allowing customers to perform any number of tasks, such as answering a call, managing their contacts, writing an SMS, editing a calendar entry, sending an email, or accessing GPS to get an update on their current location.

Speech recognition is also included, but it will only work with Android version 2.2 and later, though AT&T Mobile Accessibility Lite supports all Android phones version 2.1 and above. If interested, do not delay, because AT&T Mobile Accessibility Lite will be available for free for a limited time.  Customers who are blind or have low vision are invited to download the free app in Android Market.

Source: AT&T


HumanWare’s New Brailliant 40 Braille Display

Brailliant BI 40 Refreshable Braille display and keyboardHumanWare has announced that their new Brailliant  40 braille display is ready to ship. Gilles Pepin, CEO of HumanWare said, “As a proud supporter of braille literacy, HumanWare is committed to developing products that help people who are blind to fully participate in the quickly evolving, mobile world around them.”

The new Brailliant BI 40 display has 40 braille cells and is compatible with JAWS 10 and later and Window Eyes 7.5.2, on Windows operating system computers. HumanWare plans to  support other screen reader manufacturers such as Apple, Dolphin, NV Access as well. The compact design fits ergonomically in front of your laptop and includes an eight-key braille keyboard and thumb key controls.

We think the Brailliant BI 40 is a step in the right direction for price and portability,  but at $2995 it is still out of reach for most consumers. We hope to see even bigger steps toward price reduction in the future.

Source: Humanware

NASA Classic Sounds for Android and iPhone

Astronaut in spacesuit on the moonNASA has released historic sound bites that can be used for ring tones or computer messages.  Even the most mildly geeky among us must kvell at least a little at the thought. Imagine the delicate beeps of Sputnik gracing your ringer, or Neil Armstrong’s timeless “One small step for man….” The sound clips come in three formats, Android, iPhone and MP3. Personally, we find ourselves torn between the shuttle launch, the spooky Saturn emissions (apropos for Halloween!) and Astronaut Cooper’s comment, “It’s a new and strange environment, first, suddenly finding yourself in orbit.” We know the feeling, Coop!


Source: NASA

LookTel iPhone Money Reader Supports More Currencies

LookTel has released version 2.0 of the Money Reader. The Money Reader is a mobile application for the iPhone that identifies currency and speaks the denomination. Currency is recognized instantly and there is no need to worry about holding the camera still or waiting for a photo capture. The Money Reader recognizes currency in real time and no Internet connection is required.

The new version of The Money Reader recognizes several currencies including US Dollar, British Pound, Canadian Dollar, Australian Dollar, and the Euro. LookTel Money Reader provides Voice Over support for several languages including English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Polish, Russian, Korean, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Japanese. A tone only mode is also available for added privacy. The LookTel Money Reader is available now in the Apple App Store.


Source: LookTel

Bookshare Launches New Read2Go Book Reader for iOS Devices

Stylized drawing of open book, with the word "book" highlightedRead2Go is Bookshare’s new accessible e-book reader app for the Apple iPhone, Ipad, and iPod. The app makes it easy to locate, download, and read books from Bookshare from within a single program. There is no need to download your books to a computer to unzip them and transfer to your mobile device. Read2Go takes care of all the work for you.

Read2Go has many great new features that make reading easy and more accessible for Bookshare members including:

  • Read books using Apple’s VoiceOver navigation and built in voices.
  • Adjust reading speed, font size, and colors
  • Words are highlighted as they are read.
  • Read books with Braille using a Bluetooth display.

We applaud Bookshare for developing Read2Go for their members. It is very well designed and simple to use. Any Bookshare member with an iOS device will be downloading and reading books in no time using Read2Go. Although we usually like free apps the best, we think Read2Go is worth the price for the convenience and ease of use.

Source: Bookshare Blog

Braille Book Lets You Touch the Face of the Moon

Cover of "Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters"-black and white moonscape“Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters” is a new book from NASA designed to educate blind and visually impaired people about the Moon’s surface using tactile diagrams. David Hurd, a space science professor at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, created the book along with tactile engineer John Matelock after a visually impaired student enrolled in Hurd’s introductory Astronomy course.

NASA’s Lunar Science Institute is committed to the development of resources to bring lunar science into the world of those who cannot see. ‘Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters’ is one giant step for humankind, making lunar science visible through touch and sound,” said Yvonne Pendleton, director of the NLSI.

“Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters” is an excellent educational tool and we give it a strong BlindGadget 5 Robots rating. It would have been great to have had access to a copy when we took on Astronomy 1014 a few semesters ago. The tactile edition is available from the NASA Lunar Science Institute and there are also text and audio editions available for download.

Virtual Eye Provides GPS Navigation and Tracking for Blind Children

Satellite orbiting earth The “Virtual Eye” is a GPS navigation system developed by B. Amutha  as part of her PhD research of SRM of India. The device is intended for blind and visually impaired children and provides simple voice guidance navigation. It is belt mounted and also reportedly uses sonar for detecting obstacles and GPRS for location tracking. Amutha is currently seeking government support to begin production.

Although we found the concept of tracking blind children with GPRS to be a bit alarming, combining GPS navigation with sonar and GPRS is an interesting innovation. Once you steel yourself against the attitudes that frame the original article, you can read more about the “Virtual Eye” in  The Times of India.

Sendero GPSAthon Good News for Gadgeteers


Sendero GPS deviceSendero Group has announced a special pricing program for individuals who purchase their GPS package for the BrailleNote or BrailleSense notetakers through the end of the year. Sendero recognizes that the relatively small market for blindness products tends to keep prices high and often out of reach for individual consumers.

Through the end of 2011, Sendero will be pricing the GPS software on a sliding scale, depending on how many orders are received. The maximum price, for a package that normally sells for as much as $1598, will be $888, with the potential of being as low as $428.

It is great to see companies like Sendero offer pricing for individual consumers, since many of us do not have the same resources as schools and agencies. Read more about the GPSathon at the Sendero Group website.

FCC Reinstates Video Description Rules

Andrew Phillips, National Association of the Deaf; Eric Bridges, American Council of the Blind; Mark Richert, American Foundation for the Blind; and Jenifer Simpson, American Association of People with Disabilities, outside the FCC building, Washington DC, after meetings on pending rules under 21st CVAA.

Andrew Phillips, National Association of the Deaf; Eric Bridges, American Council of the Blind; Mark Richert, American Foundation for the Blind; and Jenifer Simpson, American Association of People with Disabilities, outside the FCC building, Washington DC, after meetings on pending rules under 21st CVAA.

The Federal Communications Commission voted today to restore the television video description regulations that were passed as part of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. The effective date of the order, which passed the commission 4-0, is July 1, 2012. The following summary of the regulations was prepared by the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology, which was instrumental to the passage of the new rules.

•Video description is defined as the narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements inserted into natural pauses in the program’s dialogue.

•Video descriptions improve access to television programs for millions of Americans who are blind or visually impaired.

•The video description rules require ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC affiliates in the top 25 market areas and cable and satellite television providers with more than 50,000 subscribers to provide video description.

•ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, USA, the Disney Channel, TNT, Nickelodeon, and TBS are each required to provide 50 hours of video-described prime time or children’s programming per calendar quarter.

•Full compliance with the rules is required on July 1, 2012.

The complete report and order along with other related documents and statements are available on the COAT website.

Learning Ally Introduces Upgraded Accessible Audiobook App for Apple

iPhone screen full of apps, with highlighted Learning Ally Audio iconLearning Ally (JAWS still does not say it correctly) has released a new version of their audio bookreader for Apple iOS. The upgrade allows the user to play DAISY-formatted audiobooks from the Learning Ally library on such portable Apple tech as the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod Touch. The app is available through iTunes for $19.99. According to the FAQ, no re-authentication is needed for Learning Ally members already using the earlier version known as RFB&D.

The upgraded app, Learning Ally Audio, offers advanced accessibility features, including page and chapter navigation, variable speed and pitch control, bookmarking capabilities, and Apple VoiceOver compatibility. These features are joined by the following nifty new abilities:

  • Play while locked. The new version can continue playback after the Apple device locks and turns off the screen to save battery life. This function can be turned on or off through the iOS “Settings” app.
  • Open with last book played at last point played. The new version resumes reading where users left off the last time that they ran the app. This feature can be turned on or off through the iOS “Settings” app.
  • Remember speed control and other settings. When these settings are changed, they will be remembered across all books and sessions.

According to Andrew Friedman, Learning Ally’s President and CEO, “More exciting things are coming down the road. Looking ahead to this fall, the Learning Ally Audio app will include text to speech functionality, enabling our learners to enjoy the best of both worlds: human narration as well as text content of their books and reading materials. With the new version of our app, we continue our commitment to develop technology that makes reading accessible for all learners.”

The American Council of the Blind Joins with Google to Conduct Assistive Technology Survey

The American Council of the Blind and Google are conducting a survey to gather information about computer Usage and Assistive Technology by blind and visually impaired persons. The survey can be completed on the web or by phone and will be used to better understand how blind users interact with the web. Survey respondents will be asked to describe which assistive technology tools they use to access the web and how they make decisions to change or upgrade these tools.

“At Google we’re committed to making our products accessible and we’re currently hard at work making improvements,” said Alan Eustace, Senior Vice President of Knowledge at Google. “By connecting with American Council of the Blind members, we hope to gain valuable insight into how the blind use the Internet and how their needs are evolving with technology.”

The survey is available now and will run through the middle of September.

6dot Innovations Debuts New Portable Braille Labeler

White portable Braille printer with black buttons6dot Innovations is launching a new, battery-powered, portable Braille labeler which can quickly print out Braille labels. The labels are well suited for prescription bottles, microwave touchpads, canned foods, and just about anything else that needs a label.

6dot founder and chief executive Karina Pikhart said that, while there are a number of other Braille labelers on the market, they tend to be too big and bulky to take along to the pharmacy for example.

The company is based in Palo Alto, California. They have already sold out their first production run of the electro-mechanical labeler which embosses small adhesive labels that stick to just about anything, Pikhart said. She said 6dot is seeking to target the 37 million people worldwide who are blind and will expand to serve the 650 million people around the world with disabilities.

The battery-powered labeler can be an important tool for helping blind people be independent in their everyday lives, Pikhart said. You can connect a standard keyboard to the device so that people who are not Braille literate, such as parents and teachers, can also create labels.

Pikhart, a first-time entrepreneur, started working on the idea at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a product design class in the fall of 2008. She and two other co-founders, Trevor Shannon and Robert Liebert, developed the original prototypes. They won several contests, including the MIT Ideas Award, the ASNE Mechanical Innovation Showcase, and Stanford University’s product showcase. 6dot is currently raising funds through a Kickstarter campaign.

6dot has received design consultation from the Perkins School and Michael May of Sendero Group. They expect the labeler to sell for about $200 and to begin shipping in the next several weeks.

The Free Screen Reader Challenge

NVDA logo vs. Thunder logoDarren Burton and John Lilly, of the American Foundation for the Blind tech lab, pit the free and open source NVDA screen reader against the free Thunder screen reader in a series of computer tasks. They evaluated the two screen readers on several different computers equipped with Windows XP and Windows 7. The tests included productivity applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel, and online activities like banking, shopping, and using iTunes.

NVDA proved to be the overall winner in the tests and was judged to be a close competitor to the commercially available screen readers. You can read the complete results in their detailed report in the August edition of Access World.

RoboBraille Converts Just About Any File into Accessible Format

RoboBraille logo

RoboBraille is an email and web based service for converting documents into any one of a large number of accessible formats. It is easy to convert a plain text document into Braille, ePub, or audio formats. You can also convert between other formats such as rich text format word (both .doc and .docx), Excel, and PDF. And, just about any image format like JPG, BMP, PCX, TIF, and PDF can be converted into text. Tools are provided for splitting files and changing the character set of a file. RoboBraille supports fifteen different languages and is free for non-commercial use. This is the best file converter we have seen. It is very flexible and produces high quality results (although it did not make much sense of our cell bill).

IBM PC Turns 30

Vintage IBM PC with green screen monitorThis week is the 30th Anniversary of the IBM PC. Some of us are old enough to remember the early days of Henter-Joyce and even the Video Voice screen reader from a small Berkeley startup called Grassroots Computing. Those were the days, when DOS could talk, and there was no graphical user interface to spoil the fun.

The original IBM press release promoted the first PC as “the computer for just about everyone who has ever wanted a personal system at the office, on the university campus or at home” with an introductory price of $1695. An original review of the new PC said that it was professionally put together and “the whole world and its grandmother will soon be frantically” writing software for the new computer. Leave a comment and let us know about your first computer and screen reader or other assistive technology experience.