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Posts Tagged ‘VoiceOver’

Amazon Releases Accessibility Enhancements to Kindle App

May 8th, 2013 by Steve | No Comments | Filed in Accessibility News, Disability Facts

Amazon Kindle app logoGreetings again from my Monday and Wednesday night “office” — Stone Creek Coffee. It’s been helpful in my new quest to blog weekly to have some dedicated time, away from the house and house distractions.

This isn’t hot off the presses, but I’ve been meaning to talk about it. Amazon announced earlier in the month that its iOS Kindle app has been updated with key accessibility features.

You can read more details here, among other places:
Amazon Bringing New Accessibility Features to Free Kindle Reading Apps

Not unlike my Apple love, I’ve always been a fan of Amazon since their early days, and one of my favorite purchases of the last year was my Kindle Touch. Despite having the unintended consequence of making me not enjoy physical books anymore, it’s gotten me back into reading.

Anyway, some of the high points of its enhancements:

  • Leveraging Apple’s VoiceOver so that users can hear a vast number of titles read aloud
  • Using the accessibility features (such as Zoom and Assistive Touch) within iOS
  • Enhancing the ability for blind users to access a bunch of Kindle features like navigating, searching, taking notes, and using reference materials

The app itself is free, though of course most books have to be purchased.

It certainly sounds like steps in a good direction. The more avenues that open up for blind readers to enjoy literature, beyond the much more limited options of Braille for example, the better.

I’ll be interested to hear how disabled users, particularly those with visual constraints, find these features in action. Is it a good start? Could they be doing more? Feel free to weigh in!

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OS X Lion Accessibility

July 19th, 2011 by Steve | No Comments | Filed in Technology

OS X LionAt this point it’s no secret that I’m a diehard Apple fan. My family bought the very first Macintosh in the mid 1980’s, and I’ve never been without one since.

I’ve blogged before about accessibility features that Apple has put into their products, from their operating systems to the iPhone. While it’ll forever be a debate if they’ve gone “far enough” with their considerations for those with disabilities, the point I continue to maintain is that they seem to take it seriously enough to continue adding enhancements.

We’re on the cusp of another Mac OS update, with Lion roaring in any day now. I for one can’t wait to get my paws on it, especially at its ridiculously reasonable price of $29.99. They’re touting that it’s littered with over 250 enhancements.

Here’s a rundown of some of the touted new accessibility features:

  • Addition of picture-in-picture zoom – to enhance the zooming experience and providing greater overall context of how what you’re focusing on fits in with the overall page/screen.
  • Support for 80+ Braille tables across multiple languages
  • Greater control over how and how much information comes across via a refreshable Braille device
  • Greater precision in the appearance of the pointer when viewed at larger zoom levels
  • Greater customization of VoiceOver, enabling it to perform in different manners for different activities
  • Screen sharing – enabling users to assist other users directly

You can find out about all the new features of Lion at Apple’s OS X Lion Features.

As always, we’ll have to see these features in action to gauge whether they truly make disabled Mac users’ lives easier. Hopefully by the end of this month, we’ll start finding out.

Further reference:

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Snow Leopard and Accessibility

June 12th, 2009 by Steve | 4 Comments | Filed in Accessibility News, Technology

Apple VoiceOver logoI’ve admitted numerous times that I’m an Apple devotee. So maybe I’m biased when I laud their efforts in the accessibility realm. However – and perhaps it’s in part because they have always done a good job “getting it” when it comes to creating software and hardware that are both well-designed and easy to use – they seem to at the very least take accessibility seriously and continue adding or bolstering accessibility features in their products with each release.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard is slated for a September 2009 release. As with most of their products, they have an accessibility features page for Snow Leopard and the OS X platform in general.

Among the heralded Snow Leopard accessibility enhancements:

  • More robustness to the built-in VoiceOver capabilities, particularly for web browsing
  • Major enhancements to their trackpad – which will represent the active window, enabling users to hear what item they hover over, as well as to discern and navigate through multiple items on the screen through finger movements
  • Support for over 40 plug-in Braille displays
  • The rotor capability – an enhanced capability of the trackpad to enable users to use a “dial” motion for cycling through text word or character at a time, and also to navigate a web page by common items, such as headers, links and imagery
  • Technology that to a degree overcomes sites’ accessibility shortcomings by assigning “auto web spots” denoting important elements of the site. One can, for example, assign certain areas of a regularly-frequented site so that, in the future, VoiceOver can skip right to those elements first.
  • VoiceOver Commanders – a new enhancement to the VoiceOver admin utility that allows for greater automated actions and keyboard shortcuts

Many of these features, on the surface, promise to offer greater ease of use, particularly for the visually-disabled — from all-around usage of your Mac to web surfing specifically. How effective they are, of course, remains to be seen when Snow Leopard arrives. Also, with just about all the enhancements directed towards the visually-disabled, how will Snow Leopard work for those with other disabilities, such as limitations of motor skills and hearing problems?

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Safari 4 and Accessibility

March 1st, 2009 by Steve | No Comments | Filed in Accessibility News, Technology

This past week, Apple released Safari 4.0 beta. With touted speed enhancements that put it ahead of the competition, the beta reportedly has even pushed Safari’s market share over the 10% hump.

As touched on in “The iPhone and Accessibility“, Apple openly demonstrates a commitment to accessibility in its products. How much they succeed will always be open for debate, but it’s certain that they treat the subject seriously.

Even though alphabetizing has more to do with it than anything else, front and center on their 150 Features page for Safari 4 is Accessibility.

New to Safari 4, according to Apple, is support of Accessible Rich Internet Applications, or ARIA. On the heels of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 becoming a Recommendation this past December, just last week WAI-ARIA was published as a Last Call Working Draft. WAI-ARIA takes web accessibility considerations to the next level, helping establish guidelines for dynamic content using more advanced technologies like Ajax and JavaScript. ARIA opens the door for utilizing such coding to interact with assistive technologies.

Also improved with Safari’s new beta are greater Zoom features — combining keyboard commands, Multi-Touch, and a Zoom button that can easily be added to the toolbar. The user can zoom in and out while text and imagery scale accordingly and keep the layout intact.

These, paired with Apple’s already-integrated VoiceOver screen reading feature, keyboard shortcuts, and the ability to create or download custom stylesheets for desired viewing states, make Safari 4.0 — while certainly not a perfect accessibility experience just yet — appear to be progressing respectably.

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Accessibility News: WebAIM survey results on screen readers

February 3rd, 2009 by Steve | No Comments | Filed in Accessibility News, Disability Facts, Technology

WebAIM recently posted results to a survey of screen reader users, conducted from December 2008 – January 2009. In Survey of Preferences of Screen Readers Users, they share very interesting results regarding the usage of screen reader technology in web navigating.

Some of the initial findings perhaps aren’t surprising. Of the 1121 participants, the vast majority (nearly 90%) use screen reader technology all of the time and because of a disability. 96% of them cited visual impairment, in most cases outright blindness.

The breakdown of screen reader usage is insightful:

  • JAWS – 74%
  • Windows Eyes – 23%
  • NVDA – 8%
  • VoiceOver – 6%

(WebAIM points out that percentages often don’t add up to 100% due to rounding, and in this case also because of the possibility of usage of multiple products)

Most of the participants utilize desktop PCs (78%), with just over half use screen readers on a laptop. Those using mobile technology with screen readers made up a much smaller 12%.

Lastly (for this post), web browser usage breaks down as follows:

  • Internet Explorer 7 – 68%
  • Firefox – 39%
  • Internet Explorer 6 – 33%
  • Safari – 6%
  • Internet Explorer 8 – 2%

Amongst the nearly 7% of participants who used screen readers though were not disabled (some for evaluation purposes), Firefox usage was twice as prevalent. It was also noted that the question was not worded “primary” browser, just browser usage, and that IE8 and Safari were, essentially, write-in votes.

While none of this is exact science, the findings are all-around very interesting and offer a glimpse into the methods and practices of screen reader users.

I’ll close for now, having focused on the software and hardware findings. There are a slew of results covering browsing tendencies, from home page navigation to access keys to Flash and imagery frustrations/ease of use.

All in all, these results are well worth combing through and considering when evaluating accessibility, particularly as it relates to the visually impaired.

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