The competition among so called smart speakers is heating up. This is no doubt fueled by Google and other players looking into entering this game; The natural interaction it could provide would result in a huge technological shift across our societies again. Later, its maturity could even embrace a screen-driven design, where you can still use voice but read your feedback visually, for those who are hard of hearing or deaf. I would suspect that others with various disabilities impacting speech could still use a speech-to-text tool and communicate with such devices, though at that point the timeliness of return diminishes a little – couldn’t they just type these same responses directly to the AI?
With the updated PayPal app, you can send money to anyone in your contacts list by just telling Siri, “Send John Doe $50 using PayPal.” John Doe will receive an email confirming that you sent him $50. It is incredibly simple to send and receive money this way.
Facebook is also integrated with Siri in iOS 10. To post to Facebook, just tell Siri, “Post to Facebook.” Siri will ask you what to post, and then Siri will confirm with you before posting. I think I might start posting to Facebook more often now. To find out more about using apps that are integrated with Siri in iOS 10, listen to our podcast on Siri integration.
John Froehlich of the Makeability lab at the University of Maryland has developed a fingertip camera that is only 1mm in width. This camera is linked with a computer, and reads text when the camera is moved across a page. The device gives audio cues and haptic feedback to help the user position the device. The device is nicknamed HandSight, and it was originally developed for endoscopies. Although there are already many ways to scan and read text, it can be difficult for visually impair people to understand the layout of text. This device can help with multi-column formats. To find out more about HandSight, read this article from New Scientist.
Apple will soon be launching a new app called Apple Support. The app allows users to access support articles for the iOS devices registered to their Apple ID. You can also seek support by email or phone call from within the app. Finally, the app allows you to schedule repairs at an Apple Store or with a registered service provider. You can also access support on Twitter @AppleSupport
I know that I’m giving away my age here, but this is the eighth time that I have voted in a presidential election. Up to now, I have never been able to vote without sighted assistance. Although I am aware that accessible voting machines have been made widely available; you need to understand that I reside in a very small precinct on an island off the coast of Florida. This is the first time that my precinct had an accessible voting machine. I have always gone to the pole with someone whom I trusted to help me fill out my ballot correctly. I never liked the fact that I was unable to vote without someone’s assistance, and of course, without the privacy that comes with voting independently. This election, I went on my own without knowing that there would be an accessible machine at my precinct this time. I took an Uber to my local library which is where I always go to vote. I walked in alone, and I fully expected to have to ask for sighted assistance from the pole workers. In fact, this is what the election officials told me would happen. To my surprise, I was told that an accessible voting machine had been acquired. I took my ballot, went over to the machine, and sat down. I put on a pair of headsets, and inserted my ballot. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Alex voice giving me instructions on how to use the machine. I was expecting Fred. The machine has five main buttons, arranged in a diamond shape. Each one is labeled in braille. The top and bottom buttons navigate up and down through your selections. You then press the middle button to make the selection that you want. The machine confirms your selection by reading it back to you. Next, you press the right arrow the go to the next item, and arrow up and down again until you reach the selection you want. You then press the middle button again. The machine read all the choices very well, including all the state constitutional amendments and county referenda. It was so incredibly in powering to read my ballot and make my selections without assistance and without anyone else knowing the choices that I was making. I know that many of you have already experienced accessible voting, and I hope you can remember how it made you feel because that is how I feel today.
If you would like to share your story, you can do so in the comments below. You can also fill out a survey from the National Federation of the Blind that asks you to rate your voting experience. The survey can be found here.
For the second year in a row, the elves at Braille Works have been contracted by Santa to get letters out to visually impaired children. If you ever wanted to know if Santa reads braille, the answer is, yes he does. If you have or know a child with a visual impairment, click here to find out how to get a braille or large print letter sent from Santa. There is no fee for this service. Just remember to leave out extra cookies and milk on Christmas Eve.
Join Jessica, James, Leo and Tomi for a very special VIP. It’s all about creativity and innovation this year as we continue to provide exclusive after-event headlines from the leaders in technology today. Microsoft and Apple both recently held their events, where the major focus seemed to include accessibility, integration, and innovation. Here are some of the great stories from these events:
Code Factory offers the Eloquence text to speech synthesizer which is compatible with any SAPI 5 platform. This means that it will work with screen readers like Narrator and NVDA. Try it out free for seven days and see if you agree that it makes an enormous difference in the performance of Narrator. Go here to read more about the product and download it to your PC. The license allows you to use the synthesizer on up to three PC’s at once, so you need to deactivate it and reactivate it on a different computer, that is perfectly fine. This allows people to use the synthesizer at school, at the library, or while working on other people’s computers.
The government of Canada is developing new accessibility legislation.
According to their website, Canadians, communities and workplaces benefit when everyone can participate equally in everyday life. There has been much progress in making our society more inclusive, but we can do better.
This is why the Government of Canada is committed to developing new planned accessibility legislation to promote equality of opportunity and increase the inclusion and participation of Canadians who have disabilities or functional limitations.
Many Canadians continue to face barriers that affect their ability to participate in daily activities that most people take for granted. These could include:
• physical and architectural barriers that impede the ability to move freely in the built environment, use public transportation, access information or use technology;
• attitudes, beliefs and misconceptions that some people may have about people with disabilities and what they can and cannot do; and
• outdated policies and practices that do not take into account the varying abilities and disabilities that people may have.
In developing this new legislation, the Government of Canada is consulting Canadians both in person and online.
The Government of Canada is seeking your ideas to inform the development of this planned new legislation, including:
• feedback on the overall goal and approach;
• whom it should cover;
• what accessibility issues and barriers it should address;
• how it could be monitored and enforced;
• when or how often it should be reviewed;
• how and when to report to Canadians on its implementation; and
• how to raise accessibility awareness more generally and support organizations in improving accessibility.
The public consultation will be open until February 2017 and information on viewpoints received will be made available after the consultation is closed.
Satya Nadella unveiled Microsoft Teams today, just one week after Microsoft announced a new lineup of Surface devices and the new Creators Update version of Windows which will arrive next Spring. Microsoft Teams works on PC’s, Mac OS, Android, and iOS. It creates a team workspace where all your conversations, content tools, and contacts are available in one place. Microsoft Teams provides built in access to SharePoint, OneDrive, OneNote, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Skype for business. Microsoft assures us that Teams is secure and accessible. To find out more, visit Microsoft’s product page for Microsoft Teams.