In this podcast, Cory Martin gives an overview of the Expedia app for iOS. He demonstrates how to locate flights, search for hotels and filter based on various preferences.
VR, or virtual reality, is still in its infant stages of development. Most use head-strapped gear, such as a headset, which track the movement of your body as you walk around.
In this episode, James Oates demonstrates the iOS app “Say Play”. This application allows you to dictate a song or video title, and then the app will find and play it.
Here at Cool Blind Tech it’s not just about technology, but also about people and today we had a unique opportunity to speak to a visually impaired entrepreneur, Brent Harbolt from The Harbolt Company, a store which focuses on unique and cool mainstream gadgets we can all use as blind or visually impaired individuals.
In this episode, James Oates demonstrates “NPR One”, a universal app from National Public Radio, available on all Windows devices. He shows how to start playing NPR with just a simple key stroke on a PC, and a voice command on a Windows Phone. If you enjoy National Public Radio, you will love this app.
In this episode, James Oates updates us on the status of Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926. In this build, Microsoft has added Cortana, an interactive personal assistant, to their operating system. It is currently limited and in its early stages, but it still is very impressive. He also uses Narrator as the primary screen reader, since NVDA and JAWS are still not currently able to work with Universal apps.
While Apple is definitely making strides toward squashing those pesky bugs in Voiceover for iOS8, the infestation around Safari still remains rather strong, especially when it comes to focus issues.
This gave me a mission, to find another alternative. Let’s face it, a mobile device needs to be able to browse the web. What kind of a mobile device can’t these days? Even though Safari works most of the time, there had to be another option for those situations when it didn’t.
I explored several options and discovered that the Google Chrome app for iOS is extremely accessible and actually very nice to use.
The accessibility is amazing! Not only does Voiceover tend to read everything, but the browser is fast and page element navigation works fully. HTML5 multimedia content such as Youtube videos and audio content from our own podcasts play right inside the browser. Add in the Google voice search feature and you have a really nice alternative to Safari.
Check out his quick overview of a few things you can accomplish with this really nice cool pick.
In this episode, James Oates reviews Microsoft Outlook for iPhone and iPad. He demonstrates the email client and calendar features. He shows us how to access files on cloud services, open them with additional apps, and send them as attachments. He then proceeds to show how to send and view messages from your contact list. Finally, he walks us through the settings for the application. This is an incredibly complex and powerful application which will prove useful for many users of iOS.
As a visually impaired Windows user, there’s quite a few options out there when it comes to screen reading software for you to choose from… JAWS, Window-Eyes and System Access might be the best known of the commercial screen readers on the market, while in the open-source space there’s one screen reader most visually impaired users have heard of… NVDA, or Non-Visual Desktop Access. While JAWS and it’s brethren are carefully designed, well tested and well supported by their respective creators, they also generally are a bit expensive, especially when factoring in the software maintenance agreements that keep these screen readers up to date. On the other hand, NVDA is a high-quality, open-source and most importantly, free screen reader that I’ve used exclusively for the last 90 days and would highly recommend to Windows users looking for an alternative to the commercial screen readers.
When it comes to installation, NVDA is quite straightforward to install, with an installation wizard that walks you through the process with speech, even if no other screen reader is installed on your system. Basically it’s agreeing to the license, clicking a few buttons and clicking Finish when it’s done. Dead simple… and you’re back to your normal routine.
The experience with NVDA is a bit different than the commercial screen readers, as there’s no special display driver required to make things accessible. NVDA uses the built-in accessibility frameworks in Windows to provide the information it needs to provide spoken feedback of what’s on screen at the moment. What this means is that in some cases, applications that may not have been very accessible under the commercial screen readers might become accessible under NVDA. It’s not always perfect, but I’ve had some applications that I thought were inaccessible using a commercial screen reader become useful to various degrees under NVDA. Your mileage may vary, so don’t be afraid to test out the accessibility of your favorite application.
So, what works well with NVDA? Here’s a short list of applications I use that work quite well, and that you might find useful:
There’s more than just these applications, but these are applications I use, and have found to be quite accessible. Unfortunately, not all applications will work with NVDA, but it’s not due to something with NVDA itself, but the fact that whomever develops the inaccessible application didn’t use any of the accessibility frameworks that Windows or NVDA supports, thereby making the application difficult to use by the visually impaired. This isn’t a problem exclusive to NVDA, but it’s common enough to preclude visually impaired Windows users from using some Windows applications.
NVDA and Plug-Ins
Extensibility is a great thing when it comes to screen readers, and NVDA has a modular plug-in system that adds additional functionality to your NVDA installation. Yes, the commercial screen readers are extensible as well, but it’s a bit less intuitive to add extra functionality to them. With NVDA, it’s simple as downloading a prepackaged add-on, double click, and NVDA handles the rest, even offering to restart so the plug-ins you installed are ready to use. There’s everything from add-ons to enhance your favorite applications to speech synths for better sounding spoken feedback and beyond. It’s up to you which plug-ins you want installed, so go ahead and experiment… NVDA also offers an easy way to remove those pesky plug-ins that you don’t need anymore.
If I had to end this article in one sentence, it would be this: NVDA is a high-quality, free screen reader for the Windows platform worth installing. To expand on that, NV Access has done a quite good job with NVDA, and I strongly encourage you to try it out. participate in the community to make it better and donate if you can afford to do so. Happy accessible computing!
For all of our listeners who have resolved to quit smoking this year: In this episode, James Oates talks about how to purchase the right E-cigarette. He reviews the different components of the device and how which ones are easier for a person with a visual disability to use. He emphasizes the importance of choosing a vapor liquid with the correct nicotine level.
The products discussed in this episode can be found at: Beach Side Vapors.