Category: accessibility

June 9, 2019 Off

Apple puts accessibility features front and center

By Jill T Frey

Although the meat of Apple’s accessibility news from WWDC has been covered, there still are other items announced that have relevancy to accessibility as well. Here, then, are some thoughts on Apple’s less-headlining announcements that I believe are most interesting from a disability point of view.

Accessibility goes above the fold

One of the tidbits I reported during the week was that Apple moved the Accessibility menu (on iOS 13 and iPadOS) to the top level of the Settings hierarchy. Instead of drilling down to Settings > General > Accessibility, the accessibility settings are now a “top level domain,” in the same list view as Notifications, Screen Time, and so on. Apple also told me this move applies to watchOS 6 as well.

Read the rest
June 5, 2019 Off

Apple’s global accessibility head on the company’s new features for iOS 13 and macOS Catalina

By Jill T Frey

From dark mode in iOS 13 to a redesigned user interface in tvOS to the dismantling of iTunes to the coming of iPadOS, Apple made a slew of announcements at its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote on Monday in San Jose. And accessibility was there in full force.

Accessibility, as it always does, plays a significant role in not only the conference itself — the sessions, labs and get-togethers all are mainstays of the week — but also in the software Apple shows off. Of particular interest this year is Apple’s Voice Control feature, available for macOS Catalina and iOS 13 devices, which allows users to control their Macs and iPhones … Read the rest

May 16, 2019 Off

Apple & Google celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day with featured apps, new shortcuts

By Jill T Frey

With last fall’s release of iOS 12, Apple introduced Siri Shortcuts — a new app that allows iPhone users to create their own voice commands to take actions on their phone and in apps. Today, Apple is celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) by rolling out a practical, accessibility focused collection of new Siri Shortcuts, alongside accessibility focused App Store features and collections.

Google is doing something similar for Android users on Google Play.

For starters, Apple’s new Siri shortcuts are available today in a featured collection at the top of the Shortcuts app. The collection includes a variety of shortcuts aimed at helping users more quickly perform everyday tasks.

For example, there’s a new “Help Message” shortcut that will send your location to an emergency contact, a “Meeting Someone New” shortcut designed to speed up non-verbal introductions and communication, a mood journal for recording thoughts and feelings, a pain … Read the rest

May 16, 2019 Off

ObjectiveEd is building a better digital curriculum for vision-impaired kids

By Jill T Frey

Children with vision impairments struggle to get a solid K-12 education for a lot of reasons — so the more tools their teachers have to impart basic skills and concepts, the better. ObjectiveEd is a startup that aims to empower teachers and kids with a suite of learning games accessible to all vision levels, along with tools to track and promote progress.

Some of the reasons why vision-impaired kids don’t get the education they deserve are obvious, for example that reading and writing are slower and more difficult for them than for sighted kids. But other reasons are less obvious, for example that teachers have limited time and resources to dedicate to these special needs students when their overcrowded classrooms are already demanding more than they can provide.

Technology isn’t the solution, but it has to be part of the solution, because technology is so empowering and kids take to … Read the rest

May 7, 2019 Off

Live transcription and captioning in Android are a boon to the hearing-impaired

By Jill T Frey

A set of new features for Android could alleviate some of the difficulties of living with hearing impairment and other conditions. Live transcription, captioning and relay use speech recognition and synthesis to make content on your phone more accessible — in real time.

Announced today at Google’s I/O event in a surprisingly long segment on accessibility, the features all rely on improved speech-to-text and text-to-speech algorithms, some of which now run on-device rather than sending audio to a data center to be decoded.

The first feature to be highlighted, live transcription, was already mentioned by Google. It’s a simple but very useful tool: open the app and the device will listen to its surroundings and simply display as text on the screen any speech it recognizes.

We’ve seen this in translator apps and devices, like the One Mini, and the meeting transcription highlighted yesterday at Microsoft Build. One would … Read the rest

May 6, 2019 Off

An Xbox controller with a built-in Braille display is Microsoft’s latest gaming accessibility play

By Jill T Frey

Microsoft has been leaning into accessibility in gaming lately, most visibly with its amazing Adaptive Controller, and a new patent suggests another way the company may be accommodating disabled gamers: an Xbox controller with a built-in Braille display.

As you might expect, it’s already quite hard for a visually impaired gamer to play some games, and although that difficulty can’t be entirely alleviated, there are definitely things worth doing. For instance: the text on screen that sighted people take for granted, documenting player status, items, onscreen dialog or directions — how could these be read by a low-vision gamer who might be able to otherwise navigate the game world?

In many circumstances a screen reader is what a visually impaired person would use to interact with this kind of data, but often that text is relayed to them … Read the rest

April 24, 2019 Off

LEGO Braille bricks are the best, nicest and, in retrospect, most obvious idea ever

By Jill T Frey

Braille is a crucial skill to learn for children with visual impairments, and with these LEGO Braille Bricks, kids can learn through hands-on play rather than more rigid methods like Braille readers and printouts. Given the naturally Braille-like structure of LEGO blocks, it’s surprising this wasn’t done decades ago.

The truth is, however, that nothing can be obvious enough when it comes to marginalized populations like people with disabilities. But sometimes all it takes is someone in the right position to say “You know what? That’s a great idea and we’re just going to do it.”

It happened with the BecDot (above). and it seems to have happened at LEGO. Stine Storm led the project, but Morten Bonde, who himself suffers from degenerating vision, helped guide the team with the passion and insight that only comes … Read the rest