My Assistive Technology Talk at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

I did a talk at Stoke Mandeville hospital today to a group of ophthalmologists. The talk was about how assistive technology can help visually impaired and severely sight impaired people on a daily basis.

 

I talked about practical subjects such as doing Internet shopping and keeping a calendar as well as more social activities like using email and using social media to become more socially active and less isolated. I also talked about how being told you are going to lose your sight is a massive blow which people struggle greatly with. How knowing it’s possible to use technology can really help to alleviate the feeling of isolation and how using that technology competently can open many doors in terms of social interaction, education and of course work.

 

I enjoyed delivering the talk and it was really good to know that the ophthalmologists at Stoke Mandeville hospital are interested in learning about things that can help their patients as their eyesight deteriorates.

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Dolphin Easy Reader App for iOS Review

Dolphin have recently released their Easy Reader app for iOS. I must admit that I was a little sceptical about whether the app would be any good when considering Dolphin’s speciality is magnification and speech software for Windows computers. It also came as a bit of a surprise as they had managed to keep it quiet pretty much up until it went live.

 

Obviously I work with Dolphin products a lot in my capacity as a Certified Software Specialist and Accredited Trainer for Guide and SuperNova, so I’m fully aware that their software is very good. I’m also a VoiceOver specialist so I was very interested to see how their first foray into the world of iOS apps had turned out.

 

I have no vision at all so am using VoiceOver rather than magnification on my iOS devices, so please bear that in mind when reading my little review.

 

First impressions and layout.

 

The app is free from the iOS App Store, which of course is great news. There are also some in-app purchase options which I’ll talk about later. The first thing you find when you open the Easy Reader app is that the welcome screen is clear and uncluttered. It tells you that you can sign in using your Dolphin account if you already have one and invites you to register for one if you don’t. To register for a Dolphin account is free and as simple as completing a form which consists of using your email as your user name and choosing a password for your Dolphin account. Once you submit the form a verification email is sent to your email address. All you need to do is click on the verification link within the email and you’re done.

 

Once you’ve signed into the app with your Dolphin account details it’s very apparent very quickly that a great deal of effort has gone into making the app simple, uncluttered and easy to use. Along the top of the app screen just beneath the device status bar is a set of options consisting of five items. From left to right the items are:

 

Side Menu button: Single finger double tapping this button opens the app menu where you can find options to manage your ebook libraries, view any text added to your clipboard and find help for the app as well as sign out of the app. 

 

My Books heading: This heading changes depending on which screen of the app you’re in.

 

List/Collection View button: Single finger double tapping this button toggles the view of your downloaded ebooks between list and collection views. From a VoiceOver user point of view I much prefer it in list view as the list is displayed with the title and author of the book and then has a “Book Information” button beneath it. This is a nice little feature which allows you to find out how far you’ve read through the book as well as an option to return to the book.

 

Sort button: Single finger double tapping this button displays a list of sorting options for displaying your downloaded ebooks. The options are; most recent, title and author.

 

Beneath these main options on the app home screen is a search edit box which runs the entire width of the screen.

 

Beneath the search edit box and basically taking up the rest of the screen is, or will be once you’ve downloaded some, a list of all of the books downloaded to your device.

 

Downloading an ebook.

 

Downloading an ebook really is very easy. All you need to do is open the side menu, choose a library from the manage libraries list and open it, search for a book using the search edit box or browse through categories such as Action and Adventure, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Young Reader, Romance, Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction etc. Once you find a book you want single finger double tap on the book title and a screen will open up giving you a download option as well as giving info about the book such as its format, file size and the library you’re downloading it from. You can then navigate back to your list of downloaded books by using the “Back” button found at the top left of the screen and single finger double tapping on the “My Books” button. It’s very straight forward and fully accessible.

 

Reading a downloaded ebook.

 

Reading a downloaded ebook is as simple as single finger double tapping the book title on your “My Books” list then single finger double tapping the Play/Pause button when the book has loaded. There are some really good features on the book screen that you should know about. There are two sets of controls on the book screen, one along the top and one along the bottom. Here’s what the controls are and what they do.

 

Top of screen, from left to right.

 

Side Menu button: Single finger double tapping this button opens the app menu where you can find options to manage your ebook libraries, view any text added to your clipboard and find help for the app as well as sign out of the app.

 

Search button: Single finger double tapping this button allows you to search for a particular word or phrase in the book.

 

Book title heading: This heading displays the title of the book you’re currently reading.

 

Reading progress percentage: Shows you how much of the current book you’ve read.

 

Text Settings button: Single finger double tapping this button allows you to adjust text size, change the book’s font, change the font list for the book, adjust margins, adjust line spacing, adjust letter spacing, change colour themes, change text colour, change background colour, change sentence highlight colour, change word highlight colour and reset everything you’ve changed back to their default settings.

 

Audio Settings button: Single finger double tapping this button allows you to change the reading voice, adjust voice speed, change voice pitch, adjust voice volume, add pronunciations, toggle the app to play a sound when you reach a bookmark and an option to reset everything you’ve changed back to their default settings. There’s also an option to add new voices should you wish to and this is where the in-app purchases come in. There’s a large list of voices for you to choose from, so if there’s a particular voice that you prefer it’s likely to be available here.

 

Bottom of screen, from left to right.

 

Book Navigation button: Single finger double tapping on this button opens a screen which allows you to navigate by chapter.

 

Navigation Modes button: Single finger double tapping this button opens a screen which allows you to choose the way you navigate books. The options are by word, by heading 1, by bookmarks and by document. There’s also a default option which is predictably, the default setting.

 

Previous button: Single finger double tapping this button navigates you to the previous chapter, heading etc depending on what you’ve chosen to navigate by in your Navigation Modes settings.

 

Play/Pause button: Single finger double tapping this button plays or pauses the book.

 

Next button: Single finger double tapping this button navigates you to the next chapter, heading etc depending on what you’ve chosen to navigate by in your Navigation Modes settings.

 

Sleep Timer button: Single finger double tapping this button allows you to set a sleep timer for 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes.

 

Bookmarks button: Single finger double tapping this button allows you to set an audio bookmark at the current book position. Note that you’ll need to give the app permission to use the device microphone to be able to do this.

 

Deleting a book.

 

Once you’ve finished reading an ebook that you’ve downloaded you can of course delete it from your device. As with everything else in this app it’s dead easy. Simply select the book title on your “My Books” list and single finger flick up or down to highlight the Delete option then single finger double tap. A dialogue window opens asking you if you’d like to delete the book from the device and gives you “Yes” and “Cancel” button options. Simply single finger double tap the “Yes” button and the book will be deleted from your device.

 

Summary.

 

I really like this app. It’s fully accessible with VoiceOver; VoiceOver reads all of the buttons and labels, it’s well laid out and uncluttered, it’s easy to use and it’s free. I think Dolphin have done an excellent job with this app and I really hope they produce some more fully accessible iOS apps in the future.

 

If you’d like to try out the Dolphin Easy Reader app you can get it on the iOS App Store at: https://appsto.re/gb/Zazpfb.i

My Experience of the Twitterific App for iOS

It took me quite a while to get into using Twitter, initially for personal use and later for my business. One of the reasons it took some time was because I simply didn’t find the standard Twitter app for iOS to be particularly easy to use nor its home feed screen to flow particularly well. I also found that although the Twitter app itself is perfectly accessible with VoiceOver I really didn’t enjoy using it at all. As a result I began looking for an alternative Twitter client that would be easy to use, would give me a clean flowing home feed and of course would be fully accessible with VoiceOver.

 

When I was searching for information online I read a lot of good things from both visually impaired and sighted people about the Twitterific app for iOS. Not only that but it’s a free app! Needless to say I immediately found it on the App Store and downloaded it. I’ve been using the app for a few months now and have to say that I love it.

 

The first thing to impress me when I initially opened the app was that if you don’t already have a Twitter account you can actually sign up and create one directly using the Twitterific app. This really is excellent whether you’re a VoiceOver user or not as you can create your entire account and profile without ever needing to leave the app. Not only that but it’s completely accessible with VoiceOver and takes you through the process step by step.

 

The second thing to impress me was that every single button, tab and menu is labelled and fully accessible with VoiceOver. The app layout is simple, easy to navigate and crucially, is uncluttered.

 

There’s also a great help section which lists gestures that you can use for all manner of tasks and functions whilst using the app. The app is also customisable in terms of the notifications you receive, marking your current position in your home feed and how you view tabs and menu bars.

 

As you’d expect you can do everything with the Twitterific app that you can on the standard Twitter app, including posting and deleting tweets, replying to tweets, retweeting, liking and sharing other people’s tweets, private messaging, searching for and following other Twitter profiles etc.

 

There’s also an AppleWatch app which works smoothly with the iOS app allowing you to receive notifications directly to your AppleWatch.

 

Everything I’ve mentioned so far is excellent, functional and accessible, the most striking and impressive thing about the Twitterific app for me however is the simplicity of the home feed. It’s completely uncluttered, is wonderfully easy to navigate and works beautifully.

 

The only thing you can’t do with the Twitterific app that you can with the standard Twitter app is post tweets using Siri. I think I’ve only ever posted one or possibly two tweets using Siri on the standard Twitter app over the entire time that I’ve been using it. I much prefer typing my tweets on the virtual keyboard or using my Magic Keyboard as I find it a lot more accurate. However, the lack of Siri interaction with Twitterific might be something to consider if you normally post most of your tweets using Siri.

 

Finally, although the Twitterific app is free there are optional in app purchases. In a nutshell, when you get the app some adverts do appear on the home feed screen, the adverts aren’t actually too annoying and the app works perfectly regardless of them being there. However, if you prefer not to have adverts appear you can choose an in app purchase option to remove them. The in app purchase is a very small amount and in my opinion well worth it, not only because it removes the adverts but also because it contributes to the ongoing development of the app. Not to mention that by making an in app purchase you’re helping support a great and fully accessible product.

 

If you haven’t tried Twitterific for iOS yet you can download it from the app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/_GTLI.i

 

 

If you’d like to follow me on Twitter you can find me on @AVCoaching

Do you need to have a Kindle to read Kindle books?

This is just a short post about reading Amazon Kindle books. A lot of people think that you have to own a Kindle to be able to read Amazon Kindle books and are therefore put off of buying and reading some of the thousands of great titles that are available in Kindle ebook format. So let’s clear this up……no, you don’t have to own a Kindle to read Amazon Kindle ebooks at all. In fact if you have a smart phone, tablet, Mac or Windows PC you can read them through the Kindle app. The app is free and is available from your app store on your chosen device. Simply download and install the app then sign into it with your Amazon user name and password. Once you’ve done this you’ll have access to all of the Kindle books you’ve ever bought and will ever buy. You can quickly and easily download books and read them on any device which you have the app installed on. It’s a real shame that more people don’t realise that the Kindle app is available for pretty much every operating system, I do believe a lot more people would enjoy reading a greater variety of book genres and try out many more authors if they knew that reading a Kindle book is so easy.

 

A note for VoiceOver users on Apple devices; the Kindle app on Mac OS is not very accessible at all and is therefore not very usable. However, the Kindle app on iOS is fully accessible with VoiceOver, in fact it’s a really excellent and usable app.

 

Okay, time for a shameless plug. As some of you know I published my first short book for kids last year. Well, I’ve recently released a new book. This one isn’t for kids but is a book of poetry called The Edge of Darkness. I’ve added the links to each of my books below. Please do take a look and if you buy a copy and read it, do feel free to leave a review on Amazon. I would be immensely grateful and you never know, you might even like what you read.

 The Edge of Darkness book cover

The Edge of Darkness: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071RN8DL7/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493327228&sr=8-1&keywords=james+goldsworthy+the+edge+of+darkness

 Larry the Dancing King book cover

The Adventures of Larry the Stick Insect; Larry the Dancing King: http://amzn.to/2aee5an

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Parents and grandparents don’t forget, you can follow Larry on Facebook on: http://www.facebook.com/Adventuresoflarryofficial

 

You can also follow Larry on his very own Twitter page on: @larrythestick1

 

For general updates and other news about my books you can follow my author Facebook page on https://www.facebook.com/jamesgoldsworthyauthor/

 

And follow me on Twitter on @authorjgolds

New poetry book The Edge of Darkness now available

I’ve recently released a book of poetry. As some of you may know I am blind and work with visually impaired adults and children as an assistive technology trainer/coach. In the interest of making my book as accessible as possible I’ve published it on Amazon Kindle so it can be read by visually impaired and sighted people alike on any device with the Kindle app installed on it.

 

So what’s the book called and what’s it about? It’s called The Edge of Darkness and is a book of poetry presented in two collections. The first collection contains pieces I wrote during my journey through sight loss. This first collection starts off rather dark (no pun intended) but gradually becomes less so as I begin to come to terms with my situation. The second collection is made up of individual pieces that I wrote for a variety of reasons. Some because of my love of sci-fi and fantasy, some because of historic events, some because of personal experiences and some just because I wanted to.

 

The book can be purchased on the Amazon Kindle store at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071RN8DL7/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493327228&sr=8-1&keywords=james+goldsworthy+the+edge+of+darkness

 

You can watch a video of me talking about the book, why I wrote it and answering some questions about it at: https://www.facebook.com/jamesgoldsworthyauthor/videos/1880692925546064/

 

 The Edge of Darkness book cover

You can follow me on my Facebook author page on: https://www.facebook.com/jamesgoldsworthyauthor/

 

You can also follow me on Twitter on: @authorjgolds

New book news & taster poem

It’s not long until the release of my new book The Edge of Darkness on 28th April. I thought I’d share one of my favourite poems from the book as a taster for you. I think we can all agree that time just seems to fly by and the older we get the quicker it passes. This piece was written with precisely that in mind. I hope you enjoy it.

 The Edge of Darkness book cover

SANDS OF TIME

 

Forever shifting

 

The sands of time will not stand still for any of us

 

An ocean of history, of events millennia old surrounds us

 

Unable to reshape the past, we strive to shape the future to our own ideals

 

Ceaselessly, the sands of time reconfigure and keep us wondering

 

What is to come?

 

James Goldsworthy.

Copy Right 2017. All rights reserved.

Taster poem from my new book The Edge of Darkness

It’s not long until the release of my new book The Edge of Darkness on 28th April. I thought I’d share one of my favourite poems from the book as a taster for you. I think we can all agree that time just seems to fly by and the older we get the quicker it passes. This piece was written with precisely that in mind. I hope you enjoy it.

 The Edge of Darkness book cover

SANDS OF TIME

 

Forever shifting

 

The sands of time will not stand still for any of us

 

An ocean of history, of events millennia old surrounds us

 

Unable to reshape the past, we strive to shape the future to our own ideals

 

Ceaselessly, the sands of time reconfigure and keep us wondering

 

What is to come?

 

James Goldsworthy.

Copy Right 2017. All rights reserved.

Milton Keynes-based specialists in remote delivery of Executive Coaching and Assistive Technology Training.