Tag Archives: Accessibility

5 benefits of using a Bluetooth keyboard with an iOS device when running VoiceOver

When training visually impaired individuals on iOS devices that are running VoiceOver I often find that many of them have the same frustrations in using their devices. Most commonly these are  struggling with using the hand gestures, getting frustrated with not being able to type quickly when emailing or sending messages and not liking to use dictation due to its occasional inaccuracy. Using a Bluetooth keyboard with an iOS device can help greatly in alleviating these frustrations. I often take my own along with me so they can try it out and see the benefits. Nine out of ten decide to purchase a Bluetooth keyboard once they’ve tried one out and I believe that many more visually impaired people could get a great deal more practical use out of their iOS devices if they were to use one too.

 

So, below I have created a list of my top 5 benefits of using a Bluetooth keyboard with your iOS device if you are visually impaired and running VoiceOver.

 

1. If you are not a fan of using dictation or find using the virtual keyboard very slow, using a Bluetooth keyboard makes typing text much easier, faster and more accurate.

 

2. General navigation of the iOS device is very easy using a Bluetooth keyboard and using features like the rota are made much easier without the need for hand gestures that can sometimes be awkward to execute.

 

3. All VoiceOver accessible apps remain accessible when using a Bluetooth keyboard. In many instances the apps are easier to use as a result.

 

4. You can use a Bluetooth keyboard with more than one iOS device. By pairing a Bluetooth keyboard with all of your iOS devices you can really use them to their full potential. It is as easy as switching the Bluetooth setting on/off on each device to use the Bluetooth keyboard from one device to the next.

 

5. Using a Bluetooth keyboard with something like an iPad or iPhone enables you to access  all of the features on the iOS device when you’re on the move without the need to carry around a bulky or heavy laptop. A Bluetooth keyboard is compact and light enough to fit in a small satchel bag/handbag along with an iPad for example. This makes purchasing a Bluetooth keyboard to use with your iOS device an affordable alternative to buying a laptop. This is particularly the case if you use a desktop or MacBook/Laptop at home with free apps like Pages, Dropbox etc and they are also used on the iOS device as productivity can be maximised.

Exciting news from AVC

It has been a little while since I wrote a blog entry, but to be honest I have been kept pretty busy with one thing or another. My projects with #BOBcatDigitalLimited, #DolphinComputerAccess and my private #Coaching and #AssistiveTechnology training clients have all kept me working hard.

 

Yesterday I had a very pleasant interview with the delightful Lei Chan, Editor of #ChamberMK magazine #InBusiness. AVC will be featured in the magazine’s first edition which is due to be published on 19th November 2014. 

 

In other news, I am very pleased to announce that AVC has secured an agreement with assistive technology providers Dolphin to deliver their UK telephone and Skype training to new and existing users.

 

These are exciting times indeed.

A refreshing new project

Yesterday I had a meeting with a new client Bobcat Digital Ltd and their web designer Karton Design Ltd. The meeting was about the building and development of Bobcat’s new website and I have to say that it was incredibly refreshing to sit in a room of people who all want to work together and produce a great finished product. The enthusiasm for the project was palpable and we think we will have something very special and quite different by the time it is complete.

 

I am very much looking forward to working on this project and imagine it will be a fantastic learning experience for all of us that are involved.

How to get high quality voices for VoiceOver on iOS7 devices

Apples iOS7 for mobile devices has been out for some time now and it has received some great reviews from the disabled community for its improved accessibility across its whole system. However, many visually impaired people (me included) were unimpressed by the voice used by VoiceOver. Basically the default voice for all iOS7 devices is the compact mobile version of British English Daniel. The compact voice takes up less space in the phone’s memory but sadly the sound quality in the opinion of most visually impaired users is very low compared to the high quality version of the same voice.

But fear not, as part of iOS7 Apple have not only given users the option to download and use the high quality version of the voice, but have also included several other voices which can be used either as compact versions or high quality versions.

As so many blind and visually impaired people that I know use iPhones, iPods or iPads I thought I would write this short guide on how to download and use the new voices available or simply change the default compact voice to the high quality version.

Here is what to do:

1. Go to Settings, then General, then Accessibility.

2. Go into VoiceOver then into the Languages and Dialects option.

3. Go into Default Dialect (it will say British English).

4. You will now have several different voices to choose from that you can download. These include American, Irish, Australian etc. Note that all of these voices are already on your device but they are all the compact versions. You can simply double tap on the voice you want and VoiceOver will use it as its default but remember it will be the compact version of that voice.

To get the High Quality version of any particular voice do the following:

1. Choose the voice you want and double tap it so the device is speaking in that voice.

2. Then beneath the different voice options you will find that there is a voice quality button. Double tap that button and your device will pop up with a warning that the high quality voice is a larger file and asks you if you want to continue. Obviously if you want the voice then double tap the ok/continue button. Your device will then download the High Quality version of the voice you have selected. This may take a couple of minutes so don’t panic if it does.

3. Once you’ve done this go back to the VoiceOver menu and there will now be a button called “use compact voice.” This toggles between switching the compact voice on and off. Switch it off and you will have the nice clear High Quality voice. Switch it on and you will have the compact voice.

I hope you have found this post useful. If you have, then please do share it with any visually impaired people who may benefit from it.

James Goldsworthy.

Founder, Alternate Visions Coaching.

Is it accessible?

How accessible is your website?

 

Thousands of people around the world purchase screen reading software to enable them to use computers, tablets and mobile phones effectively on the internet. The common misconception is that only blind and visually impaired people use this software, but this is not the case. Although the visually impaired community accounts for a large percentage of the world’s screen reader users, people with motor impairment and learning difficulties also use them to great effect.

 

Sadly only a small percentage of websites out there are fully accessible to screen reader users. Unfortunately very few corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses even consider whether their website is accessible. This isn’t to say that the number of accessible websites is not increasing, because it is, albeit very slowly. There are certainly a far greater number of accessible websites now compared to just five years ago.

 

So who is to blame?

 

The website developers? Probably not, as they tend to work to their client’s specifications and to whatever the current minimal accepted level of accessibility is at the time. This isn’t to say that some web developers don’t try to go the extra mile and work hard on accessibility, because some certainly do.

 

The web developer’s clients, the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses then? Probably not them either. After all, more often than not they simply want a website that looks good, that works, that promotes their product or service and that won’t cost them a fortune to have built or to maintain.

 

The disabled community perhaps? Again probably not. A vast majority of visually impaired and disabled people wouldn’t know how to build a website in the first place and those that do already do a huge amount to improve accessibility where they can. In fact the greatest leaps forward in accessibility have been as a result of the technically minded members of the disabled community having direct influence in its development.

 

So what’s the answer? 

 

To be honest I don’t think there is a correct answer, but here are my thoughts. 

 

The disabled community really does need to speak up more and communicate with web developers and the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses that purchase their web building services. It is no good our complaining about inadequate accessibility if we are not talking to the people who can change it. There is a lot of ignorance out there about accessibility and I think it is our part to play to improve the situation by educating people about it. I don’t just mean negative communication either; if something works and improves our web experience we should be letting the web developers know. Equally when things are not working we need to communicate in a constructive and informative manner, not just blowing hot air. Without constructive feedback it is exceptionally difficult for web developers to make positive changes. 

 

As far as the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses are concerned I think it is quite difficult. I think what it really boils down to here is a lack of awareness when it comes to accessibility, which of course is where what I said above comes in. Having said that however I do wonder if they ever think about how much their potential client base could grow if the percentage of people that are currently unable to navigate their websites could suddenly access them. I do feel that many simply overlook or dismiss the disabled community as not being viable clients or customers and I think that is something that really ought to change.

 

Regarding web developers; again this is a difficult one as the default position seems to be to work to the minimum industry standard for accessibility. That is of course a generalisation, I have come into contact with some outstanding web developers who are very inclusive of accessibility and who strive to improve it on an ongoing basis. There are a very small number of course like the one I spoke to around eighteen months ago who told me that the number of disabled people using the internet that struggle with accessibility is insignificant when it comes to the number of internet users worldwide, so it didn’t really matter if the sites he developed were accessible as his clients didn’t care about it. I wonder whether they genuinely didn’t care or if actually they just didn’t understand about the impact that accessibility can have, or even if they understood what accessibility is. With that extreme example aside I think that on the whole web developers are quite open to feedback, particularly if it is constructive. It would be quite nice if more developers approached disabled user groups and asked for their feedback during development rather than as an afterthought, but again what need is there if their clients are not bothered about it?

 

In summary I feel that it is the responsibility of all of us whether disabled, a web developer or a purchaser of website building services to spread the word about accessibility and make it an industry standard rather than an inconvenience.

 

Part of my mission is to make disabled people more able to be independent through the use of technology. This of course means desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The ability to successfully navigate the internet and the websites that they want to visit has an enormously positive impact upon disabled individuals. Believe me, I know, I am one of those people. It creates the possibility of building networks of disabled peers as well as more inclusion in the general community. Let’s not forget that disabled people would still like to shop online, read local news online, hire solicitors or buy insurance online, just because we are disabled doesn’t mean we don’t want to do the same things as those who aren’t.

My first networking event

Today I attended my very first networking event. I don’t mind telling you that it was a pretty daunting prospect going to an event where I knew absolutely nobody and for all intents and purposes I would be alone at. If nothing else I was worried about walking into people with my white cane and potentially embarrassing myself. But I am pleased to say that I didn’t in fact do my human cannon ball impression and I seemed to be well received. 

There were around 40 people in attendance representing all sorts of businesses ranging from a vehicle leasing firm to a national insolvency company. The event was run by the Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce and was hosted at The Brasserie in Bletchley College. Delegates were treated to a three course lunch prepared by the colleges catering students and I have to say that the food was superb. 

The format of the event basically meant that all delegates got to interact with two thirds of the attendees, which for me was great. There was perhaps fifteen minutes or so to stand and chat before the lunch was served. Then everybody took their seats around one of four tables and got to exchange business cards with those present before giving a brief introduction about themselves to the table as a whole. From that point on and for the remainder of the course (around 20 minutes per course) everybody was able to chat and make connections with whoever they wished to around the table. For me this was fantastic as it removed the awkwardness of me potentially barging in on others conversations as well as eliminating any possibility of collisions as I tried to navigate around. The same process was repeated for each of the three courses and by the end everybody was sporting bulging pockets or handbags from the number of business cards stuffed into them. 

Finally two business cards were randomly selected from those that had been dropped into a box as each delegate had entered the Brasserie. The owners of the cards were given the opportunity to deliver a five minute talk about what their business/company is about and what they offer. I thought this too was an excellent touch. 

All in all I felt it was a very well organised and thoroughly worthwhile experience. I feel that I have made a few good connections that may result in further networking opportunities or even some work. 

The Jaffa Cake cheesecake wasn’t half bad either!

Empowering people to use assistive technology

A large part of my mission both in my Coaching work and my voluntary roles within Bucksvision is to empower visually impaired individuals to live independent and socially interactive lives. 

 

Part of this is to help individuals embrace technology that can help enrich their lives and break down communication barriers whilst teaching the skills to become a competent and confident user of that technology. This can mean something as simple as teaching a person how to use a talking watch or bedside clock. Equally it can mean teaching more complex skills like how to use magnifying software on a computer, using Talks speech software on a mobile phone, teaching an individual how to use the awesome built-in Voice Over technology on iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs, or it can be teaching somebody how to use a full assistive software package. 

 

One such package is Dolphin Guide. Guide is a complete software package that can be purchased and installed on almost all modern Windows Desktop or Laptop computers. I will not bang on for ages about everything it can do as all of that information is available on the Dolphin website; I have added a link at the end of this post for your convenience. What I will briefly mention however is that Guide enables users with low vision or complete sight loss to access and navigate around a computer by using magnification, screen reading speech or a combination of both. It allows the user to send and receive emails, access the internet, scan and read their post, create documents, manage their calendar and much more. So as you can see, it is pretty good! 

 

I have been a user of Dolphin Guide for around eight years now and felt that it was about time I actually trained to become an Accredited Trainer so I could deliver training effectively and of course with the necessary qualification to back it up. So last week I completed my training and sat my Accreditation exam. I am very happy to say that I passed with flying colours. 

 

Obviously I am very pleased about this; not only because I can now officially train people, but because it has been a personal goal of mine for two or three years to actually do this. 

 

So it is with pleasure that I can announce that I am now a fully Accredited Dolphin Guide 8.0 Trainer and my services are now available. 

 

You can find out more by visiting the “Assistive Technology Training” page of the AVC website. 

 

Link to Dolphin website: http://www.yourdolphin.com

 

 

James Goldsworthy.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach.

Accredited Trainer, Dolphin Guide 8.0