Tag Archives: Alternate Visions Coaching

RNIB Tech Talk radio interview now available to listen to

A couple of months ago I posted that Steve Bennett from Dolphin Computer Access and I were interviewed on RNIB’s Tech Talk radio show. On the show Steve and I talk about some of Dolphin’s products, specifically SuperNova, Guide, EasyReader app for iOS and Android and the new Reader Pod. The show is now available to listen to at the following link:

 

https://audioboom.com/posts/6856628-dolphin-computer-access-emails

 

Book news

I’m very happy to announce that my poetry book The Edge of Darkness, currently available on Amazon Kindle, will also be available as an audio book this year! It’s in the production stage at the moment, so once production is finished I’ll be able to give a better idea of the release schedule. What I can say is that it’ll be available on Audible, iTunes and Google Play. I’m very excited!

 

As some of you may know I am blind and work with visually impaired adults and children as an assistive technology trainer/enablement coach. In the interest of making the book as accessible as possible I 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. Having the book made as an audio book is an extension of this that will make it even more accessible to everybody..

 

So what’s the book about? It’s 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 Kindle version can be purchased 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/

 

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

 

You can also follow me on Twitter on: @authorjgolds

 

An Exciting Day for AVC

It’s been an exciting day for AVC today. I was invited to take part in a radio interview for RNIB Tech Talk to speak about Dolphin products. The interview featured the show’s presenter, Steven Scott, talking to Dolphin’s Chief Operations Officer, Steve Bennett, and me as both a user of Dolphin products and an accredited trainer on SuperNova and Guide.

 

The show lasts for around 30 minutes in which we talk about the different assistive technology products available from Dolphin, our various experiences of assistive technology in general and address some misconceptions, in particular regarding what SuperNova and Guide can or cannot do.

 

It was a really interesting experience and was actually quite fun. The show is due to go out on air in a couple of weeks time. I will of course post confirmation of the date and time once I know them.

 

James, AVC.

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

How to turn off the “Press home to open” function on iOS 10

If you’ve updated your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to iOS 10 then you may be finding the “Press home to open” function a real pain. Some people like it but a lot of people seem to hate it and find it difficult to get used to. However, as long as it’s on a device that uses touch ID it is possible to turn it off so you can unlock the device in the same way that you used to on iOS 9.

 

If you’ve updated a device to iOS 10 that does not have the touch ID facility, an iPod Touch for example, then unfortunately the option to turn the function off does not exist.

 

To turn the “Press home to open” function off do the following:

 

Step 1: Go to Settings.

 

Step 2: Go to General.

 

Step 3: Go to Accessibility. Under the “Interaction” heading go to the “Home” Button.

 

Step 4: You’ll now find a “Rest finger to open” button at the bottom of the list of options. By default this setting is off. If you’re using VoiceOver single finger double tap this button, if you’re not using VoiceOver simply tap the button once, this turns the setting on and your iOS device will no longer require you to press the Home button to unlock it.

Accessibility of the iStick for iOS

The iStick has been around for a couple of years now, it’s undoubtedly a great concept; after all we all want more storage capability on our iOS devices and many of us would love to be able to use memory sticks with them. But just how accessible is the iStick for those of us who use VoiceOver?

 

For those of you who are not aware of what an iStick is, it’s basically a very clever memory stick which enables you to store and/or transfer files from your Mac or PC to your iOS device or vice versa. The iStick has both a USB and a lightning connector and a sliding switch style button allows you to expose whichever one you need. At the moment the iStick is only compatible with iOS devices that use lightning connector charging cables, however there’s apparently something in the pipeline that will allow people with older devices to use them. Whether this will be an adaptor for the current iStick or take the form of a purpose built model is unknown. There are currently two models available – the iStick which is plastic, is a USB 2 device and gives you the option of 16 gigabytes, 32 gigabytes, 64 gigabytes or 128 gigabytes of storage capacity, and the iStick Pro which is aluminium, is a USB 3 device, gives you the option of 32 gigabytes, 64 gigabytes or 128 gigabytes of storage capacity and is more expensive. Both models come with a neat little keyring pouch to keep the iStick in which is a nice little feature.

 

To use either model you’ll need to install the free iStick app. I was particularly impressed that not only is the app free but a prompt pops up on your device when you first plug the iStick into it. The prompt allows you to go straight to the app store via a button where you can download and install the app.

 

So is it accessible to VoiceOver users? The short answer is yes, although there are a few things to be aware of which I’ve listed below.

 

1: Although not specifically an accessibility issue, protective cases for devices that have narrow holes surrounding the lightning port can stop the iStick from engaging with it enough to work, so you may simply have to remove the case from your device when using the iStick.

 

2: Once you’ve installed the iStick app it’s as simple as plugging the iStick into the lightning port of your iOS device. A couple of seconds later a dialog box will open telling you that the iStick wants to communicate with the iStick app installed on your device. All of the labels and buttons in the dialog box are accessible with VoiceOver. It gives you an ignore option along with an allow option so all you need to do is single finger double tap on the allow option button to open the iStick app and start using it.

 

3: Once you have the iStick app open and are on the home screen all but one of the buttons are labelled and are therefore fully accessible with VoiceOver. The button that’s not labelled is actually the Settings button and is found at the bottom of the screen just above the Home button. You can find an operating instructions guide in the settings area which is very useful.

 

4: You’ll find that very nearly all of the buttons throughout the app are labelled.  However, when in edit mode to delete, copy or move a file there are three buttons running along the bottom of the screen just above the Home button which are not labelled. From left to right these are the delete button, the copy button and the move button.

 

5: To move back to the previous screen when inside an app VoiceOver users are used to a “Back” button found at the top left corner of the screen. A button that has the same function is located in the same place in the iStick app, however it isn’t labelled in the same way. Instead it’s labelled according to the screen it takes you back to. For example, if you’re in the top level of the “iStick” area in the app the button found at the top left corner is labelled “Return” and takes you back to the iStick app home screen. If you’re in a folder full of mp3 files inside the iStick area of the app the button found at the top left corner is labelled “iStick” as it takes you back to the top level of the iStick area. Generally this isn’t a problem but it does take a little getting used to.

 

None of these things make the iStick unusable, in fact with a little playing around a VoiceOver user can become familiar with the app and benefit from using a great functional little device. I’ll certainly be recommending the iStick to clients who express the need for more capacity for their iOS devices.

 

Finding the right assistive technology for you

We live in a time in which disabilities such as sight loss are no longer as lonely and isolating as they once were. Some of this is due to more social awareness and acceptance of disabilities as a whole, but most is due to the technology that’s now available to everyday people like you and me. Over the last fifteen years technology has increasingly enabled those of us with varying degrees of visual impairment to become fully interactive with our peers, be they visually impaired or not.

 

As more assistive technology becomes available we’re faced with the challenge of finding what works well and suits our wants and needs. An added complication is that this technology by its very nature is not cheap, so we are often faced with potentially parting with a lot of money only to find that the piece of equipment or software we’ve bought doesn’t do what we really want it to. So how can you identify what’s going to be best for you?

 

In terms of Windows and Android devices, it’s relatively easy, particularly if you already own one, as pretty much all assistive technology software manufacturers offer some sort of free demo version of their software. Usually these demo versions last for a limited period of 30 days or so depending on which manufacturer it is. Not only are these demo versions often free, they are also available as downloads so you can install them straight away rather than having to wait for discs to be posted to you. The only slight draw back is that if you’re at the stage of looking for software to help you be able to use your computer or device, you’re likely to need a friend or family member to help you download and install the demos before you can try them out. The great thing about demo versions is that they allow you to try out the software for a decent period of time at your own pace rather than putting you on the spot to make a decision whilst at a shop etc.

 

In terms of Apple devices, it is even easier if you already own one. All modern Apple computers and devices have built in assistive technology that you don’t need to pay for which can simply be turned on so you can try it out. This is great as you can turn it on or off as many times as you like without being restricted by the time limitations of demo versions. If you don’t already own an Apple device but want to try one or several out, you can go into an Apple store and spend as long as you like doing so. The staff are very accommodating, however it is worth being aware that they may not have full knowledge of how their devices work for the visually impaired. Many stores do now have a learning specialist who should know all about their assistive technology capabilities, so it’s worth asking when you go into the store.

 

Two further ways of getting to try out software or devices is to go to events that have a variety of manufacturers all under one roof like Sight Village or the RNIB technology open event. These are good because you can speak to people about what the software or device does and in most cases actually try out a fully functioning version whilst there. More often than not you can also pick up demo discs to take home and install on your own computer. The only drawbacks with these sorts of events are that inevitably they’re extremely busy and loud and you never really get very long on the software or devices you are having a go on, so it can be rather frustrating. It can feel like complete information overload when moving around from manufacturer to manufacturer as well, but you can take away a lot of information which comes in handy when trying to remember what you’ve seen.

 

Another option is having somebody come out to your home with some examples of the devices or software you’re interested in. This is a good option if you’re less mobile and has the bonus of your being in a familiar environment in which you’re comfortable. This works well as you can ask plenty of questions, get your hands on the equipment and of course try it out without feeling rushed. You will often find that the person that visits you will also be able to leave you with demo versions of software if it’s software you’re looking at. You may be able to find an independent company that will come out to you, give you advice and demonstrate equipment from a variety of manufacturers based on what you want assistive technology to do for you rather than being biased towards a manufacturer they work for. There are several of us around the UK that offer this service, but even if having somebody out to your home doesn’t work for you, it’s always worth getting in touch, asking questions and getting some advice.

 

I often get asked what is the best device or software for visually impaired and blind people. Unfortunately there’s no right or wrong answer to that question. The fact of the matter is that there’s some brilliant technology out there that can help us do pretty much everything a sighted person can, but at the end of the day it comes down to what the individual’s wants and needs are as well as personal choice and budget. My best piece of advice would be to try out as many different devices or pieces of software as you can. Also, if you can speak to other visually impaired people who use assistive technology that’s no bad thing, as they have the day to day experience of using it. If you’re very lucky you may even find that they’ll let you have a go on their device or computer.