It’s my first day back at work after the Christmas and new year break. It’s a bit of a shock to the system I can tell you! A very busy day indeed. I think I need another holiday!
I’m thrilled to announce that my book for kids age 7+, The Adventures of Larry the Stick Insect: Larry the Dancing King,, currently available on Amazon Kindle, is now also available as an audio book on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.
As you 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 it produced as an audio book is an extension of this that makes it even more accessible to everybody..
So what’s the book about? It’s about a young stick insect, his friends and his adventures as he attends his school’s end of year dance. Larry loves Miranda who is a beautiful Ladybird, but as with any good story there’s a bad guy. That bad guy is Marv, a Praying Mantis who along with his sidekicks Vic and Kane bullies Larry and his friends and acts like he owns the school. In Larry the Dancing King Larry is confronted by Marv in front of his entire school, but Larry has a secret which he reveals to the astonishment of everybody present. The book is funny and paints a vivid picture of the action whilst having a good moral at its core. It’s been well received by children and adults alike.
Here’s an audio sample of the book: Larrythedancingking-retailaudiosample.mp3
You can get the book from the following:
Amazon, Kindle ebook & audio book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07F22RRCR/ref=cm_sw_r_em_api_c_Gx6nBbZN4VW3J
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
You can follow me on my Facebook author page on: https://www.facebook.com/jamesgoldsworthyauthor/
You can also follow me on Twitter on: @authorjgolds
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:
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
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.
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.
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.