Tag Archives: iPOD

Kids audio book news and audio sample

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

 

Audible, audio book: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Children/The-Adventures-of-Larry-the-Stick-Insect-Audiobook/B07F24BXL7

 

iTunes, audio book: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/audiobook/adventures-larry-stick-insect-larry-dancing-king-unabridged/id1406387658

 

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

 

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.

Colourfully described new book for children now available

Colourfully described new children’s book now available.

 

I’ve recently released my first book for children. 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? The book is called The Adventures of Larry the Stick Insect: Larry the Dancing King. 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.

 

The book can be purchased on the Amazon Kindle store at:  http://amzn.to/2aee5an

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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

Ten years on

It was on this day ten years ago that I finally lost my remaining vision. Between February 2004 and December 2005 my eyesight rapidly deteriorated until finally the last of it went literally overnight. I clearly remember sitting up in bed and reading a large print book through the most powerful magnifier it was possible to get at the time. I could only see four words at a time so it was slow going, but I enjoyed reading and was determined to do as much of it as I could before the sight failed completely. Unfortunately the next morning I woke up and found that I couldn’t see anything but dull grey light. I’d already lost my right eye so all I had left was the small amount of vision remaining in my left. Needless to say it was quite a shock to wake up like that and it took me quite some time to get a grip on myself.

 

Now this blog isn’t a woe is me piece and I’m not going to start going into the details of my adjustment into life as a blind person, but there was nothing that could be done to restore my vision and I knew it. It took me some time to adjust from being a fully sighted, working, driving man in my late twenties to a completely blind, unemployed chap who was not able to drive any more. Anybody who has gone through the same or similar will be fully aware of how it affects your capacity to function on a daily basis and of course your state of mind. Luckily I’m pretty resilient and have a stubborn streak about a mile wide so I made pretty steady progress. I want to make it clear here that I absolutely am not saying that it was easy, it is without exception the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced and quite honestly I wouldn’t ever want to go through it again. It was of course incredibly difficult for my family too and I can say with utter certainty that if it hadn’t have been for the support that my family and friends gave me I wouldn’t be sat here writing this now.

 

So why am I writing this blog?

 

Well, as today has approached I’ve spent quite a lot of time reflecting over the past decade of my life, the highs and the lows, my achievements and what’s changed.

 

If someone had asked me just after my sight had failed if I thought I’d ever have the life I have now and be doing what I am doing now my answer would’ve been entirely negative. Just as most people would have done, there was no way I could imagine anything further ahead than the next twenty four hours.

 

So what happened to get me out of that situation?

 

The short answer is sheer bloodymindedness. The full answer is that although I was bloodyminded and refused to curl up in a ball and let it beat me, I had the support and help of my family and friends. More than that, I started getting involved in things and interacting with people.

 

I started volunteering once a month for my local visual impairment charity BucksVision and as a result got to interact with other people with sight loss as well as fully sighted people. I initially started volunteering at the local resource centre and started learning about assistive technology as well as getting to talk to other people that had either been through or were going through losing their own sight. Before long I found that I was really enjoying helping people as well as being able to learn about how sight loss affects different people. It allowed me to evolve my own coping strategies and use my own experiences to help others. Within a year I was volunteering once a week and ultimately became the person who people met to discuss and try out assistive technology. This went on for several years with my getting more and more involved until in 2011 I became a Trustee/Director of the charity and then in 2012 became the Chairman of the Board for a year. During this time I continued to have a lot of contact with other visually impaired people and did some mentoring and development work with some of them.

 

This all gave me the inspiration to retrain as a Coach and also to get some proper qualifications to deliver training on assistive technology. I didn’t know exactly what I’d do with the qualifications once I’d got them, but I had the beginnings of an idea. Although I was quite anxious about it at the time I did spend all of my savings and get some help from a local charity to fund my training and I have to say that it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. By the end of 2013 I had become a certified accredited Executive Coach, become a Dolphin accredited trainer, Dolphin Guide certified software specialist and completed my Apple certified support technician training specialising in VoiceOver. So the next decision I needed to make was, what to do now I’d retrained.

 

Initially I thought I might get a job as a coach in a local business or perhaps even with the RNIB or similar organisation as some sort of assistive technology trainer or something. But the more I thought about it the more I realised that I didn’t actually want to work for anybody else. My previous work background was in retail where I had been a manager and trainer, so I knew I had a good foundation of experience to start from when thinking about running my own business. In the end the decision was really made for me when it became abundantly clear that no local business was interested in employing a blind chap regardless of previous experience and/or qualifications. I’m sure that anybody with any kind of disability reading this will know precisely what I mean as well as how incredibly frustrating it is to be swept under the carpet. So that was what I was going to do, I was going to start my own business as a Coach and assistive technology trainer.

 

Now I have to say here that starting your own business is not for the faint hearted. Whilst it’s not impossible when you’re blind, it’s certainly not easy and you find yourself having to think about things that wouldn’t even come into consideration normally. After spending a couple of months getting everything set up I started trading as Alternate Visions Coaching and here we are nearly two full years further down the line. I love my job, it’s interesting, I meet some fantastic people, I work with both the sighted and visually impaired, I get to help people by sharing knowledge and experience and I get the satisfaction of seeing people develop. Working as an independent Coach is incredibly varied and working as the only male Coach in an organisation called The Bird Table is fantastic. My colleagues are not only talented Coaches but are also genuinely good people. The Bird Table is a coaching organisation that specialises in business development for women running SMEs or who work in Tech. My work day is never the same from one day to the next and I am constantly learning, which is something that I never want to stop doing.

 

So, you’re probably reading this thinking that this is all a bit of a pointless blog and that I’m just trying to promote my business. Well no, I’m writing this because if one other person who has been affected by sight loss reads this and can draw even the slightest inspiration from it then surely that’s a good thing. It’s very easy for people to sit and feel sorry for themselves or feel that they are not valued by society; I know because I’ve been there and gone through it myself. I’m also not writing this to boast. At the end of the day my life isn’t perfect, nothing ever is. I still have those down days and feel sorry for myself every now and then wishing I could still see, but the fact of the matter is that I can’t and never will again. What I can say is that if I can do it then there’s very little reason why others couldn’t too. I firmly believe that mindset and attitude contribute hugely to the way in which we all, disabled or not, move through our lives. Would I do things differently if I could live the last decade again? No, definitely not. There have been some horrendous times, some average times and some amazing life changing times and it’s because of this variety of experiences and life events that I am who I am today. The saying goes that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and do you know what, I think that’s spot on.

 

In the space of ten years I’ve gone from feeling that my life was over to trekking across the Sahara desert, winning bronze and silver medals at national level as a member of a shooting club, flying a microlight, driving a tank, becoming a Trustee/Director/Chairman of a charity for the visually impaired and running my own business and all of it since losing my sight.

 

I was dreading today, I didn’t know how I’d feel or even if I’d want to acknowledge the significance of the day. But I think it’s important for other people to see that having a disability is not the end of the world or the end of your life and who you are. My life could be a whole lot worse than it is, I’ve only got to listen to the news to know that, but on a more localised personal level I mean that I could easily have made it worse for myself. I’m very grateful for the chances I’ve been given to do these things, but equally I’m glad I took the risks I did and persisted when at times it felt like it would be easier to give up.

 

I don’t want this to turn into an Oscar acceptance speech, but I owe a lot of thanks to some people and I’m going to do it here. Thanks to the staff and volunteers at BucksVision, all of the medical professionals who got me through my sight loss, my colleagues at The Academy of Executive Coaching, my colleagues at The Bird Table, the team at Dolphin Computer access, John Panarese of Mac For the Blind, my assistant and friend Jan, my friends, my family and finally my partner Sarah. Without all of these people life would be very different and I appreciate everything you’ve done to help and support me more than you can possibly imagine.

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.

VoiceOver accessible iOS apps suitable for kids

As we all know there are literally thousands of third party apps out there for smart phones and tablets, but sadly very few of them are actually accessible to those of us who are visually impaired and rely on using screen reading technology to operate our devices, let alone ones that are good for kids. As I’m a VoiceOver specialist this blog focuses on apps useful and suitable for kids using Apple iOS devices, there are of course apps for Android devices too, but as I’m not a trainer for Android and don’t have specific knowledge about them I’m afraid I’m unable to give any meaningful advice or opinions about them. So, in the spirit of Christmas I’ve pulled together a list of 12 apps that are fully accessible with VoiceOver, are suitable for kids and that work well. I’ve tried to get together a reasonable mixture of apps that are useful, educational and fun, but that can also be used by kids and families alike. In the list below you’ll find the name of the app, a brief description of what it does as well as which devices and operating systems it will work with, its cost and finally a link to its page on the Apple iOS app store.

 

 

App name: Accessible Letter Soup.

Price: £0.79.

Description: Learn words and spelling with Accessible Letter Soup. Words can be found vertically, horizontally or diagonally. You can also choose the size of board and difficulty of words. There are lots of different categories of words to choose from including, animals, musical instruments, colours, professions and jobs, human body. Good for most ages, and particularly good for learning spellings as you can start easy and work your way up.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/nKih6.i

 

App name: Blindfold Bowling.

Price: Free with some in app purchases.

Description: A good app for all ages. In this game you can play on your own, with friends and family or against computer opponents. The game is fully accessible and relies purely on the player’s hearing. It has excellent sound effects as you hear yourself get strikes and half strikes along with frustrating gutter balls.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/xTC79.i

 

App name: Blindfold Hopper.

Price: Free with some in app purchases.

Description: A really fun game for younger kids, this game is audio only and is fully accessible. In the game the player is a frog trying to jump from lily pad to lily pad as they pass by. The further through the game the player gets the quicker the lily pads pass by. Lots of great sound effects of animals give this game a really nice feel. But don’t get too distracted, if you miss the lily pad and fall in you’ll get eaten by an alligator!

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at:  https://appsto.re/gb/8Ibq6.i

 

App name: Blindfold Simon.

Price: Free with some in app purchases.

Description: This is a great fun app for all ages. Really good for the memory and helping kids get used to gestures on the touch screen. Just like the game Simon Says, this app gives the player a sequence, touch screen gestures are then used to replicate the sequence. Each time a sequence is successfully replicated another gesture is added to the next sequence and so on. This app has 1 and 2 player modes. In 2 player mode the iOS device is passed from one player to the next each time a sequence is successfully passed.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at:  https://appsto.re/gb/h5VF7.i

 

App name: Blindfold Pong.

Price: Free with some in app purchases.

Description: Based on the classic arcade game Pong, this app is audio only and the player wears headphones to hear the direction that the ball or balls are travelling. The app uses the gyroscope built into the iOS device to determine when the player is swinging the bat (the phone or iPod) to hit the ball. It has progressive levels that get harder and harder the further you get. Good fun for all ages and also great for developing motor skills.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later. However, it is rather difficult to play the game on an iPad due to the device size.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/UjqE7.i

 

App name: Braille Reference.

Price: £0.79.

Description: A great app for kids learning braille or for those who don’t use it very often. The app has over 250 braille symbols and contractions that can be easily looked up for reference. The app is fully accessible with VoiceOver and a great tool to have in your bag or pocket if you’re a braille user.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 6.1 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/TwoZE.i

 

App name: Chime.

Price: Free.

Description: This is a great little app that enables your iOS device to make quarterly, half hourly or hourly time announcements. You can choose between several different sounds and two voices for the announcements. It’s a very useful app and is fully accessible with VoiceOver.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/c5CUy.i

 

App name: Double Post.

Price: Free with an optional in app upgrade purchase.

Description: A great app for older kids who have their own Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, it enables you to post to both simultaneously very quickly and easily as well as adding photos etc. It is fully accessible with VoiceOver and even works with AppleWatch.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 8.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/IhXdN.i

 

App name: JumpInSaucers.

Price: Free, there is also a paid version of the game that you can purchase.

Description: This is a game developed by parents of visually impaired children initially to allow their kids to play with their siblings. The game is an alien shoot ‘em up that utilises the iOS device’s gyroscope to allow the player to control the character. It’s fully accessible and suitable for all ages. It has good sound effects and interesting alien noises. This app is also available for Android devices on Google Play.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 6.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/kRB54.i

 

App name: Listerine Smile Detector.

Price: Free.

Description: This is a lovely fun little app that enables visually impaired and blind kids to see when people are smiling at them. The app is supported by the RNIB, is fully accessible with VoiceOver and also has built in magnification. The app can use the front or rear facing cameras and makes sounds or vibrates when a smile is detected. I think this is a really nice app that was created for all the right reasons.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 7.1 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/K-KV8.i

 

App name: Pages.

Price: Free.

Description: Pages is actually an Apple app and is fully accessible with VoiceOver. It’s a powerful word processing app that enables you to create, edit, read and save documents in multiple formats including Microsoft Word and PDF. It’s great for general word processing and good for school work as it offers a large selection of pre loaded documents templates for things like reports, posters, flyers, CVs, letters etc as well as enabling you to create your own unique documents. This app is fully accessible when using the touch screen on devices but it becomes even more viable as a tool for school work when a bluetooth keyboard is used with the iOS device.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 8.4 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/EysIv.i

 

App name: Spelling Bee.

Price: Free with some in app purchases.

Description: A fully accessible spelling app great for improving kids’ spelling. The app comes with 1,000 pre loaded spelling tests organised into different difficulty levels. The spelling tests are made into games to help kids enjoy doing them. This app is aimed at children aged 9 to 11 years.

Devices this app is suitable for: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch running iOS 6.0 or later.

Get the app in the iOS app store at: https://appsto.re/gb/lqQY0.i

 

 

This blog has made me think about doing the occasional article about apps that I find to be accessible and useful, so watch this space for future instalments.

How to slow down the double tap speed when using VoiceOver on devices running iOS 9.1

I’ve been waiting for the option to slow down the speed of double tapping when using VoiceOver for quite some time and now with iOS 9.1 it is here!

 

Several of my clients struggle with the speed at which they previously had to single finger double tap the screen to activate buttons, open apps, open links etc, not to mention two finger double tapping to answer or end calls coming in on their iPhones. I’m really pleased that Apple have made this option available as I think it will make the devices that we know and love that little bit more accessible to those who experience difficulty with their dexterity or who simply can’t double tap quite as quickly as other people.

 

You must have iOS 9.1 installed on each of the devices you wish to slow the double tap speed on for this to work. The steps below are exactly the same for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The slowed down speed also works when two finger double tapping to answer or end calls on the iPhone.

 

Step 1: Go to settings.

 

Step 2: Go to General.

 

Step 3: Go to Accessibility.

 

Step 4: Go into the VoiceOver area of Accessibility settings.

 

Step 5: Scroll the screen up as the setting you are looking for is off the bottom of the screen. You are looking for something that says “Double tap time out.” Go into it.

 

Step 6: You will now be presented with a text box that displays 0.25 seconds.  This is the amount of time allowed by VoiceOver so that two taps in quick succession are recognised by the device as a double tap to open apps, click on buttons etc.

 

Delete the numbers out of the text box and type in 0.50, this is the new speed that two taps in succession will be recognised by the device as a double tap.

 

Step 7: Now you’ve done this you can simply return to the main settings screen by repeatedly using the “Back” button found at the top left corner of the screen then pressing and releasing the home button in the bottom centre of the device to return to the home screen.

 

 

Note that you can only increase the time to 0.50 seconds. Although this doesn’t sound very much it is surprising how much extra time it gives you to execute that all important double tap. It is effectively doubling the amount of time previously required to do so.

 

Give it a try and see what you think.