Tag Archives: Training

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.

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.

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