Outreach Technology

News From TSBVI Technology

Blind advocates: Hollywood lobbying threatens deal for accessible books

Disputes between blind groups and content companies could kill copyright treaty.  

From arstechnica (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/05/blind-advocates-hollywood-lobbying-threatens-deal-for-accessible-books/)

by Timothy B. Lee – May 10 2013, 8:04am CDT

Exerpt of article:

“For the last several years, negotiators at the World Intellectual Property Organization have been working on a copyright treaty that would make it easier for blind people to get accessible versions of books, like well-annotated audio books or large-print editions. But aggressive lobbying by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and other US copyright interests threatens to derail the negotiations, according to several advocates for the blind who spoke to Ars.

“The main sticking point has been whether to try to use the treaty as a vehicle for enhancing copyright protections or whether the treaty should remain clearly focused on carving out an exception to allow works to be produced in accessible formats for the blind,” said Frederic Schroeder, a blind academic who has represented the National Federation of the Blind at recent negotiations. “We don’t want this treaty to result in weaker copyright protection or strengthened copyright protection,” he said. The blind community just wants easier access to books.”

New Closed-Captioning Glasses Help Deaf Go Out To The Movies

This story is from All Tech Considered  Technology News from NPR.


 3:48 PM

There will be a special attraction for deaf people in theaters nationwide soon. By the end of this month, Regal Cinemas plans to have distributed closed-captioning glasses to more than 6,000 theaters across the country.

Sony Entertainment Access Glasses are sort of like 3-D glasses, but for captioning. The captions are projected onto the glasses and appear to float about 10 feet in front of the user. They also come with audio tracks that describe the action on the screen for blind people, or they can boost the audio levels of the movie for those who are hard of hearing.

Randy Smith Jr., the chief executive officer for Regal Cinemas, says he has worked for more than a decade to find a solution to this problem. He tells Arun Rath, host of weekends on All Things Considered, that it has been his goal since 1998 “to develop a technology that would allow accessibility to the deaf and blind for every show time, for every feature.”

Amazon Bringing New Accessibility Features to Free Kindle Reading Apps

Amazon Kindle press release

Amazon today announced new accessibility features for the Kindle reading app, making it easier than ever for blind and visually impaired customers to navigate their Kindle libraries, read and interact with their books, and more. These new features are available starting today on Kindle for iOS, and accessibility enhancements will be available on additional platforms in the future.

“We’re excited to introduce these new features to our Kindle for iOS app, making it easier than ever for our blind and visually impaired customers to access the vast selection of over 1.8 million books in the Kindle Store on their iPhone or iPad,” said Dorothy Nicholls, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “With this update, we’re also making customer-favorite features—such as X-Ray, End Actions, sharing, highlighting and bookmarking—more accessible. We look forward to continuing to develop and extend our accessibility features on Kindle Fire and our other Kindle apps.”

New accessibility features of the Kindle app enable blind and visually impaired customers to:

  • Read aloud over 1.8 million titles available in the Kindle Store using Apple’s VoiceOver technology. Over 300,000 of these books are exclusive to the Kindle Store. Over 900,000 books are less than $4.99; over 1.5 million are less than $9.99.
  • Seamlessly navigate within their library or within a book, with consistent title, menu and button names; navigate to a specific page within a book and sort books in the library by author or title.
  • Read character-by-character, word-by-word, line-by-line, or continuously, as well as move forward or backward in the text.
  • Search for a book within their library or search within their book and navigate to specific text.
  • Add and delete notes, bookmarks, and highlights.
  • Use customer-favorite features like X-Ray, End Actions and sharing on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Look up words in the dictionary and Wikipedia.
  • Customize the reading experience including changing the font, text size, background color, margin, and brightness.
  • Use iOS accessibility features like Zoom, Assistive Touch, and Stereo to Mono, as well as peripheral braille displays.

Assistive Technology Needs for a Student with a Visual Impairment

Just in case you are having trouble figuring out what technology is out there for a student with a visual impairment, here is a resource that could help you out while making your supervisor (or the one who has the money) nervous. It was compiled by the good folks at the California School for the Blind:  Jerry Kuns, James Carreon and Adrian Amandi.  It is quite an extensive list.

The file is a downloadable Word document and is listed as one of the links labeled “What’s Available in Assistive Technology for Students with Visual Impairment-March 2011″.   It has been updated to include iOS and Mac accessibility.  Of course, your student(s) may not need “everything” but this is a good reference for what type of technology is available. 

Besides this resource document, included on the web page are various assistive technology topics.  It is quite a wealth of information.


Happy reading.

Patrick Van Geem, TVI
Assistive Technology Consultant
TSBVI Outreach Department

Change Reaction Mac OS X Game for the Blind

ChangeReaction, Draconis Entertainment’s classic audio 
puzzle game for the blind and visually impaired comes to 
OS X with new audio, three entirely different modes of 
game play, a host of new features, and a cheaper price 
Primarily intended for blind and visually impaired gamers, 
ChangeReaction is played via the keyboard and your 
ears. Navigate the game board with the arrow keys, 
dropping coins on the stacks to create chains of 
explosions and rack up higher and higher scores! Match 
three coins of the same denomination vertically or 
horizontally to trigger a chain reaction that blows up all 
adjacent coins of the same value! This game has no visual 
element. Use your fingers, ears, and wits to rack up the 
highest scores possible!

Find the game on the Mac App Store. 

Spellgate Accessible iOS game

Three University of North Carolina computer science students created a beginning spelling game app that is totally accessible! Spellgate, a free app, is now in the app store. Zoom and VoiceOver work well with the game. They also added an option in settings so that when you use the Refresh-able Braille Device (RBD), you can turn off the picture labeling if desired so that the RBD does not spell out the picture label. (Spelling out the picture label provides the answer!) You can also mute VO and the student will have to rely on reading the RBD letters.

The students will continue to work on the game next semester, so please provide your input! They plan to do some fine tuning and hope to add letter recognition (matching letters) and a way for teachers to add their own words.

Click on the link for more information:

In the app store, you can simply search for Spellgate.

Please share Spellgate with others!

Testing for the pH Factor in Liquids using the LabQuest (1st Version)

This is a short four-part video demonstrating how students in a science lab at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired use the LabQuest equipment from Vernier Science .  They are finding the pH factor of four liquids: distilled water, tap water, milk and vinegar. The data collection device used in the experiment is the stand-alone LabQuest-Version 1.  

LabQuest 1 is the only Vernier device that “accepts” the Sci-Voice scripting software.  With Sci-Voice installed, the LabQuest 1 device is able to voice the data.  This enables the student with a visual impairment to hear the incremental changes relative to time of any experiment that is recorded by a sensor probe used in conjunction with the LabQuest device.  Discerning the change in incremental findings of substances as they occur in real time is essential to laboratory experiments and data collection. 

 A pH sensor is plugged into one of the LabQuest’s analog inlets. The probe end is then inserted into a liquid until the reading is repeating itself for at least 5 times.  When this occurs, the reading is recorded as the pH factor of that particular liquid.

 Students record their findings in either braille using a Perkins braille writer or on a large print document.  After entering the data the probe is cleaned in distilled water and inserted in the next liquid.  All four liquids were recorded within the fifty-minute class period.  There were two groups of 4-5 students.  Each group had a Talking LabQuest, a pH sensor probe and four beakers containing different liquids.

Video of Experiment

Patrick Van Geem, TVI
AT Consultant


Accessible Books for Texas

Most of you already know about this, but if you don’t here a link to a website that explains the partnership between the State of Texas and Bookshare.  
http://www.accessiblebooks4tx.org The original focus of the the project is to educate educators on digital talking books, who qualifies for services, and how to obtain these books.   There are three outreach coordinators hired by Benetech (parent company of Bookshare) assigned to serve various ESC regions.  If need help with Bookshare issues this might be a good place to start finding answers to questions you might have.  Hope you find it useful.

Patrick Van Geem, TVI
Assistive Technology Consultant

Free On-line Video Tutorials for Voiceover!

Watch Brian Charlson, Director of Technology at The Carroll Center as he demonstrates how to use Voiceover  screen reader on the iPhone. Thesefree tutorials focus on the use of Apple products and blind friendly apps. There is also a videoUsing Apple TV with Voiceover showing how to use the digital entertainment center device, Apple TV.

All videos are captioned and audio described.

Enjoy the show!