Assistive Technology

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The 32st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, known to people in the industry as the 2017 CSUN Conference, is being held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego, CA from February 27 to March 3. CSUN, through the International Conference on Assistive Technology for Persons with Disabilities, provides an inclusive setting and hosts many groups including:

NVDA, a popular, award-winning and free screen reader for Microsoft Windows, released version 2.017.1 yesterday. The top new features and changes include:

  • Reporting of sections and text columns in Microsoft Word
  • Support for reading, navigating and annotating books in Kindle for PC
  • Improved support for Microsoft Edge

You can visit the NVDA website to download the screen reader and see a full list of what is new in version 2.017.1

From February 27 to March 4th the 32nd annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference will be held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego, California. On Tuesday, March 7th Dr. Kellie Lim, a physician at UCLA Health will be giving the Keynote speech and sharing her first-hand experience in accessing medical care, especially those with severe physical disabilities and limited resources.

The conference will feature several sessions throughout the week. On March 1st the doors to the Exhibit Hall will open and conference goers can browse through the many innovative products and services on display. 

The company that brought Video Relay Service (VRS) communication to people who are deaf, Sorenson Communications, has now introduced the first American Sign Language (ASL) Phone Tree called the Sorenson Bridge.

The Sorenson Bridge will strengthen the way people with hearing disabilities communicate when using a VRS. The Sorenson Bridge replaces the time-consuming process of navigating audio phone trees using sign language interpreters with video menus shown in ASL. The ASL video menus make it much faster and easier for people whose native language is ASL to select the option they want.

Read more on the Sorenson Bridge

In an effort to bridge the communication gap between American Sign Language (ASL) speakers and people with hearing, two undergraduates at the University of Washington developed gloves that translate sign into text or speech.

The SignAloud gloves, invented by Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi, won the Lemelson-MIT competition. Sensors in the gloves record hand position and movement and send the data via Bluetooth to a central computer that analyzes the data through various sequential statistical regressions. When a match with a gesture is found the corresponding word or phrase is played through a speaker.

You can read more about the SignAloud Gloves on GAATES

NVDA 2017.1 is slated to be available in late February. It will support the enhanced accessibility functionality in the Amazon Kindle for PC version 1.19. In the new version users will be able to:

  • read books in browse mode
  • read with the cursor
  • use continuous reading
  • have pages turn automatically as they read
  • highlight text
  • add notes
  • perform dictionary and Wikipedia lookups
  • copy text to the clipboard

In addition, users will be able to access:

  • links
  • footnotes
  • graphics
  • highlighted text
  • user notes

The beta version of NVDA with Kindle support is available for testing now. You can download Kindle for PC 1.9 and download the beta version of NVDA with Kindle support. Read more about NVDA and Kindle for PC on NNVACCESS

Google has a well-known policy that allows its employees to spend 20% of their time working on projects not related to their main job. Rio Akasaka, a project manager on Google Drive, took advantage of this policy and put in 20% of his time as a project manager to work on accessibility features for Google Maps.

Mr. Akasaka has worked for a year with a small team of contributors to introduce accessibility guidelines to Google Maps. The result is that, in addition to the information the map tool displays about venues and locations, it now displays information helpful to people with access needs.

While this may seem minor it is a major help to those who use a wheelchair. As with much accessibility, the new information will help other people as well including people who use other devices to assist their mobility and parents of small children using strollers.

For more information read the Business Insider India article.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, played a video that focused on the accessibility features of Apple’s products. Paulson, a woman with cerebral palsy, starred in the video. But that was just the beginning; using Switch Control to interact with her computer, Paulson edited the entire video, too.

Cook also announced a redesigned accessibility website featuring accessibility needs and how Apple’s devices address these needs. It also includes a section for inclusive education. 

Blappy is a blue tooth Android app that enables people with visual and auditory disabilities to effectively communicate. The app translates voice to text and text to voice and allows for high contrast images that can be viewed via the zoom feature. Because Blappy uses Bluetooth, it is intended for people who are 30 meters apart or less.

Blappy is currently available in four languages:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • English
  • and Portuguese

Conversations can be translated into all four languages.

Developers are currently working on an iOS version. The project was carried out with the support of UC3M's Audiovisual Accessibility Laboratory, which is part of the Center for Technologies for Disability and Dependence in UC3M’s Science Park

Here is more information on Blappy

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