Assistive Technology

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

Through a relationship with Quantum Reading, Learning, Vision, OrCam’s assistive technology (AT) device is now available to people who are blind in Australia. OrCam MyEye is the world’s most advance wearable AT solution. It uses a small camera that mounts on the user’s glasses to read printed text in real time into a discrete earpiece. Moreover, it can recognize people’s faces and products in the store. The devices are hand delivered by a trainer who teaches new users how to use the device in their daily life.  

Microsoft gave away the upgrade to Windows 10 for a full year. Now most users will pay as much as $199 for a copy of the popular operating system. However, if you’re an assistive technology user, there is good news. You can still get it for free.

People who use assistive technologies such as screen readers like Jaws and NVDA used by people who are blind or have low vision can still get Windows 10 for free. Microsoft has rolled out a new webpage to help their customers use assistive technology navigate the process.

This does not, however, elevate the need for producers of website, software and apps to comply with web accessibility guidelines such as the WCAG 2.0, so that people with disabilities can perform functions and access content and to meet the requirements of the ADA.

For more information on complying with the guidelines visit the Expert Accessibility Service page on the Interactive Accessibility website. 

A French start-up Moodstocks specializes in rapid object recognition using smart phones. Moodstocks is different from other existing object recognition apps because it runs directly on the smartphone and does not rely on outside servers. This more affordable, mainstream and accessible method has caught the interest of Google, who has agreed to purchase the start-up. It is still unclear whether Google will use the tech solely for its customer-facing offerings or also launch its own SDK for developers. It is clear, however, that this could be a great step forward in accessibility. 

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