Screen Magnifier

Yesterday Google announced improvements to Google Drive and all their editors: Docs, Sheet, Slides, Drawings, and Forms. Many of the changes are targeted specifically toward blind and low-vision users.

Among the changes are:

  • Improved screen reader support for Drive and Docs
    • Improved keyboard access
    • Support for zoom & high-contrast mode
    • Improved usability with the screen readers.
  • Improved screen reader support for Docs, Sheets, Slides Drawings and Forms
    • Support for alt text on images in Docs
    • Improved support for keyboard when editing charts & pivot tables in Sheets
    • Screen reader improvement including spelling suggestion, comments and revision history
    • Quick search of menus and ability to perform actions in Docs, Slide and Drawings.
  • Refreshable Braille display support
  • Step-by-step guides for screen readers and Braille display

Read more on the accessibility improvements. And see the Google Accessibility site.

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Aaron Leventhal from AI Squared joins us on the IAP for a great discussion about the assistive technology that is place right on the website - sitecues. Discover the innovation that went into this revolutionary approach.

Show Notes & Links

GW Micro, the maker of Window-Eyes and the ZoomText and Sitecues creator Ai Squared have come together, combining their talents to better assist computer users who are blind.

Window-Eyes is a screen reader which translates visual information into speech or Braille and recently struck a deal with Microsoft to offer its licenses for free to MS Office users. ZoomText is the number one screen magnifier and text-to-speech software package in the world. It allows people with visual impairments to easily use their computers.  

The need for assistive technology continues to grow. According to the World Health Organization, over 285 million people in the world are considered visually impaired; 39 million of those are blind, and 246 million have moderate to severe visual impairments. "The merger of Ai Squared and GW Micro brings together two companies that offer great solutions for the millions of Microsoft customers around the world who are blind or visually impaired," said Rob Sinclair, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft.

"We are also delighted that Ai Squared will continue to develop and support the Window-Eyes for Office Offer as many of our customers rely on this screen reading solution to enable access to Windows, Office and other Microsoft products," Sinclair said.

Dan Weirich, Co-founder of GW Micro and now Vice President at Ai Squared, said he is thrilled to incorporate Window-Eyes into the Ai Squared product family.

"It's a natural fit," Weirich said. "Combining our companies will strengthen Ai Squared's global presence in the assistive technology industry, allowing us to serve even more customers."

Weirich noted that many customers using web and computer accessibility tools inevitably progress further along the visual impairment spectrum during their lifetime. As a result, they will require more advanced assistive technology as their needs change. With the merger, Ai Squared will be in a better position to assist those customers, developing products that provide a seamless transition and user experience as customers adapt to their changing vision.

Ai Squared will continue to offer Window-Eyes and its related products as they were previously offered by GW Micro. In addition, a free and fully featured version of Window-Eyes will continue to be available via the Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office as part of the recently announced partnership with Microsoft and GW Micro. The GW Micro team will remain in Indiana as part of the Ai Squared team, which is headquartered in Vermont.

ZoomText is a software program combines magnification and enhancements to colors, pointers and cursors to help users who are visually impaired see everything on the computer screen. The Mac version includes the following features:

  • Flexible magnification
  • Font smoothing
  • Image sharpening
  • Tracking
  • Zoom windows
  • Enhanced screen colors
  • Customizable system pointers and cursors
  • Focus enhancements

ZoomText Mac is available for a special promotional price of $299.  If you already own a ZoomText single-user license on the PC - for you, ZoomText Mac is just $149. BUT, until March 15th, it's just $99!

Ensure that your product works with assistive technology

Assistive technology (AT) is a term that describes the tools that people with disabilities use to access websites and applications. To ensure compatibility between the assistive technology and your product, Interactive Accessibility will confirm that assistive technology can work with the product and that the product is usable for people with disabilities. 

The next update in the ZoomText 10 was released today. The enhancements include fixes to issues including reading support in Gmail, some AppReader bugs in Comcast Mail and in Internet Explorer 8, a fix for Java, and more! 

For more information on ZoomText 10, go to the AiSquared ZoomText website.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy will host a free, live audio discussion as part its AT Works series about accessible technology in the workplace. Inspiring Innovation — Engaging Citizens in the Development of Accessible Workplace Technology, will be held on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 from 2 - 3 p.m. Eastern Time. 

You can participate in this event by conference-call and the event will be live audio-captioned. No registration is required. 

Visit Disability.gov for more information about how assistive and accessible technologies can advance the employment and independence of people with disabilities.

Pull up your favorite website, close your eyes, and imagine trying to use it.  Yes, that is extreme, but users users with disabilities face serious challenges trying to use inaccessible websites.  Vision disabilities affect website users in different ways depending on the type and severity of the disability.  The good news is that we can make it significantly easier for users by following some accessibility guidelines.

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