Blind Bargains

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American Printing House for the Blind Releases new Utility to Convert Documents in to UEB Digital Braille

The American Printing House for the Blind has released a free tool which allows for the conversion of files in to digital braille format. The utility, called Send to Braille, is available for Windows, and allows for the conversion of files from Microsoft Word (both doc and DOCX), Rich Text format (RTF), and plane text (txt), in to the BRL format. By default, the conversion will be in to the UEB braille code, but there are instructions on how to change this on the Send to Braille utility page.

Installation was very simple, and the Send to Braille option then appeared in my Send To menu as "braille". In my brief testing, the utility was able to convert files very rapidly, with a 500 KB RTF file taking less than 10 seconds. No formatting other than paragraphs were preserved, but headings appeared on their own lines.

At the bottom of the Send to Braille page, APH encourages the development of other such utilities for other platforms, which could mean that they will not be developing such a utility for Linux or Mac. Further information about this utility, step by step instructions on using it, and more about Send to Braile can be found through the link above.

Many US blindness organizations Sign Letter of Support for the Marrakesh Treaty

Many stakeholders who support those requiring written materials in a specialized format have put their names behind the Marrakesh Treaty. The American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, Benitech, Learning Ally, National Federation of the Blind, and the Perkins School for the blind are among the organizations lending their support.

The Marrakesh Treaty would facilitate the more rapid production of materials in a specialized format for individuals who have a print disability. Even with access to resources such as Book Share,, NLS, Learning Ally, and many more, the amount of materials in an accessible format remains low, even in the United States. If Congress agrees to sign this treaty, it would require the government to have an exception to their copyright law. This exception would permit individuals, organizations, and agencies to produce materials in specialized formats for people with reading disabilities without needing to get permission from the publisher first. Specialized formats include, but are not limited to, DAISY, BRF, or braille embossed versions of written materials protected under the copyright law.

This treaty also gives people and organizations the right to share content in specialized formats with their counterparts in other countries which have also signed the treaty. This means that someone who produces an accessible version of a written piece in South Africa, for example, could legally share it with someone in Australia or in the United States. This would prevent duplication of work, and would allow those with print disabilities to have access to more materials and resources worldwide in a more timely manor.

If you are interested in reading more about this treaty in not-so-technical terms, the World Blind Union has explained and summarized the treaty. A copy of the letter requesting "Rapid ratification" of the Marrakesh Treaty can be found at the source link below.

the NFB Opens Convention Pre-registration, Starting Convention Pre-Season

Last week brought us the first full week of spring training baseball, but it's not the only pre-season activity underway. The National Federation of the Blind has now officially opened up preregistration for its anual convention. According to the Convention Page, preregistering for the conference will save atendees $5 on a bankwit ticket, and also $5 on the registration fee for the convention itself. Attendees have until May 31 to complete the process to save money. Just like the past few years, the NFB convention will be held in Orlando Florida. Dates for this year's convention are June 30 through July 5.

According to theACB Convention Page, preregistration for their convention will begin in May. The actual event will be from July 1 through July 8, in Minneapolis Minnesota.

Use This Link to Order the Amazon Dot for $89.99 Shipped (expired)

We reported on the Amazon Dot yesterday but were initially left without a way to preorder it. Now, a link has been found which will let you preorder the new Amazon Echo device. To order, follow the source link on this post. The Dot is available for $89.99 plus tax and will ship at the end of March.
Update: This method of ordering has now been disabled.

Survey Seeks to Hear from Sports Fans about Website Accessibility

Listen up sports fans, this one's for you. A researcher at Drexel University is seeking feedback on the accessibility of sports team websites. The survey will ask about the website for one of your favorite teams including the shopping experience for this site, as well as your personal interest in sports. To take the survey, follow the source link on this post.

Two new and Paid iOS Training Resources for Blind and Low Vision Users

For those looking to master their iPhone or iPad, two new training options have been released with wildly differing price points.

Freedom Scientific has announced a new "training bundle" for VoiceOver users on Apple's iOS platform. The bundle includes over 10 hours of VoiceOver training in DAISY format which come pre-loaded on a 2 GB SD card. The training is said to be applicable to new users of the iPhone or iPad and covers the very basics, according to the press release. This training material also comes with a Plextalk Pocket, which allows you to play the DAISY content that you have purchased. The cost of this bundle is $599.

Shelly Brisbin has also announced her updated book, iOS Access for all. For $20, this comprehensive text tutorial, which covers VoiceOver, low vision settings, hearing aid features and much more, is available in ePub format, which is compatible with many readers on a variety of platforms. Brisbin reports on her blog that a PDF version will soon be available as well.

The Blind Bargains Guide to Attending #CSUN16 on a Budget

It's once again time for what has become a bit of an annual tradition around here. Every March when we talk endlessly about CSUN, the largest assistive technology conference for the blind, we hear from people who would love to go, if only it was within their budget. With room rates over $200 a night, a nearly $500 registration fee, plane tickets, meals, and other expenses, the cost often seems prohibitive. With this in mind, we've updated our list of tips for enjoying the conference on a budget.

Amazon Introduces Two New and, Cheaper, Alexa-Enabled Devices

Amazon announced 2 new devices today that use the technology behind Alexa. The Amazon Tap, is available for pre-order only to Prime members at $129 and is estimated to ship on march 31. This is a portable speaker set-up which also uses the technology behind Alexa. Think the brains behind the Echo, but not the higher profile hardware.
A new, trimmed down version of the Echo, called the Echo Dot, was
also announced. priced at $89, you will only be able to order this if you already have an
Amazon Echo or Amazon Fire TV. If you're interested in being an early adopter and checking this one out, say:
"Alexa order an Echo Dot" from either of the aforementioned Alexa enabled devices. The Echo Dot appears to
not have the complex speaker system in its larger counterpart, but does offer plenty of connectivity options
to a bigger sound system. Check out either of the links in this post for more specific info, or the source for the original announcements.

Freedom Scientific Releases Update to Openbook 9, Offering Support for 3 Video Magnifiers and Improved OCR

Freedom Scientific has released a new update to OpenBook version 9. In addition to improved optical character recognition, or in non-technical terms, improved recognition of text, this update adds camera support for 3 video magnifiers: The ONYX Portable HD, the TOPAZ XL HD, and the TOPAZ PHD.

Once you install the update, if one of these 3 devices are connected to your computer, they will show up as camera options under the Advanced menu of OpenBook. This means that you can use them like you would a Pearl or other supported camera/scanner to take pictures of text. This also means that you can use one of these magnifiers to display a live image of what's under the camera, allowing you to use the low vision settings in OpenBook to change the formatting, color, and other parts of the live image to better suit your needs. The one limitation to scanning is that you cannot use the Multipage scanning feature, as these video magnifiers do not have the necessary technology to support this functionality.

Existing OpenBook users with the program installed can update their software by going in to the "help" menu and choosing "Check for updates". More information about this update is available on the What's New in OpenBook 9 page on Freedom Scientific's website. The changelog is posted below the jump.

With #CSUN16 Three Weeks Away, HumanWare Teases New Product in Email

HumanWare is once again in the teaser business, distributing an Email hailing their next big thing. They plan to unveil what they're calling "the product that will reunify efficiency and accessibility" at this year's CSUN conference on March 23. The BrailleNote Apex was released over 6 years ago and has fallen behind competing products in terms of specs. The Victor Reader Stream 2 was more recently updated while the Trekker Breeze received a refresh in 2015. Check the link on this post to sign up to get more info, or read on for their brief announcement. We'll post more information as we receive it.

Some Google Docs Users can now Edit Files with their Voice

Dictation has been possible in Google Docs for some time, but now Google has introduced a way for select users to edit documents using their voice. If you use the Chrome web browser with Google Docs, you can speak formatting commands such as "Select all" or "Go to the end of the line" to format and edit documents without using the keyboard. With screen reader support enabled, additional commands such as "Speak from cursor location" and "Speak table column header" are also available. Google recommends using headphones when using voice commands with a screen reader. Check the link on this post for the complete list of available voice commands, and let us know what you think in the comments.

BBC Hosting April Event to Hire Tech-minded People with Disabilities

If you have a disability and possess technology skills, the BBC is interested in hiring you. The BBC Digital's People with Disabilities in Tec event in London will be held on April 8 and is free to attend. Participants will gain a behind the scenes look at the technology used in various BBC services including iPlayer and BBC websites and learn about available job opportunities. Check the link on this post to get more information or to RSVP.

The Hadley School for the Blind is the Latest Organization to Change their Name

The Hadley School for the Blind is the latest organization to update its name to reflect changing times, though unlike others, they're not removing the word blind from the name. The Hadley Institute For the Blind And Visually Impaired as it is now known reflects a change in the program offerings for the long-time nonprofit, which traditionally focused on blindness skills courses by mail but has expanded to offer a variety of curriculum options ranging from braille instruction to entrepreneurship training.

Popular TeamTalk Voice Chat Client Comes to iOS

TeamTalk, a popular voice chat solution with blind and visually impaired users, is now available on the iTunes App Store. The app, introduced By Bjoern Rasmussen allows for high-quality multi-person voice, text, and video chat across a variety of devices including Windows and Mac computers and Android phones and tablets. The iOS version includes robust VoiceOver support, thanks in part to user testing by many blind users. TeamTalk is a mainstream chat solution that also happens to be accessible, thanks in large part to the efforts of the developers. The program is free and open-source, and you can visit the Bearware website for more info or to contribute to the project.

Google Puts More Voices In your Head with Latest Android Text to Speech Update

Google has added a variety of new voices in its latest update of the Google Text to Speech App. According to Android Authority version 3.8 offers several variant choices for each language. In our initial tests of the English version, 6 additional voices, 3 male and 3 female, were selectable, though all of the voices used similar speech patterns. One might compare these differences to variant settings offered in other screen readers. That being said, male and female options are now available for a variety of languages and should work on any recent version of Android. Get the update now from Google Play.

Watch Stevie Wonder's Braille Joke and Message about Accessibility at the Grammies

Stevie Wonder made one of the most public declarations ever of the need for things to be accessible at the 2016 Grammy Awards. As he was about to announce the winner for Song of the Year by reading the name from a braille card, nearly 25 million people heard his message about accessibility.
"We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability"
Watch a recap of Stevie's grammy night below the jump.

Dan Weirich, the W in GW Micro, Announces Retirement

Dan Weirich, the W in GW Micro, has announced his retirement from AI Squared, ending a nearly three decade career in the assistive technology industry. He was introduced to the industry through his work as chief engineer at Computer Aids Corporation, known largely for their Apple software products including Word Talk and File Talk. In 1990, he partnered with Doug Geoffray to form GW Micro which sold Vocal-Eyes and Window-Eyes screen reading software for the next two decades. Here's a letter from the Raised Dot Computing newsletter announcing the formation of GW Micro in 1990. Since the merger of GW Micro and Ai Squared in 2014, Weirich held the position of VP of Strategic Programs.
Here's an interview with Weirich from 2011 talking about Window-Eyes 7.5 and another from Shelly Brisbin in 2015 talking about ZoomText Fusion.
Dan posted a message to several AI Squared mailing lists, which we've included below.

How to Turn Any Wired Speaker Set Into Bluetooth Wireless Speakers

The Logitech Bluetooth Audio Adapter connects to any PC powered speaker, home stereo system, or AV receiver with a RCA or 3.5mm jack and essentially turns the system into a Bluetooth speaker setup that is capable of receiving audio streamed from any device that features the Bluetooth chip. The adapter comes with integrated long range wireless , meaning that audio can be streamed from approximately 50-feet away from the device, a perfect range for the average house.

The Logitech Bluetooth Audio Adapter also ships with the ability to pair multiple devices at once, meaning simultaneous pairing of a smartphone and a tablet is possible. That pairing is also made extremely simple with an easy pairing feature, and automatic re-pairing when the device is switched on. Given how useful this little device is, and given the fact that there s no requirement to tinker with wires and altering existing audio setups for wireless compatibility, it s pretty much a no-brainer purchase for anyone looking to make a set of speakers wireless.

So if you have an old stereo system that you just don t use much because of the need to connect your audio source to it using a wire, this $27 investment will give your system a whole new lease on life.

Record Phone Calls with Your iPhone Case? Now You Can

Have you ever wanted to record a phone call? If you've ever thought that recording a call on an iPhone is something that could be of benefit to you, then you might want to check out this new iPhone case.

Available for $29 as part of an Indiegogo campaign that s hoping to raise $30,000 in order to get started, the Just In Case call recording iPhone case is actually a self-contained device that doesn t connect to your iPhone at all, and that s what makes it so useful.

While obviously providing somewhere to keep your iPhone, the Just In Case iPhone case has a well-placed microphone that is capable of capturing both your voice and that of the other caller and then saving the call as an MP3 to the included 2GB SD card. Buyers can, of course, put their own, larger card in there, but given the fact this is audio, we expect 2GB to be plenty for most.

The case not only records audio but also timestamps it for later retrieval, and the JIC only has two buttons, making it super easy to use. One button is the start/stop recording button, while the other is to initiate playback through a speaker on the back of the case. There s a rechargeable battery included that is said to be good for 8 hours of use. That $29 is early-bird pricing, so if you think this is something that you may want, now would be a good time to get your order in before the price goes up. JIC is available in red, black, blue, white, yellow, and green. It's designed for iPhone 5 and above, and will start shipping in May 2016.

NBP Offers 2016 Braille Valentines that Include a Hint of Popcorn

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and thanks to the National Braille Press, blind children can join in the fun with braille valentines. The 2016 series says "Just POPPING through with a VALENTINE for you!" and includes a hint of popcorn when scratched. Get 32 with envelopes for $14 or 20 for $10 by following the link on this post.

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