If you are a high school senior with a disability, and are planning to go to college, consider applying for one of the Microsoft Disability Scholarships. Winners will receive a $5,000 scholarship that will be sent directly to their school of choice. According to the scholarship website, those who apply must be majoring in the following areas: "engineering, computer science, computer information systems, legal or in business that are approved (ie. paralegal, pre-law, finance, business administration, or marketing)." Other requirements include financial need, a passion for technology, leadership, and a GPA of at least 3.0. Applications must be submitted by March 15.
I recently came across a resource that is a great option for someone who needs to access the internet, but either doesn't have internet at their home or can't afford internet access. TeleTender is a service that allows the blind and visually impaired to access the news, weather, email, webpages, and even Facebook by using their telephones. The organization currently has six different phone numbers that people can use to access the service. If you don't have long distance and want TeleTender to provide a local phone number, send an email to email@example.com and they'll do their best to get a local number for you.
Even though I have good access to the internet and a computer that is accessible to me, I wanted to test out the service for our readers. My overall impression is that this is a good alternative to accessing the web on a computer. Setting up my email was a bit challenging, but once I got my email address and password entered in correctly, accessing my email was very simple. There is even an option to compose new emails or to reply to emails that are received.
I also tested out the news, internet, and Facebook features. In all three cases, using the features of the service was easy. For screen reader users that like having a lot of control over how they browse, this experience is going to possibly be frustrating, but I feel like TeleTender is not aimed at advanced screen reader users.
Some of the additional features of the service include: being able to speak selections rather than using the phone keypad, ability to increase or decrease the speed of the voice, and ability to change your time zone.
The American Council of the Blind has compiled a list of the white cane laws for each state. These are the laws that give rights to blind pedestrians while crossing streets and outline penalties for drivers who do not yield for travelers. It is easy to navigate to your own state by heading and there are links to each law. Having access to this information is very important. If you ever feel like your rights as a traveler with a vision impairment have been violated, be sure to check this list.
The National Library Service has put together a set of 12 videos to help users of the new BARD Mobile app learn how to use all of the features. The videos include topics such as how to read an audio book, how to adjust visual settings, how to pair a braille display and read a braille book, and both basic and advanced VoiceOver gestures that are used within the app. Check the link on this post to view the videos.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People has deemed November "Switch on Technology Month". This month, they are offering technology seminars throughout the United Kingdom, and they've put together three guides to technology that can be downloaded in either Word or PDF. The topics of the three guides are: Making Sense of Mobile Phones, Getting Online with Computers and Tablets, and "Ebooks and Downloading Audio Books".
As an adaptive technology instructor, one of the most common things I hear from clients is that they don't know what tools are available. I hope these guides can help people who are new to technology or those new to vision loss learn what their options are.
Many theaters around the country are starting to offer the visually impaired the option of listening to the descriptive audio track while they're watching a film. Sadly though, this technology is not available everywhere, and sometimes it doesn't work. The team at Solo-DX wants to make the experience better by having the blind film-goer use a smart phone app to listen to the descriptive audio track instead. Last week, I had the opportunity to test out the new MovieReading app. The interface is very simple. Once you're logged in, you visit the Marketplace, download the descriptive audio track for the film you're going to go see at your theater, and than start the track when your film begins. The app will listen to the audio in the theater and sync the audio track with where the film is so that the user doesn't have to try and match the two tracks themselves. to test the app, I downloaded the Princess Bride track and then watched some Youtube clips from the film. In all three cases, the sync option worked perfectly.
The app is now available from the iTunes App Store. The film "Philomena", opening on November 22 in select cities, will be the first movie to use the app's new features. MovieReading is currently available on iOS, and they hope to have an Android version soon.
Pasted below is a press release from Solo-DX about the MovieReading app and "Philomena".
Since Amazon has let the blind community down in the past, some might be skeptical about the accessibility of the new Kindle Fire HD, but thanks to the RNIB, those who are considering buying the Kindle Fire can see it in action before making their purchase. The three videos demonstrate how to turn on magnification or speech , how to use the magnification features when reading books , and how to use the screen reader features . The videos are very informative and give users a feel for what their experience would be like. It is encouraging to see that Amazon has finally provided access to the Kindle Fire.
To see a list of all of the new accessibility features, read our previous post about the Kindle Fire HD.
This month Comcast has announced three new initiatives to support their customers with disabilities. the first is a dedicated support team that people can call directly when they are having difficulty accessing Comcast content. The team can be contacted by calling 855-270-0379 seven days a week from 9 AM to 10 PM EST. Along with a dedicated support line, they are also offering a set of movies and TV shows through their On Demand service that highlight people with disabilities being successful. Finally, their accessibility lab is working on designing new ways for customers to access their content including the Talking Program Guide .
If you're like me and you don't carry cash, there is a new solution for those times when you owe someone money. Smart, a company that is helping small businesses reduce the fees that are paid to credit card companies has just introduce a new service called Smart Cash. The service is totally free to use, and it can be done from any device with an internet connection and access to email. The process of sending someone money is very simple. You send the person an email by putting their address in the To: field, firstname.lastname@example.org in the CC: field, and the amount you want to send in the subject line. Smart will then verify that the bank account that is linked to your email address has the funds, and they will then be sent to the person you've emailed. The recipient will have access to the money in one to two business days.
Since there's an iOS app, I decided to download it to test the accessibility. I'm happy to report that the app works great with VoiceOver, and sending someone money was really easy. The best part is that the person gets all of the money you're sending unlike when you use Paypal.
If you are blind or have low vision, getting access to a fully accessible computer can be a financial burden. Apple offers computers that are accessible out of the box, but you will have to pay a premium price. And even though there is now a very good free screen reader for Windows, sometimes the cost of the computer itself is still too much. This is where Computers For The Blind steps in. For the last 24 years, the organization has been giving computers to people who need accessible software in order to use a computer successfully.
The Federal Communications Commission is currently seeking feedback about people's experience with described television programming. Since the FCC commenting process is not easy to access, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is offering to help submit comments. All you have to do is write an email describing your opinions about described tv to email@example.com
Along with describing how you feel about described programming, also include your experience with accessing the programming whether it be positive or not, if you've found the description to be helpful or not, and any other details that will help make described television a more positive experience for everyone.
The email must include your full name and physical street address for the comments to be accepted by the FCC. Send emails to AFB no later then September 30.
Web developers who are interested in learning how to make their websites accessible can now participate in a free online course offered by google. The course starts today and runs through the end of September. Participants will be able to complete the course at their own pace. Topics that will be covered include: the fundamentals of using Aria within html 5 and tips and tricks hon how to build accessibility into your site without breaking code. Participants will also have the opportunity to test out their website using the Chromevox screen reader that is compatible with Google Chrome. Those who register should have a basic understanding of html, java script, and CSS.
In an effort to boost sales of iPhones at it's retail stores, Apple has just rolled out it's new trade-in program. Starting today, if you visit an Apple store and you want to upgrade to a newer iPhone, you will have the option of trading in your old device for in-store credit. To use the trade-in program you will have to agree to sign a new two year contract with the cell phone carrier of your choice. According to the chart on the CNBC website, a 16 gig iPhone 5 could get you as much as $336 and an iPhone 4S as much as $221. The article also lists all of the other trade-in options and how much each company is willing to give you.
If you weren't able to attend this year's Visions Conference hosted by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, you can now download the audio from many of the sessions. The Visions Conference is unique in that it is the only conference where you can learn about different diseases of the eye as well as learn about the research that is being done to treat diseases of the eye. All of the audio sessions can be downloaded for free. This year's conference featured sessions on topics such as gene therapy, the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis, overcoming the emotional barriers of blindness, participating in a clinical trial, information sessions on diseases such as Ushers and RP, and stem cells 101.
The United States Visitors Center is one of the many destinations for tourists to visit when they come to Washington D.C. If you're planning a trip to the U.S. capital, and plan to stop at the Visitors Center, you can now get an audio tour. The tour can either be played on a special device that can be requested at the front desk, or you have the option of downloading the files onto your own personal device before you arrive. The audio files are more then three hours of content, and provide the visitor great detail of the exhibits at the center. The files are available to download in Mp3, Zip, and text. Having a text option means that the tour is even accessible to the deaf/blind.
The Fred's Head blog is compiling a list of videos that you can find on YouTube that address issues about blindness and how to adapt to losing your vision. The current list has 86 videos and they plan to add more as they find them. The list of videos is organized by category. The list also has the title of the video, the name of the presenter, and how long the video is.
Giving presentations can be a challenge when you can not read print. Many blind people use braille notes or memorize what they want to say. If you don't use braille, or find memorizing too challenging, this demonstration from Bruce Gardener will show you how to use a Victor Reader Stream as an audio teleprompter.
The Professional Development and Research Institute at Louisiana Tech University has started a blog that they hope will be a useful resource for anyone who works with blind children and adults. These are some of the topics that the blog will cover.
The latest research on blindness to help you to better answer questions
from educators and the general public, which will improve the opportunities
available for blind students and professionals;
Methods for teaching braille and cane travel that will increase the
effectiveness of instruction, allowing blind people to lead active, truly
Philosophy-rich speeches and articles leading the public to see blind
people as equal participants in their training, education and employment;
Perspectives from current students and alumni about why they find it
rewarding to teach blind students and adults, encouraging others to join the
growing profession; and
- Interviews with experienced professionals, which will create nationwide
networking opportunities for teachers of the blind that will foster
collaboration on the latest, research-based instructional methods.
On the website, there are ways to subscribe either via RSS or email.
If you're looking for an in depth look at Windows 8 and you use JAWs or WindowEyes, ATI is offering two online courses that provide an overview of the operating system and how to use your screen reader with the new features of Windows 8. The courses include 4 pre-recorded lectures as well as a copy of the textbook. There are also periodic tests that students can opt to take. Each course can be purchased for $225.
There is a new site that hopes to be the place where anyone can come to get all the resources they need to learn about blindness and ways to adapt. Blind Wiki has a large list of resources so far, and they are continuing to add more. They also ask that users should submit resources that they don't already have listed.
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