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The Center on Disabilities at California State University Northridge has opened the call for general session papers today. Those that are interested in presenting at the 2014 CSUN conference will have until October 11th to submit their paper. The CSUN website lists all of the rules and regulations on what the paper should include as well as other important information.
The national Federation of the Blind is seeking input on how people perceive their organization and the initiatives that it supports. They want participants of the survey to be honest in their responses. All information will be held confidential. The goal of the survey is to learn how to better serve the needs of the blind community. . The survey has less than 20 questions and should take no more then 15 minutes. The survey will close on September 12th.
United States Department of Labor Issues New Rules To Increase Employment For People With Disabilities
Yesterday the U.S. Department of Labor issued new rules that change the goals for hiring people with disabilities. Companies that have contracts with the federal government will now need to aim for the goal of having at least 7% of their workforce be people with disabilities. The 7% number is not a mandate, but if they can not achieve this goal, they will need to demonstrate how they will improve their numbers. The over 171 thousand companies that this effects will have six months to comply with the new rules. They will have to document how they are reaching out to people with disabilities, and how many applicants they have had who admit to having a disability. A Washington Post article estimates that if all the companies were to comply, almost 600,000 people with disabilities could be added to the workforce. Hopefully these new rules will help lower the unemployment rate amongst the disabled community.
If you're considering upgrading to a new iPhone this year, and you're planning to sell you're old one, you may want to look at trade in options. Some of the most popular options include: Gazelle, Amazon, Nextworth, and USell. It's important to note that the amount of money you will get for your trade is greater now then it will be after Apple announces the new iPhone.
The Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communications Technologies is interested in learning more about the accessibility practices of financial institutions. The results of the study will be used to gain insights and create best practices so that banks and other financial institutions can best serve people with disabilities. The survey should take between 15 and 20 minutes. If you're interested in receiving the results, you can provide your email address at the end of the survey.
There are a number of reasons that people use third party apps to read their twitter feeds. For screen reader users, one of the reasons is that for a long time, the twitter.com website was difficult to navigate. The team at twitter is aware of these challenges and they are working on fixing it. In a recent post to their blog, they discuss how they are making the website more easy to navigate using the keyboard.
Two of the keyboard shortcuts that are most valuable are the J and K keys. Using the J key will jump you to the next tweet in your feed and using the K key will jump you to the previous tweet in your feed. The blog post has a video demonstrating this feature using Voiceover, NVDA, and JAWS. Note that your screen reader's browse mode may require the use of a pass-through key for website shortcuts.
To get updates about accessibility or to give feedback on your experience, follow the twitter accessibility team .
There have been events where blind drivers have raced on a track with a sighted helper, but to our knowledge, never before has a blind driver competitively ridden a motorcycle by himself. Later this year, Dan Parker aims to change that. Before he lost his sight, Dan was an experienced race car driver. With the aid of a GPS system that will audibly guide him, Dan is going to participate in the Quest for the Salt at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Below is a copy of the press release from the NFB who is among the organizations sponsoring his efforts.
Going to the gym or using exercise equipment in your home can be a challenge if the machine is not accessible. A lot of exercise equipment uses inaccessible touch screens or other visual information that the blind can not access. A team of researchers is asking for feedback about how the blind use exercise equipment, what the challenges are, and how the machines could be made better.
A researcher at the University of Maryland is studying the accessibility of mobile technologies. The survey asks for feedback about what does and does not work for users. The survey should take no more then 25 minutes and at the end of the survey you will have the option to be entered to win a $100 Amazon gift card. To enter into the drawing, you will need to provide your email address.
Learning Ally is paying Blind and Visually Impaired College Students up to $550 for a Research Study
Learning Ally wants to learn how to better serve their blind and visually impaired customers. they are looking for college students to participate in a multi-month study to get feedback about how blind and visually impaired students access their materials. According to their website, this is what the study would entail: "The study has been designed to allow students to share their experiences with us at their own pace and in their own words. We plan on following students at the start of the semester. Over the course of the semester, they will be asked to leave voice-mail messages to reflect on their successes and challenges. At two points in the semester, researchers will meet with the student to further discuss and observe their academic experiences. Student participation will be compensated at several points in the semester and students will be able to withdraw from the study at any time and for any reason." Participants may be compensated up to $550 if they complete the study. Students in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will be given preference.
If you're interested in participating, contact Ksenia Pachikov.
Many companies over the years have tried to come up with ways to find items that you've lost. Most of them involve a remote and a beacon that you attach to the item you keep misplacing. Most people used these gadgets for their keys, but often people complain that they wouldn't know where the remote was when they needed to find their missing object. A new company called Tile aims to change this problem. Their product includes two components. The Tiles are small stickers that you place on the object that you want to keep track of, and the app they've developed will help you locate the missing object as long as you're within 100 feet. When you tell the app that you're missing something, the tile will beep and the app will help direct you to the object. The company also hopes to use their technology to help people find stolen objects. The idea would be that if you had the tile app, you could then see objects that have been marked as stolen or lost.
The company is currently taking preorders for the tiles. One can be purchased for $19 or you can get 4 for $50. The battery in the tile will last 1 year and the app will notify you when the battery is low. The app is currently available for iOS and uses the new wireless capabilities of the Bluetooth 4.0 standard. Once more Android devices include this standard, a version for that platform will be more likely. Here is a link to the Tile website.
The ) Twenty-First Century Communications and Video ) Accessibility Act of 2010 requires companies who make electronic devices to make them accessible to people with disabilities. At this time, none of the Ebook readers that are on the market meet this requirement. Since many companies feel that this requirement should not apply to Ebook readers, Amazon, Kobo, and Sony have submitted a petition to the FCC asking for a waiver. According to the petition, this is the definition of an Ebook reader: "E-readers, sometimes called e-book readers, are mobile electronic devices that are designed, marketed and used primarily for the purpose of reading digital documents, including e-books and periodicals."
Since Ebook readers are primarily designed for print reading, the companies are arguing that the disabled community would not significantly benefit from these devices becoming accessible. They also argue that because the devices are so simple, making the changes to the devices to make them accessible, would cause them to be heavier, have poorer battery life, and raise the cost of the devices. Finally, these companies argue that since their apps are accessible on other devices such as the iPad and other full featured tablets, that they are already providing access to their content. We've posted the complete filing from the FCC's website below.
Here is a link to the original .PDF
Running into objects because you can not see them can be a real issue for the blind. Canes and guide dogs do a good job of helping blind people avoid objects that are below the face, but low hanging branches or anything that is at face level can be challenging to avoid. A new project that is being developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield are aiming to solve this problem using ultrasonic technology. The researchers are basing their design on whiskers. Most mammals have whiskers on their faces which detect how close they are to an object. Since humans don't have whiskers, the team believes that they can design something that mimics whiskers to help the blind detect objects and give firefighters better information when they're trying to navigate a smoke filled room. The device will use ultrasonic sensors and vibration patterns to alert the person to how close they are to the object. The stronger the vibration, the closer you are to the object. At this time, they are multiple years out from making a commercial project, but they have already started beta testing with firefighters.
During Google's press conference Wednesday, there were a number of new things to talk about. First, there will be a new Nexus 7 coming out soon. The prices are a little bit higher, but the screen resolution is better and so is the battery life. According to an article from Redmond Pie here are some of the specs of the new tablet. The display will be 1900 X 1200 and be able to produce 1080P when watching Netflix and other videos, a set of stereo speakers are included, the weight is 50 grams less then the previous model, and the battery life is 9 hours.
The company also announced the latest version of Android 4.3, still called Jellybean. This article in Arstechnica has an overview of what the new features of the OS will include. Tablet users will now be able to create multi-user restricted profiles. This allows multiple members of a family to use the device without changing anything on a different profile. There is also better support for bluetooth 4.0, predictive phone number dialing, and n emoji keyboard.
The final announcement was about their new gadget called ChromeCast, which will allow you to stream media from your cell phone or tablet to your TV. This article from CNet provides a review of the new device. The $35 price tag will give you access to Netflix, Youtube, Google Play movies and TV, and Google Play music. They also hope to come out with access to Pandora soon.
For the past two weeks, students from the Carol Center for the Blind have had the opportunity to test out the new Visus Visual Assistant System from Visus Technology. The system uses a Galaxy S4 Android smartphone paired with a bluetooth headset to convey a variety of information that would be useful to the blind. According to this article in the Boston Globe the these are some of the features of the new system, "The Visus program can be trained to identify faces, so a blind person who encounters a friend or colleague won’t have to guess at a name. Instead, he can scan the face with his phone. An electronic voice can announce the person’s name through a wireless Bluetooth earpiece. Another Visus feature lets the user scan a large area with the camera to pinpoint objects containing text, such as signs or bulletin boards. The software can translate the text to speech and read it aloud. The phone also makes it easier for a blind person to find a restroom. It is programmed to recognize the standard symbols indicating a men’s room or women’s room and point them out to the user. The software can even generate a map of the inside of a building. Using software licensed from a defense contractor, Visus can shoot a video as the user is guided through the building."
The company hopes to have the system available for sale early next year for $999. The price will include the phone, bluetooth headset, and a 4G hotspot. The company is also working on developing for the iOS platform. To learn more about the company, visit the <a href= "http://www.visustech.com" Visus Technology website.
One of the benefits of traveling by plane today is that you can often use in flight WyFy on your mobile device or computer. Unfortunately, not all flights have this option and the WyFy is almost never free. Lifehacker has provided a good list of airlines detailing how many flights have in flight WyFy and how much it may cost you.
Humanware has announced a new line of magnification products for low vision users. The Prodigi magnifiers will be a new way for low vision users to interact with text. According to the press release: "Prodigi allows low vision users to benefit from a big-screen desktop device and a go-anywhere tablet magnifier at a lower cost than any similar system available. The portable Tablet fits into a patented docking station in the base and becomes both the camera and processor of the desktop system. Unlike other magnifiers, Prodigi captures the image of an entire letter- or A4-sized page and allows the user to magnify and read documents with a comfortable touchpad instead of moving an XY table. Pages are displayed in HumanWare's innovative Diamond Edge TextTM format, which can be magnified up to 80 times with perfect text quality. Text can be presented to the user in smooth-scrolling column or line modes, and can even read aloud, reducing fatigue caused by moving documents under a CCTV camera."
The new devices also come with their own tutorial to help customers learn how to use the product. The tutorial will set up magnification, color contrast, and demonstrate the features of the device. There will be three different models: the duo which includes a desktop model with a removable tablet, the hand held tablet alone, or the desktop model alone. Look for the product to be available next month.
The American Council of the Blind has announced there locations and dates for the next two conferences. Next year will be in Las Vegas. Pre registration starts on the 10th of July with the opening session on the 13th and the final day being the 18th.
If you're not up for Vegas, or need to wait a couple of years before going to conference again, then you can choose to attend in 2015 in Dallas Texas. Pre-registration will start on July 2nd, the opening session will be on July 5th, and and the conference will end on July 10th.
To celebrate Independence Day, AI Squared is offering a discount of 15% on all orders. You can get the discount by either using the code: INDEPENDENCE, or by calling 800-859-0270 and mentioning the word independence. Happy shopping.
When the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 1997, it was specified that all children with vision impairments should learn braille unless there was a legitimate reason for them not to. However, the number of students who are actually learning braille is continuing to fall despite this requirement. In May,26 senators sent a letter to the Department of Education explaining their concern about the very low rates of braille literacy. Wednesday, the Department of Education issued a statement clarifying the guidelines that school districts must follow. One important change that will hopefully increase braille instruction is the rule that having access to other media such as audio or computers can not be used as an excuse to deny braille. Read the statement from the NFB and the letter from the Department of Education by visiting the link provided.
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