October 20th, 2009

Free Accessible E-Book Reader

The book distributor Backer & Taylor is teaming up with K-NFB (a collaboration between Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation of the Blind) to create a free E-Book reader that will be fully accessible to people with print disabilities (including blindness, low-vision and learning disabilities.) The software will be called e-reader.

This software will work on personal computers as well as multiple mobile phone platforms and be able to display books in the ePub and PDF formats (among others.)

What makes this news so exciting is that a main stream product has been built to be accessible from the ground up. The idea that these services will be available for free is also a stark contrast to the current cost of these applications that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Users of this software will be able to purchase e-books through this software, providing a revenue model for this software.

This venture was announced last week at the Frankfurt Book Fair (October 14, 2009) but there is still no news on when this product will be available.

Here’s the official announcement on KNFB’s site.

July 24th, 2009

At Your Finger Tips: Access Features of Operating Systems

When one thinks of adaptive technology third party applications that run over top of operating systems (OS) and customized pieces of hardware pop to mind. While this is true of much adaptive technology I thought I’d start this blog by talking about the accessible and adaptive features that are imbedded in the operating systems we use every day.

Both Windows and Macintosh operating systems contain features that allow the computer user to change the way their keyboard and mouse are used and the way information is displayed on the screen. In brief, here are some of the features that have been available since the early days of these operating systems:

  • Sticky Keys allows a user to use modifier keys (Alt, Control, Option, Command and Shift) without needing to push two keys at once.
  • Key Repeat rate allows the user to change how fast a key will repeat when it is held down or prevent a key from repeating until it is pushed again.
  • Changing the pointer’s size, shape and speed are useful for people who have difficulty seeing or tracking the pointer on the screen.
  • Computer users with visual impairments can make use of basic screen magnification features, use high contrast display, and change the size of elements in the OS (like menu items, title bars or the buttons in dialogue boxes.)
  • Visual alerts allow a person who can’t hear the alert sounds the OS produces to get the same prompt with a screen flash.

To find out all there is to know about the accessible features of Windows here are the pages for XP, Vista and the new Windows 7:

What’s new in Windows 7 accessibility: In the latest MS operating system we’re going to see improvements to Windows screen magnification capability and built in speech recognition capability.

Here’s the page to find out all there is to know about the accessible features of Macintosh OS:

What’s new in Macintosh accessibility: Macintosh was the first operating system to come with a built in aural interface (screen reader) to allow access without sight. In their latest operating system Apple has made another first by creating a gesture based screen reader. I’ll be making a post about this innovation in the near future.

By making sure a computer user has access to these features of the operating system workstations can be made accessible to many who just need small adjustments to the way the system works.