Voice Dream Reader

I am not the kind of person who truly finds himself “raving” about an application. I have come across more than a few very good and impressive applications for both the Mac and iDevices over the years, but I don’t find myself really talking up one all that often.

However, I must say that the Voice Dream Reader app for the iDevices by Voice Dream LLC, is a great application. Not only does it handle Bookshare books with its own text to speech, but you can read PDF and RTF files as well. Additionally, you can use Dropbox to get files to your iDevice, which, to me, is a great feature. If you are not satisfied with the voice that comes with the app, additional voices can be purchased through the application for under $2.00 each.

The application is quite easy to set up and use, and it is worth its $9.99 price tag for all it does. I know I am not covering everything and this is not meant as any formal review or the like. One can find more detailed descriptions and reviews of the app in other places, but I certainly recommend the app. The developer is quite responsive to questions and bug reports, and is constantly adding new features to it. It is another example of a developer who deserves our support, and I am happy to have bought the app.

You can find more information about Voice Dream Reader
here.

For a nice podcast on the Voice Dream app done on Applevis, go

here.

Posted in Accessibility, General, iOS Devices | Leave a comment

For those who might be interested.

I thought this might be of interest to some folks. Check it out.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ATLANtA, Georgia (Feb. 27, 2013) – In conjunction with the release of the
first ever multimedia ebook created for the blind, by the blind, Fedora
Outlier, LLC, is offering an opportunity to win a free 16GB iPad Mini to
those who enter the giveaway and answer the question, “What was your biggest
challenge when learning to use your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch?” Anyone
interested in entering can find a registration form and official rules by
visiting http://www.oldhatguide.com/giveaway.

The book, “The Old Hat Guide to iPhone Accessibility,” is slated for release
sometime next month, and the winner of the iPad Mini will be announced
during the company’s first Twitter chat, #AccessChat, held on April 2nd at
8:00PM EST.

“Our team is beaming over the opportunity to share this book with the
community,” Scott Rumery, a senior partner with the company, said Tuesday.
“This release is part of the direction we’ve wanted to head for a long time,
so it’s exciting to finally release the book and giveaway to the public.”

Fedora Outlier, LLC, is a nationally-recognized teaching and support firm
based in Atlanta, GA, and is one of the first agencies to focus on support
and education for the array of accessible devices made available by Apple
Incorporated. #AccessChat is the first blindness-oriented Twitter chat
committed to highlighting accomplishments and innovations by mainstream
developers, assistive technology vendors and educators working with blind
and low vision students.

For more information about the upcoming book release, the iPad Mini giveaway
or Fedora Outlier, LLC, please contact the company’s president, VaShaun Jones, at (678) 404-2635 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting
skype-ie-addon-data://res/numbers_button_skype_logo.png(678) 404-2635 FREE
end_of_the_skype_highlighting , or via email at
excellence@fedoraoutlier.com.

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A few more things

Just as a few other notes, I added the iPad user guide for iOS 6 to the
Documentation
section of the site. This, as usual, is an RTF version of the user guide provided by Apple.

As an additional note, LookTell, the makers of the Money Reader app, recently released a great little tutorial for the iDevices called, VoiceOver Tutorial. It is free, and is worth checking out for both new users and advanced ones as well. It has a couple of games one can use to sharpen ones gesture skills. It is definitely an app I am going to recommend to my clients.

You can find it
here.

Posted in Accessibility, iOS Devices, iPad, iPhone, Updates | Leave a comment

Updates, 3/1/13

I know it has been a while. Unfortunately, a combination of my father ending up in the hospital again for about a month and some other crazy things going on around here has diverted my attention. I was basically training folks and running up to the hospital or nursing rehab center since the beginning of January.

In any event, I have some things I am going to add to the site over the next few weeks. I wanted to mention a item of “interest though. I’m sure it has probably made the rounds by now, but I want to mention it anyway.

Mozilla Firefox continues to improve with VoiceOver support. Version 19 for the Mac has brought a lot more responsiveness than previous versions. There are still some odd bugs, such as oddness in some text fields and the way VoiceOver identifies some tables. Nevertheless, the browser is pretty close to being something I feel I will use with Safari and dump Google Chrome, as I am going to avoid using anything done by Google because of their abuse of privacy and disconcerting stance on net neutrality.

You can get Firefox from the Mozilla.org website
here.

As usual, I would encourage the developers to keep up their hard work and thank them for all they have done so far. Of course, also report any and all bugs, VoiceOver or not, to them.

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A Review of the New iPad 4th Generation

With the kind permission of the person who wrote this review, Scott Granados, I am posting his thoughts and observations about the new iPad 4th Generation model. For those of you considering such purchase, I thought this would be helpful. Additionally, Scott has asked me to say that he encourages this review being shared around.

For anyone interested, here’s a review of the latest iPad.

First, the generation thing is a little confusing. You’ll mainly hear about the iPad 3rd gen hen searching. Since this was released apple quietly updated the iPad along with the much more widely announced Macbook pro updates and the devices are a bit different.
The iPad 4th generation with Cellular is about the same size as the 3rd generation. The main differences are the latest iPad has an Apple A6X processor which is dual core, a quad core graphics processor, 1 GB of DRAM instead of 512MB, a cellular radio (one of two types explained later), bluetooth 4.0 and the latest 2.4 and 5.0 ghz WiFi support. The weight is between 1.4 and 1.8 pounds, about a third of an inch thick and a 10 inch display. The new lightning port is also used instead of the old 30pin connector.

When you buy one of these, there are two cellular types to pick from. One is the AT&T version which supports GSM UMTS, HSPA/ HSPA+,, GSM and LTE. Frequencies including AT&Ts LTE bands in the 700 mhz range as well as other normal 1900 mhz 3G channels. The other version is the everyone else iPad. This supports Sprint / Verizon and provides evdo rev A and B support, and gsm /LTE connectivity. The difference is each version of the iPad supports different frequencies that match their carriers requirements. I went for the AT&T version since my cell phone was already set up with their service.
Memory sizes for the iPad include 16, 32 and 64 GB versions. I decided to go with the 64 GB version to carry a lot of content, especially videos internally.

In the box you’ll find 1 iPad, one charger block, a USB to lightning cable and an instruction book. No cover is included so I bought the magnetic cover that snaps on to the side of the iPad and locks / unlocks your display automatically when opened or closed. Make sure you get something to protect the glass like this cover.

REVIEW

The initial setup as you’d expect from Apple, very simple and exactly the same as their other devices. Simply plug in, wait a minute, triple press the home button and VO starts. All I did was answer the questions and start using the device as a new iPad.

Activation of the cellular was equally simple. I called 611, asked fora rep and added the iPad to my share everything plan. I have full LTE service sharing my same data pool for a $10 monthly access fee.

Use of the iPad is as you’d expect. It takes some getting used to however. With so much more screen real estate you’ll find the screen split up. Application output might happen on the upper right with the upper left having controls as an example. The keyboard is larger and appears / disappears.
One suggestion is to lock the screen orientation. The iPad flips from portrait mode to landscape very easily. Locking the orientation makes everyday use easier in my opinion.
Speed is very very good. You can have lots of applications open with out a noticeable decrease in performance. Flipping between applications is very quick. Voice Over responsiveness is also very snappy.
Network performance is quite good. In UMTS / GSM 4G mode I have reached approximately 12 megabits / second. On LTE as much as 45 but 15 – 20 reliably.

Is it useful? Yes, I think so. I had an iPad 1 but wasn’t blown away. With the new levels of performance, SiRi and the great network speeds I have to say it does feel like a smart piece of glass. Using services like Netflix or Hulu on the cellular network felt just about the same as on fast WiFi or your home network. Becareful because it’s easy to use up your limit in your plan but mobile wireless connectivity is really getting very good.
Over all, you’ll find it different and it will take time to get used to the touch interface but it’s worth it. The improved performance and amazing battery life really make the iPad worth the money. Battery life is north of 10 hours continuous when connected to WiFi or LTE. Stand by is days and days. Average use for me is I charge the device every 3 – 4 days. It’s not inexpensive, cellular models start at 629 and the version I have cost $829 with almost 900 by the time you added a case and cover. Can you do everything with an iPad on a phone, yes but if you have the means the iPad is worth while. I give it 4.75 out of 5 and think it’s a great tablet. Let me know if you have any questions.

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New Title from Draconis Entertainment Available for the Mac in the Mac App Store

Our good friends at Draconis Entertainment have done it again. They have released a new title for the Mac. The game is called, Silver Dollar, and I am posting the information below on the game. Please purchase the game, spread the word and support a great developer!

Howdy partner, and welcome to the Silver Dollar Saloon!

Draconis Entertainment revisits the popular saloon of the old west featured in many of its audio games for the blind and visually impaired with a new mini title for Mac OS X! (Coming later to Windows PC’s.)

Primarily intended for the blind and visually impaired, SilverDollar offers three mini games that serve as both a great introduction to audio games for new players, and addictive fun for experienced ones.

SilverDollar has no visual elements. Use your fingers, ears, and wits to engage in some western fun.

So put on your 10 gallon hat, partner, and get into a little trouble at the old west’s premier watering hole for outlaws and gunslingers alike.

• Start a brawl with the Silver Dollar’s resident tough guy.

• Prove yourself a gunslinger by testing your shooting skills, blasting flying crockery out of the air.
• Spend a little time at the one-armed bandit.

• Features many favorite characters from previous Draconis titles, including Old Man Stanley.

• Audio hints to help newcomers navigate the game menus with their ears.

• In app instructions for all the mini games.

Other mini games are planned for future updates. Have something you’d like to see? Let us know.

SilverDollar is available in the Mac App Store for $1.99 USD at the following link:

here.

We are open to questions on this title, or Draconis in general. As always, we don’t comment on unannounced titles, but we will do our best to answer questions.

Posted in Accessibility, General, Mac OS X Lion, OS Mountain Lion, OS X Snow Leopard | Leave a comment

Spreading the Word about Good Friends

Being the fact that we live in a community of users of Apple products and that the end goal is to provide as much help and resources for users, I like to post information on other folks who are doing more than their share for the community or even work with such like minded people. Below, I am posting some information on some really good friends of mine who live in England. There company, Mac Access, does a lot of good things, and Gordon and Lynne are simply great people. I will let Gordon describe what they exactly do in his own words:

As a small non-profit organisation, Mac Access Dot Net is proud to be able to team up with MacForTheBlind, as both groups have a common goal; that of promoting everything Apple in terms of accessibility and, by definition, useability by visually impaired and other disabled inividuals and groups.

When Apple released their first offering as part of their Mac OS X 10.4 [Tiger] operating system way back in 2005, there was almost no voice for the visually impaired amongst the apple community. That voice which did exist was, and sadly remains, somewhat insular in its approach, lacking any form of dynamic purpose. At the start of 2007 we decided that we could make a positive contribution to the field of accessibility for blind and visually impaired users, by offering them an alternative voice; a forum where they could post their questions and comment without the fear of being flamd, bullied or harrassed by those with strongly polorised views or even a conflicting interest. The accessibility industry has long been a battleground where different factions turn inward upon one another, when, in order to accomplish the best possible results, we should all be pulling in the same direction.

That is why we decided to start Mac Access and since that time, thanks to a loyal group of members, we have expanded our membership into the hundreds and are now venturing into other areas where we hope we can expand our presence and, motivated by nothing but a desire to help the community, we feel we can make a positive contribution. MacForTheBlind is another like-minded group and we very much welcome the opportunity of working with them. Founder of that group, (John Panares), has ben a friend of ours for some time now, and together, we are sure that we can make things happen.

We very much look forward to 2013 as another exciting and eventful year in the field of accessibility across Apple’s platforms, and we, alongside MacForTheBlind want to be a part of the fun.

To visit Mac Access and obtain additional information, please go
here.

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Happy New Year to all

It’s about a week late, but I wanted to wish everyone a happy and healthy 2013. I got tied up over the holidays, so I know I am late. I also have a few items to post over the next week or two.

As for audio demonstrations, I plan to do others, but right now, the good folks at
Applevis
have been churning out a number of great podcasts, as well as in other places. However, I will figure out a topic and do something soon, or, at least, try to do so.

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A New Audio Game for the Mac for the blind!

I have often been asked the question in regard to what games are available for the Mac that blind people can play. Additionally, along the same lines, I am told that there aren’t anywhere as many games for the Mac as one can find for Windows. This is something that has been changing in recent months, and I am proud and happy to post the following announcement.

Yes, Draconis Entertainment has released an audio game for the Mac, and the details follow below.

It has been a long time coming, but the dragon has awakened at last. Pull up a chair, and we’ll fill you in on what we’ve been doing.

Draconis Entertainment has spent the last few years working on a next-generation game engine for audio gaming. We had several key goals in mind as we began working on this project.

* We wanted to future-proof our games. A game engine that could easily be maintained and kept current in-line with modern operating systems, eliminating the problems of incompatible or out-of-date dependencies was essential.
* We wanted cross-platform compatibility. We are Mac users to the core, and only supporting Windows was no longer satisfactory. Our new game engine will work on Mac OS X, Windows, and iOS devices.
* We wanted a game engine so flexible that it would support any kind of game-style we chose to throw at it, and to build all future releases on top of the same core.
* We wanted to bring our prices down. If the game engine really was as capable as we designed it to be, this would mean more rapid development once the core of the engine was complete.

The enormity of this undertaking cannot be understated.

The game engine has been under active testing by an incredible group of beta testers for the last two years, to whom we are enormously grateful. We could not have done this without them. Thank you all!

Looking ahead..

Our plan going forward is to begin releasing both new titles as well as expanded versions of old ones that have been rewritten from the ground up for the next-generation Draconis game engine.. As our focus has been on perfecting the engine, the first couple of titles will be new versions of some of our classic games with tons of new features, with all-new titles coming very soon.

In general, we expect desktop titles to be released first for Mac OS X, followed soon after by Windows versions. Mobile games for iOS are also planned, as well as special mobile versions of games that have been traditionally meant for desktops.

It is with great excitement, that we are pleased to announce the immediate availability of our first Mac OS X title, which is expected to be available for Windows in the first quarter of 2013 as well.

ChangeReaction, Draconis Entertainment’s classic audio puzzle game for the blind and visually impaired comes to OS X with new audio, three entirely different modes of game play, a host of new features, and a cheaper price tag!

Primarily intended for blind and visually impaired gamers, ChangeReaction is played via the keyboard and your ears. Navigate the game board with the arrow keys, dropping coins on the stacks to create chains of explosions and rack up higher and higher scores! Match three coins of the same denomination vertically or horizontally to trigger a chain reaction that blows up all adjacent coins of the same value! This game has no visual element. Use your fingers, ears, and wits to rack up the highest scores possible!

* Choose from three distinctly different variations of game play.
* All modes support three difficulty levels.
* In ChangeReaction Classic, clear the board of all coins before time runs out!
* In LooseChange, clearing the board just got a whole lot more difficult! Bombs explode on coin stacks and scatter their contents across the board for added challenge!
* In PayDay, try to keep the board from being cleared against all odds, and rack up overtime by clearing positions on the board which represent the hours of the work week.
* Bonus rounds provide a chance to rack up even higher scores!
* ChangeReaction 2.0 has been rewritten from the ground up using the next-generation Draconis game engine.
* Exciting new sounds and music.
* Audio hints to help newcomers navigate the game menus with their ears.
* In app instructions and keyboard reference.

ChangeReaction is available in the Mac App store for $9.99 USD. Anyone who purchases a copy of the legacy Windows version on or after 12/December/2012 will be eligible for a free upgrade to ChangeReaction 2.0 for Windows when it is released, expected to be in the first quarter of 2013. The Windows version will also be available for $9.99 USD. (Prices may vary for your country, based on current exchange rates.)

The direct link to ChangeReaction in the Mac App Store is:

here.

Thank you all for your patience and support. We look forward to a very bright future ahead.

Posted in Accessibility, General, Mac OS X Lion, New Category, OS Mountain Lion, OS X Snow Leopard | Leave a comment

Updates, 12/9/12

I have been doing small updates and tweaks all over the site over the last few weeks. This includes a few new sections on the
Links page.
I have added links to both Mac and iOS developers who have proven to be responsive to the blindness or low vision community. Note that these sections are not endorsements or any sort of advertisements for the developers. The links are there as potential resources and for information. I welcome any suggestions for other developers you feel have really gone the extra mile to make their applications accessible to us. I will be adding more as time goes by.

In addition, on the
Technical Corner
page, I’ve added a tutorial on installing Windows 7 via Bootcamp on the Mac, which was kindly contributed by Christopher Hallsworth.

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