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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 March 2012 Issue  Volume 13  Number 3

In This Issue

Editor's Page

A Busy Week at CSUN 2012

Cell Phone Accessibility

Android Ice Cream Sandwich: Evaluating the Accessibility of Android 4.0

While improved since our last evaluation, the out-of-the-box accessibility of the latest version of the Android operating system--known as Ice Cream Sandwich--is still not close to reaching that found in the Apple iPhone. -- Darren Burton and Matthew Enigk

Low Vision Accessibility

The Bigger Picture: A Comparative Review of Magnifier for Windows 7 and Zoom for Mac OS

Unless you require only low-level magnification when using a computer, neither Magnifier nor Zoom is a truly feasible access solution. -- John Rempel

Book Reader App Usability

A Guide to the Read2Go App for Apple iOS, from Bookshare

A series of regular updates have improved Read2Go for Apple iOS. -- Aaron Preece and Darren Burton

Bookshare Reader 3.7.0 and Darwin Reader 1.22: Two Android Apps Provide Access to Books

Users of Android smartphones now have options for accessing books, often at a lower cost than iOS apps. -- J.J. Meddaugh

A Tribute

Fred Gissoni: The Legacy of a Matchless Pioneer

Nine days after his 82nd birthday, Fred Gissoni spent his last day on the job at the American Printing House for the Blind. His life, generosity, wisdom, and humor--along with his remarkable example--continue to be gifts to blind and sighted people everywhere. -- Deborah Kendrick

AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News


Editor's Page

A Busy Week at CSUN 2012

Lee Huffman

Dear AccessWorld readers,

All I can say is WOW, what a busy, action-packed week!

The 27th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, otherwise known as CSUN 2012, was held February 27 through March 3 in sunny San Diego, California. It's impossible to take in all of the pre-conference workshops, educational sessions, forums, technology exhibits, and group meetings, but the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) was there in full force and did our best to experience as much of CSUN as we could!

AFB staff members were involved in several educational session presentations, "Town Hall" style discussions, and meetings with national leaders in the mainstream and assistive technology arenas. We also exhibited at the CSUN conference to promote the vast resources of our website, www.afb.org, including AccessWorld, and to interact with conference goers.

In order to help keep AccessWorld readers up to date with the goings on at CSUN, AFB was proud to sponsor the Blind Bargains podcast coverage of CSUN 2012. The AccessWorld team encourages you to log on to the Blind Bargains Audio Content page, which features great interviews, presentations, and updates on the latest in technology news from the conference.

It's not too early to mark your calendars and save the date for the 28th annual CSUN conference: February 25 to March 2, 2013, again being held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego.

The AccessWorld team hopes you enjoy this issue, which includes reviews of several recent software releases, a variety of apps, and a tribute to Fred Gissoni.

Lee Huffman

AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief

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Cell Phone Accessibility

Android Ice Cream Sandwich: Evaluating the Accessibility of Android 4.0

Our May 2010 AccessWorld evaluation of Android 2.0 and 2.1 found some positives to report, but a lack of e-mail and Web browser accessibility left a lot to be desired. At the time, we concluded that the platform had potential despite its shortcomings, and promises from Google staff left us optimistic about future improvements. Though there are third-party screen readers and apps available that enhance the accessibility of Android phones, this article focuses on the built-in, out-of-the-box accessibility that Google has designed into their Android 4.0 operating system, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich.

We used the Samsung Galaxy Nexus for this evaluation. The Nexus is a touchscreen phone; the only physical buttons are the power/lock button on the right side panel and a volume rocker on the left side panel. For this article, we began our testing with Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 and continued testing with subsequent upgrades through version 4.02.

Initial Setup

Previous versions of Android required that a user who was blind or visually impaired get sighted assistance to turn on the screen reader. Ice Cream Sandwich attempts to address this limitation: After you feel a few short vibrations upon booting up the phone, using your finger to draw a square clockwise on the screen (starting at the top left corner) should activate the screen reader. This was erratically successful during our testing. Your chances of success will be improved if you ensure that you don't touch the screen anywhere else first, and make sure to keep your finger on the active area of the screen. Once activated, the screen reader will remain active; you won't need to draw the square again.

An accessible tutorial comes onscreen when the screen reader starts, and the Talk Back speech synthesizer talks you through practicing how to use Explore by Touch, which will be discussed in the next section of this article.

We found the rest of the setup process to be a mixed bag as far as accessibility. We do suggest getting some sighted assistance to complete everything with minimal frustration. We found some unlabelled elements on the setup screens, and typing information into the required edit fields using the onscreen keyboard was frustrating at best.

Explore by Touch

Ice Cream Sandwich has the Talk Back, Sound Back, and Kick Back accessibility features found in the Android operating system. Older versions also featured the "Eyes-Free Shell," a home screen that gave people with vision loss a more consistent and well-integrated interface for navigating and using an Android phone. Ice Cream Sandwich features "Explore by Touch" instead, which allows you to move your finger around the screen while Talk Back indentifies the elements that are onscreen beneath your finger. When you get to an element you want to activate, such as the Web browser icon, you simply lift your finger and tap the screen at that location. Although that sounds simple, even our lab testers with years of experience with technology didn't always tap in the correct place, especially when two icons were located very close to one another on screen. In addition, even when sighted testers confirmed that an icon was tapped properly, it often didn't open.

The Onscreen Keyboard

Previous versions of Android required a physical QWERTY keyboard and a D-pad or track ball for accessible navigation. Ice Cream Sandwich allows the use of the phone's virtual onscreen QWERTY keyboard for things like filling out online forms and creating your contacts list. When you tap on an input field, the virtual keyboard appears on the bottom portion of the screen. In theory, Talk Back identifies each key as you move your finger around the keyboard; when you hear the letter you want, you lift your finger to activate the key. We found significant inconsistencies when trying to type with the keyboard. The keyboard itself often seemed to disappear, as sometimes nothing would be spoken when gesturing over the area where the keyboard was supposed to be. On those occasions when the keyboard was spoken, a letter different from the one indicated was often entered into the field. The testers evaluating the keyboard functionality often used the phrase "life's too short" to describe their frustrations with the erratic functionality.

Although it's not built into Ice Cream Sandwich, Eyes-Free Keyboard is a free app from the Android market that you can download to help with this problem. Although we found significantly less inconsistency when typing with Eyes-Free Keyboard, the process was still not 100-percent accurate. The free app also includes a virtual D-pad that can help with general navigation and with activating icons and buttons. When you are not in an edit field for typing, the bottom portion of the screen contains the D-pad, the use of which allows you to swipe up, down, right, or left to move from icon to icon or among other screen elements. Simply tap anywhere on the D-pad portion of the screen to activate an icon or button. Though it functionality was also inconsistent, at times we found using the D-pad to be easier than Explore by Touch to focus on and activate screen elements. The D-pad also doesn't work with menus and pop-ups, so you have to use Explore by Touch to access those items. The D-pad has more uses while browsing the Web (see below).

We also tested Android 4.0 with our Apple wireless keyboard. This worked very well for accessing the features of the phone, and the wireless keyboard was much more consistent and useful for navigating the screen and activating icons. That said, it is not realistic or desirable to have to carry around a keyboard just to use your phone.

Using Apps

We tested a few of the main built-in apps on the Galaxy Nexus.

Making a Call

The Phone app is much improved since our May 2010 Android evaluation. The dialing and other buttons were read quickly and clearly by Talk Back, and Explore by Touch worked consistently to locate and activate buttons. You use the same Explore by Touch technique of finding, lifting, and tapping to activate the buttons within the Phone app, so you do have to be accurate when tapping. The dial pad remains active during a call so you can interact with automated phone tree systems, but you do have to be pretty fast to get your buttons pressed in time.

Talking Caller ID, which speaks the name and number of callers who are in your People list, worked well. If a caller is not in your People list, Talking Caller ID speaks the number and state from which the caller is calling. One glitch is that sometimes the app continues to speak caller ID information after the feature is switched off.

The Call Log, Favorites, and People lists were a bit more difficult to use. Explore by Touch had difficulty locating entries in the lists; we had much more success using our wireless QWERTY keyboard to do so.

Messaging

Overall text messaging was difficult to use in Ice Cream Sandwich. Although we could read our list of message threads, we were unable to get Talk Back to read the actual text of the messages when using Explore by Touch. We were able to read the messages using the Eyes-Free Keyboard D-pad to navigate, but it would only read a message in one big chunk. Reading by line, word, character, etc., was not possible. Dealing with text messages in general was difficult to figure out, and it took a lot of scrolling around to get to the text of the messages.

Settings

We ran into real problems with settings using Explore by Touch. We could read and activate each item on the main Settings page, but when we tried to drill down and actually change a setting, the functionality was lost. Most didn't read at all, and we were unable to change any of them, including the accessibility settings. Using the D-pad, however, we were able to read and activate all the settings.

Web Browsing

To use the native Web browser in Android, you have to first install the Web accessibility scripts, which are found in the accessibility menu. Though the Web browser is accessible with Talk Back and Explore by Touch, using these tools for exploring the Web is not a pleasant experience. It's difficult to navigate a page and activate links with Explore by Touch, and Talk Back only read large blocks of text. We also had trouble getting Talk Back to stop after it began reading an entire Web page.

The Eyes-Free Keyboard D-pad helped with navigating webpages. Similar to using the iPhone rotor, swiping right or left changes the navigation element, and up/down moves around by the element you have chosen. The navigation elements include group, object, sentence, word, and character. We're not exactly clear what a group is, but an object is any HTML element on a page, such as a graphic, a list, a block of text, or a table. Using the D-pad, we were also able to navigate within a table as long as we were not moving by the group element.

Although this evaluation is focused on the built-in accessibility features of Ice Cream Sandwich, we thought it would be useful to mention Ideal Android Vox browser from Apps4Android as a better alternative to the built-in browser. The Vox browser greatly improves the browsing experience, with enhanced tools for navigating by a variety of elements such as heading, table, form, sentence, word, and character. In order to use this functionality, you must have a phone with a QWERTY keyboard or use an external wireless keyboard. We tested Vox with the Apple wireless keyboard. It worked very well, and was a vast improvement over the built-in browser with Explore by Touch.

E-mail

Although we had no luck with the phone's native e-mail app, we were able to access our Gmail accounts. Navigation was a bit clunky at times, but we were ultimately able to read and compose messages.

Music

Explore by Touch was again difficult to use when accessing the Music app, and several elements could not be accessed. Once again, the D-pad made significant improvements. The biggest obstacle was hearing Talk Back when music was playing, as there is no automatic dip in music volume as there is on the iPhone when VoiceOver is speaking.

Other Miscellaneous Issues

A variety of additional issues to note with Ice Cream Sandwich:

  • The phone is now easier to unlock. Press the Lock button, run your finger up from the bottom of the screen; when you feel the haptic vibration, swipe to the right to unlock.
  • Easier to answer an incoming call. A haptic vibration alerts you when to swipe to the right to answer a call, or to the left to send it to voicemail.
  • The Android Market worked well, except for the advertisements for apps and movies.
  • The Notification Shade, which appears at the top of the screen and tells you about incoming mail and messages, wouldn't work with Explore by Touch. It was more accessible with the D-pad.
  • The D-pad sometimes blocked the Home button, which appears at the bottom of every Android screen.
  • During limited testing we found Android's voice input features to be similar to older versions, but with some improvements in voice recognition accuracy.

Documentation

Just as we reported in our May 2010 article, the lack of available documentation, such as a user guide or quick start guide, makes it difficult to learn how to use an Android phone with Ice Cream Sandwich. The tutorial that appears during initial setup is insufficient. The additional Google documentation we could find were a couple videos, also very limited.

Low Vision Accessibility

Previous versions of Android offered nothing in particular to accommodate people with low vision, but Ice Cream Sandwich has made some improvements in this area. In addition to the high-definition display on the Galaxy Nexus, there is now a setting to increase the font size globally, which also reflows the text so that panning is not necessary. You can zoom in on certain elements with a pinch gesture, and you can set the phone to reverse polarity for a white-on-black display. Finally, Ice Cream Sandwich features default text in the Roboto typeface, a sans serif face that people with low vision often find easier to read than other common typefaces.

The Bottom Line

Android accessibility has certainly improved since our initial evaluation in 2010, but the platform's out-of-the-box accessibility is still not close to reaching the level of accessibility and usability found in the Apple iPhone. Our testers were unimpressed with Explore by Touch. The lack of any useful documentation or a central online resource for people with vision loss makes it very difficult to learn how to use an Android phone. If we hadn't found some online podcasts on the subject, we never would have learned about Eyes-Free Keyboard, which makes a very poor out-of-the-box experience more tolerable. Such functionality should be included in Android's built-in technology.

In our limited testing, we found significant improvement in features for low-vision users; we'd like to hear reader comments about using Android with low vision.

The very nature of Android's open-source operating system expands possibilities for clever designers to invent more and better access solutions. What we seem to have so far is fragmentation of access and of information, making it difficult to figure out what is required for an accessible experience.

Of course, there are useful third-party screen reader and access apps (see Resources, below), but for some, researching and learning additional apps simply adds to the confusion.

At this point, Android phones are probably more suited for techies who like a challenge and are willing to spend the time and effort to figure out even basic functionality. People who are less comfortable with technology might have real problems with Android's demands for accurate interaction with the touchscreen. The Android OS is now four years old, and it's time that Google delivered a built-in solution to rival that of the iPhone.

Resources

Android Accessibility

Google's Eyes-Free Group

Author's Note: As we were posting this article, we did find a useful site that centralizes information about Android accessibility.

Videos from Google

Demonstration of Initial Setup

Demonstration of Explore by Touch

Other Resources

That Android Show podcast, featuring AccessWorld author J.J. Meddaugh

Accessible Android blog

AccessWorld article on Mobile Accessibility

Helpful Third-Party Apps

The Spiel screen reader for Android

Mobile Accessibility for Android

AT&T offers a light version of Mobile Accessibility for Android at no cost for their customers with vision loss; learn more in their press release.

Sprint has also announced that it will offer the full version of Mobile Accessibility at no cost for their Sprint and Boost Mobile customers with print disabilities. Sprint has also announced Five Accessibility Sprint ID packs, which are bundles of apps from Apps4Android designed to accommodate people with print disabilities. More information is available from Sprint's Press Release.

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Low Vision Accessibility

The Bigger Picture: A Comparative Review of Magnifier for Windows 7 and Zoom for Mac OS

With their latest software releases, both Microsoft and Apple have made improvements to the level of accessibility within their respective operating systems, including each screen magnification program.

For this review, Microsoft Magnifier in Windows 7 and Apple Zoom in Mac OS X Lion were evaluated in eight categories:

  • Ease of Use
  • Available Viewing Options
  • Magnification Range
  • Color Schemes
  • Font Smoothing/Pixelation
  • Attention Tracking
  • Magnification Combined with Speech

Ease of Use

Magnifier and Zoom can be launched in a variety of ways. Magnifier can be launched at any point by pressing the Windows key and +. If you prefer to not memorize shortcut keys, Magnifier can be launched through the Ease of Access Center in Windows or through the Start menu. Zoom can be launched on the Mac by pressing Opt + Cmd + 8 or via the Universal Access window. Both Magnifier and Zoom allow their respective screen magnification programs to be loaded at startup as well.

Magnifier Options Window

Caption: Screenshot of Magnifier options

After Magnifier is launched, a small window appears in the center of the screen that displays some basic options within Magnifier, such as controls that increase and decrease the viewable area and modify the available views. Unless one of these options is accessed within three seconds, the basic options window will be automatically replaced by an image of a small, partially transparent magnifying glass. Minimizing the magnifier removes this image from view while preserving the level of magnification and any other changes that you've made. The advantage to the partially transparent magnifying glass is that it allows immediate access to the basic options within Magnifier using the mouse. For those of you who prefer mouse commands over shortcut keys, this can be convenient. Visit the Magnifier keyboard shortcuts webpage for a list of shortcut commands.

Left-clicking the icon resembling a small gear in the top-right corner of the window opens another called Magnifier Options, where you'll find additional options such as the tracking of mouse, pointer, and text focus, and color inversion.

Apple Zoom does not provide an onscreen window or user interface when in use, which might be a disadvantage for users who are more dependent on the mouse. When Zoom is loaded, there are some gestures on the touchpad that allow limited access to the program's options. For example, pressing Opt + 2-Finger Drag Up/Down increases and decreases the level of magnification, respectively. Memorizing the most common shortcut keys will preclude the necessity to refer back to the Universal Access window on the Mac whenever you want to change something. Visit the Zoom keyboard shortcuts webpage for a list.

Available Viewing Options

When one of the Windows 7 Aero themes is selected, Magnifier provides three viewable modes: Full Screen, Lens, and Docked. Full Screen mode magnifies the entire viewable area; Lens mode magnifies and tracks the area surrounding the mouse pointer; Docked mode increases a stationary portion of the viewable area of the screen. For example, if you wish to only magnify the clock displayed on the bottom right-hand corner, the Docked mode allows you to resize the window to the desired height, width, and magnification needed to view the clock, while the rest of the viewable screen remains unmagnified. If you have not selected an Aero theme, only the Docked mode will be available in Magnifier.

Mac OS Universal Access window

Caption: Screenshot of Mac OS Universal Access window

Although Zoom labels its controls a little differently than Magnifier, it provides the equivalent of the three viewing modes mentioned above, plus two more. When Zoom is enabled, its default viewing mode is full screen magnification. Within the Universal Access window, a checkbox labeled "Zoom in window" is available, which functions similarly to the Lens mode in Magnifier. When selecting this option, a resizable window is displayed on the screen, and it magnifies and tracks the mouse pointer and the viewable area surrounding it. A Stationary option is also available in Zoom, which operates the same way as the Docked mode does in Magnifier.

In addition to the three modes above, Zoom also offers Tiled Along Edge, which splits the screen in half vertically, with the left half magnified and the right half non-magnified. Zoom also allows you to replace the default mouse pointer with a large crosshair. If you experience field loss, or if you have difficulties tracking the mouse pointer, the crosshair can make the task of tracking the mouse pointer much easier. Though Windows 7 provides a variety of options available to change the mouse pointer, they are difficult to find and require additional steps to load.

Magnification Range

Magnifier increases the viewable area from 1 to 16 times magnification. It also allows you to adjust the size in increments of 25 to 400 percent.

Zoom increases the viewable area from 1 to 20 times magnification. Zoom also provides an additional feature for setting the minimum and maximum range of magnification required with the use of two sliding scales: one scale for minimum magnification and the other scale for maximum magnification. If your preferred range of magnification is between 4 to 7 times, for example, setting the minimum and maximum scales to this range provides rapid access to those specific levels of magnification.

Color Schemes

Magnifier allows you to invert the display colors by selecting the "Turn on color inversion" checkbox under Options. This type of color inversion option is a standard feature in the majority of magnification programs.

Zoom similarly allows you to invert the colors, and also provides a "Use grayscale" option. This option can be especially beneficial if you are particularly sensitive to certain color schemes. The "Enhance contrast" option in Zoom is another feature not found in Magnifier. With a sliding scale ranging from "Normal" to "Maximum," you can adjust the level of contrast to your individual preference. This can be a valuable feature if you require a higher level of contrast, or if you are glare-sensitive.

Font Smoothing/Pixelation

Both Magnifier and Zoom contain additional font enhancements for text smoothing, which reduces pixelation. Magnifier provides an option called "Fine tune what my screen fonts look like." This option walks you through several screens to optimize the appearance of text, including the "Turn on ClearType" feature. Zoom also contains a checkbox called "Smooth images," within the Universal Access window.

We used an LCD 22-inch Samsung monitor to compare the quality of the image of Magnifier and Zoom, along with a MacBook Pro and a Pentium 4, 3.0 GHz PC running Windows 7. The screen resolution was set to 1024 × 768 on both systems. The Safari Web browser was used with both platforms. The quality of the viewable text for both Magnifier and Zoom was tested on several websites, including msn.com, afb.org, cnn.com, and aph.org. Although pixelation was apparent with both Magnifier and Zoom, the quality of the text displayed with Zoom showed less pixelation at higher levels of magnification (4X and above), and therefore provided a slightly better reading experience. That said, neither Magnifier nor Zoom provides the clarity of text found with third-party screen magnification programs such as MAGic for Windows, or VisioVoice for the Mac.

Tracking

When relying on a screen magnification program, tracking various elements of the screen can be very important, especially at higher levels of magnification. Magnifier provides three options for tracking elements on the screen: text insertion point, mouse pointer, and keyboard focus. Zoom also provides tracking of the text insertion point and the mouse, but does not provide tracking of the keyboard focus. This is a significant disadvantage with Zoom, since keyboard focus can be very helpful when accessing pull-down menus and other controls via the keyboard.

On the other hand, Zoom provides some valuable options for tracking the mouse pointer that are not found in Magnifier. When maneuvering around the screen, Zoom keeps the focus of attention of the mouse pointer at, or near, the center of the screen. This feature allows you to maintain your gaze in more of a fixed location, as opposed to searching the entire screen to locate the position of the mouse pointer. This is especially helpful if you have field loss, or have difficulties tracking the location of the mouse pointer.

Both Zoom and Magnifier effectively track the insertion point (i.e., tracking the cursor as you type), a critical function of any magnification program. Magnifier effectively tracks the location of the insertion point within WordPad and the Microsoft Office applications. Zoom is able to effectively track the insertion point in the TextEdit and Stickies applications on the Mac, but is not able to track the insertion point within any of the Office 2011 for Mac applications.

In order to test Magnifier and Zoom's ability to track the insertion point their native web browsers (Internet Explorer 9 and Safari 5.1) were used. Though Magnifier and Zoom track the insertion point reasonably well within their own respective Web browsers, neither screen magnification program is able to track the insertion point within any Open Office application.

Magnification Combined with Speech

Combining screen magnification with speech output can provide a higher level of accessibility for people with vision loss. Both Windows and Mac operating systems include screen reading programs: Narrator and VoiceOver, respectively.

Other than the Key Echo feature, which simply repeats the keys that you press, Windows Narrator is essentially ineffective when running simultaneously with Magnifier.

Universal Access on the Mac contains an easily overlooked option called "Speak items under mouse after delay." This feature allows Zoom and VoiceOver to run simultaneously. It's necessary for the "Zoom in window" option to be selected in Universal Access for VoiceOver to work with Zoom. This screen magnification/speech output combination works well within the applications that come with Apple operating system. In Safari, VoiceOver successfully speaks text, links, and headings within the magnified window. The Zoom and VoiceOver combination also works well within TextEdit, but is much less successful within the Office 2011 for Mac suite of applications.

The Bottom Line

Magnifier in Windows 7 and Zoom in Mac OS X Lion are significant improvements over previous versions, but both programs still have their share of shortcomings.

Magnifier is easier to use via its onscreen user interface, which makes it especially user-friendly for mouse users. Another feature that sets Magnifier apart from Zoom is its ability to maintain keyboard focus, at least within the proprietary applications designed by Microsoft. Zoom on the Mac does not maintain keyboard focus when accessing elements such as drop-down menus and other on-screen controls, even within Apple applications.

Zoom has the advantage over Magnifier when it comes to control over color schemes, and Voice Over integration with the program is also impressive. Zoom's image quality was also slightly better than Magnifier's.

If you find yourself in a situation where a third-party screen magnification program is unavailable, both Magnifier and Zoom can provide basic access to a computer. However, unless you require only low-level magnification when using a computer, neither Magnifier nor Zoom is a truly feasible access solution, especially in educational or professional situations. Third party applications such as MAGic for Windows or VisioVoice for the Mac are better alternatives for extensive computer use.

Product Information

Product: Zoom in Mac OS X Lion
Manufacturer: Apple Computer, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014
Price: Included at no cost in Mac OS X Lion

Product: Magnifier in Microsoft Windows 7
Manufacturer: Microsoft, 1020 102nd Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004
Price: Included at no cost in Windows 7

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Book Reader App Usability

A Guide to the Read2Go App for Apple iOS, from Bookshare

We've been reading with the Read2Go app from Bookshare since it was released in 2011. The app was buggy when it first came out, but a series of regular updates have improved Read2Go to the point where a product guide seemed like it might be of use to the AccessWorld readership.

Bookshare

In case some of our AccessWorld readers don't know, Bookshare is a tremendous online resource of accessible books, magazines, and newspapers for people with print disabilities. Bookshare is free to students, and others pay a nominal fee to access over 125,000 publications, available in DAISY and braille formats. You can learn more, including how to register or volunteer, at Bookshare's website.

An Overview of the App

Read2Go is available in the iTunes App Store for $19.99. Version 1.0.2.2, released in January 2012, was used for this article. Read2Go is fully compatible with the VoiceOver screen reader, Zoom magnifier, and other built-in accessibility features found in Apple iOS devices. We also found that Read2Go worked well with the Apple wireless QWERTY keyboard and with the BraillePen refreshable braille display we purchased from Flying Blind, Inc. It also has what they call the "Read2Go Audio" feature, allowing you to use the Acapela Ryan or Heather voices instead of the VoiceOver voice for reading content. Read2Go is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices running iOS 4.0 or later. In addition to Bookshare content, the app will play other DAISY 2.02 and 3.0 books. You can learn more at the Read2Go website, where they list the following features as highlights of Read2Go:

  • Browse and search Bookshare's entire collection
  • Download and automatically unzip books
  • Store books on the Read2Go bookshelf
  • Connect via Bluetooth to specific braille displays to read in braille
  • Read books multi-modally (see and hear words at the same time)
  • Read in text only or text-to-speech mode with built-in Acapela voices
  • Control font size, color, background, reading speed and more!
  • Volume purchase discounts available for schools

Main Tabs

When not reading an actual book or other content, Read2Go displays four tabs along the bottom of your device's screen. From left to right they are: Bookshelf, Search, Settings, and Help.

Bookshelf

The Bookshelf screen allows you to arrange, search, and make selections from your book collection. At the very top of the screen is a heading labeled "Bookshelf," along with a number indicating the number of books you have in your bookshelf. Below this heading is an Edit button that opens a screen allowing you to delete the books on your bookshelf. This screen appears exactly like the Bookshelf screen except that there is a Done button where the Edit button previously was, and there are now Delete buttons above the titles of your books. When you press a Delete button for a specific book, the program will automatically place the VoiceOver cursor on the confirm button so that you don't have to find it each time you delete a book.

Just below the Edit button there are three tabs, Title, Author, and Latest, for arranging your bookshelf the way you like it. When scrolling through the tab choices, VoiceOver says "selected" to indicate the tab that you have activated. Below these three tabs is a search feature that you can use if you have an extensive collection and don't want to scroll to find a book. Activating this button brings up a search screen where you can use the touch keyboard to enter the title of the book that you want to find. The search results appear as you type so that you can type a portion of the title then find the book from the results list. To return to your Bookshelf, press the Cancel button, which is located below the Search bar and after the Clear Text button.

Below the Search button are your books, sorted in the way you have chosen. Activating a book name will bring up its Book Details screen. On this screen the book title appears towards the top of the screen, and a Read button is located just below the title. Below the Read button is book synopsis and publication information. Bookshare information, such as date of edition, language, and category, are also displayed in this area.

The Search Screen

The Search screen is easy to use and well designed. The Search screen allows you to search the entire Bookshare collection and to download books and other publications to your iOS device. It is not for searching for specific text within the books in your bookshelf. At the top of the Search screen are a series of four tabs that determine your type of search: Title/Author, Title, Author, and ISBN. Activate the search field below these tabs to bring up the keyboard to enter your search terms. It takes a moment to load the list of search results, which include the title and author name for each book. The search returns 100 search results at a time; you have the option to load more at the bottom of the list. To return to the search field, press the Back button in the top left corner of the screen. This button remains in place even if you have moved down the search results by several pages, so it's easily accessible at all times.

Below the search field, you will find a list of other browsing options. You can browse by the latest books added to the collection; the most popular books based upon number of downloads; categories; and periodicals. These options are found in a list on the left side of the screen. The books and other content in these options display the same way as the search results for a text search.

Once you find a book that you want to download, activate the name of the book to bring up the Book Details screen, which appears exactly like the Book Details screen on the Bookshelf screen with a few minor exceptions. Instead of a Read button you will find a Download button. Also, a brief synopsis will be displayed instead of the full synopsis. Activating the Download button for a book will begin downloading the book to your Bookshelf. This usually takes around ten seconds for an average-sized book on both 3G and Wireless LAN. After the book has been downloaded, Read2Go will ask you if you want to read it or continue browsing for other books.

The Settings Screen

The Settings screen allows you to change the font size, visual settings, and audio settings. You can also log-on to your Bookshare account from this screen. The settings are found in a list located in the top left quarter of the screen.

Font Size Settings

The Font Size screen contains the option to change the font size or restore it to the default setting. Below the "Font Size," heading is the current setting for the point size of the font. Below this is a control labeled "Font Size," along with the current size setting. This control must be highlighted before the font can be changed. VoiceOver will say "Adjustable" when this button is highlighted so that you know that you are on the correct button. Using a flick up/down gesture increases/decreases the font size. Increments begin with six-point intervals, then switch to five point intervals, and finally change to seven-point intervals. You can use the double-tap and hold pass-through gesture with VoiceOver and then move your finger up and down the screen to change the font size in single point intervals. It's important to note that flicking upwards will raise the font size whereas dragging the finger upwards using the pass-through gesture will decrease the font size.

Visual Settings

The visual settings menu is labeled "Visual" and resides just below the font size option on the left side of the screen. The visual settings menu allows you to control various options about the appearance of the application and how books are displayed. This menu gives you control over the foreground and background color, highlight color and location, and bookmark color. You can also enable image display in books that include images, enable an additional slider to navigate the pages of a book quickly, and set the program to load the book a page at a time or a section at a time. If you're reading with VoiceOver, it's faster to use section navigation so that you don't have to press the Next Page button every time you get to the end of a page. The Read2go audio function will automatically change pages when needed, so if you are not using VoiceOver, you don't need to load the book in sections.

Audio Settings

The audio settings are located below the visual settings; the button is labeled "Audio." The settings in this screen relate solely to the Read2Go built-in audio function. From top to bottom the options are:

  • Switch Read2Go Audio on and off.
  • Set the voice to Acapela Ryan or Heather.
  • Set the speech rate. The rate is similar to the slider for the font size (if you use a VoiceOver flick up/down gesture after activating the speed button it will raise and lower the speed by a steady twenty percent; for fine tuning, use a double-tap and hold gesture with VoiceOver and then move up for lower speed and down for higher speed).
  • Set background playback. When on, Read2Go audio will speak when you have the device locked or when you exit the application.
  • Set Auto Play. When on, a book will automatically begin playback upon launch.
Signing into Your Bookshare Account through Read2Go

In the main settings window, sign into your Bookshare account by activating the Sign In button at the bottom of the list of settings. This will bring up a screen with a Sign In button at the top of the screen followed by username and password text fields. After these fields, there is a switch button labeled "Remember Me." Switching this on will insure that you remain logged in after you exit the application. There is also a Forgot Password button, which allows you to reset your password using the e-mail address that you provided upon signup.

The Help Screen

The Help Screen is the fourth tab at the bottom of the main screen and also can be accessed from the Bookshelf, Search, and Settings screens. With VoiceOver the help document functions like a webpage, meaning you can navigate by the elements that you have established for webpages in your VoiceOver rotor settings. The help document opens with the version number of Read2Go, followed by a brief introduction to the document. The sections of the document appear as links below the introduction. Below the table of contents, the sections of the document are navigable by headings so that you can quickly move between them if you do not wish to use the links provided in the table of contents.

The help document explains the workings of the program well. The program is designed to get you reading quickly: the sections are brief and give just enough information so that you can accurately find, download, and read a book. The location of most buttons and other details, such as the workings of the Bookshelf screen, are not explained. Also, in the instructions for transferring non Bookshare books from iTunes to Read2Go, the formats that the program will accept are not described. This information is only on the Read2Go web page.

After describing how to acquire and read books, the document describes the configurable settings, giving you a description of every option that can be modified in the program. This is useful as the repercussions of some setting changes are not readily apparent.

Reading

Read2Go has two reading modes available for reading books and other content. You can either use VoiceOver and read the books like you would any other text on your device, or you can use Read2Go Audio, which has its own speech synthesizer.

Screen Layout and Navigation Options

When you choose a new book from your Bookshelf and activate the Read button in the Book Details screen, the book will open at the beginning. If you're reopening a book you've read previously, Read2Go remembers where you left off and will open to that location. There are four tabs across the top of the reading screen: Bookshelf, Navigation, Set Bookmark, and Settings. The text of the book is displayed below these tabs, and the playback controls are located along the bottom of the screen. If you have Read2Go Audio enabled, those controls will include Previous and Next Pages at the far left and right and Previous and Next Phrase on either side of the central Play/Pause button. If you have deactivated the setting for displaying by page, you will have Previous and Next Section buttons instead of Previous and Next Page buttons. When Read2Go Audio is deactivated you will read with VoiceOver, and you will have only the Previous and Next Page and Section buttons at the bottom of the reading screen. There is also a slider just above those buttons for navigating by page or section.

The Navigation screen has three tabs along the top, from left to right they are: Section, Page, and Bookmark. These tabs allow you to choose which navigation elements will be displayed in the central area of the screen. If you activate the Section tab, the central part of the screen will populate with a list of all the sections (e.g., chapters and sub-chapters) in the active book. Each section in the list will include the section name as well as its navigation level, (e.g., Level 2 or Level 3). The Page tab displays a list of all the pages of the book, and the Bookmark tab lists all the bookmarks you have placed in the book, including the section title where the bookmark is located as well as the bookmarked text.

Whichever tab you have selected, you can swipe through the navigation elements one at a time and activate the one you want, and the book will open to that location. Also, your current location in the book will be reported as "selected" when you reach it in the list of navigable elements. In the Section and Page tabs, there is also a table index on the middle of the right edge of the screen for moving more quickly through the list.

There is also a Search button below the three tabs on the Navigation screen. The button is only active when you have the Sections tab selected. You can use it to search for text in the list of section navigation elements only; you can't use it to search for specific text within the book itself.

The third button on the main reading screen is the Set Bookmark button. This will place a bookmark in your current position in the book. Settings is the final button, and it brings up a menu almost exactly like the main app Settings screen, except that it does not include a Sign In/Out option or the Auto Play option.

Using Read2Go Audio

When you read with Read2Go audio, the book is spoken with either Acapela Ryan or Heather. The Acapela voices are easy to understand, even at higher speeds. As with many higher quality voices, pauses between sentences are somewhat pronounced compared to reading with VoiceOver. While reading with Read2Go Audio, the book text is displayed on the screen and the active text is highlighted in the color of your choice; the word currently being spoken is highlighted in a different color. Even though the text appears on screen, VoiceOver does not detect it when you place your finger on the book contents section of the screen. Although the app will read continuously without the need to turn pages, Read2Go Audio only lets you navigate by phrase or section, which makes it impossible to navigate to a certain word or quickly move to the previous or next portion of the current page or section. Read2Go Audio does not support the spelling of a specific word as VoiceOver does.

Reading with VoiceOver

If you have Read2Go Audio switched off, VoiceOver will read the book like an HTML file, with all of the same navigation options of a webpage. You can use flicks left and right to jump by sentence, or use a two-finger swipe down to read from your current position to the end of the current page or section. You can also use VoiceOver's rotor to navigate by other elements such as headings, lines, or words, and you can set the rotor to character navigation, which allows you to hear the spelling of a word. Another nice feature is the ability to define a word by first navigating to the word, then double-tapping and holding. Switch the rotor to the Edit control, swipe down to Define, and double-tap to bring up a screen with the word's definition. You can pause reading at any time with the standard two-finger single tap.

A drawback of VoiceOver is that it treats each sentence as a separate element, so when reading it sounds a click whenever it moves from one sentence to another. The click can be disabled on an iPhone by muting the device using the switch on the left side of the device, or on the right side of an iPad. On some iPhone models, if you adjust the mute switch while the Read2Go app is running, the app will close and the device's home screen will load, so it's best to adjust that switch while Read2Go is closed. There is not a way to mute the click on the iPod touch.

If you switch from Read2Go Audio to VoiceOver using the settings tab within the book playback screen, the book will open to the same location where Read2Go Audio left off. You can place your finger in the text display area of the screen and navigate through the text from there. If you switch back to Read2Go Audio, you must place a bookmark at your current place or Read2Go Audio will not be able to pick up where you left off. We also noticed an occasional bug where it would place you at the beginning of a book instead of where you left off with VoiceOver.

If you navigate back a page and place your finger in the text display area, it will have placed you in the final screen of that page or section. If you instead touch the top of the screen and swipe through the tabs into the display screen, it will place you at the top of the page. Placing your finger on Settings in the top right corner of the screen and then flicking right is another way to be sure you are on the top of a page. If you lose your place or want to skip through a page or section, you can use a three finger swipe up and down to move by iOS screen and the new screen will be announced as well as how many screens make up the page or section. A swipe upwards will move to the next screen and a swipe downwards will move to the previous screen.

Recommendations for Improvements

Other than for a few minor issues, Read2Go works very well for a person with very limited or no vision, and the visual features will do well to accommodate a person with low vision. Though this current version is a nice improvement over previous, rather buggy, releases, there are nevertheless a few improvements we'd like to recommend.

The first thing we would like to see is a search feature for searching for text in the actual content of a book. The ability to search for specific text is one of the major advantages of electronic books; adding this functionality will be a significant improvement to the app. We remember struggling with cassette books in school and the nightmare it was to search through taped content for a specific passage mentioned by an instructor—those kinds of struggles should not be part of an e-book experience.

We would also like to see more navigation options when reading with Read2Go Audio, especially the ability to spell an unfamiliar word or one that might be difficult to understand. When reading with VoiceOver, we would like to see a continuous reading mode to avoid the need to turn pages, and it would be great if the app reliably kept your place when switching from VoiceOver to the Read2Go Audio voice and back.

Finally, it would be great to be able to turn off the navigation clicks that are heard when reading with VoiceOver on the iPod Touch. However, that is a feature that Apple needs to address, not Read2Go.

Product Information

Product: Read2Go
Price: $19.99, available in the iTunes App Store
Visit the Bookshare website to sign up for Bookshare.

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Book Reader App Usability

Bookshare Reader 3.7.0 and Darwin Reader 1.22: Two Android Apps Provide Access to Books

When it comes to reading specialized book formats supported by stand-alone digital book players like the Victor Reader Stream or the BookSense, much attention has been paid to accessibility solutions on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Meanwhile, the available apps for accessibly reading books on the Android platform have increased substantially over the past few months. Users of Android smartphones now have options for accessing this specialized content, often at a lower cost than apps offered on iOS.

Bookshare Reader 3.7.0

The free Bookshare Reader app exemplifies the adage "you get what you pay for." This eBook reading app for Android builds accessibility features on top of the mainstream book reading program called FBReader. While this approach provides an integrated book reading solution for a variety of formats, it also has its limitations.

All of the app's functions are accessed from the phone's menu key, so at launch, you are presented with a blank main screen. Buried in the menu is an item called "Network Library," where the option to download Bookshare titles resides. When you select this option, you are prompted for your Bookshare username and password and then presented with a screen where you can search by title, author, or ISBN, and browse the latest and most popular books. Searching for and downloading a book was straightforward, and several status messages were spoken during the process.

Once you open a book, you are returned to the main screen. To start reading, press Menu and select Speak. There is no way to set the app to start reading a book automatically. After selecting your preferred text-to-speech voice, the book will begin to play. While a book is playing, the only navigation options are Next and Previous Sentence buttons. Press one of these buttons and speech will stop; the Play button must be pressed again to resume reading. The menu includes both Table of Contents and Navigate to Page options. Selecting an item from the Table of Contents option did not move the cursor to the proper part of the book. The Navigate to Page option did allow us to learn the currently selected page number.

It's worth noting that this app is still in its infancy, and it's quite possible that many improvements will be made over time. A free, fully functional interface to Bookshare would be a welcome app for Android users.

Darwin Reader 1.22

Darwin Reader is a DAISY book reading app written by New Designs Unlimited, LLC. A free 30-day trial is available from the Android Market; the full version is available for $14.95.

The main screen of Darwin Reader displays a list of the available books in your library. Initially, the only available book is the on-board documentation, which gives a brief overview of the available commands.

To search for books, select the "Add Books to Library" option from the main screen. Bookshare is listed as one of the available sources. If this is your first time using the app, you will be prompted for your Bookshare username and password. Once logged in, several options are available including "Popular Books," "Latest Books," and "Search."

Bookshare maintains a partnership with NFB-Newsline, offering newspaper and periodical content from over 300 sources. In states where NFB-Newsline is funded, Bookshare members can use the Darwin Reader app to download today's newspaper or browse through recent editions. This affords a simple way to stay on top of the latest news without dealing with potentially cumbersome websites. You can easily add your favorite newspaper or periodical to a list of favorites for easier access.

Darwin Reader offers two reading modes: eyes-free mode, which is intended for readers who prefer a speech-centered output; and graphical mode, intended for readers who have learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Upon opening your first book, you will be prompted to choose the mode you prefer (you can switch between the two modes at any time by pressing the Menu key).

Navigating a book in the eyes-free mode is quite simple. The app uses swipe gestures, performed by moving your finger across the screen in specific ways. Swipe right to skip to the next sentence or left to jump to the previous sentence. Swiping up and down move to the previous and next section, respectively. Tap the screen once to start or stop speaking. The phone's arrow keys or D-pad can be used to navigate by word or character.

In the graphical mode, text is displayed on the screen and buttons across the bottom of the screen perform the sentence and section navigation commands. You can tap on any displayed word to have it spoken. Several settings are included for changing the appearance of the text, including the text color, line spacing, and font size.

The Navigation Mode gives access to the book's table of contents (if one is available), and allows for page navigation. The table of contents displays all of the headings and sections in the book, or the sections and articles in an NFB-Newsline publication. This same screen allows you to jump to a specific page within a shorter publication. For long books, however, it's not possible to enter a specific page number to jump to; instead, you must scroll through the list of pages until you reach the one you are looking for. There is no indication provided for your current location in the table of contents or your current page in the book. The only available information is an option that displays the percentage of the book that has been read. To enter Navigation Mode, tap and hold in eyes-free mode; select the Navigation icon in graphical mode; or select the Navigation option from the menu.

Two additional features add convenience while reading a book with the Darwin Reader app. The app includes the ability to set and recall bookmarks, which allows you to easily jump to a specific section of a book. There is no limit to the number of bookmarks that can be defined. In addition, a handy sleep timer is included, which allows you to have the book reading automatically stop after 10, 30, 60, 120, or 180 minutes. Darwin Reader remembers your place in each book the next time it is opened.

There is some room for improvement in the app. Some functions are not available on phones that don't have a dedicated keyboard or arrow keys, including spelling or speaking the currently selected word. Additional swipe gestures could be added to compensate for this. When the phone screen is locked, the slide gestures don't work. Other apps include a setting to keep the phone unlocked during reading; a similar option in Darwin Reader would be a welcome addition. Adding support for additional file formats would be a valuable feature as well.

The Bottom Line

With multiple screen readers and text-to-speech voices available, it's possible to customize your Android reading experience in ways not possible on other platforms. In addition, Android apps for reading Bookshare titles are less expensive than the iOS Read2Go app. With some minor improvements, a superior book reading experience on Android is possible. Developing a fully functional and flexible Android app for specialized book content may ultimately mitigate the need for a separate digital book player.

Product: Bookshare Reader
Author: Benetech
Price: free

Product: Darwin Reader
Author: New Designs Unlimited
Price: $14.95 (30-day free trial available)

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A Tribute

Fred Gissoni: The Legacy of a Matchless Pioneer

In an interview for AccessWorld two years ago, Fred Gissoni, a true legend and pioneer in the field of assistive technology, told me that he had four criteria that would determine when it was time for him to retire from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH): if the work was no longer fun, if APH no longer needed his services, if his health prevented working, or if he needed to take care of someone else.

Even though he was still having fun, had some difficult health conditions under control, wasn't needed to care for another, and was definitely still useful to APH, Fred Gissoni decided to use another indicator in 2011: intuition. He just felt that it was time to retire — and so he did.

Nine days after his 82nd birthday, on December 30, 2011, Fred Gissoni spent his last day on the job. At that point, he had worked five days a week at APH for 23 years, solving technical and other issues for customers who called him at extension 309, and dispensing so much more than just helpful information.

On his last day, there was no grandiose gala to send him off to a much-deserved retirement, no loud fanfare or fuss. And that was just the way he wanted it. Instead, he came to work like any other day and celebrated the ending of one era and the beginning of another quietly with co-workers in his department.

This quiet send-off is in keeping with the manner with which he approached hiswork. Though he made immeasurable contributions to the blindness field over the past 60 years as teacher, counselor, inventor, and friend, Fred's role has often been of the backstage variety, providing quiet comments, quick conversations, or concise instructions that changed lives.

Born without sight in Northdale, New Jersey, Fred and his wife Betty, who was also blind and a teacher in the blindness field, moved to Kentucky in 1956. With a bachelor's degree in sociology from Rutgers and a master's in counseling from New York University, Fred first worked as a placement counselor for the Kentucky Department for the Blind. (In his 32 years with that agency, he also taught, founded an independent living center, worked with engineers to develop products, and headed the agency's technical division when it was established.) Since childhood, Fred had a keen interest in the mechanics of things, quickly figuring out how machines and systems worked. He learned Morse code and earned his amateur radio license in 1946 and to this day remains an avid ham radio enthusiast.

His first highly visible contribution in the blindness field was in the early 1960s. Fred and Betty learned from Tim Cranmer—a blind inventor who once reportedly joked that Fred Gissoni was among his best inventions—how to use the abacus that Cranmer was adapting for use by the blind. The Cranmer abacus became a state-of-the-art tool for the blind, and Fred Gissoni was largely responsible for spreading the word. He wrote a book of instructions, still available by download from APH, on using that first abacus; he worked with the IRS to train blind employees who needed a means of making quick calculations; and he headed up a summer institute at the University of Kentucky in which teachers of the visually impaired were trained in the best methods for teaching the use of this new device to their blind students.

Fred often worked behind the scenes, testing and tweaking and promoting new products. It was in that capacity that I first came to know him. In 1985, I launched TACTIC, a magazine covering technology for blind people, and Fred stepped up to help as soon as he heard of it. His articles were always remarkably clear and concise, giving the reader an effortless step-by-step sense of what using a particular product would be like.

At about this time, he and engineer Wayne Thompson were involved in the development of the PocketBraille and Portabraille, short-lived products that helped pave the path toward the development of the renowned Braille 'n' Speak, designed by Deane Blazie. When that product appeared in 1987, Fred Gissoni was front and center, writing and talking about how to use it.

I asked him recently how he had learned to write technical instructions so clearly. First, he credited an English teacher in his days at Rutgers. Next, after a bit of reflection, he said: "I'd imagine that I was writing a letter to a friend, sending that friend this product or other, and so, I would begin with telling him what was in the box and next how to go about using it." While head of the technical unit for the Kentucky Department for the Blind, Fred served on an advisory committee to APH, and when APH decided to add the growing field of assistive technology to its mission, Fred Gissoni was hired to serve in that role in 1988.

"Fred was responsible for my coming to APH," Larry Skutchan, who is known for the development of such popular APH product as the Book Port and Braille+ Mobile Manager, recently told me.

Commenting here, tweaking there, remembering more information about people and products than most of us will ever learn — those are the kinds of traits that marked Fred Gissoni throughout his career. In 1999, in honor of his amazing mental trove of tips and information, APH launched the Fred's Head blog, which continues to serve as a resource of blindness information.

For 23 years, Fred provided information to customers through the customer relations department at APH, touching countless lives through his gentle teaching and generous provision of information.

A 2011 APH employee newsletter told the story of a West Coast family adopting a blind child from China. The parents had called the APH customer service line seeking information on using the Wilson digital recorder. Not only did the anonymous APH employee who answered the call provide the family with the information they needed, that employee also directed the parents to a source in China that led to an interpreter who helped them record phrases in both English and Chinese to help the child in her transition. This help, reported Marsha Overstreet, APH supervisor of customer relations, had to have come from Fred Gissoni, since he alone would have possessed the breadth of information that pulled together those people and resources from around the world to help a single blind child.

One month into his retirement, Fred's bout with cancer is currently under control, and his life is a contented one. He says he recognizes each day as a gift.

That gift is more than a gift to Fred Gissoni alone. His life, his generosity, wisdom, and humor, and the remarkable example he has set, have been and continue to be a gift to blind and sighted people everywhere.

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AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News

The American Foundation for the Blind Unveils Enhanced Website Redesign

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) launched a redesign of its main website, www.afb.org, earlier this month. The new design offers a more interactive, engaging experience, making it easier for visitors to locate information on everything from accessible technology to raising a child with visual impairments to webinars on the latest research in the blindness field.

Like the former AFB website, the new afb.org is fully accessible to people with vision loss. Visitors can change colors, font, and font size to increase content readability.

On the new site, visitors will find:

  • Improved navigability via a cleaner design, more dynamic content, and a new information architecture
  • Slideshows that highlight news, events, and resources on living with vision loss
  • New and enhanced ways to engage with AFB through public policy campaigns and various social networking channels, including blogs and message boards
  • Robust and dynamic landing pages for key programs, including the AFB Center on Vision Loss and AFB Press
  • The ability to easily share content by e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter
  • A vibrant and supportive community on AFB's award-winning family of websites, including VisionAware, FamilyConnect, CareerConnect , and AccessWorld

2012 AFB Leadership Conference and Florida AER State Conference

Incredible Views, Extraordinary Impact

Registration is now open for the joint 2012 AFB Leadership Conference (Previously known as the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute) and Florida AER Conference.

Tradewinds Island Resorts
St. Pete Beach, Florida
May 4–5, 2012
(Pre-conference on May 3)

Come hear experts in the field, such as pre-conference keynote speaker Dr. Karen Wolffe and conference keynote speaker Kevin O'Connor, as they lead informative and enlightening sessions on topics such as:

Leadership: Facing current and future challenges

Technology: Looking at what's new and on the horizon

Education: Meeting the needs of the visually impaired

Rehabilitation: Implementing cutting-edge tips

We thank our event partners:

  • Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind
  • Florida Division of Blind Services
  • Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
  • Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired

Visit us online at www.afb.org/AFBLC12.

ZoomText 10.0.1 is Released!

The first update in the ZoomText 10 cycle is available! Already own version 10? Then this is a free update for you! If you've got ZoomText set to download updates automatically, you're good to go — the next time you launch ZoomText it will install the update for you. Otherwise, just go to the Help menu and choose "Check for Program Updates…".

So what's in this update? ZoomText 10 is now available electronically in Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Slovak, Spanish and Swedish.

In addition, Ai Squared has optimized the ZoomText Camera feature to provide faster video performance on systems equipped with a multi-core processor. Controls have also been added in the ZoomText Camera dialog providing manual selection of the camera video frame rate, allowing you to balance overall camera and system performance.

AI Squared has made further improvements for iTunes and Java Access Bridge support, and has fixed a whole bunch of bugs.

Ai Squared plans to have the CD version ready mid-February. To order your copy, call 800-859-0270 or you can go online and contact your local dealer.

American Foundation for the Blind Scholarship Program 2012

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) administers seven post-secondary education scholarships for up to 11 deserving students who are legally blind:

  • Delta Gamma Memorial Scholarship—One scholarship of $1,000
    • Undergraduate or graduate study in the field(s) of rehabilitation and/or education of people who are blind or visually impaired.
  • Ferdinand Torres Scholarship—One scholarship of $3,500
    • Undergraduate or graduate study in any full-time program in any field.
    • Applicants need not be US citizens, but must reside in the US. Preference given to New York City metropolitan area residents, and new immigrants to the US.
  • Gladys C. Anderson Memorial Scholarship—One scholarship of $1,000
    • Undergraduate or graduate study in classical or religious music.
    • Applicants must be female.
  • Karen D. Carsel Memorial Scholarship—One scholarship of $500
    • Graduate study in any full-time program in any field.
    • Applicants must submit evidence of economic need.
  • Paul W. Ruckes Scholarship—One scholarship of $1,000
    • Undergraduate or graduate study in engineering or in the computer, physical, or life sciences.
  • R. L. Gillette Scholarship—Two scholarships of $1,000 each
    • Undergraduate study in a four-year degree program in literature or music.
    • Applicants must be female.
  • Rudolph Dillman Memorial Scholarship—Four scholarships of $2,500 each
    • Undergraduate or graduate study in the field of rehabilitation and/or education of people who are blind or visually impaired.
  • Visit the AFB scholarships website for further information and to fill out the application.

    Please direct questions and comments to: American Foundation for the Blind Information Center, (800) 232-5463, afbinfo@afb.net

    The National Federation of the Blind Offers 30 National Scholarships

    To recognize achievement by blind scholars, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) annually offers blind college students in the United States the opportunity to win one of 30 national scholarships worth from $3,000 to $12,000. See the NFB scholarship website for the rules on eligibility, requirements for documentation, and an online application form. Membership in the NFB is not required. The 2012 NFB Scholarship Program begins November 1, 2011. Application deadline: March 31, 2012.

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    Copyright © 2012 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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