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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 May 2012 Issue  Volume 13  Number 5

In This Issue

Editor's Page

Research in Motion Announces the Release of BlackBerry Screen Reader

Product Evaluations

Can't BrailleTouch This…or Can You? A Review of the BrailleTouch Prototype

by John Rempel

There may be an easier method for smartphone text input than hunting and pecking through a QWERTY keyboard.

Product Evaluation: Plextalk Pocket PTP1 DAISY Book Player and Digital Recorder from Shinano Kenshi

by Deborah Kendrick

The PLEXTALK Pocket is a stable, delightful digital player and recorder designed specifically for people who are blind or have low vision.

From Fevers to Cooking Temperatures: A Review of Three Talking Thermometers

by Janet Ingber

A review of three talking thermometers, two for taking body temperature and one for use in other tasks such as measuring the temperatures of food and liquids.

Technology and Productivity

Series: Removing the Stress from iOS: A Blueprint for Incorporating Touchscreen Products Into the Classroom, Workplace, and Community

Part 1: Why iOS Devices Matter: Considering the Strengths of Apple iOS Devices

by Larry Lewis

Apple iOS products offer a wealth of opportunities for users who are visually impaired, but before we can understand what these products have to offer it's important to take a look at the reasons why we should care about these products and their uses.

Accessible Gaming

Shall We Play a Game? A Review of Two Accessible Gaming Platforms

by J.J. Meddaugh

All work and no play makes for a rather dull day. Playing online games can help a newer computer user become more adept at using technology.

Access to Fitness

The United States Association of Blind Athletes Shapes Lives through Sports and Recreation

by Lacey Markle

The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) was founded in 1976 for the purpose of improving the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired. Since then, the USABA has evolved into a national organization that provides sports opportunities to thousands of athletes, of all ages and abilities, who are blind and visually impaired.

AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor


Editor's Page

Research in Motion Announces the Release of BlackBerry Screen Reader

Lee Huffman

Dear AccessWorld Readers,

We at AccessWorld are excited to help Research in Motion announce the release of the BlackBerry® Screen Reader, a free software application that helps BlackBerry customers who are blind or visually impaired operate their BlackBerry® smartphones. Read more about this new, free software in this month's AccessWorld News.

I'm sure many AccessWorld readers have heard about the BrailleTouch app through both mainstream and blindness-centered media. The tech blogs have also been abuzz with questions and speculation about the app, and there has been confusion as to why BrailleTouch is not yet available. In his article, Can't BrailleTouch This …or Can You? A Review of the BrailleTouch Prototype , John Rempel cuts through the confusion to give AccessWorld readers the real scoop.

On a less tech-related note, as cold days have now given way to sunshine and warmer weather, I thought it was the perfect time to turn some attention to getting outdoors and becoming more active. Statistics tell us that people with vision loss tend to be less physically active than people with sight, so I invited Lacey Markle from the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) to tell AccessWorld readers about the role of the AABA and how it's working to improve the lives of people with vision loss through recreation and sports. The AccessWorld team encourages you to share the information in her article with others, especially students, teachers, and athletics coaches, because research and experience show that students who participate in sporting activities are more independent and attend and graduate from college at a dramatically higher rate than their less active peers.

The AccessWorld team hopes you find useful information in these and all articles in this issue.

With best regards,

Lee Huffman

AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief

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Product Evaluations

Can't BrailleTouch This…or Can You? A Review of the BrailleTouch Prototype

Back in February of this year, a team of researchers from Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA, unveiled the BrailleTouch prototype, an eyes-free app that allows you to enter text in braille using a touchscreen smartphone. The widespread interest in this app created a media frenzy that took its researchers completely by surprise. Media coverage of BrailleTouch included CNN, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, the BBC, and several other news sources and technology blogs. BrailleTouch also won the MobileHCI 2011 competition for design at the MobileHCI conference in Stockholm, Sweden. According to Georgia Tech's media department, the video BrailleTouch Helps Visually Impaired Users has received more views than any other Georgia Tech video. Although BrailleTouch is an app targeted specifically for people who are blind or visually impaired, the international media coverage of this app suggests that a replacement of the virtual QWERTY keyboard also resonates with the mainstream population.

BrailleTouch was developed collaboratively by Georgia Tech researchers Mario Romero, Caleb Southern, and Brian Frey. Prior to its media debut, these researchers carried out extensive user studies and focus groups with braille users, largely through the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta. These studies gave the researchers insight into the app's performance, and provided them with a valuable venue for gleaning first-hand feedback and suggestions from braille users. The development of BrailleTouch has received the vote of confidence, and financial backing, from both the Alternative Media Access Center and the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies.

A photo of BrailleTouch being used on a smartphone

Caption: BrailleTouch

What is BrailleTouch?

BrailleTouch allows the user to type in braille using the touchscreen of a smartphone as the text entry interface. BrailleTouch is designed to closely emulate the finger placement of braille writers such as the Perkins Brailler and portable braille note-takers. A braille cell consists of six dots of two columns of three dots each. A braille character is created by using a combination of dots in a braille cell. When BrailleTouch is loaded onto a touchscreen smartphone, the entire touchscreen becomes a virtual braille cell. The user activates the two columns of dots by tapping on the sides of the screen with his or her fingertips. Entering of text requires the correct finger placement within the virtual braille cell.

BrailleTouch audibly announces each character as it is being brailled. Inputting braille is much easier to learn than reading braille, and requires no tactual discrimination. BrailleTouch is designed so that the screen of the smartphone actually faces away from you when in use, and is therefore truly "eyes-free." Your index, middle, and ring fingers of both hands curl around the touchscreen of the mobile device as it faces away from you, so that your fingertips hover slightly above the surface of the touchscreen. This design may seem counterintuitive, since we are so accustomed to having the touchscreen facing us as we type. Facing it away from you allows you to more effectively use the fingers of both hands for braille input.

Short Learning Curve to Fast Brailling

Georgia Tech's user studies concluded that braille users were able to quickly and easily transfer their skills acquired on a braille writer, since the same finger positioning is used on both devices. For example, pressing the left index finger on a braille writer creates the letter A which is the same finger used to create an A on the touchscreen using BrailleTouch. Likewise, the finger placement required for the remainder of the alphabet using BrailleTouch all correspond to the finger placement of a braille writer.

The user studies revealed that in a short amount of time, some braille users were able to type at speeds exceeding 30 words per minute, with accuracy rates surpassing 90%. When you take into account the number of times the AutoCorrect feature on smartphones corrects misspelled words using the QWERTY keyboard in order to improve its accuracy, these numbers represent some very impressive results. Because a braille cell contains six dots, BrailleTouch only requires that six areas of the screen be accessed to replicate the braille cell. When you compare that to the 45 or more minuscule characters making up the QWERTY keyboard, it shouldn't be surprising that the level of speed and accuracy with BrailleTouch is so high. In fact, BrailleTouch will not include AutoCorrect, the ubiquitous feature on smartphones that was created with the assumption that you will make a lot of errors as you hunt and peck with your smartphone's QWERTY keyboard.

A Forgiving and Intelligent Interface

BrailleTouch is quite forgiving of exact finger placement when entering text. This is because the program relies on the number of fingers being placed on the touchscreen at any given time, and whether the touch points are on the left or right side of the screen. Many of the photos and videos of BrailleTouch show six blue dots on the touchscreen, representing the braille cell. Those dots are a little misleading, and suggest that in order to carry out a braille character, the finger tips need to be placed on the visually displayed dots. BrailleTouch is actually more flexible at interpreting braille characters than that. Take, for example, the letter L which consists of dots 1, 2, and 3, or in other words, the left side of the braille cell. You would therefore use the three fingers of the left hand to carry out an L. As long as three fingers are touching any part of the left half of the screen at any given time as it's facing away from you, BrailleTouch recognizes an L. A handful of gestures are also incorporated into the app to simplify its use, including right-flicking with a single finger to leave a space, and left-flicking with a single finger to backspace. A case can be made that speech recognition programs such as Siri on the iPhone, or Iris on Android devices, significantly reduce dependency on the QWERTY keyboard. Indeed, in specific instances these can be very valuable tools. However, if you have a need for privacy, if network and Internet access is unavailable, or you are in a noisy environment, speech recognition is not a solution.

Dispelling the Myths

During the media blitz with BrailleTouch, a number of news sources disseminated misinformation. The tech blogs were also abuzz with questions and speculation about the app, and there was confusion as to why the app was not yet available. The app is still a prototype, and has therefore not been released to the public. Mario Romero, Principal Investigator for the BrailleTouch project, hopes the roll-out date will be this summer; although, it may be later. At that time, the app will be made available as a free download.

iOS and Android Compatibility

BrailleTouch has mostly been demonstrated to the media using Apple's iPod touch. This has also added to the confusion among the public. BrailleTouch will have the ability to integrate with the Android operating system, and override its virtual keyboard to allow text entry. Because Apple's iOS is not open source, BrailleTouch will only function as a stand-alone app on iOS devices. This means that BrailleTouch will not have any text entry or text editing capabilities with either the iPod touch or iPhone. The app will audibly announce the letters you are brailling using an iPhone or iPod touch, but will not allow integration with any of the apps or features within the operating system of Apple devices. Considering the fact that the iPhone and iPod touch are by far the most accessible, out-of-the-box solutions for people who are blind and visually impaired, restricting such a valuable tool like BrailleTouch from integrating fully with Apple devices will be a disappointment to many Apple fans.

Grade 2 Braille May Be Coming

According to the Georgia Tech researchers, the release of BrailleTouch later this year will support Grade 1 braille. They are also cognizant of the value of Grade 2 braille, and are considering including it in a future release. As much potential as BrailleTouch has for Grade 1 braille users, the potential is even greater for people using Grade 2 braille, which is roughly the equivalent of shorthand. With Grade 2 braille, a single braille cell can represent part or all of a word. It's not hard to imagine how incorporating Grade 2 braille into BrailleTouch could markedly increase the rate of input for people who are proficient with that system.

It Doesn't Solve Everything

Another misleading piece of information regarding BrailleTouch is that it replaces the need for braille displays used by people who are blind and visually impaired. Considering the fact that Apple does not currently allow BrailleTouch to override its QWERTY keyboard, braille displays are the only option available for braille input and braille output on iOS devices. Braille displays such as Refreshabraille 18 and Brailliant Bl 32, although costly solutions (in excess of $1,000), are available options for both braille input and output on smartphones. Even if BrailleTouch was fully integrated with iOS devices, neither Apple nor the Android platform provides braille output without additional hardware. Well-rounded braille literacy skills require the ability to input and read braille effectively. If you are blind or visually impaired, and are unable to see the touchscreen of the smartphone, you are still reliant on the speech synthesizer of the device itself such as Mobile Accessibility for the Android platform, or VoiceOver on iOS. In certain environments, accessing information audibly on your smartphone may not be convenient or appropriate. That said, the value of BrailleTouch is that it allows you to quickly and efficiently enter text from almost anywhere at a moment's notice, as opposed to relying on a secondary device that you are required to carry with you and sync with your mobile device. Very often, the convenience factor alone is one of the most influential factors in determining a product's usefulness.

Educational and Social Implications

An ever-increasing number of adults and teenagers are using smartphones. From an educational standpoint, BrailleTouch may provide greater opportunities for blind and visually impaired people to reinforce their braille skills, and also make braille more relevant on a daily basis. At a time of ever-shrinking budgets, inexpensive text-to-speech software solutions and audio-enabled eBook readers are increasingly crowding out braille literacy. While this might not seem problematic since most students are still able to access material audibly, there are a number of shortcomings to audio access alone, including the inflexible, linear stream in which information is delivered, the fact that some people are not strong auditory learners, and the lack of reinforcement of spelling skills. For a person who is blind or visually impaired, BrailleTouch still depends on the auditory output of a smartphone, but because it reinforces the use of braille, it has the potential to reinforce braille skills and supplement what a refreshable braille display has to offer.

The vast amount of media coverage that BrailleTouch has received demonstrates that braille is still viable and relevant today. The app may also create a better understanding of braille itself, bringing it easily into the hands of the mainstream instead of isolating it in some esoteric category equivalent to learning hieroglyphics. The title of a Los Angeles Times article on BrailleTouch reads: "Could BrailleTouch App Revolutionize Texting?" An international chord has been struck that reverberates with the knowledge that there is an easier method of text input on smartphones than hunting and pecking through a QWERTY keyboard.

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Product Evaluations

Product Evaluation: Plextalk Pocket PTP1 DAISY Book Player and Digital Recorder from Shinano Kenshi

The PLEXTALK Pocket PTP1 is a sleek DAISY book player and digital recorder made for use by people who are blind or have low vision. Smaller than some cell phones, the PLEXTALK Pocket is about the size of a deck of cards and weighs less than four ounces.

Contents and Accessories

The PLEXTALK Pocket comes to you with a 2 GB secure digital (SD) card already inserted, stereo earbuds, an AC adapter, a USB cable for transferring material from a computer, a short USB adapter for connecting a USB memory stick or CD player, and a CD containing the User's Guide in HTML and Microsoft Word formats. The device also comes with a zippered, padded, fabric pouch that is adequate protecting the unit and all of its accessories.

Product Design

The PLEXTALK Pocket has an exceptionally smooth surface. The face has a standard 12-button phone-style keypad, with 11 additional keys located above. The layout of buttons on the PLEXTALK Pocket is extremely well planned. Every button is distinctly shaped and textured, so that the location of keys without sight is absolutely effortless.

Above the key panel is a speaker, which is activated when earbuds for private listening are not in use. This is perhaps the best internal speaker I've ever encountered on a handheld player.

On the top edge of the unit are the ports for headphones and external microphone and on the bottom are the ports for the USB cable and AC adapter. The left edge has the slot for the SD card, and the right edge has an up-down volume switch and a switch for locking all keys.

Using the PLEXTALK Pocket

The PLEXTALK Pocket plays quaint melodic sounds when powering on or off, executing a command, or directing you to wait for a task to be completed. Somewhat akin to the sounds one might hear in a children's play to indicate magical happenings, I found these sounds utterly charming. If you don't share my feelings, they can be silenced.

The logic employed in the device's operation soon becomes intuitive as patterns of performing tasks emerge. For example, one of the most prominent features on the face of the unit is a circle of four arrow keys with a concave Enter button in the center. Many functions are performed by first pressing one of the four corner keys (Go To, Bookmark, Menu, and Title) surrounding this circle, followed by a combination of arrow keys and presses of the Enter key. It did seem cumbersome at first, but again, once the pattern emerges, the operation is easy and intuitive. PLEXTALK audibly confirms every command executed, so that learning is facilitated and errors are difficult to make. The entire user's manual is available at any time with a press of the #0 key, and a Key Describer mode can be invoked by long-pressing the Menu key at any time for learning the names of the various buttons.

Overview of Functions

The PLEXTALK Pocket is a DAISY book player and DAISY recorder. It can play your books and music from a variety of sources, and does all recording in DAISY format, meaning that you can easily insert Headings in your own recordings to improve ease of navigation and review. The PLEXTALK Pocket offers a Voice Memo feature for quick recordings or notes lasting up to one minute on the go, and it can tell you the time and date. Because it's always in standby mode, you can perform any of these functions instantly at the touch of a button. A complete power-off is necessary only when you wish to leave the unit for an extended period of time; powering up again takes 30 to 40 seconds.

Playing Media

The PLEXTALK Pocket can play just about any type of audio content you might want to load onto it, including books from Bookshare, the National Library service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Learning Ally, and Audible. It plays a variety of audio formats directly from your commercial CDs, and can download podcasts or stream content from your favorite Internet radio stations.

While many of the above book sources require authorization for any player, I found the installation of authorization keys and activation processes to be extremely simple. The Audible.com activation was so straightforward that I was almost surprised to find that my books had already transferred to the player and were ready for listening!

Navigation

PLEXTALK Pocket organizes material in folders. You can access these folders (by initially pressing the Title key) either as one long string of titles or by arrowing up to select folder or category review. While playing a book or other file, you can move forward and backward by DAISY levels (the number of which depends on the original markup of the material) or by time increments of 30 seconds or ten minutes. This latter feature seemed inadequate at first, since some players offer a much wider range of time intervals for navigating, but the PLEXTALK Pocket also allows you to move forward by percentages which is a fair compensation.

To change speed of the narration, speed, or volume of the PLEXTALK voice, or tone, you press the #1 key repeatedly until you find the desired setting, then use the up and down arrows to adjust.

Voice Memos and Recordings

Where the PLEXTALK Pocket truly shines is as a DAISY recorder. The Voice Memo feature is available at any time by simply pressing and holding the Record key for up to one minute. This is useful, for example, when you want to capture a short reminder to yourself on the fly. Voice memos are stored internally in their own folder and can be reviewed, played, and deleted easily.

All other user-recorded material is stored on the SD card (up to 32GB) in a separate folder. You can record using the built-in microphone. For higher quality recordings, you can attach an external microphone or cable directly to another output device (such as a CD player, radio, or other source.) Recording quality from the internal microphone is quite good and, if you use headphones, the PLEXTALK voice can guide you through all monitoring without interfering with the recording itself.

All recording done with the unit can be easily marked for navigation, either during or after the recording process, by a simple press of a few buttons. Headings are inserted, allowing for delightfully swift and efficient navigation of a lecture, presentation, or program recorded from another audio source.

The Bottom Line

The PLEXTALK Pocket is a delightful digital player and recorder designed specifically for people who are blind or have low vision. Whether listening with headphones or via the built-in speaker, the device produces excellent sound clarity. The PLEXTALK Pocket shines as a personal DAISY recorder. It is an extremely stable device; in two months of testing, I never once had to reset or troubleshoot operation.

The learning curve for operating the PLEXTALK Pocket is a bit steeper than for some other players on the access technology market, but particularly for those who need to record lectures or other information, the time spent learning is well worth the effort.

Product: PLEXTALK Pocket PTP1 DAISY Book Player and Digital Recorder from Shinano Kenshi

Price: $275.00 (until May 31, 2012)

Available From: Freedom Scientific or Plextalk, (800) 444-4443

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Product Evaluations

From Fevers to Cooking Temperatures: A Review of Three Talking Thermometers

This article reviews three talking thermometers, two for taking body temperature and one for use in other tasks such as measuring the temperatures of food and liquids.

TALKiNG Fast Reading Thermometer

The TALKiNG thermometer is used for taking body temperature. The thermometer can be used orally, under the arm, or rectally.

Documentation

The documentation for this thermometer is not available in an accessible format, and the manufacturer is not listed on the packaging, but a Google search disclosed that this is the Ultmost HE-113-EN Talking Digital Thermometer.

Description

Holding the thermometer with the probe tip pointing down, there are two buttons and a display window towards the top of the thermometer, located in the broadest part of the device. The top button speaks the last recorded temperature; the lower button is the power button. The part of the thermometer that goes in your mouth has a plastic protective cover that can be removed and replaced easily. The end of the thermometer is flexible. The back has a battery compartment which is accessed by two tiny screws. There is a small internal speaker. Two included AG13 batteries are already installed in the compartment.

Using the TALKiNG Fast Reading Thermometer

To use the thermometer, remove the plastic covering, insert the long end of the thermometer under your tongue and press the power button. A clear female voice will say, "Ready." Close your mouth. The thermometer will beep every few seconds. When ready, the voice will say, "Your body temperature is" followed by the number. If the unit isn't turned off within three minutes, it will automatically turn itself off. By default the thermometer measures temperature in Fahrenheit, but it can be changed to Celsius by holding down the power button.

This thermometer is easy to operate and was accurate when compared to other non-talking thermometers which were read with sighted assistance. Unfortunately, there is no accessible documentation or a usable product website.

Lumiscope Talking Digital Ear Thermometer

The Lumiscope Talking Digital Ear Thermometer quickly takes body temperature by ear.

Documentation

The manual can be downloaded in PDF; customer service is available at (770) 368-4700 and cs@grahamfield.com.

Description

The unit is packaged in a plastic protector which can be difficult to open. Inside the package are the thermometer, a stand, and a small box containing 10 ear covers for the thermometer's probe. Additional boxes of 40 probe covers are $7.99 each. The manual recommends changing the cover each time the unit is used.

The Lumiscope is oval shaped with a large ridged button on the top and a display window covering most of the front of the unit. This button turns the unit on and off and is pressed once the thermometer's probe is in the ear canal. When not in use, the thermometer functions as an inaccessible clock. When temperature is announced it also is shown on the display window. At the bottom of the display window are two buttons, Memo and Talk.

The probe is located on the back of the unit. The default setting is Fahrenheit, which can be changed to Celsius by locating the tiny hole labeled "C/F" about three-quarters of the way down from the top on the right side if the probe is facing you. Unbend a paper clip and stick the end into the hole and press once. To reset everything to original settings, use a paper clip in the hole on the left side, opposite the C/F hole. The thermometer uses two AAA batteries (included). The battery compartment's tiny screw is just below the probe. To place the thermometer in the stand, put the probe into the extended hole on the back of the stand with the display window facing forward. There are two clips, one on each side of the thermometer that fit into the stand.

Using the Lumiscope Talking Digital Ear Thermometer

The manual recommends that the unit be in the room where it will be used for at least 30 minutes before use to adjust to ambient temperature. Put a clean cover on the thermometer's probe by slipping the open end over the probe and pushing down on the ring at the bottom of the cover. To take the cover off, place two fingers under the ring and press upward. Insert the covered probe into the ear canal as far as is comfortable. Press the button on the top of the unit. A beep will sound, followed a couple of seconds later by a brief melody, and then the temperature will be spoken. The manual recommends that if several readings in a row are taken, at least ten minutes should elapse between each reading and the temperature should always be taken in the same ear. Previous readings can be accessed by going back and forth between the Memo and Talk buttons. These buttons are also used to set the clock, but sighted assistance is necessary to complete that process. To hear the time, turn the thermometer on and press the Talk button.

Comparing the TALKiNG and Lumiscope Thermometers

The Lumiscope thermometer consistently read higher than the TALKiNG thermometer. While researching this article I happened to get sick with a fever. The difference at times between the two thermometers was startling, as much as three degrees higher with the ear thermometer. As a test, I used the oral thermometer described above, a non-talking oral thermometer, and the ear thermometer. The two oral thermometers were within one tenth of a degree of each other while the ear thermometer read 2.3 degrees higher.

Talking Digital Thermometer RT8400 from ThermoWorks Inc.

The ThermoWorks RT8400 has many uses including checking whether chicken is cooked thoroughly or making sure your child's bath water is at an appropriate temperature. The package contains the thermometer and a clip that covers the probe and can be used for hanging.

Documentation

Documentation is not available in an immediately accessible format. However the manual may be downloaded in PDF. Customer service is available at (800) 393-6434.

Description

The ThermoWorks RT8400 is approximately 9 inches long. The top part is plastic and the 5-inch slender pointed probe is metal. At the top is a loop that can be used to hang the thermometer from a hook. Below that is a display window, a large oval button and openings for the speaker. At the top of the back side of the unit is the battery compartment, which opens easily with a small loop at the top. The unit takes two AAA batteries (included). Below the battery compartment is a little switch for choosing readings in Fahrenheit or Celsius. By default the unit is set to Fahrenheit.

The ThermoWorks RT8400 has a range from negative 58 degrees to 572 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the manual it's accurate to within 1.8 degrees.

Using the ThermoWorks RT8400

Before using the thermometer, the contact prevention strip must be removed from the battery compartment. To get a temperature reading, first press the large oval button on the front of the thermometer. Within a couple of seconds the unit will beep. Next, insert the end of the probe into the item to be checked and press the button again. Almost immediately the thermometer will announce the temperature. If left idle for ten minutes, the ThermoWorks RT8400 will automatically turn itself off.

The unit was tested in a variety of situations. A seafood dish needed to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. While cooking, the thermometer's probe was inserted into the middle of the dish. Each time it recorded a higher temperature. When it reached 165 degrees, the food was thoroughly cooked.

Water was heated to the boiling point and the thermometer read 211.5 degrees, only ½ degree lower than the actual boiling point of 212 degrees. Ice was placed in a glass and water was added to cover it. After stirring and several minutes later, the water temperature read 33.4, only 1.4 degrees above freezing.

This thermometer is easy to operate. During the testing process I discovered that the first reading tended to be less accurate than subsequent readings.

The Bottom Line

When it came to measuring body temperature, the ear thermometer was very fast but also significantly more expensive (and possibly less accurate) than the TALKiNG Fast Reading Thermometer. The digital thermometer for measuring the temperatures of liquids, foods, and other substances was very handy and easy to use. It's unfortunate that none of these thermometers have manuals in an accessible format right out of the box. If very accurate body temperature readings are a critical part of your health care, the best advice is to check with your doctor or health care provider to see what she or he recommends.

Product Information

Product: TALKiNG Fast Reading Thermometer

Price: $12.95

Available from: Maxi-Aids and mainstream retail outlets

Product: Lumiscope Talking Digital Ear Thermometer

Price: $32.85

Available from: Maxi-Aids and mainstream retail outlets

Product: ThermoWorks RT8400

Price: $36.00

Available from: Blind Mice Mart and mainstream retail outlets

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Technology and Productivity

Series: Removing the Stress from iOS: A Blueprint for Incorporating Touchscreen Products Into the Classroom, Workplace, and Community

Why iOS Devices Matter: Considering the Strengths of Apple iOS Devices

Over the past several years, Apple has done an amazing job of marketing its iOS product line of iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads worldwide. The promotion of these products has been so successful that if you don't already own an iOS device, you have probably at least seriously considered buying one. Over a relatively short span of time, Apple has inserted itself—and its products—into our collective stream of consciousness. These efforts have paid dividends for the company, which now boasts cash reserves and assets greater than those possessed by some Eastern European countries.

iOS and Assistive Technology

Apple iOS products offer a wealth of opportunities for users who are visually impaired, but before we can begin to understand what these products have to offer, and how we can efficiently access them, it's important to take a look at the reasons why those of us who are either service providers or consumers within the assistive technology industry should even care about these products and their uses. Why are iOS products important? What bearing do iOS products have on a consumer's, or client's, educational pursuits and vocational aspirations? What roles should these products fulfill within our assistive technology journey?

This is the first in a series of four articles that will address these questions and many others that are promoted by the intersection of iOS devices and AT. Ultimatley, I hope that the articles in this series will provide a roadmap for how to appropriately use these devices to complete a variety of tasks independently and efficiently.

The Current Landscape

The advent of iOS devices has had an impact on the adaptive technology sector in three primary ways:

The Promise of Universal Access

Users have been told by Apple as well as early adopters and devotees to iOS products that through the universal, scalable, built-in approach to screen access offered by iOS, users who are visually impaired may now operate on an equal playing field with their sighted peers.

The possibility of universal access is tantalizing. It's important to remember, however, that whatever accessibility a device my offer is bounded by the facility of the user. Any given product is only as accessible as the strategies a particular user employs when interacting with the device.

Purchasing Without Training

Well-intentioned purchasers have been influenced to make large-scale decisions to procure iOS devices for entire school districts on the promise of universal access, without having a realistic understanding of how these products will be implemented and used.

Over the past couple of years, a number of vision teachers have approached me at conferences, product workshops, and other adaptive technology events virtually in tears because a well-meaning, yet misinformed administrator has made a blanket decision to purchase iPads for all of a district's vision impaired students without taking into account the ages, visual acuities, literacy levels, and individualized education plans of the potential users. More astonishingly, these iPads are often purchased without giving any forethought as to how a school district's direct service providers and students will receive the necessary training and support required to utilize these devices as productivity tools within oftentimes highly competitive academic environments.

Traditional Assistive Technology Marginalized

Manufacturers of traditional adaptive technology hardware and software solutions are now faced with the reality that much of the functionality present in their products is now available in iOS products at a much lower cost and alongside a wider array of accessible functions than what is found in a traditional note-taking device.

Why iOS?

The cumulative effect of these three profound influences is that iOS devices are becoming more and more entrenched in the assistive technology world.

There are four reasons why those involved in AT either as users or facilitators should embrace the usage of iOS products within the classroom, workplace, and community:

The first and most compelling reason to use these products is that our sighted peers are using them. Like it or not, iPads are being introduced within school districts across the country. Universities are adapting curricula and designing course materials for iOS devices. In the iTunes App Store you can find ever increasing numbers of apps developed by Apple and third party vendors whose the sole intent is to complete tasks demanded by the latest educational trends. Employers are beginning to provide iPads to employees who have traditionally been issued laptops to complete their jobs. Plus, iOS devices can add some fun to, and improve the quality of, the lives of their users!

iOS devices enable their users to perform many tasks at a fraction of the cost of traditional notetakers. This is not to suggest that comprehensive notetaking and word processing on an iOS device is as efficient or robust as what you can find on a traditional notetaker; it's not. Nevertheless, the management of your contacts, calendar, and e-mail are just three examples of tasks that can be handled just as efficiently on an iOS device as a notetaker. The upside to iOS devices is that you can share the products of your work with other mainstream products, and with sighted individuals who use such products.

Some iOS applications are simply more robust than those offered by their traditional notetaker counterparts.

The experience of using the Safari Web browser on an iOS device simply trumps that of any browser on even the most recent traditional notetakers. It caused me great anguish a few weeks ago when a friend of mine who works for a notetaker manufacturer informed me that the company would be hosting a training session for educators in a prominent school district that would be dedicated exclusively to the Web browser on its notetaker. The Assistive Technology industry does not do our consumers any favors by teaching browsing on a notetaker, particularly when we're in positions where educators expect us to equip their students to compete and excel in the real world. The honest truth is these proprietary browsers simply can't render information as quickly, access as many sites, or upgrade functionalities as quickly as an iOS device running Safari can. These same goes for locating and downloading books—iOS devices are faster, more efficient, and easier to keep current than other available options.

The last reason for us to embrace IOS products is that they are here to stay.

As the lyrics to a famous folk song put it: "You better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone." At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what you, or I, or manufacturers think. iOS products are not going anywhere any time soon, so we might as well get on board with using them and with working with Apple and other third party developers to make these devices and the apps being developed for them more usable for those of us who are vision impaired.

The Three Strengths of iOS

Service providers and educators are often expected to offer front-line support to their clients and students when it comes to Assistive Technology. It's an unfortunate reality that these professionals are often charged with providing services to a diverse group of adaptive technology users with a wide range of skill sets and technology goals. One of the most exciting advantages of iOS devices is that they enable their users to do three critical things that are universal to almost any classroom or workplace: obtain information, interact with information, and share information with others.

In the next three articles in the series, we'll be looking at how these devices perform in these three realms through a variety of tasks:

Obtaining Information

We'll look at how to use the iTunes App Store to increase a device's functionality and discuss The Safari Web browser's advantages over traditional notetaker browsers.

Interacting with Information

I'll discuss to download, read, and interact with books on an iOS device using a couple of different e-book reading solutions, and look at the challenges of taking notes and performing a variety of word processing tasks on an IOS device.

Sharing Information with Others

Lastly, and probably most importantly, we'll explore how IOS devices along with the appropriate cloud based applications enable vision impaired and sighted users the ability to share information and collaborate with one another in real-time.

At the end of the series, I hope you'll agree that iOS devices can make learning and work not only fun, productive, and rewarding, but that they also facilitate collaboration and foster respect among classroom and workplace peers, regardless of anyone's functional vision.

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Accessible Gaming

Shall We Play a Game? A Review of Two Accessible Gaming Platforms

Often the focus for users of assistive technology falls squarely on mastering productivity applications like Microsoft Office or efficiently surfing the Web and checking e-mail. Yet we know that all work and no play makes for a rather dull day. Playing online games is not only a great way to kill time, it can help a newer computer user become more adept at using technology.

For many years, sighted Internet users have enjoyed participating in multiplayer games with their friends, family or even complete strangers. People who are blind or visually impaired haven't had the same opportunities, since mainstream gaming sites have been largely inaccessible via standard screen access software. While some online services such as All in Play were available, these sites usually required the payment of a fee to play. Sighted users, on the other hand, were able to access a multitude of gaming Websites for free.

Recently, two online multiplayer gaming platforms, RS Games and QuentinC Playroom, have changed the landscape for users of assistive technology, offering a wide variety of card and board game titles for free through their services. In this review, we'll look at both services from the accessibility and entertainment perspective.

Overall Operation

RS Games and QuentinC follow the same general process. You download to your computer a client that connects you to the game services. This method makes it easy for the services to add new games, fix bugs, and control the flow of the game. Once the client is downloaded, you gain access to all of the currently available games.

Dozens of players are usually logged in at any given time, but most games also support bots, or computer-driven opponents, so there is always someone to start a new game with. The bots have varying levels of skill, depending on the game chosen.

Both gaming platforms are run by volunteer programmers, so phone support lines are not available. You can request support via e-mail or the user forums, but it may take some time for a response. The game servers may crash every now and again, with service restored within a few minutes to a few hours.

RS Games

RS Games is a simple-to-use gaming platform that currently offers seven titles: Monopoly, Uno, Yahtzee, Blackjack, Battleship, 1000 Miles, and Apples to Apples. To play, visit the RS Games website and fill in a simple form to create an account.

You can download the game client for Windows, Linux, or Mac operating systems, or play online using the Website. We used the Windows client in our tests, and it hooked directly into several screen readers, providing audible feedback while moving through the menus or playing a game. Those wishing to play using sight will need to visit the Website, as the client does not offer a visual layout.

Creating an account and logging in was a simple process, and we were up and running within minutes. The menu structure was simple to follow, and we were given the opportunity to select a game and then either create a new game or join an existing game started by another user. The W key gives a list of users currently logged in, so you can see who else may be available to play. Password-protected private tables are also available. For the competitive folks, scoreboards are included with most games to track the best players and high scores. Rules for each game are also available from within the client.

The offerings at RS Games are generally menu-driven. When it's your turn in Monopoly, for example, you will be prompted to choose from several options such as rolling the dice or buying houses. Hotkeys are available to obtain game information, such as your current cash on hand or your current properties. There was no way to get a list of keyboard commands from within the game, however. We found the games to be simple to play with easily understandable menus and commands.

A chat system is built into the client, allowing players to talk with each other or send private messages. You can also send a message to an administrator if you're having problems or need to report a concern.

Each game included its own set of background music, which can be adjusted during play. A streaming radio feature is also included, which provides the option of listening to an online radio station while playing.

Periodically, brief advertisements are spoken. These ads help pay for server and operating costs. The ads are infrequent and generally unobtrusive, and are spoken with an audio tone so they are easy to identify.

QuentinC Playroom

The Playroom was originally written in French , but it has now gained an English translation. The client is only available for Windows and currently includes 13 games: 1000 Miles, Uno, la Scopa, Monopoly, Poker Texas Holdem, DOminos, Bouillabaisse, Jass, Battleship, Connect 4, Reversi, Yahtzee, and Chess. Game instructions are available on the Website, though half of the games did not have available English instructions. That said, the games generally use a consistent layout and they are pretty easy to learn.

Again, creating an account on the QuentinC Playroom Website was a breeze, and logging in using the client was a painless process. From the main menu, you can elect to create a new table or join an existing table. You will then be prompted for the table to create or join. While games in the Playroom can't be password-protected, you can hide a table and then invite the people you wish to play with a hotkey.

While in a game, there are three main windows: the main game area, a chat box, and the game history. The main game area is where all of the commands for the game are entered. The chat window allows you to talk to your opponents while the game history lets you review the complete log for your current session. Pressing the Tab key cycles through these windows. F1 can be used to get a list of the keyboard shortcuts available.

Generally, you can use the arrow keys to browse through your cards or navigate around the game board. Hotkeys are included to check the current score, find out whose turn it is, or learn other pertinent information. The keyboard commands are consistent across the various games.

As the Playroom is available in both French and English versions, a rather unique translation feature was built into the in-game chat system. Users can type in their native language, and the game will automatically use Google's translation service to show the messages in the correct language.

The Playroom might be seen as a bit more experimental than RS Games. New games, features, and optional rules frequently appear without warning or notice, often without any documentation. Some users view this as part of the fun, while others are left a bit confused. Uno players, for example, can activate several optional rules such as stacking draw cards or playing cards that cause players to switch their hands with each other, dramatically altering the gameplay.

As of the time of this article, the Playroom was not compatible with the latest version of Window-Eyes, and we found it necessary to load another screen reader to play the games. The author is aware of the issue and is attempting to troubleshoot the problem.

Things to Consider When Playing Online Games

Like most online activities, there are some risks inherent to engaging in a multiplayer gaming platform. Never give out personal information such as your address or phone number to someone you don't know. Also, remember that your conversations can be seen by others or game administrators, so don't write anything that may be confidential or cause undo harm. The game rooms are generally not moderated. While abusive users can be, and frequently are, banned, such types may appear from time to time. If you're planning on letting a child play these games, be sure to maintain close supervision while they're using these sites, and clearly explain the dos and don'ts of online gaming.

Training Opportunities

Both systems are an excellent way to teach basic computer skills. New computer users can learn the location of function keys, how to issue multiple-key commands, and general typing skills in a fun and entertaining environment.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking to get away from the daily grind or just need something new to do with your spare time, give these games services a try. We found the learning curve to be quite short, and were playing within a matter of minutes. Who knows, you may learn something along the way.

Product Information

Site: RS Games.

Cost: Free, advertiser supported.

Site: QuentinC Playroom.

Cost: free.

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Access to Fitness

The United States Association of Blind Athletes Shapes Lives through Sports and Recreation

There are an estimated 52,000 school-aged children who are blind and visually impaired in the United States. Nearly 70 percent of these children do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum. This statistic can be attributed in large part to the transition that many students with visual impairments must make from residential schools, where physical educators with specialized knowledge in vision impairment deliver customized services in relatively small classes, to public schools where educators often do not have the knowledge, time, and resources to adequately serve this student population.

The Purpose of the United States Association of Blind Athletes

The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) was founded in 1976 by Dr. Charles Buell for the purpose of improving the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired. Since then, USABA, a Colorado-based 501(c) (3) organization, has evolved into a national organization that provides sports opportunities to thousands of athletes who are blind and visually impaired of all ages and abilities. A member of the US Olympic Committee, USABA enhances the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired through sports and physical activity by providing opportunities in various sports, including, but not limited to, track and field, Nordic and alpine skiing, biathlon, judo, wrestling, swimming, tandem cycling, powerlifting, rowing, showdown, triathlon, archery and goalball. USABA recognizes that sports opportunities allow people who are blind and visually impaired to develop independence through competition. Like sighted people, people who are blind and visually impaired must have the opportunity to experience the thrill of victory and the reality of defeat.

Participation in Sports and Recreation Has a Lifelong Benefit

The benefits of sports and recreation have been shown to continue from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. A recent survey of USABA members revealed that not only do participants benefit academically from their involvement in sports during elementary and high school, but 57 percent of USABA members continued on to higher education to pursue a college degree. This rate is more than double the national average of 23 percent for their visually impaired peers.

The National Fitness Challenge

Created by the United States Association of Blind Athletes, funded by the WellPoint Foundation, and supported by 18 agencies that work with youth who have visual impairments, the National Fitness Challenge is aimed at increasing involvement in both physical activity and higher education for students with some form of vision loss.

"Each participating agency submits baseline data and monthly updates that are used to create and modify achievable fitness and weight loss goals for the [participating] teens to help them decrease their body mass index," says Mark Lucas, executive director of USABA. To support the program, USABA and the WellPoint Foundation provide talking pedometers as well as fitness and nutrition coaches for each agency. "The WellPoint Foundation is committed to helping children and adults have active lives and avoid the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles and obesity," says Mike Walsh, president and general manager of WellPoint's Specialty Business. "We believe no one should ever be denied the right to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of exercise, and we are proud to partner with the USABA to ensure that vision impairments do not limit the recreational opportunities afforded to teenagers across the country."

Each of the 18 participating agencies will focus on a single sport. For example, some are playing goalball while others have a running league, swim team, ski team or tandem cycling.

The top boy and girl from each agency will have the opportunity to participate in a final four-day sports camp in Colorado Springs, June 18–21, 2012. Athletes at the camp will participate in track and field, goalball, swimming, and strength and conditioning workouts in order to learn more about fitness and become more involved in their local community. Lucas explains, "Our goal for the National Fitness Challenge is [that] the top 36 teens will go back to their communities and join sports teams. We want to reward the teens for their hard work and dedication towards leading an active and healthy lifestyle. Each participant will be provided skill development that can lead to national and international competions."

These 700 teens participating in the National Fitness Challenge are breaking sterotypes by showing how active people with disabilities can be, while enjoying themselves, becoming physically fit, and realizing new levels of independence, confidence, and determination. As the National Fitness Challenge year comes to a close, USABA and the WellPoint Foundation hope the athletes met their goal of a 50 percent total decrease in body mass index.

Operation Mission Vision

USABA is dedicated to providing physical activities for everyone who is blind and visually impaired, especially veterans and military service members who are blind and visually impaired. Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom resulted in the highest percentage of eye wounds of any major conflict since World War I, so it's particularly important to USABA to provide opportunities for returning wounded warriors.

USABA began Operation Mission Vision in the summer of 2008 with a goal to bring normalcy back into the lives of veterans and active duty service members who are blind and visually impaired, and to accelerate their rehabilitation process through sport, recreation, and physical activity. Navy veteran Lonnie Bedwell, 46, lost his sight 15 years ago and has been a member of USABA for many years. He says, "I want to thank all of you for these opportunities and allowing me to be a part of USABA. USABA and all of you that run it are absolutely first class. When you give your time to help others, that's something that can never be replaced. It's phenomenal. I just wish I could repay these guys. I feel like the only way I can do that is to pay it forward. It's like I was in front of a huge brick wall. No way around it, no way through it, and they put a door in it, and then [USABA] took me through it. The events, a lot of the time I don't know how you put into words what they do for people."

Participation in physical activity is often the most critical mental and physical aspect of the rehabilitation process for both the injured person and his or her support network. In partnership with the United States Olympic Committee's Military Sports Program, USABA fully funds veterans and their coaches so they can attend and participate in the USABA summer and winter sports festivals.

Goalball

Goalball was developed after WWII to keep veterans who lost their sight physically active. Goalball is a unique ball game played by people who are blind and visually impaired, though many sighted people also play on local teams for fun. Goalball uses a ball that has bells inside of it so the players can locate the ball's position using audible cues. For this reason, silence at events is vital. Goalball is played on a court with tactile markings so players can determine their location on the court and the direction they're facing. All players wear eye masks to block out light and thus equalize visual impairment among the athletes with differing levels of functional vision.

Goalball has become a premier team sport and is a part of the Summer Paralympic Games. It's played in 112 countries in all International Blind Sport Association (IBSA)regions. In partnership with the US Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, USABA manages the sport of goalball from the grassroots to the elite level. USABA's goalball season is starting soon and goalball teams around the national will play in tournaments with the hopes of becoming national champions. More information on the goalball schedule is available on the USABA website.

Additional USABA Events

USABA offers many other sporting events for youth such as the IBSA World Youth Championships, which occurs every two years. In addition, more than 250 athletes ages 12–19 from more than 20 countries compete in sports that include judo, goalball, swimming, and track and field. Team USA is represented by young athletes currently competing on their high school or club teams. USABA also provides regional goalball tournaments, sports education camps, summer sports festivals, annual winter sports festivals, and cycling camps. More information is available on the USABA website.

Get Moving and Experience the Benefits of Physical Activity

Sports and physical activity are gifts that keep on giving throughout your life. Regular exercise can help protect us all from heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, noninsulin-dependent diabetes, obesity, back pain, and osteoporosis, and can improve our mood and help us better manage stress. For the greatest overall health benefits, experts recommend that we do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. USABA strives to be an easy-access portal for any information and events for all people with visual impairments who want to participate in sports and physical activity. Parents, teachers, community program leaders, coaches, volunteers, and people who are blind and visually impaired are invited to seek out USABA staff and coaches for their expertise. As the United States Olympic Committee is for the Olympic movement, the United States Association of Blind Athletes is for the blind and visually impaired athletic movement.

For More Information

For more information visit the USABA website or contact Lacey Markle at the United States Association of Blind Athletes, (719) 866-3222.

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AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News

Research in Motion Launches New BlackBerry Screen Reader for Customers with Visual Impairments

Research In Motion (RIM) launched BlackBerry® Screen Reader, a free software application that helps customers who are blind or visually impaired operate their BlackBerry® smartphones by providing an audible output of displayed visual information.

"We are excited to introduce BlackBerry Screen Reader as part of our suite of accessibility solutions for BlackBerry smartphones," said Greg Fields, Senior Product Manager. "BlackBerry Screen Reader helps customers with visual impairments stay connected with the people and information that matter most to them, and is representative of RIM's continuing commitment within the accessibility community."

Key features of BlackBerry Screen Reader include:

  • Support for core applications.Users can easily access core BlackBerry applications including email, calendar, phone calls and more.
  • Speech settings. Users can customize the text-to-speech settings (volume, pitch and speech rate) and preferences for punctuation, verbosity and password security.
  • Keyboard shortcuts. Users can set speech and audio preferences quickly and easily through (physical) keyboard shortcuts
  • Accessible documentation. User Guide available in accessible HTML through a desktop Web browser.

BlackBerry Screen Reader is available now as a free download for the BlackBerry® Curve™ 9350, 9360 and 9370 smartphones.

For information about BlackBerry accessibility solutions for customers with disabilities, visit the BlackBerry accesibility website.

New Device May Help Senior Blind

The DAD device is a compact, wrist-band mounted, watch style cell phone and personal emergency monitoring system that protects and communicates wherever its user travels. If a senior needs emergency assistance, he or she can speak to a call center via its two-way voice communication feature or dial one of its three pre-programed numbers.

The DAD has a built-in (auto-answer) speaker phone which sends SMSs and e-mails to caregivers (and the emergency call center for redundant security) if an emergency occurs.

The three raised buttons across the top are programmable.

Calling in to the senior is easy: the senior may put the DAD on auto-answer or press the answer button.

DAD's GPS allows senior location and eFencing, so you can locate your loved one if he or she becomes lost.

Photo of the DAD device.

Caption: The DAD wrist band style cell phone/emergency monitoring device.

For more information about this product please contact:

Howard Sterling
THE STERLING GROUP
E-mail: howard.david.sterling@gmail.com
Phone: 212-875-1722

About.com Addresses Interests of People with Vision Loss

Andrew Leibs from About.com has written an article entitled, Top 10 iPhone Apps for the Visually Impaired: Apps Tell Blind People Clothing Colors and Currency Denominations. While there may be some discussion over whether these are in fact the best 10 apps for people who are blind or visually impaired, AccessWorld is happy to see About.com addressing the issue of access technology.

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Letters to the Editor

Dear AccessWorld,

First, I want to say thank you for creating the AccessWorld app; I find it extremely useful and convenient.

Second, I recently read Janet Ingber's April article, What is This?: A Review of the VizWiz, Digit-Eyes, and LookTel Recognizer Apps for the iPhone, and I think it would have been useful for the article to have included Omoby. I use this app to look at objects not just in the home, but [also] when I am travelling outdoors.

I am a long cane user, and I have used Omoby creatively to tell me what is around my outdoor environment. For example, when I am travelling through my public park area, I am able to find out what is around me such as grassy areas, flower beds, and trees. This is because our environment is made up of products. I can then build my own mental map independently.

I was in France recently and found Omoby was able to tell me an area had yellow flowers, verified by my wife. Omoby recognized and reported a MacDonald's, and when I crossed the Loire River, I took a picture from the bridge, and the app accurately reported a river as the object recognized. As a tool for self-discovery, Omoby is excellent. It can be used for recognizing bar codes and paper currency, in addition to recognizing packaged foods and clothing.

Omoby is a very useful and intuitive app AccessWorld readers may want to check out.

Regards
Wayne

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

I would like to thank Janet Ingber for her April article, What is This?: A Review of the VizWiz, Digit-Eyes, and LookTel Recognizer Apps for the iPhone. I thought it was very complete and well written. However, just a couple of days ago, there was an update to Digit-Eyes that includes a price reduction.

Nancy Miracle sent the following message to the VIPhone Users List:

Many of our users have asked for more data about products -- content, preparation instructions, etc.

We are delighted to announce several changes in Digit-Eyes:

  1. After a successful scan, Digit-Eyes will now display the extended information about the product. Depending on what the manufacturer discloses, this may include ingredients, preparation instructions and more. Furthermore, you still have the ability to search Google with a single click or to access price comparison engines with one click.
  2. The product can now be purchased as separate elements. If you only want to read code 3-of-9 inventory labels, the cost is just $1.99. If you want to create and record audio labels (washable or printed), the cost is $9.99. If you want just the UPC / EAN feature, that is $9.99 as well.
  3. The price of the entire product suite is reduced to $19.99 for all features. If you already own the product, the upgrade to include extended information is free.

We've also added the ability to use the "shake" gesture to start and stop recording and added an option to fast forward through a recording. Is this useful? Not all of the 26 million items in the database have extended information, but many do and the database grows daily! Using the "more information" feature to scan our favorite object in the lab pool (a can of spam), we were able to find that the Spam is supposed to be cut into six slices. Each slice has 180 calories, 140 of which are from fat.

The instructions from the folks at Hormel, however, seem a little incomplete. Their preparation instructions recommend frying the Spam, but don't say at what point in the process you should contact your cardiologist. At any rate, it is nice that you can now find all this out with a single click after scanning with Digit-Eyes.

I thought this would be important information for AccessWorld to share with its readers.

Best regards,
Richard

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

I am writing in response to Deborah Kendrick's April article entitled Product Evaluation: BrailleNote Apex from HumanWare.

I use the BrailleNote Apex, BT version, and one feature not mentioned in the article was being able to place the unit in "Deep sleep" mode which helps conserve battery life. I don't believe any other note taker has this feature.

I also think the keyboard is too noisy. While the touch is wonderfully light, I think it makes more noise than does the BrailleSense.

Great article!!!

Regards,
Michael

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