Tap Tap See for iOS

the very cleverly named Tap Tap See is an app (you may have noticed, I like apps a lot!) which allows you to identify objects by simply taking a picture. Once you’ve taken the picture, the app searches through a huge database of objects and brand names to find a match foryour picture.  The app then tells you what it sees.

 

I tend to use it when I need quick information, such as the flavour of a tin of soup or the colour of a piece of clothing, so it’s not an app which can give a lot of detail – but the detail it can give can be remarkably accurate.

 

It does also take a little time to get used to where exactly to point the camera, especially if you’re blind from birth (as I am), but the app is free to use, so yu don’t need to worry about the number of pictures you take.

 

The app also has a handy features which allows you to use it to identify photos in your library, which I really luke if I want to put a photo on Facebook but can’t remember which one I want to use.

 

So, all in all, I’d really recommend having a play with this app.   have fun!

New podcast; Assistive Technology need not be expensive

 

National Learning Network provides a range of flexible training programmes and support services for people who need specialist support (job seekers, unemployed, people with an illness or disability) in 50 centres around the country.

Interview with Kieran Hanrahan at the Comunity Hub for Assistive Technology CHAT meeting.  Kieran shows that exploring ideas to see what is available and collaboration with different organisations can help make assistive technology solutions.  Kieran’s discussion was about Assistive Technology need not be expensive, as we can use technology that is already available to people and design assistive technologies with universal design in mind, so technology is available for all user needs.

Listen to the Kieran’s interview on the podcast page

 

New podcast; Stuart Lawler talks about the community of practice

NCBI working for people with sight lossThis podcast is an audio recording of an interview with Stuart Lawler. Stuart is a rehabilitation service manager at NCBI and talks about the Community of Practice and what it means to the NCBI. The Community of Practice group is organised by the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI). This is the national support organisation for voluntary disability organisations in Ireland who provide services to people with disabilities and disabling conditions.  Stuart tells why the NCBI were happy to get involved Community of Practice CHAT meetings and how he see it working for the rehabilitation service.

Listen to this interview on the Podcast page

Stuart also has his own regular podcast you can hear at https://www.ncbi.ie/category/technologypodcast/

Choosing an Android device for hands-free access

In a previous post I talked about a couple of new Android access options that allowed hands-free control of an Android device. These were the new Google accessibility feature that is in a beta test at the moment, Voice Access and the EVA Facial Mouse which allows you control a pointer through the front facing camera using head movements. In this post I’m going to look at some Android phones/tablets that might be appropriate devices to run these apps. First thing we need to do is to check what requirements (if any) these apps may have. EVA developers have started a document with the results of all tested devices however the sheer number of devices and regional variations might make it difficult to keep up to date. Apart from appearing on the list linked above there is no sure way to tell if EVA will work without testing. Certainly if the device supports a mouse you are half way there but there may be other barriers. There seems to be difficulties with manufacturers who implement their own User Interface (UI) over stock Android (Samsung and Huawei among others do this). This might indicate the best bet would be to go with a Nexus phone as being a Google device they tend to stick with a more pure version of Android (no matter who the actual hardware manufacturer is).

The requirements for Voice Access seem a bit more clear-cut and are laid out on the Voice Access support page here. Minimum requirements tell us we need Android Lollipop (Version 5.0) or later and we must have the Google App installed. They go on to give a recommended configuration which tells us to make sure we have the most up to date Google App , the “OK Google” detection turned on as well at the Google Now launcher installed. This is all fine as these free apps can be downloaded and installed on all recent Android devices. However they finally recommend using a Nexus device for best results. The cynic might think this is a marketing ploy for their own hardware however speech recognition is heavily dependent on the quality of the microphone (among other things) and one way Google can be sure the hardware is up to scratch is by recommending their own device. That said the Androids listed below as alternatives to the Nexus should be up to the task also.

Listed below are some Android devices I’ve identified for use with the apps above. Each have advantages and as you see there is a considerable price difference. Please note that as yet I have not tested either Voice Access or EVA Facial Mouse with any of the phones below so there is no guarantee they will work. That’s the next step. I didn’t include the Samsung Galaxy S7 because although it’s probably the best Android phone available at the moment it’s prohibitively expensive (won’t get one for under €600 unlocked). There are a few things all devices below have in common and in fact many other devices could have also been included, so this list certainly not exhaustive. First thing I was looking for was a large screen. Users of the above apps will most probably have the devices mounted or placed in front of them. A screen over 5.5” will be an advantage for visibility and should make control using EVA Facial Mouse easier. The second thing I was looking for was a reasonably high spec. Specifics on processors and RAM are beyond the scope of this post other than to say only phones with more than a Quad core processor in excess of 1.5/2GHz and 3GB of RAM were considered. Finally only devices with Android 5 or above. This last point is important because many phone manufacturers do not seem to update their devices after initial release and with Android 7 on the horizon you don’t want to get stuck with an operating system 2 to 3 years old for the next few years.

Nexus 6P

hand holdinh Nxus 6p smartphone

The Nexus 6P is made by manufacturer Huawei who although haven’t the brand recognition of someone like Samsung in this part of the world, do have a reputation of making good hardware. Being a “Nexus” phone however comes with advantages. The Nexus brand is owned by Google who partner with different manufacturers to release high end Android devices. In terms of spec, design and build quality they are usually up there with the likes of Apple and the higher end Samsung and Sony devices. Also being a Google phone all Android accessibility features will be included and they are always the first to get updates. This would be a big advantage to us, being able to check out new Android features as soon as they arrive. The downside of this phone is that is has been out a while and there may be a new Nexus out soon (might mean there are bargains available though).

Spec:

  • 5.7″ Screen with 2560×1440 pixels
  • CPU: Qualcomm® Snapdragon 810 v2.1, 2.0 GHz octa-core 64-bit
  • GPU: Adreno 430 GPU,
  • 3GB RAM,
  • 32GB Storage,
  • 3450 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow,
  • Silver | Unlocked

Price €510 on Komplett

Huawei MediaPad X2 (7”)

hand holding Huawei MediaPad X2

This is a giant among phones with its 7” screen which is the main reason for including it here. Although it has been on the market for over a year now its spec still stands up. It was originally shipped with Android 5 but apparently there is an update to Android 6 on the way (if you believe that..). Other more recent offerings from Huawei should also be considered like the 6” Huawei Mate 8 or the smaller 5.2” Huawei P9. Both are newer and more powerful than the MediaPad featured here just with smaller screens.

Spec:

  • 7”  Screen with 1200 x 1920 pixels
  • CPU: Octa-core (4×1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A53)
  • GPU: Mali-T628
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 32 GB Storage (for model linked below)
  • 5000 mAh battery (non-removable)
  • Android 5 Lollipop
  • Unlocked

Price €430 on Amazon.co.uk 

These next 2 phones are from lesser known Asian manufacturers (although OnePlus are building a good reputation in this part of the world). While this can be a risky move they both seem to have been well received (based on reviews) and have very impressive specs for the price.

OnePlus 3

hand holding Oneplus3

This phone has been consistently at the top of many of the “Best Android 2016” lists. It’s sold out at the moment but should be available early September. In terms of spec it beats the Nexus in almost every area but that doesn’t always tell the full story.

Spec:

  • 5.5” Screen with 1920 x 1080 pixels,
  • CPU: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820 Quad Core, Kryo 2x 2.2 GHz, 2x 1.6 GHz
  • GPU: Adreno 530
  • 6GB RAM
  • 64GB Storage
  • 3,000 mAh (non-removable) Battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow,
  • Unlocked

Price €400 from https://oneplus.net/ie (available Sept 9th)

CUBOT Cheetah

hand holding cheetahphone

The Cuebot Cheetah could be considered a real gamble. On paper its spec looks great but many of these unknown brand Chinese phones fail to live up to the expectations generated by their apparent high spec. This however is the only phone on this list that I have actually had hand on with. It feels solid with a responsive screen and I tested it with the EVA Facial Mouse app, it worked a treat. Its processor is a little slower than the others on the list but it will be sufficient to run all but the most demanding games.

Spec:

  • 5.5” Screen with 1080 X 1920 pixels
  • CPU: MT6753A , 1.3GHz Octa-Core
  • GPU: Mali – T720
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB Storage
  • 3050 mAh (non-removable) Battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Unlocked

Price €162 from Tomtop

In the next post we will be testing  Voice Access and the EVA Facial Mouse on both the Nexus 6P and the CuBot Cheetah. By testing them on both a premium and budget (high spec) Android device we should get a clear picture of the potential of each app across the board.

Hands-free access for Android

With iOS Apple have firmly established themselves as the mobile device brand of choice for those with alternative access needs. The extensive accessibility features, wide range of AT apps and third party hardware as well as iOS’ familiarity, ease of use and security, all make it a choice hard to look beyond. Yet this is exactly what many people do, 1.3 Billion Android devices were shipped in 2015, that’s 55% of all computing devices mobile or otherwise. A large majority of these would be budget smartphones or tablets purchased in developing markets where the price tag associated with Apple products could be considered prohibitive. There are however reasons other than cost to choose Android and thankfully Google have been quietly working away to give you even more. One in particular, which is currently in beta testing (click here to apply) is Voice Access. As its name suggests this new accessibility feature (and that is what it is being developed as, immediately distinguishing it from previous speech recognition apps) allows complete access to your device through voice alone. I’ll let Google describe it: “Voice Access is an accessibility service that lets you control your Android device with your voice. Using spoken commands, you can activate on-screen controls, launch apps, navigate your device, and edit text. Voice Access can be helpful for users for whom using a touch screen is difficult.” It certainly sounds promising and if these aspirations can be realised will be very welcome indeed. Voice control of mobile devices is something we are frequently asked about in Enable Ireland’s Assistive Technology Training Service. I’ll post more on Voice Access after I’ve had the opportunity to test it a bit more. In the meantime take a look at the video below to whet your appetite.

Another alternative access option now available to Android users is a third party application developed and promoted by CREA with the support of Fundación Vodafone España called EVA Facial Mouse. EVA Facial Mouse has been created by the same people who brought us Enable Viacam for Windows and Linux and seems to be a mobile version of that popular and effective camera input system. EVA uses a combination of the front facing camera and face recognition to allow the user position the cursor and click on icons without having to touch the device. See video below for more on EVA (Spanish with subtitles)

Reviews of EVA on Google Play are mostly positive with many negative reviews most probably explained by device specific incompatibilities. This remains the primary difficulty associated with the use and support of Android based devices as Assistive Technology. All Android devices are not created equally and how they handle apps can vary significantly depending on the resources they have available (CPU/RAM) and how Android features (pointing device compatibility in this case) are implemented. That said, on the right device both new access options mentioned above could mean greatly improved access efficiency for two separate user groups who have up until now had to rely primarily on switch access. Next week I will release a post reviewing current Android phones and follow that up with a couple of in-depth reviews of the above apps and their compatibility with selected Android devices and other third party AT apps like ClickToPhone.

Assistive Technology Survey Do you or someone you know use Assistive Technology to support them in their daily lives?

people in a speech bubble

The Disability Federation of Ireland in collaboration with Enable Ireland are doing some research on Assistive Technology provision for people with disabilities in Ireland. We are interested in hearing the views of people who use technology, either at home, in work, or at school. We are also appealing to parents, professionals and service providers within Ireland with experience of supporting someone to use or get the technology they need, to ensure that their voices are heard through this survey.

By filling out this survey, you will be contributing to our work, calling for better access and provision of Assistive Technology.  We are working to ensure that people get the technology they need, so that Ireland is fully inclusive of people with disabilities and disabling conditions so that they can fully exercise their civil, social and human rights.

This survey is to support and inform the work that we are doing. The results of this survey will be used to inform policy recommendations and models of best practice in Ireland. We define assistive technology as any piece of equipment or software that is used to help people of all ages to carry out tasks and maximise their capabilities.

Please feel free to share this widely with anyone who may have an interest in/or uses technology for everyday needs.  Please click on this link to complete the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/XMWFQD3

*This is an Irish survey, open to Irish AT users and their families*

Please note the date for completion is September 8th 2016.  We value your comments and if you have any questions about the survey please contact: Siobhan Long, Enable Ireland: slong@enableireland.ie

For information on our work in relation to Assistive Technology contact: Pierce Richardson, Disability Federation of Ireland piercerichardson@disability-federation.ie

 Participation is voluntary and the results will be completely anonymous. We are grateful for your time and thank you for your participation in advance.

Tobii Power Clinic Online Webinars

TobiiDynavox the AAC arm of Tobii Group, industry leading eye gaze/tracking solutions manufacturer, are currently producing a series of webinars on their range of products. Although they have completed 8 webinars to date they are all recorded and available on Youtube and the Power Clinic Online page. Taken together these are a fantastic resource for anybody interested in EyeGaze input. While some are product specific (for example “Getting Started With Communicator“) others are more general and will have content of interest to both therapists and technicians working in the area (Amazing Calibrations for EyegazeAAC and Autism – Strategies for challenging behaviour & EyeGaze Strategies for Reading!).

Tobii users, especially those new to the technology will be particularly interested in Eyegaze Windows Control for beginners! and Advanced Windows Control (eyegaze). If you rather the live experience make sure to sign up for next weeks webinar AAC AND MUSIC (PERFECT SYMPHONY) and you will be able to ask questions and contribute to the discussion.

We have created a playlist of all the Tobii Webinars to date on our Youtube channel if that makes it easier for you to access and share them (Click here)

New browsealoud toolbar on ATandMe

We hope you like our new browsealoud toolbar on ATandMe.  We want to reduce barriers between our content and all of our audience.
This support software adds speech, reading, and translation onto websites facilitating access and participation. Online content can be read aloud in multiple languages using natural voice to transform the user’s reading experience.
Please note: Not all features are available at all times within browsealoud

Hover to Speak Hover to Speak starts reading the page out loud – this feature is on by default

 

Play symbolPlay starts reading selected text or reads from the top of the page

 

 

TranslateTranslate Page provides written and spoken translations in multiple languages

 

Generate MP3Generate MP3 converts selected text into an MP3
Screen mask blocks distractions on screen with a tinted mask

 

Screenmask Screenmask blocks distractions on screen with a tinted mask

 
Page MagnifierText Magnifier enlarges text and reads it out loudWeb

 

 

SimplifierPage Simplifier removes clutter from the screen, displaying only the main text

 

Settings customise optionsSettings customise options to suit individual needs or preferences

 

 

help symbolHelp show a simple help page that explains what the browsealoud toolbar does

 

More information on browsealoud 

WP accessible plugin Also, setup on our site on the left-hand side is a WordPress plugin called WP Accessibility.  This allows content to be changed to a high contrast as well as an enlarge text option.

 

Disabled Drivers Motor Show & Conference 2016

people standing around an adapted accessible car

Motor Show and Conference will take place in the RDS, Dublin on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th September 2016.
This event provides the opportunity to discover everything you need to know about motoring with limited mobility. You will be able to view a wide range of cars, wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV’s), the latest adaptations and the various associated products and services available to people with limited mobility.
In addition, the conference will cover key topics including recent changes to the Disabled Drivers and Passengers Tax Relief Scheme, Changes to the Fuel Grant Scheme, Vehicle Finance and Adaptations available. Open to all and admission is FREE.
For further information  visit www.ddmotorshow.ie

Assistive Technology (AT) in the era of the Digital Schoolbag

child using tablet computer to study biology- zooming in on screen on mid section of human skeleton

Increasingly schools are opting for what is sometimes termed a digital schoolbag. This involves the purchase of an electronic device, usually an iPad with a package of digital textbooks pre-installed. Digital textbooks are undoubtedly a step in the right direction in terms of accessibility and are indeed essential for many students with disabilities. There are students however who may need to use a different platform (hardware and/or operating system – OS) because of compatibility issues with their Assistive Technology. Currently the most popular platform being adopted by schools is Apple iOS with parents being directed to purchase an iPad from a contracted supplier. Many readers of this article will be well aware of all the great inbuilt accessibility features within iOS however if you are a user of Eye Gaze or Speech Recognition (for access) it does not currently support your chosen AT.

It is understandable why from a school’s perspective having all students using identical standardised devices would be preferable and there are plenty of reasons why Apple iOS would be the obvious choice. There is a concern however that the small minority who may need to use other platforms because of access difficulties could be put at a disadvantage or perhaps not be able to participate fully in all activities. One of the leading school suppliers have assured us that the textbooks can be accessed on Windows, iOS and Android and as these textbooks are sourced from the same few publishers one can assume this applies for all suppliers. It is therefore up to the schools to ensure all lessons utilizing technology are identical whenever possible; equivalent when not, regardless of the device/platform you are using. Parents, particularly those whose children use Assistive Technology should not feel pressured by schools to purchase technology that isn’t the optimum for their child’s needs. If a therapist or AT specialist has recommended a particular solution that differs from what is being suggested by the school, the priority should obviously be the students’ needs. When it comes to AT it is the school’s responsibility to accommodate the different needs of its student, just as it was before the digital schoolbag. The use of technology within our schools is to be embraced but it is important that schools ensure that the curriculum is open and in no part dependent on one particular platform or device. That would just see us swapping one form of inequality for another and that’s not progress.

If anyone would like advice on what technologies are available to support access, literacy and productivity on any platform they should feel free to contact us here in the National Assistive Technology Service in Sandymount, Dublin.