Thursday, April 17, 2014

EU Regulation Requiring Hybrid and Electric Cars to Make Artificial Noise Will Improve Safety for Blind Pedestrians

Hybrid and electric cars pose a major safety challenge for pedestrians. The cars, which use electric motors, make very little noise, making them almost impossible for blind pedestrians to detect. Electric cars are gaining in popularity due to their energy savings and improving affordability. In response to the increased threat quite electric cars are posing, the European Union (EU) is preparing to mandate electric and hybrid cars have noise alerts for pedestrians. By 2019 cars sold in the EU will be required to include audio alerts. While the implementation of the rule is still four years off the importance is sure to only grow as electric cars become more and more popular.

America has yet to require audio alerts for electric cars, but legislation has been proposed. Hopefully, the EU's changes will spur electric car makers to add audio alerts to their cars and improve the safety for pedestrians everywhere. As seen in the above video some cars such as Nissan's electric car already offers pedestrian alerts.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Learning Ally Audio Update Includes Background Audio Support

Learning Ally, a provider of audio books for the blind and dyslexic, recently updated their iOS app. The free apps allows Learning Ally members to listen to their audio books while on the go. The new update brings a valuable  new feature to the app. Now, the app allows users to listen to their audio books while using other apps at the same time, a feature commonly called background audio. The update provides a more consistent experience for users who have come to expect background audio support in all apps. With the update users can listen to an audio book while looking up information on the internet, reading a note page, or even responding to an occasional text message. Along with background audio support comes the ability to control playback using control center or a headphones with a remote. The update is available for free and is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. To take advantage of the app users must be members of Learning Ally. To learn more about Learning Ally click here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

iPad mini, Nexus 7, or Kindle Fire HDX: Which Tablet is Best for People with Dyslexia?

Over the past couple of weeks I have been lucky enough to review three of the most popular tablets- the iPad mini, the Nexus 7, and the Kindle Fire HXD. Instead of focusing on battery life, pixel density, and processor speed, I took a look at the features that would help people with dyslexia and other disabilities. All three tablets have some features that are perfect for dyslexics. To figure out which one is right for you, think about which features are most important to you as you read the reviews.

When looking for a tablet for someone with dyslexia, there are a number of important factors that must be considered to make sure you get the features that are most important to the user, and get the best value for your needs. First, you want to consider what the tablet will be used for. Will it be used primarily for reading books and browsing the web, or will it be used to type documents, read email, and edit movies. 
Generally, for people with dyslexia, it is important that the tablet have built in text-to-speech with a high quality voice. All three of these tablets have text-to-speech, but the way text-to-speech is implemented is different from tablet to tablet. The iPad allows text-to-speech to be activated in a few taps when reading webpages and text in apps including Safari, Mail and many third party apps including The New York Times. The other tablets require a more time consuming process to activate text-to-speech in all apps.

Next, app quality and quantity is also an important consideration. Currently, the iPad is ahead in terms of app support, but the Nexus 7 is not too shabby in terms of third party app selection either. Apple's lead in terms of third party app selection continues to narrow. See the ecosystem and apps section below for more information about app selection. If the person with dyslexia uses Bookshare or Learning Ally, it is important to make sure that the tablet has apps to support those services. Bookshare is a service that provides accessible e-books for people with print disabilities and Learning Ally provides audio books – some with text - for people with print disabilities. Both the Nexus 7 and iPad mini have Bookshare and Learning Ally apps. The iPad does have better Bookshare support than the Nexus 7.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Apple Announces WWDC 2014: Will Accessibility Enhancements Take Center Stage Once Again?

picture of colorful Apple logo made from varying sized rounded squares

Apple announced that their World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) will take place from June 2nd - 6th in San Francisco, California. At the event, Apple will preview the future versions of iOS and OS X. It is unknown what these changes will entail, but if history is any indication Apple will preview iOS 8 and OS X 10.10. Consistently, over the past few years Apple has steadily improved the accessibility features of both iOS, which runs the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and OS X, which runs on Mac computers. Last year with OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple added Switch Control, large text, VoiceOver enhancements, customizable closed captioning, and enhanced dictation. iOS 7 added Switch Control, improved Siri, and ability for developers to utilize system text-to-speech voices.

At WWDC 2012, Apple devoted precious time during their Keynote to detail improved accessibility features found in iOS 6. With millions of users any accessibility improvements can have a dramatic impact on many users. Hopefully, Apple can continue to improve their current accessibility options while continuing to insure that any possible future devices are also accessible to people with all abilities. For attendees, the venue is fully ADA compliant.

Stay tuned to the Assistive Technology Blog to learn all about how the WWDC 2014 announcements impact accessibility.