With Fleksy, Blind and Sighted Users Can Type on Phones and Tablets Without Seeing the Screen

You will have to take my word for it, but I am writing this with my eyes closed! I am using an amazing keyboard on my iPad, and I am able to do this after only about ten minutes of learning and practice.

Fleksy is a new method of text input that has been developed for blind people who use devices with touch screens. Fleksy’s developers are encouraging sighted users to give it a try as well. I believe Fleksy holds promise not just for the millions who want to enter text while walking or doing other tasks, but also for individuals with limited physical dexterity.

I’ve tried Fleksy on my iPad and found it to be remarkably effective. Controlled with a few simple gestures, it’s easy to learn and to use. The only prerequisite is familiarity with the layout of the QWERTY keyboard. Along with clear auditory feedback, Fleksy’s effectiveness is based in a powerful word prediction engine that is incredibly accurate.

Fleksy is currently available in the  iTunes Store as a free download for iPhone and iPad. The free app enables the user to try Fleksy, but an in-app purchase for $1.99 enables text created in Fleksy to be sent and/or used elsewhere. Developers are inviting beta testers for an Android version.

Here’s a high quality promotional video from the developers.

Make the Internet Accessible with Google Chrome

In my view, Google Chrome is the most accessible browser for interacting with the Internet. That’s because there are so many add-ons available to facilitate access, as well as websites that have been designed to take advantage of features built into Chrome. I have written here about some of these options. In this post, I want to bring together a set of add-ons and websites that help make the Internet accessible with Chrome.

     

There are two kinds of add-ons for Chrome–extensions and apps. Both are obtained from the Chrome Web Store, but all the add-ons I’m writing about here are free. To get to the Chrome Web Store, simply open a new tab when you are in Chrome, and click on the icon pictured below. After using the search bar to find the app or extension you are looking for, you are offered extremely easy instructions for installing the add-on.

After installation, most extensions create an icon on the ‘Extensions Toolbar’, which is immediately to the right of the browser’s address bar.

You need a Google (GMail) account to install an app. Once an app is installed, you find it by opening a new tab, as pictured below.

Now let’s take a look at some extensions, apps, and websites that enhance Internet accessibility with Google Chrome.

SpeakIt!

  •   Text-to-speech for reading web content in Google Chrome
  • Select text, click icon, listen
  • Or, right-click selected text and choose SpeakIt!

Voice Search

ChromeVis

  • Vision support for browsing
  • Magnify and change color of any text selected
  • Selection viewed inside separate lens (anchored/floating)
  • Original formatting of web page is preserved
  • Click here for ChromeVis Manual

Readability

  •  Remove clutter from websites (ads and distracting graphics)
  • Set margins, select style and adjust font size
  • Can be activated by keyboard shortcut set by user

Google Dictionary

  • Double-click on words on webpage for definitions, with audio pronunciation
  • Definitions can be read aloud with Speakit
  • Click on icon for search box to find defintion of any desired word 

Speech Recognizer

  •  Voice-to-text collects phrases and/or sentences in text box
  • Text can be copied and pasted for use anywhere 
  • Google Chrome app, not extension

Read&Write for Google Docs

  • Free accessibility toolbar for Google Docs
  • Text-to-speech with dual color highlighting
  • Talking Dictionary
  • Picture dictionary
  • Capture highlights
  • Vocabulary tool
  • View video demonstration

TalkTyper

  • Speech-to-text for Google Chrome, not an extension, but a site that functions only in Chrome
  • Voice Recognition is exceptionally effective and accurate
  • Text-to-speech available for dictated text
  • Install Chrome extension Adblock Plus to remove ads that can be inappropriate at school
  • In my view this is the best available option, when used with Adblock Plus!

Online Dictation

  • Speech-to-text for Google Chrome, not an extension, but a site that functions only in Chrome
  • Text-to-speech not built in
  • View video demonstration

Guided Access: iOS 6 Accessibility Feature Can Support Learning

I support some non-speaking children who are learning to use the iPad as a communication device. Sometimes, these learners are inclined to ignore their communication apps because they much prefer other apps. These preferred apps may be worthwhile, but they can get in the way of learning to use the device for its primary purpose. In iOS 6, Apple has introduced an accessibility feature that can help.

Guided Access makes it possible to keep the iPad in a single app, and to control which features of an app are available to a user. In the case above, the iPad might be configured as a dedicated communication device until the user has learned to use it for effective communication. This is only one of many potential situations where Guided Access might be helpful. Of course, Guided Access is also available on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

As is the case with all accessibility features on Apple’s iOS devices, it must be turned on in the device ‘Settings’

Settings — General — Accessibility — Guided Access

The image below shows Guided Access in settings. Below that is a short video demo of Guided Access.

Math Paper is an Excellent Solution for Doing Math on an iPad–an App for ALL Learners

My blog is about free and “low cost” resources. This post reviews an app that I wouldn’t normally consider to be low cost at $19.99. I’m making an exception because I want to help get the word out about an exceptional iPad app that has just been released by Panther Technology. For anyone who needs it, and who can afford it, this tool is well worth the $20.

Math Paper is by far the best option I’ve seen for doing math work on the iPad! Math Paper won’t do calculations or graphs, but it provides all the tools needed to do everything from basic computation to complex algebra. Math Paper has been developed with the principles of UDL in mind, so it’s a tool that can be used effectively and independently by anyone, including individuals with motor challenges or cognitive processing issues. Accessibility and ease of use have been addressed successfully.

The developer promises that Math Paper will soon work with VoiceOver, and that the ability to scan is also in the works. Everything about this app suggests that it has been designed with switch users and scanning in mind. Here are the accessibility features that are already functional.

  • Hold Times adjusts the time a button must be pressed before it activates. This is to help avoid miss-hits for users with fine motor challenges.
  • Accessible Controls offers easy access to settings, file management, and other app functions.
  • Predictive Cursor automatically moves the cursor to where it is likely to be needed next.
  • Baseline Navigation allows the user to navigate a page by touching only near the bottom of the grid.
  • Keyboard Sounds provide audio feedback.

Math Paper is built around the 5 keyboards shown below. In order, these are the Main, Basic Functions, Advanced Functions,  More, and Fractions keyboards; and these give a pretty good idea of what Math Paper will do.


See the Screen Better on iPod/iPhone/iPad with Built-in Zoom, Large Text and White on Black

Apple has built some helpful features into its iDevices to improve accessibility. Most people who need to know are aware of VoiceOver, the screen reader that make the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad accessible to anyone who is blind or who has extremely limited vision.

There are other lesser known features that also do a great job of supporting vision challenges.

  

Zoom, Large Text and White on Black are three iOS features that may be helpful for individuals who have difficulty seeing the screen of an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. They may be especially valuable on the smaller iPod Touch and iPhone screens.

All accessibility features in iOS are disabled by default, and must be turned on. To turn them on, go to Settings, select General, and then scroll down to select Accessibility.

Zoom

Once Zoom has been enabled, it enlarges the entire screen, in any app, when the user double-taps with three fingers. By default, the screen is enlarged 200%.  Once zoomed, the zoom can be adjusted from 100% to 500% by double-tapping with three fingers and dragging up or down. To move around to see different parts of the screen, drag with three fingers while zoomed.

The video at the conclusion of this post demonstrates exactly how the zoom feature works. The video also contrasts the Zoom feature with the more commonly used, but less powerful, pinch zoom.

Large Text

Large Text is turned on by selecting the desired font size, as shown below, along with a sample of the largest available font.


   

White on Black

White on black simply inverts colors on the device screen.