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.

PaperPort Notes goes from Amazing to Awesome!

Here’s a free iPad app that has achieved near perfection. You can now use the iPad camera, even the camera on an iPad 2, to photograph text and import it as editable text into PaperPort Notes. If the imported text retained the formatting of the original page, I think I’d call the app perfect.

PaperPort Notes was already one of the most versatile and polished iOS apps available for supporting written output.

  • Text can be entered with keyboard, via voice-to-text, or with stylus. As well, audio recordings can be attached to notes.
  • Notes can be written on yellow or white lined pages, on blank white pages, or on “graph paper”.
  • PDF files, can be imported from almost anywhere–PaperPort Anywhere (dedicated free cloud storage), Box, Dropbox, Docs Folder, Files/Snapshots from the Web, the iPad’s Clipboard, camera images.
  • Text boxes and sticky notes can be added to notes and imported files.
  • Multi-color highlighting is available.
  • Work created or modified in PaperPort Notes can be shared in PaperPort Anywhere, by Email, Google Docs, Box, Dropbox, Docs Folder (with audio attached to PDF). Or PaperPort Notes can be opened in many other apps on the iPad.

Now you can use the iPad’s camera to capture text, then the text can be imported into PaperPort Notes as editable text. With ‘Speak Selection’, this text can even be read aloud. Alternatively, you can import images of text that are stored on the iPad. You need to sign up for a free account with the OCR engine, but once the account is set up, it could hardly be easier to import converted images of text.

To import an image of converted text, simply click on the ‘Image to Text’ button. Then follow the prompts on the screen that opens. After processing, the imported text appears on the panel at the right. If desired, the text can be edited before inserting into your note.

iOS Apps to Support Learners Who Struggle with Reading and/or Writing – Updated Annotated List

My most visited posts ever was 10 Apps for Learners Who Struggle with Reading and/or Writing (Feb. 2012). Since then, my list of iOS Apps has been expanding. When I’ve shared these apps in person, as I did this week on an ISTE webinar, the presentation has been well received. So, here’s my updated list of iOS apps, with point-form annotation. The same information is available on my UDL Resource website, and that’s where I will continue to update the list.

I don’t claim that the apps shared here are the only solution or even the best solution. I have spent considerable time and money exploring apps to support reading and writing, and these are apps that I have found to be effective. The 24 apps listed below are organized under the following headings: 1) Supports for Reading; 2) Supports for Writing; 3) Alternatives to Writing; 4) Research Supports; 5) Visual Supports; 6) Supports for Written Math Work.

Supports for Reading

vBookz PDF Voice Reader ($4.99)

  • Text-to-speech for PDF files 
  • Files retain original page formatting with images, diagrams, etc.
  • High quality voices–male or female
  • Text tracked as read  
  • Import PDFs from Safari, email attachments, or DropBox
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

iBooks (Free)

  • Text-to-speech (with iOS Speak Selection) for eBooks created in ePUB format
  • [Speak Selection must be turned on in Settings under Accessibility]
  • Works not only with books purchased from iBookstore, but with material created on the iDevice or imported from other sources
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

ClaroSpeak US/UK ($5.99)

  • High quality text to speech reader with 5 built in voices
  • Imports and reads doc, docx, pages, pptx, epub files, but does not retain original formatting of the page
  • Visual highlighting of text as read
  • Also functions as text editor, will echo word or sentence
  • Creates audio files from text files
  • Customizable reading rate, font size, color contrast, etc.
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Readability (Free)

  • Re-formats web pages to reduce clutter
  • Adjust font-size, contrast and margins
  • Save articles in Readability to read later, whether online or not
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (FREE)

 

 

TextGrabber + Translator ($2.99)

  • Take an image of text and convert it to editable/readable digital text
  • ABBY OCR is relatively fast
  • Works with cameras on iPhone 4+, iPod 5+, iPad 3+
  • Option for importing images taken with other cameras/other devices
  • Offers translation to multiple languages
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Supports for Writing

TYP-O HD ($14.99)

  • Writing app with multiple supports
  • Word prediction with text-to-speech
  • Built in option for text input with voice recognition
  • Text-to-speech for listening to written work
  • Spell-checker
  • Video demo and tutorial
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Nebulous Notes ($4.99)

  • Text editor that works well for anyone, and especially for individuals with low vision
  • Large font and variable contrast between text and background are available
  • Text to speech available with Speak Selection
  • Integrates with DropBox, prints, emails
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

PaperPort Notes (Free)

  • versatile note-taking app, with multiple options for text input
  • keyboard/voice recognition/stylus inputs available
  • audio recordings can be attached to note pages
  • notes can be shared via email, Google Docs, DropBox, etc.
  • notes may be opened as PDF files by other iPad apps
  • iPad only

Dragon Dictation (Free)

  • easy to  use voice recognition, no training necessary
  • Use Speak Selection to read back dictated text aloud
  • Copy work to clipboard for use in other apps
  • Share dictated text via email, send directly to Facebook/Twitter
  • Internet connection required
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

Alternatives to Writing

Audio Memos ($0.99)

  • Use device mic to create audio voice recordings
  • Options for editing and bookmarking recordings
  • Share easily via email, Wi-Fi, or online file storage services
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($0.99)
  • In-App purchases available to increase functionality, including voice activation

 

AudioNote ($4.99)

  • Record a talk, lesson, lecture, or your own thoughts while taking notes
  • Use keyboard or stylus to take notes, or use stylus to add drawings, diagrams, etc.
  • Notes are synchronized with audio, and audio can be “searched” by clicking on word or drawing
  • Export notes and audio via email, over wi-fi, or via iTunes
  • Also available for PC, Mac and Android
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Audioboo (Free)

  • Create audio recordings up to three minutes in length
  • Add image, tags, and location
  • Share on device, to Twitter/Facebook, or by email, 
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (Free) – not optimized for iPad

 

 

fotobabble

  • Attach audio recording to image
  • Extensive range of options for editing image in app, including opportunity to add text
  • Share via Facebook, Twitter, or email
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (not optimized for iPad)

 

 

Book Creator ($1.99)

  • Intuitive app for creating ebooks in ePUB format
  • Books can incorporate images, video, text, recorded audio, music
  • Completed books are published to iBooks on the iPad
  • Books can be printed or shared via email, iTunes, or Dropbox
  • iPad only

 

Animoto (Free)

  • Create multimedia presentation videos
  • Combine images/video clips/text with music
  • User interface is intuitive, videos are quick and easy to create
  • Also available for desktop and Android
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

Research Supports

Google Search (FREE)

  • Voice recognition works well for entering search terms
  • Many search results offer text-to-speech responses
  • Also offers opportunity to enter images as “search terms”
  • Video demo
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

Qwiki (FREE)

  • Search tool that yields results in multiple formats–images and videos, text (with accompanying text-to-speech)
  • A quintessential UDL tool
  • iPad only

 

Side by Side (FREE)

  • Split iPad screen into up to 4 customizable windows
  • Built in web browser and text editor for note-taking
  • Import text files or pdf’s
  • Integrates with DropBox
  • iPad only

 

Visual Supports

Idea Sketch (FREE)

  • Create mind map and turn it into an outline or  vice versa
  • Import text from other apps
  • Share work via email, or copy into other apps
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

 

Mindomo (FREE)

  • Powerful and versatile mind mapping app
  • Mind maps can include images, hyperlinks, icons, notes, etc.
  • Export mind maps as images or as PDF files
  • Cross-platform desktop clients and Android versions available
  • iPad only

 

Corkulous Pro ($4.99)

  • Mind mapping “cork board” for collecting, organizing and sharing ideas
  • Arrange notes, images, labels, etc. visually with colour code potential
  • Link multiple boards
  • Share/sync via iCloud or Dropbox, or export as PDF files
  • iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

 

Tools 4 Students ($0.99)

  • Set of 15 graphic organizers to support visual organization of thoughts and concepts (cause/effect, pro/con, story elements, KWL, etc.)
  • Save work for future reference, or share via email
  • iPad only

 

 

Supports for Written Math Output

Panther Math Paper ($19.99)

  • Do math work on iPad (beginning and advanced)
  • Mathematical notation and symbols available and easily accessible
  • Learners are able to show their work
  • iPad only

Voice Recognition in Google Search App is Almost Perfect!

A basic tenet of  Universal  Design–in architecture as well as in learning–is that if you design for people “in the margins”, it  tends to benefit everyone. The most oft-cited example of this is the curb cut. Increasingly, the reverse is also true. Mainstream technology designed to improve functionality for everyone is especially helpful for individuals who face exceptional challenges. The advances in voice recognition, or speech-to-text, offer a striking example of this.

     

The latest version of the Google Search app for both iOS and Android devices shows just how far mainstream voice recognition has come! Asking a question yields not only search results, but in many instances you can also hear a spoken answer. When I tried the app on my iPad, I was blown away by the accuracy and the speed of this powerful tool. Many individuals, who face a wide range of challenges will benefit from the new Google Search app.

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.