Assistive Technology

AssistiveWare recently announced the release of its latest Mac OS X application, Wrise. It will be formally introduced this week at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in Orlando, Florida. Wrise is AssistiveWare’s newest addition to its portfolio of assistive technology solutions. The word processor for Mac makes reading and writing accessible for everyone.

Wrise is designed to support reading comprehension and facilitate text composition, which can also be beneficial to people who have dyslexia. Key features include:

  • Text to Speech
  • Word and sentence highlighting
  • Zoom and EasyReading mode
  • Speak as you Type
  • Word prediction and speech tags

Wrise can be used to read selected text out loud in any Mac application. Additionally, it can import several document types, which include:

  • PDF
  • Word (doc/docx)
  • Plain texts
  • RTF

Wrise works with Text to Speech voices in a variety of languages. However, the user interface is currently only available in English. The word processor is available at the Mac App Store. Currently it is offered at an introductory price of $29.99, which will go up to $59.99 on February 15th

Read more about Wrise and download the free trial.

Google has improved the accessibility of the mobile versions of its app on both Android and iOS, which include:

  • Docs
  • Sheets
  • Slides

Among the new features and improvements are:

  • Real-time spell-checking in documents
  • Hiding rows and columns in spreadsheets
  • Grouping shapes in presentations

People who are blind and have vision disabilities can use screen readers such as TalkBack on Android and VoiceOver in iOS to create, edit, and share files in Docs, Sheets and Slides. The apps are also improved for screen magnification.

The updates are available for the App Store now for the iOS version of Docs, Slides, and Sheets.

A new version of Ai Squared’s popular screen reader used by people who are blind or have low vision, Window-Eyes 9, was just released.

Window-Eyes 9 has many advancement over its previous version. Key enhancement include:

  • All new web-reading improvements that make browsing easier, more descriptive and more accurate including better support for Internet Explorer, Firefox, dynamic web pages, ARIA and HTML 5 for first-class access to websites.
  • New smart algorithms ensure accurate screen reading. Some examples include new, best-in-class web-table reading capability, including column-formatted web pages and math equations in Microsoft Word.
  • Improved ease-of-use and convenience features, including an auto-recovery tool, WYSIWYH (what-you see-is-what-you-hear) capability, and new tools for text selection, copying, and formatting.
  • Wider support of third party software programs such as Microsoft Office Online, Office 365 ProPlus and Outlook, QuickBooks for Windows, Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Charts. Window-Eyes 9 even has preliminary support for Windows 10.

More information or to order

Capti Narrator v1.0 for Mac and Window was recently released and now works with the Firefox browser. Capti is a tool for listening to digital content such as:

  • News
  • Blogs
  • DRM-free e-books
  • Web documents
  • Bookshare
  • Gutenberg Books
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • OneDrive
  •  Pocket
  • Instapaper

“Capti is a productivity tool for people who want to do more with their time. It is useful for professionals who need to keep up with their reading and for students who have tons of reading assignments.” – said Dr. Borodin. Capti for Desktop enables students to relax their eyes and listen to their homework reading assignments, or improve their comprehension by listening and reading along with Capti, as it highlights the text it reads. While Capti itself is free, it offers a premium subscription service for only $1.99 per month that enables illustrations in books, as well as a full text search in the Playlist. What is more, Capti has an option of synchronizing Playlist, enabling users to switch seamlessly from one device to another and continue listening from where they left off.

Currently Capti can be downloaded for free but they will soon offer organizational licensed, bundling premium features at a deep discount for school and disability support centers, which will open up opportunities for resellers.

 

GoodReader, the world's top-selling PDF reader and file management app for iPhone and iPad, has added VoiceOver compatibility in its just-released version. VoiceOver is part of Apple's accessibility features, a gesture-based way to have an iPhone or iPad speak what is written on the screen. Combined with GoodReader's recently released "Text-to-Speech" feature, GoodReader now better enables iPhone and iPad users with visual or reading disabilities to access PDFs and other documents.

With VoiceOver support and GoodReader's new "Speak" text-to-speech feature, any PDF or TXT document on an iPhone or iPad can be read audibly for busy professionals or those unable to read small text on their iOS devices. GoodReader users may now listen to full documents or sections of documents in their preferred language, and with absolute control over the speed of how fast the text is read aloud and the language it's read in.

The difference between VoiceOver and the "Speak" option in GoodReader is a text-to-speech feature simply reads out highlighted text, while VoiceOver is specifically designed for visually impaired users and reads aloud anything they need, including window names and menu details. With VoiceOver, a user can move their finger across the screen and the app will audibly read what is supposed to be seen there - the names of the buttons, the items in the menus, and the names of the files and folders. Using "Speak," users press on a blank section of a document and are presented with options for reading the document to them - including volume, language and speed controls.

"We are excited to be able to provide better access to documents on iPads and iPhones to those with visual or reading disabilities," said Yuri Selukoff, president of Good.iWare. "Our aim is for GoodReader to be the best reader for all iPad and iPhone users, including those with difficulty reading documents on the screens of their devices. We want to help as many people as possible to take advantage of our advanced product, which is why we are improving accessibility for those who have trouble reading small text or seeing small button icons on an iPhone or iPad screen."

Download Good Reader from iTunes.

Cambridge, Massachusetts startup, Brain Power, is developing a suit of Google Glass Apps for Children with Autism called Empowered Brain Suite for Autism. The apps encourage kids to interact with their parents and make eye contact through games. The Google Glass Apps take the mobile and PC based apps, which are designed to help kids learn social skills, a step further taking advantage of Google Glass to help children connect with their families in the real world.

Read more about Google Glass Apps for Children with Autism.

A University of Cincinnati experiment may help people with vision disabilities navigate their environment better. Advance tools based on the Enactive Torch, a hand held device a little larger that a TV remote, aides users with disabilities navigate narrow passages as good as if they had site.

The Enactive Torch uses infra-red sensors to perceive objects. When the torch detects and object, it vibrates similar to a cell phone via an attached wristband. The vibration intensifies as objects become closer.

Read more on the Enactive Torch

On October 16th funding was announced to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and they intend on promoting assistive robotic technology for people with disabilities. They will directly accept applications for exoskeletons or surgical robotics.

The project specifically supports research to develop co-robots, which work cooperatively with people. This may help people with stroke rehabilitation, guide wheelchairs, and provide assistance for children with Autism.

It is hoped that the award will encourage robotics researchers to create new ways of applying current technology to healthcare. Some possible applications are:

  • Wearable exoskeletons to aide in recovery.
  • A computerized, vision-based ,active learning, co-robot wheelchair
  • A musical interactive robotic orchestration for children with autism.

For more information visit the following:

A team at Bristol University is using focused ultrasound to create 3D shapes out of air that can be seen and felt. For the visual effect the apparatus is directed at oil. The end result is a 3D haptic shape in mid-air.

The implications for this device are infinite. The current speculation of uses ranges from allowing surgeons to feel a tumor from a CT scan to projecting adjustable knobs in a call allowing drivers to better keep their eyes on the road. This of course has great implications for accessibility as well. Producing something that is both visual and tactile could have great benefits for people with vision disabilities. 

DIGIGLASSES are high tech help for people who are blind or have low vision. The wearable glasses are part of a project kicked off in 2012 aimed at using stereoscopic vision correction to enhance the user’s environment in custom ways designed to make navigation easier and safer. It may do things like enhance contrast or accentuate the edges of curbs and stairs.

The glasses have high resolution micro displays which appear large to the wearer. Similar head-mounted displays have been used by the gaming industry. DIGIGLASSES is looking to apply the technology to enhancing lives.

For more information visit the DIGIGLASSES website.

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