The new version of Kurzweil 1000 (version 14), an award winning text-to-speech software, boast 14 improvements for users with vision disabilities. The software helps learners with vision disabilities work more efficiently. The new enhancements include:

  • The option to extract images into PDF files
  • Recognition of PNG files
  • OCR upgrades
  • A new scanning mode
  • An improved proofreading mechanism
  • The ability to record voice notes
  • Advanced editing capabilities
  • Enhanced navigation within documents

You can download a thirty-day trial or upgrade your existing copy.

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.

As we work our way into the new year, there are new issues every vertical must address. In 2015 many of these issues center around technology. Education is always at the forefront of new issues and ether reflects or predicts the concerns of the community at large. A January 15, 2015 article by Tanya Roscorla published on the Center for Digital Education website and titled, Top 6 Higher Ed Digital Policy Issues to Watch in 2015  demonstrates this listing the top policy issues as:

  1. Security threats
  2. State authorization for distance education
  3. Internet of Things management
  4. Competency-based education exploration
  5. Staffing shortage
  6. Electronic Accessibility for people with disabilities

Security has sat at the top of many lists for years as the protection of personally identifiable information is a paramount concern for everyone. Just as we clutch our wallets and purses on crowded city streets to keep our credit card numbers and other personal information safe, we demand that same information stay protected as we conduct business on the web.

The branches of the web grow and reach out of our computers into our everyday household items and cars. The internet of things is bringing inventory management into our refrigerators, allowing our phone to talk to our house and soon it may be driving our cars for us.

As we lock things down to protect our security and the web spreads into every aspect of our lives, number 6, the issue of access, becomes increasingly important. Convenience in everyday life needs to extend to everyone.  Digital education has put the classroom in the living room.  A convenience for anyone who is far away from the school or simply doesn’t have time for the commute, is even more necessary for a person with a disability who may have mobility issues or be blind. However, if the digital education platform is not accessible, what should be a convenience becomes a barrier for people with disabilities.

This, of course, extends to ecommerce and any other convenience on the web. Therefore, what is important for education in 2015 becomes important for business and institutions in general. When considering the issues it’s important to look at them together. If worked in silos, an issues like security can oppose accessibility. Looking at them together, however, strengthens both. The expansion of the internet into our things is easy to make accessible if they are work together. Retrofitting accessibility, however, can be much more costly.

While looking at these lists we can ask ourselves how these things are important to what we do and to the people we do it for. 

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

Several new accessibility improvements to Microsoft’s Office Online have been rolled out. The improvements give users who are blind or have low vision a better experience. Microsoft has improved the way screen readers interact with Office Online through the use of the WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) web accessibility standard.

Microsoft has made other improvements over the past year as well. The following OfficeGarage videos demonstrate some of the improvements:

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.

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

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. 

Monday China Disabled Persons Federation (CDPF) and China Banking Association issued a guideline requiring China’s electronic banking service to provide easier access for people with disabilities.

The guideline focuses on three types of disabilities in order to promote accessibility for the E-Banking services such as phone and online banking:

  • Vision Disabilities – E-Banking will provide a specially designed shortcut menu, ID recognition and easy verification codes.
  • Hearing Disabilities – Offer multiple visual facilities and instant short messaging service.
  • Mobility Impairments – establish a long-distance self-service system allowing accounts that traditionally require a physical presents to be open from home.  

Information on accessibility assessments


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