Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Tech Fair Presentations, Part 2

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

Following is coverage of two additional sessions from the Carroll Center for the Blind’s Technology Fair, hosted in person and virtually on November 22, 2022, and adding to this Bulletin’s earlier coverage of the fair. Please note that all presentations from the event are available on the Carroll Center’s website, but as they are Facebook Live videos, please also note that the audio quality is not as clear as that of other webinars.

Windows Screen Reader Tips and Tricks

David Kingsbury, assistive technology instructor at the Carroll Center, discussed the second edition of his upcoming book, Windows Screen Reader Primer, due to be released in January 2023. The book covers the basics of using JAWS, NVDA, and Microsoft Narrator with common applications in Windows 10 and Windows 11. Among the most notable innovations in this edition are a new distribution format and new chapters on using Zoom and cloud-sharing services. The new edition, as is now true of the current one, will be made available as a free download from the online Carroll Store. Kingsbury also described three of his favorite things added to his book, including a JAWS feature that allows the user to view and manipulate text spoken by the synthesizer such as status messages, viewing and reassignment of keyboard shortcuts in Zoom, and the new natural-sounding voices for the Microsoft Narrator screen reader in Windows 11.

Benefits of Using Smartphone Apps

Alexis Malkin, OD, FAAO, Assistant Professor of Clinical Optometry at New England College of Optometry, gave a presentation on the use of technology and smartphone apps by individuals with low vision. She began by noting that two- thirds of people receiving low vision services reported difficulty reading as their primary concern. In contrast, complaints regarding technology were most important for only about five percent of those in a 2014 study, with the proportion increasing markedly in 2020 as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies have also examined the common but false belief that older adults do not use technology. In a recent email survey of clients,  with low vision, most of whom were older adults, 95 percent reported they found apps helpful and 90 percent found them accessible. In Dr. Malkin’s study, 92 percent of people owned a smartphone before starting the study. When asked why they had not been using recommended apps previously, two thirds cited lack of knowledge, and another 20 percent had not had adequate training. These results show that lack of app use is not related to stigma, disinterest, or fear. iOS and Android are similar to each other when it comes to technological innovation, and Android has become more accessible than ever with a range of font customizations, optical character recognition (OCR), audio descriptions, built-in currency identification, and the option to navigate the screen by using a switch, among other features. After highlighting various customization options for each operating system, Dr. Malkin mentioned the specific uses reported for each of three apps: Aira, which allows a user to get on-demand help from a dedicated agent; SuperVision+, an additional magnifier currently only for iOS; and Seeing AI, another iOS app that scans text and barcodes, identifies currency, detects color and light, recognizes faces, and so on. She concluded by discussing the importance of the training process for low-vision clients with this technology.