DEDICATED TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE

Tech Talk

Audio description

In the world of entertainment, audio descriptions are not the norm for movies, TV shows, and the like. Audio descriptions verbalize the visual by providing descriptions of characters, settings, facial expressions, objects, actions, and more, bringing stories to life for many who would otherwise miss out on the information. Kevin Thompson, founder of the Audio Description Discussion Facebook group, brought together over 500 narrators, studio owners, industry influencers and audio description customers in an endeavor to improve the quantity and quality of audio description by allowing an open forum for the exchange of relevant ideas and feedback. In the spirit of Kevin’s work, Roy Samuelson, an audio description narrator himself and a friend of Kevin, founded Kevin’s Process, an organization dedicated to empowering blind and visually impaired audiences. The organization works to bridge the gap between the entertainment industry and blind and visually impaired consumers, and is currently working on “securing formal industry adoption of codified measures of excellence in Audio Description.” Listen to an interview with Thompson from the Know Your Narrator Podcast series via a link on the “About Us” page here.

Did you know that you can explore the web as if you were in another region of the world…

…by changing a site’s settings before you even get there? URL parameters, strings of characters after a website’s basic address, can let you do just that. Take, for instance, https://www.aple.com. The link will take you to Apple’s website, and settings like language will be determined by the location reported by your device or an estimation thereof. If you’d prefer to read the site in Greek, then you can simply visit https://www.apple.com/gr. If you prefer Italian, then visit https://www.apple.com/it. URL parameters, in the case of Apple’s website, inform the site of the region for which you’d like to view the page. Other sites employ methods that are functionally the same, but the syntax may differ. For instance, the search engine DuckDuckGo allows you to select your region by typing “?kl=” after the URL’s final slash and then using a number of region and language codes. If you’d like to view the site for France, simply visit https://duckduckgo.com/?kl=fr-fr. If you’d like to visit the site for French-speaking Canada, however, simply visit https://duckduckgo.com/?kl=ca-fr. Sites can offer many URL parameters, as in DuckDuckGo’s case, and they can come in handy for faster, savvier web navigation.

Did you also know …that it’s traditional to name screen readers after aquatic creatures? Hence JAWS, Flipper and …

Orca Screen Reader for Linux
The Orca screen reader, named after the killer whale, serves as an accessibility tool on the Linux operating system. Orca is a free and open-source program that employs speech synthesis and braille to verbalize the contents of the computer screen to blind and visually impaired users. A built-in feature of the popular Linux distributions Fedora and Ubuntu, Orca can be activated by first using the Alt + F2 key combination, then typing “Orca” into the text field that appears, and finally hitting Enter. The computer should announce Orca’s activation and allow you to begin navigating with the screen reader. Orca is designed to work well with the Firefox web browser and with the LibreOffice suite, as well as with a number of other applications that support the Assistive Technology Service Provider Interface (AT-SPI), an accessibility standard. You can visit Orca’s main webpage to learn more about the community of developers behind the software and to access the user guide.

Screen Magnification Baked In
Built into the Windows operating system, Microsoft’s Windows Magnifier is an efficient and useful accessibility tool for those with low vision. It requires no installation to use. Simply use the Windows Key / Plus key combination to start the magnifier and increase the zoom level. The Windows Key / Minus combination and Windows Key / Escape key combinations respectively decrease magnification and close the magnifier. The following commands can be used while holding the Ctrl and Alt keys:
L: Switches to Lens Magnification
D: Switches to Dock Magnification
F: Switches to Fullscreen Magnification
I: Inverts the Screen Color
Spacebar: Momentarily Zooms Out
Arrow Keys: Pan the Magnifier in Lens Mode and Fullscreen Mode and Position the Dock in Dock Mode
Scroll Wheel: Changes Zoom Level
In addition to offering a number of convenient commands, the Windows Magnifier can start upon login and keep the mouse pointer centered on the screen or within the dock or lens. Magnifier settings can be accessed from the Options button in the zoom menu or from the Windows Ease of Access Center. Visit Microsoft’s official support site to learn more. Note: Not all features described on the site may be live at this time.

Practice Writing Letters and Numbers
DoItWrite is an accessible application that allows people who are blind or visually impaired to learn how to trace the alphabet and numbers using Voiceover and the iOS handwriting tool that comes with iPhones and iPads. Instructions are straightforward and include how to correct and improve letter and number shapes as you trace them, plus a game. For the $1.99 cost in the apple store, it will provide fun instruction and entertainment. Here is a short demo from the iphoneappsComputer Center for Visually Impaired Persons which is now part of Helen Keller Services for the Blind. Get the app here.
Warning: it may take patience to learn to use this app well. Ahmat’s initial reactions: “Oh my gosh, this app is so frustrating!” “I like what is was intended for but it doesn’t work for me.” We’ll check back next week to see how he’s doing.

Running Free

RunGo is a free accessible iOS application with paid premium upgrade that provides self-guided turn by turn directions when running on a pre-set route. The developer states “search the largest collection of voice-guided routes across 171 countries; build your own route, or select one of the 400,000 routes worldwide, and follow a voice-guided tour, including every time there’s a turn or a cool landmark, or an encouraging reminder that you’re halfway there. RunGo tracks run stats like time, pace, distance, elevation, and estimated finish time.” Ahmat noted this application is great for those that have some usable vision or for running with your dog guide. A new feature that allows you to “run famous races and bucket list routes from your treadmill, with voice-guided messages as you imagine running the course” should make the app more useful for those who have no vision. Click here to read more about it.