ShellyBlog Shelly Brisbin's life consists of several long tails. She writes about them here.

May 19, 2016

Less Than or Equal Guest Shot: My Beef with Tech Journalism

Filed under: Access and Disability,Announcements,Podcast Appearances — Tags: , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 12:56 PM

I was honored to join Aleen Sims on episode #89 of her podcast, Less Than or Equal. It’s a great show, where you will meet a wide range of people, many of whom are not among the usual suspects of podcast guests (present company excepted, I guess.) We talked about the reasons accessibility is often invisible in the mainstream tech world, and why I get grumpy when I read (or don’t read) about accessibility in mainstream tech publications. I did that thing where I talk really fast, so increase the speed of your podcatchnr’s playback (Overcast is great for this) and have a listen. I would love your feedback, too.

February 17, 2015

You’re the Last to Know

Filed under: Access and Disability,Announcements,General Store — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 7:48 PM

A bit less than a month ago, I released an updated version of my book, iOS Access for All. The new edition covers iOS 8. I would just love for you to buy, read, and enjoy a copy of the book. I would also love to be able to tell you why my own blog, the one that features an image of the book’s cover there on the sidebar, is the last to get the word. Among other things I never got around to telling any loyal readers who have managed to keep me in their RSS feeds, is that I am now a panelist on a lovely bi-weekly podcast called Maccessibility Roundtable. Also, I released an episode of my own podcast, and have done a bushel of interviews about the book. More are scheduled for this very week.

Does my inattention to what is supposed to be my home on the Internet indicate that I am now among those who believe that Twitter (and possibly Facebook) is all anyone could possibly need in the way of a personal platform? I mean, everyone agrees that RSS is dead, right?

Yes, my own ill-use of this space is connected with the ascendance of other media; ones that have proven results for me, both in terms of feedback on what I write, and jingle in my digital pocket. As much as I love this blog, and making the occasional essays I have penned here, the amount of traffic and comments it gets have been underwhelming.

I refuse to pronounce the blog dead, not so much because I love writing this one, but because I love reading those other people write. But, then again, I just wrote a book, so what do I know? Nobody does that anymore!

May 27, 2014

My book, iOS Access for All, is available now!

I’m thrilled to announce the availability of my book, iOS Access for All: Your Comprehensive Guide to Accessibility on iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The book guides readers through all accessibility features available on Apple’s mobile devices. Whether you’re just getting started with iOS, or want to learn more about apps and accessibility tools you already use, iOS Access for All has all the bases covered. With information of interest to users who are blind, low-vision, hearing-impaired, or have cognitive or motor disabilities, the book is the most extensive iOS accessibility resource available.

I’ve spent more than 25 years writing about technology, with a particular focus on Apple products. I’m also a visually-impaired iPhone user. My full bio is here.

Here’s the Table of Contents for iOS Access for All.

Part 1: Getting Started

Chapter 1: Accessibility the Apple Way

  • Apple Revolutionizes Mobile Access
  • Today’s iDevices, and iOS
  • The Apple Ecosystem
  • Meet iOS Accessibility Features

Chapter 2: Orientation and Quickstart

  • iDevices 101
  • Parts of iOS
  • Choose How to Set Up iOS
  • Accessibility Quickstart
  • Ready to Dive Deeper?

Part 2: The Wide World of iOS Access

Chapter 3: VoiceOver

  • Activate VoiceOver
  • Learn iOS and VoiceOver
  • Do More with the Rotor
  • Text and the Virtual Keyboard
  • Dictate Text with Siri
  • Enter Text with Handwriting Gestures
  • Use a Wireless Keyboard
  • Use a Refreshable Braille Display
  • Manage and Navigate Your Device

Chapter 4: Low-Vision Access

  • iOS’ Low-Vision Challenges
  • Screen Magnification
  • Enlarge and Enhance Text
  • Color and Contrast
  • Speech As a Low-Vision Tool
  • Quickly Enable Low-Vision Features
  • Mainstream Features with Low-Vision Uses
  • The iOS Camera: Low-Vision Super Weapon

Chapter 5: Siri and Voice Input

  • Set Up Siri
  • Siri Commands
  • Dictation
  • Voice Control
  • Voice Input Alternatives

Chapter 6: Tools for Hearing Impaired Users

  • Convert Alerts to a Flash or Vibration
  • Control Audio Output from Calls and Apps
  • Hearing Aid Support
  • Use a Hearing Aid
  • TTY Support
  • Closed Caption Support
  • More Communication with iOS

Chapter 7: Physical and Learning Access

  • Guided Access
  • Switch Control
  • AssistiveTouch

Part 3: All About Apps

Chapter 8: Access to Apple Apps

  • Safari
  • Mail
  • Sidebar: Delete, Move, and Share within Apps
  • Calendar
  • Phone
  • Messages
  • FaceTime
  • Contacts
  • Maps
  • Camera and Photos
  • Music
  • Videos
  • App Store/iTunes Store
  • The Rest of the Included Apps
  • But Wait, There’s More (Apps)

Chapter 9: The Best of Accessible Apps

  • An Accessible App Primer
  • Navigation and Travel
  • Productivity
  • Reading, News, and Information
  • Communication & Social Networking
  • Education
  • Lifestyle
  • Accessibility Tools
  • Learn More About Apps

Appendices

Appendix A: VoiceOver Gestures

Appendix B: VoiceOver Keyboard Commands

Appendix C: Braille Commands

You can buy the book for US$20 at the iOS Access for All Web site.

You can buy the ePub (Apple iBooks-friendly) version for $20 at the book’s Web site.

March 24, 2014

CSUN, and a NosillaGast Guest Shot

I’m just back from the CSUN International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego. That moniker is a mouthful. Just think of it as the largest annual gathering of accessibility geeks and experts, and you’ll have some idea what it’s all about. Spent three days promoting the book, larding more about accessible tech, meeting folks I’ve been following on Twitter, and handling a products that either incorporate support for accessibility, or are designed specifically to provide an accessible alternative.

I also spent some time with fellow podcasters Robert Carter and Allison Hartley of The Tech Doctor Podcast, and Allison and Steve Sherridan of NosillaCast. A segment we recorded about iOS 7.1 changes related to accessibility appears on this week’s NosillaCast. It’s near the end, but hopefully worth the wait, especially since Allison also includes interviews with a few vendors from the CSUN exhibit hall.

Finally, I returned to Austin via Amtrak, starting on Friday night in San Diego, and arriving home on Sunday morning. It was a great trip, and seems to have completely mellowed me out, after a hectic few days at CSUN. I recommend long-haul train travel, especially if you’re not a fan of what air travel has become.

Here’s a picture I snapped from the back of the train, somewhere in Arizona. My sleeper room happened to be in the last car, so I just walked a little way down the hall to get it.

 

view from the back of a train, somewhere in Arizona.

June 9, 2009

iPhone 3G S Accessibility: What To Expect

I’ll get right to the point: the iPhone 3G S includes several features that should make Apple’s smartphone accessible to many blind and visually impaired people for the first time.

And rejoicing was heard in the land?

We’ll see what we’ll see.

The new phone, debuted at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, and due for release on June 19, includes a version of Apple’s VoicOver, the screen reader built into Mac OS X. Since we learned at its launch two years ago that the iPhone is an OS X device, lots of accessibility advocates, including me, have suggested that lighting up VoiceOver features in the phone was obviously doable. Now it’s happened.

Since I haven’t seen the phone, I can only report what Apple has told us about 3G S accessibility, and pose some questions. After two years of resisting both the phone’s monthly cost, and lack of accessibility, I’m pretty eager to get one.

First off, let’s get our definitions straight. The iPhone 3G S will become available almost simultaneously with iPhone 3.0, a software release that works on both the new phone and existing iPhones and iPod Touch devices. VoiceOver, and another new feature with accessibility implications, Voice Control, require the iPhone 3G S. Though I haven’t confirmed this with Apple, I’m making an educated guess that the new features require the faster processor in the iPhone 3G S. iPhone 3.0, a free update for existing iPhone owners, and $9.95 for iPod Touch, does not appear to include specific accessibility enhancements. Apple has not announced any new iPod Touch hardware, so you’ll need to buy a phone to get VoiceOver and Voice Control.

Apple’s iPhone vision accessibility page touts VoiceOver as the same screen reader available on its Mac OS X computers. The accessibility toolbox also includes a couple of other options that are familiar to OS X users; zoom and white on black.

Apple uses the term “gesture” to refer to the many ways in which you tap, double-tap, drag, or pinch to use the touch screen. This nomenclature may not be familiar to blind users, for whom a tactile keyboard is the usual means of interacting with a screen reader. With VoiceOver turned on, the iPhone, whose glass screen is completely devoid of tactile reference points, other than a button at the bottom, will speak the names of items over which a finger passes. Open the item with a double-tap, or use other gestures to manipulate it. Another detail for the uninitiated visually impaired user; the iPhone’s home screen does not contain the usual vertical menu of functions, but a grid with square icons representing your applications. Apple’s description touts contextual information provided in VoiceOver, and the freeform ability to interact with the screen reader. In a computer environment, screen readers deliver information in a specific order, as set out by navigation commands and arrow keys. On the iPhone, you can drag your finger to another part of the screen, getting audio feedback as you go. Speech rates and voices are customaizable. The device will even duck other audio, such as iTunes music, when VoiceOver is speaking

Like the innovative pinch gesture that makes it possible to zoom into and out of Web pages on an iPhone, the rotor, new in iPhone 3G S, appears to be an ingenious navigation aid that will make moving around, and keeping your place a lot easier for VoiceOver users. From Apple’s accessibility page: “Turning the rotor— by rotating two fingers on the screen as if you were turning an actual dial — changes the way VoiceOver moves through a document based on a setting you choose.For example, a flick up or down might move through text word by word. But when you choose the “character” setting, each time you flick up or down VoiceOver will move through the text character by character — perfect when you’re proofreading or editing text.”

The iPhone uses a virtual QWERTY keyboard. VoiceOver will speak text as you type it; letter by letter, or as you complete a word. It’s unclear to me how the software assists a blind user in finding virtual keys in the first place. That’s among the first features I’ll be testing.

VoiceOver speaks 21 languages, and Apple says you can activate it without sighted assistance, along with your iPhone.

Let me mention a few non-VoiceOver accessibility upgrades. I make extensive use of what Apple calls “white on black” in Mac OS X. I call it “reverse video”, but that seemed to confuse some of my Twitter followers yesterday. This feature inverts your screen, so that text is light and the video background is dark. This essential (to me) feature is part of iPhone 3G S, along with more flexibility in controlling font sizes, and zoom that is available outside Safari. On a Mac, reverse video can be toggled on and off with a keyboard shortcut (control-option-command-8, if you want to see what it looks like). I hope the iPhone also provides a quick toggle.

There is one major caveat about VoiceOver, and accessibility in general. While Apple has made these tools available, and implemented them in applications it ships with the iPhone, there is no guarantee that app developers will fully support accessibility. An app could, for example, be completely invisible to VoiceOver, or choose not to allow you to adjust its font size. In most cases, small developers will make these choices either because they simply don’t realize that they have visually impaired customers, or because they believe that the time required to implement accessibility is prohibitive. It’s going to be up to iPhone users and potential iPhone users to educate developers. I’m hoping to talk to a few, and learn how much work it is to implement Apple’s new goodies. While advocacy is important, it’s also a good idea to understand what challenges a developer faces in making an app accessible. I’ll let you know what I learn, though it’s safe to say that since the iPhone 3G S has just been announced, learning the ins and outs will take a little while. I intend to be persistent, but patient. And rest assured that each and every app reviewed on my App Store Pundit podcast will be evaluated based on its accessibility.

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