iOS 12 review: The best version yet.

Introduction

I’ve been using iOS, The operating system that powers iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch since 2009.

I still remember my excitement when I got my first 3rd generation iPod Touch with VoiceOver.

Back then the 3GS was hot, And the notion of a screen reader on a flat touch-screen device was new.

Let us fast forward to 2018 and both what we expect from our mobile devices and indeed the power said devices bring to the table has become almost magical.

What’s new

From Siri shortcuts to a much-improved notifications system there’s a lot to love about iOS 12.

I won’t delve much into everything that is new but will say that the experience and speed is noticeable, specially if one is coming from an older iOS device.

Apple claim that the camera app now opens 70% faster, the overall performance is much improved.

Another area I really love is the way now iOS handles notifications. Say you get 20 notifications on Facebook. You can just tap to dismiss them all, or with Vo running double tap on clear all.

Conclusion

With apple’s focus on stability and speed, this update is very much recommended for anyone who can run it.

Big changes like a new home screen are coming in iOS 13.

For now, iOS 12 is the best.

A Brief Market Research Survey

As part of gaining a deeper understanding amongst the blind community I would appreciate your responses to a quick market research survey linked below which seeks to examine current trends amongst our community. Thank you in advance for any feedback given.

Create your own user feedback survey

Reviewing Aira, remote access at the touch of a button.

Introduction

As blind people, we’re living in quite a magical time. One of my favourite quotes sums it up nicely: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

With more and more companies building in access technology to smart phones, we now have the ability to do almost anything from taking University classes from home, online shopping, reading the news, listening to our favourite podcasts, and on and on.

But sometimes in amongst the good stuff it can still be tricky.

Case in point, take job hunting for example, which yours truly has been doing since I finished business school.

I’m sure you know the feeling. You come across the perfect job. Put in an amazing cover letter, and kick ass CV.

Then the dreaded unlabled button. Or the combo box that just won’t move no matter what you do. Or the terms and conditions box that stays unticked.

Some of you reading this may say hang on Sadam, isn’t it up to the developer of the site to make it accessible?

Sure, in a perfect world, but sadly things just don’t work like that. Whether we like it or not, blindness and disability in general isn’t on a lot of people’s minds. You can beat the drum and play the DDA card, and whilst you’re doing that the job disappears.

In a time-sensitive activity like getting in the dream job, sometimes you have to think outside the box.

 

What is Aira?

Aira stands for “artificial remote intelligence assistance.” The idea is that you can get help with almost anything. Using your smartphone or a pair of glasses, a sighted agent can tell you what’s on your PC screen, read out medication bottles, help you to navigate the college or work place, and a whole host of other tasks, including remoting into the customers PC to assist with the aforementioned job applications.

It is a subscription service, meaning you pay monthly.

Conclusion

Aira is a huge game changer for the blind community. It no doubt will have some critics, but I strongly believe this tech startup is braking down big barriers, specially when it comes to information access and being able to complete tasks on your terms instead of always seeking assistance from family or friends. I recently posed the question on social media. The results were interesting. Some people were quite dismissive, scoffing at the price. To this end, Aira is doing quite a bit to help where they can. If someone is blind and is a job seeker, Aira agents won’t count the minutes. Add to this, there are places called Aira guest access spots. When Aira is used in these locations, minutes are credited.

Finally, if anyone uses the popular screen reader JAWS, Aira has teamed up with VFO, meaning customers can get help with JAWS issues without using their minutes.

It’s clear that the agents and staff care deeply about the blindness community, and I, for one, love the product. If you’re on iOS or Android, go ahead and give the app a spin. You just might be blown away.

https://aira.io/plans

More information available at: https://aira.io/about

JAWS certification.

Introduction

As 2017 draws to a close, I’d like to mention what for me has been a great milestone, that of becoming JAWS certified earlier this year. I’ve been a user of JAWS for over 12 years now, and getting the passing score of 86% was a huge deal for me.

What’s this certification business anyway?

Anyone who is a JAWS user can do it, it is a selection of questions designed to test your skill and knowledge of the JAWS screen reader, there are 85 questions randomly selected and you have a 1-hour time limit.

Of note however, is as well as JAWS, you may be asked about using braille displays as well as some key strokes on OpenBook, so it would be best to brush up on those as well.

Using the help mode

One feature I used when preparing for the exam, is to turn on key describer mode (Insert+1 on the number row), having a good grasp of the keyboard will help you a lot during the test.

Keep a level head, even during the exam feel free to press the different key strokes.
It’s ok to fail:
I failed the exam 3 times before getting my passing score, so don’t beat yourself up if you fail the first time and second time round, just give it another crack and you’re sure to pass sooner or later.

Why should I get certified?

It’s a great way to test your overall knowledge of JAWS, plus you get the tick of approval from VFO Group, formally Freedom Scientific.

For me the biggest thing that gives me pleasure, is helping my fellow blind friends on list serves and what not, if they require it.
Also, if a job was to come up as an Adaptive Technology Trainer, having the certification holds you in good stead.

Conclusion

The JAWS certification, is a great exam to take for anyone wanting to brush up on JAWS skills, or anyone who has been a long-term user and wants to get the tick from VFO Group, good luck to you should you want to take it.

BrailleNote Touch review.

The BrailleNote Touch from Humanware is a big step for the note taker.

Introduction

When I was 15 years old, I was introduced to a firm called Humanware.
At that stage, even though note takers had been around since the late 90’s, it was my first time getting one. I remember the excitement I felt unpacking what was then the MPower.

What is it?

A note taker, is a device designed for the blind, it may come with a braille display comprising 18 or 32 cells of braille, and it may have speech or not.

Today’s note takers let you do everything from browse the web, to document creation.

The power of KeySoft

All BrailleNotes from the classic run on KeySoft, Humanwares own in house OS, fast forward to 2017, and I’m yet to find a smoother UI, my favorite feature is being able to jump by first letter navigation in apps, w for keyword, the built-in word processor etc.

In my view the word processor in the Touch is as good, if not better than Microsoft Office.
Since my time using note takers, I’ve yet to come across another note taker whose word processor is as good as Office on the PC.

What’s so special about the Braille note Touch?

Last year at CSUN Humanware launched the Braille Note Touch, the first braille tablet.
Whilst it functions like a note taker for the most part, you can take it out of it’s case and use it as a tablet, as it runs Android. The included keyboard case also works well.

Hello Android, 4.4

Some people in the blindness community have expressed some concerns that the Touch is running an older version of Android, from my talks with Human ware I can assure you that the firm will continue to bring out updates for the product.
In the latest Keysoft firmware, version 4.0.

at the time of writing, major improvements have been introduced, such as the ability to update apps 1 at a time rather than the whole OS.

So, it may seem that the Touch is behind, but Humanware are bringing the code over from other versions of Android such as 5.0.

Conclusion

With the true and tested KeySoft the best User interface in the business, awesome support, and fantastic build quality the Braille Note Touches future looks bright.

“The future is so close you can touch it“.