Access: Technology lags for people with vision, hearing impairments, Victoria News

Access: Technology lags for people with vision, hearing impairments

Author: Nina Grossman

Date Written: Oct 23, 2019 at 9:30 AM

Date Saved: 10/28/19, 8:53 PM

Source: https://www.vicnews.com/news/access-technology-lags-for-people-with-vision-hearing-impairments/

This is the third instalment of “Access,” a Black Press Media three-part series focusing on accessibility in Greater Victoria. See Part One- Access: A Day in the Life Using a Wheelchair in Victoria, and Part Two- Access: Greater Victoria non-profit brings the outdoors to people of all abilities

Heidi Prop’s fingers run over the raised white cells on her BrailleNote Touch Plus. She easily reads more than 200 words per minute, consuming online content with the tips of her fingers faster than most people can with their eyes.

Without vision since birth, Prop doesn’t ‘see’ the words in her head when the pins pop up to form braille words on the android-based braille tablet, she instead hears them like a narrator. She’s sitting in an office at the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind (PTCB) in Victoria, but the braille display allows her to read and write almost anywhere. With a braille output, Prop can check her email, browse the web, download apps and more.

The device is a model of technology that’s added ease to her life, but not all aspects of digitization have made the same leap; many aspects of the internet remain hidden to the blind community.

For example, devices called ‘screen readers’ make web pages accessible, but often stumble when navigating inaccessible websites. Elizabeth Lalonde, PTCB executive director, opens a Wikipedia page on grizzly bears and a robotic voice begins washing over the screen at a rate too rapid for most of the sighted population to consume.

But before the screen reader reaches the information, Lalonde has to navigate a series of unlabeled links and buttons – small hurdles standing in front of the content she’s trying to reach.

PTCB helps people who are vision-impaired learn how to navigate the world around them – from crossing the street and taking transit to cooking dinner or reading braille.

The centre also focuses heavily on using the web – a skill more or less required in order to survive the modern world. But technology is advancing beyond the speed of accessibility, says Alex Jurgensen, lead program coordinator at PTCB, who adds that creators end up playing catch up, adapting their websites and devices for vision and hearing-impaired users long after initial creation.

“A lot of information is out there, but websites can often be inaccessible,” Jurgensen says, noting things such as forms, apps and anything with unusual or unlabeled text can pose a challenge. Scrolling through unlabeled links will have the voice reader say “link” with no further description and scrolling over an image with no alt text embedded in the code will simply read off the name of the image file.

Lalonde says Instagram, for example, is simply not worth using for the vision impaired. But it could be if people described what was in their photos, or if Instagram added an alt text option for each picture, so users could describe what they posted, such as “pug sits on a red blanket in the park on a sunny day.”

Jurgensen describes it as adding a ‘sticky note’ to your image – an easy step that allows those who are vision-impaired to access a prominent element of everyday internet use.

But some elements of the information age don’t adapt. For example: memes. Text created as part of an image is indistinguishable for screen readers. Jurgensen notes apps such as Skip the Dishes can be difficult too. Without labelled button options, he’s ordered food far spicier than he’s intended.

One exception is the iPhone, which becomes usable for vision-impaired users with the simple slide of a toggle that turns on ‘voice over.’

“Camera. Maps. Google. Finance Folder.” The robot voice used to guide drivers to their destinations guides Lalonde through her phone. She double taps on the screen when she’s ready to use an app.

But devices with built-in accessibility software are few and far between – a disheartening reality for the more than six million Canadians living with disabilities.

Lalonde and Jurgensen say websites and online content should be “born accessible,” with accessibility built-in as part of the creation, instead of as afterthoughts or available only through expensive or impractical add-on software.

People with vision-impairments aren’t the only ones facing challenges either. A huge number of videos fail to include subtitles or descriptions of content, throwing in barriers for anyone who has hearing impairments.

And the barriers are nothing new. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were published in 1999 by a group of international experts in digital accessibility. The guideline was used internationally to create digital accessibility policies.

The experts created a testing and scoring format for websites and programs, finding the most successful sites included criteria such as audio tracks (so people who are hearing impaired can understand audio information), the ability to re-size text, the ability to turn off or extending time limits on tasks, and designing consistently, so people will always know where to find what they are looking for when they are navigating the site.

READ ALSO: Victoria’s $750,000 accessibility reserve fund makes improvement ‘not the side project’

And while the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms included people with disabilities when it was created in 1982, it’s only recently that a bill relating directly to accessibility was taken to the House of Commons.

The Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81) received unanimous support in May and is in the final stages of becoming law. Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough called the bill “the most transformative piece of legislation” since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and called its progress “a testament to the work, commitment and contributions of the Canadian disability community.”

The bill, still not fully formed, is expected to include digital content and technologies law, likely based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – meaning a number of official sites might be scrambling to get their content up to code.

“A lot of the solutions are fairly simple,” Lalonde notes. “But it’s a question of getting businesses and innovators to adapt accessibility into their process from the start.

“It’s a catch-22,” she adds. “Technology has made a major difference in my life and I know [in] the lives of a lot of blind people because it’s allowed us to access so much more information than we could access before. In some ways it’s been absolutely phenomenal, but … the lack of accessibility keeping up with the technology – that’s the problem.”

Jurgensen nods. “No matter how many steps we take forward it feels like it’s a cat and mouse game, and we’re the ones who are one step behind.”

nina.grossman@blackpress.ca
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GTT New Westminster Summary Notes, Reader View on PC, Mac and iOS Browsers, September 25, 2019

Get Together with Technology (GTT)

New Westminster Meeting

 

A Chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind

in partnership with

Blind Beginnings

Vancouver Community College

And

Canadian Assistive Technology

Summary Notes

 

September 25, 2019

How to use Reader View on the Mac, PC, iOS and Android Browsers

What is Reader/Simplified View, and why does anyone want to explore it?  Here’s an article that might explain it, followed by a link to the CCB Podcast and text instructions on how to use it in your favourite, or soon to be favourite browser.

 

Reader View

First posted on July 12, 2018 by Rob Tomlinson

“Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s dictum that “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” can be re-deployed most helpfully when discussing Reader View, a topic that touches on web page design and browser behaviour.”…

 

Find the CCB Podcast of this event at the link below:

09 GTT New Westminster, Reader View in iOS, Nac and PC Browsers, September 25, 2019:

 

PC Browsers:

 

Simplified View for Google Chrome on the PC:

Google Chrome Download Page;

  1. type this into a new tab in Google Chrome

chrome://flags/#enable-reader-mode

press enter.

  1. A Chrome settings page comes up that you can navigate using headings.
  2. Press the letter H until you get to reading mode.
  3. There is a combo box that shows that reader mode is disabled.
  4. Press enter to go into forms mode if using Jaws.
  5. Press the down arrow to get to enabled and press enter.
  6. Go to the bottom of the page with control end and there is a restart chrome button, and Press enter.
  7. Now visit a page that has news stories such as this article from the Victoria Times Colonist,
  8. You can try down arrowing through the page and see all the links, controls and advertisements on the page.
  9. Press the Alt Key to bring up a menu and either up or down arrow to “Toggle distilled page contents” and press enter.
  10. you will hear your screen reader say, “Simplified View”.
  11. Now what you have is the news article in its entirety without the ads and other controls.
  12. To get the page back to normal view, repeat step 11 and press Enter.
  13. Press the Escape Key to close the menu.

 

Reader View for Firefox on the PC:

Reader View is a Firefox feature that strips away clutter like buttons, ads and background images, and changes the page’s text size, contrast and layout for better readability.

Mozilla Firefox Download Page;

  1. Open Firefox and enter the address of the page you want to visit, let’s use the Victoria Times Colonist article again.
  2. Examine the page with down and up arrow keys to see that it is cluttered with links, controls and advertisements.
  3. Press the f9 key to enable reader view.
  4. If nothing happens then reader view is not available for the current page.
  5. If reader view is available, the page loads and is clutter free.

 

Mac Browsers:

 

Reader View for Safari on the Mac:

Safari Browser for the Mac Download Page;

To display an article in Reader on the Mac, do the following:

  1. Click the Safari icon on the Dock or Launchpad.
  2. Type in the URL for the website you want to visit.

For example, you might visit The New Yorker at www.newyorker.com.

  1. Click the article you want to read. You see the article with various advertisements, banners, photos, links, and so on.
  2. Click the Reader button, or press Command+Shift+R.
  3. If the article runs over several pages, Reader displays it as one continuous page so you need only scroll down, not click from one page to the next.
  4. If you need to adjust the size of the text, click the type buttons (the two A’s) in the upper-left corner.
  5. To exit Reader, click the Reader button, or press the Esc key to exit Reader and return to the normal Safari view of the article. Click the Back button to return to the original site.
  6. In both Reader and normal Safari view, press ⌘+= or ⌘+– to zoom in or out on the text. If you have a Magic Mouse or Trackpad or a MacBook that recognizes multi-touch gestures, you can also pinch in or out to zoom.

 

iOS 12.4 Browsers:

Sadly, we could find nothing to say there is a Reader or Simplified View for the Google Chrome Browser for iOS.

 

Reader View for Safari Browser on iOS:

How to enable Reader View in Safari in iOS 12.4:

  1. Launch Safarifrom your Home screen.
  2. Navigate to the website you’d like to read.
  3. Tap the Reader button on the left of the address bar. It looks like a series of stacked lines.
  4. If the Reader button doesn’t appear it means the page isn’t able to be simplified.

 

Reader View for Mozilla Firefox Browser in iOS 12.4:

Mozilla Firefox Download Page on the App Store for iPad and iPhone;

How to enable Reader View in Firefox on iOS:

  1. Launch Firefox from your Home screen.
  2. Navigate to the website you’d like to read.
  3. Tap the Reader button on the right of the address bar. It looks like a series of stacked lines.
  4. Double Tap it again to turn it off when you want access to more of the page.
  5. If the Reader button doesn’t appear it means the page isn’t able to be simplified.

 

Reader View for Microsoft Edge in iOS 12.4:

Microsoft Edge Download for iPad and iPhone;

How to enable Reader View in Microsoft Edge on iOS:

  1. Launch Edge from your Home screen.
  2. Navigate to the website you’d like to read.
  3. Tap the Reader Mode button on the right of the address bar. It looks like a book that is open.
  4. Double Tap the Done button to turn it off when you want access to more of the page.
  5. If the Reader Mode button doesn’t appear it means the page isn’t able to be simplified.

 

Android Browsers:

Simplified View for Google Chrome on Android:

Google Chrome Browser Download from the Google Play Store;

How to Enable Reader Mode in Chrome for Android?

  1. Open Chromeon your Android smartphone or tablet and type

chrome://flags

in the address/search bar and hit enter. The Chrome Flags page will open up.

  1. Hit the three dot button inthe top right corner and tap “Find in page “.
  2. Once enabled, you will see a “Make page mobile-friendly” button at the end of the webpage.

 

For more information please contact your GTT Coordinators:

 

Albert Ruel                   or                        Kim Kilpatrick

1-877-304-0968,550                               1-877-304-0968,513

albert.GTT@CCBNational.net                GTTProgram@Gmail.com

 

CCB Backgrounder:

 

The CCB was founded in 1944 by a coalition of blind war veterans, schools of the blind and local chapters to create a national self-governing organization. The CCB was incorporated by Letters Patent on May 10, 1950 and is a registered charity under the provisions of the Income Tax Act (Canada).

The purpose of the CCB is to give people with vision loss a distinctive and unique perspective before governments.  CCB deals with the ongoing effects of vision loss by encouraging active living and rehabilitation through peer support and social and recreational activities.

CCB promotes measures to conserve sight, create a close relationship with the sighted community and provide employment opportunities.

 

The CCB recognizes that vision loss has no boundaries with respect to gender, income, ethnicity, culture, other disabilities or age.

The CCB understands in many instances vision loss is preventable and sometimes is symptomatic of other health issues.  For the 21st century, the CCB is committed to an integrated proactive health approach for early detection to improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

As the largest membership organization of the blind and partially sighted in Canada the CCB is the “Voice of the Blind™”.

 

CCB National Office

100-20 James Street Ottawa ON  K2P 0T6

Toll Free: 1-877-304-0968 Email: info@ccbnational.net URL: www.ccbnational.net

 

 

 

First Public Beta of JAWS 2020 Posted with Improved OCR, Form Control Handling, Blind Bargains by J.J. Meddaugh on September 17, 2019

First Public Beta of JAWS 2020 Posted with Improved OCR, Form Control Handling, More

Author: J.J. Meddaugh

Date Written: Sep 17, 2019 at 4:38 PM

Date Saved: 9/19/19, 11:33 AM

Source: https://www.blindbargains.com/bargains.php?m=20489

The first public beta of JAWS version 2020 has been posted. It’s free for JAWS 2019users.

This version includes a variety of enhancements, including several improvements for web users. Many websites will double-speak names of controls because of the way they were programmed. This beta aims to reduce much of this double-speak as you move through forms. Improved support for modern web apps which use their own keyboard hotkeys is now included, with JAWS remembering the state of the virtual cursor across tabs in Chrome. This is especially useful for sites such as Gmail. Other improvements will benefit users of Microsoft Word, the Zoom conferencing platform, and the Convenient OCR feature. Check the source link to get yur beta copy. Here’s a list of what’s new, taken from the public beta page:

New Features Added in JAWS 2020

The following features are new to JAWS 2020.

Reduced Double Speaking of Form Control Prompts When navigating and filling out forms on the web, it has become increasingly common for web page authors to include the prompt inside the control in addition to assigning an accessible Tag for the control. While non-screen reader users only see the written prompt, those using a screen reader are getting both the Prompt and accessible Tag in Speech as well as Braille if a display is in use. Often times, the web page author has assigned the same text for each, so it appears the screen reader is double speaking. In JAWS 2020, we have greatly reduced the amount of double speaking of form controls as you navigate using speech and Braille by comparing the prompt and these tags, and only speaking or brailling them both if they are different.

Note: For Public Beta 1, only the double speaking of prompts has been completed. The Braille representation will be corrected for Public Beta 2 in early October.

Zoom Meeting Scripts Added for an Improved Experience Thanks to Hartgen Consulting, basic scripts for Zoom are now included directly in JAWS and Fusion to improve the experience when attending Zoom Meetings. This platform is used for our quarterly FS Open Line program as well as the free training webinars we hold each month. These scripts offer a more pleasant experience by giving more control over what you hear, without interrupting the flow as users enter or leave the room or make comments. Press INSERT+H to view a list of JAWS keystrokes available in Zoom such as turning off alerts, speaking recent chat messages, and more. You can also press INSERT+W to view a list of Zoom hot keys.

Hartgen Consultancy also offers more advanced scripts for Zoom Pro if you are interested.

Enhanced JAWS and Invisible Cursor Support for Windows 10 Universal Apps For years, JAWS users have relied on the JAWS cursor (NUM PAD MINUS) and Invisible cursor (NUM PAD MINUS twice quickly) to review and interact with areas in an application where the PC cursor cannot go. This includes reading textual information which is on-screen but not focusable, and interacting with controls which are only accessible using a mouse as the mouse pointer will follow the JAWS cursor and NUM PAD SLASH and NUM PAD STAR will perform a left and right click. However, the Off-Screen Model (OSM) which has traditionally been used to support the JAWS and Invisible cursors is becoming less and less available as newer technology such as UIA, found especially in Windows universal apps like the calculator or the Windows Store, is now being used exclusively for accessing screen content. This results in the JAWS and Invisible cursors becoming unusable when attempting to navigate in those windows. All you would hear in those cases was “blank” as you reviewed the screen. This is because the modern technology currently in use is not able to be captured by the traditional Off-Screen Model. In those cases, the only solution was using the Touch Cursor, something most users are not as familiar with.

JAWS 2020 now detects when focus is in an application where the OSM is not supported and will automatically use the new JAWS Scan cursor in these situations. You will use all of the same navigation commands as you would with the traditional JAWS cursor or the Invisible cursors.

For example, if you open the Calculator or Windows Store in JAWS 2020 and press NUM PAD MINUS, you will now hear JAWS announce “JAWS Scan Cursor” as these are apps that do not support the OSM. You can then use the ARROW keys like you always have done to move by character, word, line, as well as INSERT+UP ARROW to read the current line, or PAGE UP, PAGE DOWN, HOME, and END. The mouse pointer will also continue to follow as it always has. The only difference is that the cursor does not move from top to bottom or left to right. Instead, it moves by element the way the developer laid out the app.

While this works in many places, there are still some areas where more work by Freedom Scientific is required. For instance, if you use Office 365, and try to read your Account version information with the JAWS cursor commands, it is still not possible to navigate and read in these places. That work is underway and we plan to have an update for this area in the 2020 version soon. Stay tuned.

Convenient OCR Updated to Use the Latest OmniPage The recognition engine used by the JAWS Convenient OCR feature has been updated to Kofax OmniPage 20, formerly owned by Nuance. This offers greater accuracy when recognizing the text from on-screen images as well as text from images captured with a PEARL camera or scanner.

For users needing to OCR using Hebrew or Arabic, these languages will be included in later public beta builds or by the final release at the latest. Once these languages are working, they will be installed with any English or Western European download of JAWS and Fusion.

Virtual Cursor Toggle Now Tab Specific in Google Chrome Today, there are many web apps where using the Virtual Cursor is not the best approach. An example of this can be seen if you use Gmail in the Chrome Browser. In these cases, it makes sense to toggle the Virtual Cursor off by pressing INSERT+Z and then use this application with the PC cursor. Many users also regularly open multiple tabs (CTRL+T) so they can easily access different sites such as GMail plus one or two other pages by moving between the open tabs using CTRL+TAB. This can become frustrating as you need to constantly press INSERT+Z to get the right cursor in use as you switch between tabs.

Beginning with version 2020, we are introducing an option to help JAWS automatically remember the state of the Virtual Cursor for each tab once you set it. It will also announce whether the Virtual Cursor is on or off as you move between various tabs. Once you close the browser, or restart JAWS, it will default back to its default behavior so you will need to set this each day as you use it.

For the Public Beta, this feature is not turned on by default. It will be enabled by default In later Beta builds. If you would like to try it out in the first Beta, do the following:

  1. Press INSERT+6 to open Settings Center.
  2. Press CTRL+SHIFT+D to load the default file.
  3. Type “Tab” in the search field.
  4. Press DOWN ARROW until you locate “Virtual Cursor On/Off based on Browser Tabs.”
  5. Press the SPACEBAR to enable the option and then select OK.

Note: If you choose to enable this feature in public beta 1, you will hear the announcement of the Virtual Cursor state in certain situations as you navigate. This will be corrected in subsequent builds. Contracted Braille Input Enhancements For ElBraille users as well as those who regularly use a Braille display with their PC, JAWS 2020 offers significant improvements when typing in contracted Braille. In particular:

  • You should now be able to enter and edit text in numbered and bulleted lists in Word, WordPad, Outlook, and Windows Mail.
  • Contracted Braille input is now supported in more applications including PowerPoint and TextPad.
  • Improved Contracted Braille input in WordPad, especially when editing a numbered or bulleted list created in Word and opened in Wordpad. This includes properly handling wrapped items which previously showed the number or bullet on subsequent wrapped lines, rather than indenting the text.
  • Improved Contracted Braille input in Chrome, Google docs, and other online editors which can create bulleted and numbered lists.
  • Typing rapidly using Contracted Braille in Microsoft Office as well as other applications should no longer result in text becoming scrambled.

General Changes in Response to Customer Requests • While browsing the internet, JAWS will no longer announce “Clickable” by default as you move to various content.

  • You should no longer hear the message “Press JAWS Key+ALT+R to hear descriptive text” as you navigate form controls and certain other elements on the web.
  • By default in Word and Outlook, JAWS will no longer announce “Alt SHIFT F10 to adjust Auto Correction” when you move to something that was auto corrected previously.
  • JAWS and Fusion will no longer gather a count of all the objects, misspellings, grammatical errors, and so on when a document is opened in Word. This will enable documents to load much faster, including very large documents containing a lot of these items. You can always press INSERT+F1 for an overview of what the document contains.
  • Improved responsiveness when closing Word after saving a document.
  • The AutoCorrect Detection option, previously only available in the Quick Settings for Word, can now also be changed in the Quick Settings for Outlook (INSERT+V).https://support.freedomscientific.com/Downloads/JAWS/JAWSPublicBeta

Source: JAWS Public Beta

Category: News

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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.

 

 

 

Thx, Albert

 

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Getting the Job Done with Assistive Technology: It May Be Easier Than You Think, AccessWorld

Getting the Job Done with Assistive Technology: It May Be Easier Than You Think | AccessWorld
afb.org

Getting the Job Done with Assistive Technology: It May Be Easier Than You Think | AccessWorld
Author Jamie Pauls
10-12 minutes
——————————————————————————–

main region
article
Jamie Pauls

I remember getting my first computer back in the early 90s almost like it was yesterday. A friend of mine was receiving regular treatments from a massage
therapist who happened to be blind. My friend mentioned that this gentleman used a computer with a screen reader. I was vaguely aware that this technology
existed, but I never really considered using a computer myself until that first conversation I had with my friend. I began doing some research, and eventually
purchased my first computer with a screen reader and one program included. I’m sure there were a few other programs on that computer, but WordPerfect is
the only one I recall today. The vendor from whom I purchased the computer came to my home, helped me get the computer up and running, and gave me about
a half-hour of training on how to use the thing. A few books from what is now
Learning Ally
as well as the
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
along with some really late nights were what truly started me on my journey. I sought guidance from a few sighted friends who were more than willing to
help, but didn’t have any knowledge about assistive technology. There were times when I thought I had wasted a lot of money and time, but I eventually
grew to truly enjoy using my computer.

I eventually became aware of a whole community of blind people who used assistive technology. They all had their preferred screen reader, and most people
used only one. Screen readers cost a lot of money and hardware-based speech synthesizers increased the cost of owning assistive tech. Unless the user was
willing to learn how to write configuration files that made their screen reader work with specific programs they wanted or needed to use, it was important
to find out what computer software worked best with one’s chosen screen reader. I eventually outgrew that first screen reader, and spent money to switch
to others as I learned about them. I have no idea how much money I spent on technology in those early years, and that is probably for the best!

Fast forward 25 years or so, and the landscape is totally different. I have a primary desktop PC and a couple laptop computers all running Windows 10.
I have one paid screen reader—JAWS for Windows from
Vispero
—and I use two free screen-reading solutions—NVDA, from
NVAccess
and Microsoft’s built-in screen reader called Narrator.

I also have a MacBook Pro running the latest version of Apple’s Mac operating system that comes with the free VoiceOver screen reader built in. I have
access to my wife’s iPad if I need to use it, and I own an iPhone 8 Plus. These devices also run VoiceOver. Finally, I own a BrailleNote Touch Plus,
HumanWare’s
Android-based notetaker designed especially for the blind.

Gone are the days when I must limit myself to only one screen reader and one program to get a task accomplished. If a website isn’t behaving well using
JAWS and Google’s Chrome browser, I might try the same site using the Firefox browser. If I don’t like the way JAWS is presenting text to me on that website,
maybe I’ll switch to NVDA. If the desktop version of a website is too cluttered for my liking, I’ll often try the mobile version using either Safari on
my iPhone, or Chrome on my BrailleNote Touch.

The lines between desktop application and Internet site have blurred to the point that I honestly don’t think about it much anymore. It is often possible
to use either a computer or a mobile device to conduct banking and purchase goods.

So what makes all this added flexibility and increased choice possible, anyway? In many cases, the actual hardware in use is less expensive than it used
to be, although admittedly products such as the BrailleNote Touch are still on the high end of the price spectrum. Along with the availability of more
screen readers and magnification solutions than ever before, the cost of most of these solutions has come down greatly. Even companies like Vispero that
still sell a screen reader that can cost over a thousand dollars if purchased outright are now offering software-as-a-service options that allow you to
pay a yearly fee that provides the latest version of their software complete with updates for as long as you keep your subscription active.

While some may not consider free options such as NVDA or Narrator to be as powerful and flexible as JAWS, they will be perfectly adequate for other people
who aren’t using a computer on the job complete with specialized software that requires customized screen reader applications to make it work properly.
There are those who will rightly point out that free isn’t really free. You are in fact purchasing the screen reader when you buy a new computer as is
the case with VoiceOver on the Mac. While this may be true, the shock to the pocketbook may not be as noticeable as it would be if you had to plunk down
another thousand bucks or so for assistive technology after you had just purchased a new computer.

In addition to the advancements in screen reading technology along with the reduced cost of these products, app and website developers are becoming increasingly
educated about the needs of the blind community. I once spoke with a game developer who told me that he played one of his games using VoiceOver on the
iPhone for six weeks so he could really get a feel for how the game behaved when played by a blind person. Rather than throwing up their hands in frustration
and venting on social media about how sighted developers don’t care about the needs of blind people, many in the blind community are respectfully reaching
out to developers, educating them about the needs of those who use assistive technology, and giving them well-deserved recognition on social media when
they produce a product that is usable by blind and sighted people alike. Also, companies like Microsoft and Apple work to ensure that their screen readers
work with the company’s own including Safari and Microsoft Edge. Google and Amazon continue to make strides in the area of accessibility as well. Better
design and standards make it more likely that multiple screen readers will work well in an increasing number of online and offline scenarios.

You may be someone who is currently comfortable using only one screen reader with one web browser and just a few recommended programs on your computer.
You may be thinking that everything you have just read in this article sounds great, but you may be wondering how to actually apply any of it in your life.
First, I would say that if you are happy with your current technology then don’t feel intimidated by someone else who uses other solutions. That said,
I would urge you to keep your screen reading technology up to date as far as is possible. Also, make sure that you are using an Internet browser that is
fully supported by the websites you frequently visit. This will ensure that your experience is as fulfilling as it should be. For example, though Microsoft
Internet Explorer has been a recommended browser for many years for those using screen access technology due to its accessibility, it is no longer receiving
feature updates from Microsoft, and therefore many modern websites will not display properly when viewed using it.

If you think you would like to try new applications and possibly different assistive technology solutions but you don’t know where to start, keep reading.

Back when I first started using a computer, I knew of very few resources to which I could turn in order to gain skills in using assistive technology. Today,
there are many ebooks, tutorials, webinars, podcasts, and even paid individual training services available for anyone who wishes to expand their knowledge
of computers and the like. One excellent resource that has been referenced many times in past issues of AccessWorld is
Mystic Access,
where you can obtain almost every kind of training mentioned in the previous sentences. Another resource you may recognize is the
National Braille Press,
which has published many books that provide guidance on using various types of technology. Books from National Braille Press can generally be purchased
in both braille or in electronic formats.

There are also many online communities of people with vision loss who use a specific technology. Two of the most well known are
AppleVis
for users of iOS devices and the
Eyes-Free Google Group
for users of the Android platform. Both communities are places where new and long time users of these platforms can go to find assistance getting started
with the technology or for help troubleshooting issues they may encounter.

While I vividly recall my first experiences as a novice computer user, it is almost impossible for me to imagine actually going back to those days. Today,
the landscape is rich and the possibilities are endless for anyone who wishes to join their sighted counterparts in using today’s technology. While there
are still many hurdles to jump, I am confident that things will only continue to improve as we move forward.

So fear not, intrepid adventurer. Let’s explore this exciting world together. In the meantime, happy computing!

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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Next GTT national Teleconference call all about accessible web browsers Wednesday March 9 2016 7 PM Eastern 4 Pacific. 

Next GTT National Teleconference Call All About Accessible Web BrowsersJoin us on Wednesday March 9 for our next national GTT teleconference. 

Our calls are always held on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 7 PM Eastern time (4 Pacific time) 

Our topic for this month is accessible web browsers. 

What browsers do you use? 

On your portable devices? 

On your PC? 

On your Mac? 

Which ones are most accessible with screen readers and screen magnification software? 

Join us for a web browser discussion. 

Bring your tips and tricks and questions. 

Here is the call in info. 

1-866-740-1260 

Passcode 5670311