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 National Conference Call Summary Notes, Lucia Accessible Cell Phone, June 12, 2019

GTT National Conference Call.

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

 

Summary Notes

June 12, 2019

 

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

02 GTT National Conference Call, Lucia Accessible Cell Phone, June 12, 2019:

Robert Felgar, CEO, Raz Mobility  attended the GTT National Conference Call to tell us all about the Lucia talking cell phone that is now available for sale to Canadians.

  • Lucia is an Accessible mobile phone for individuals who are visually impaired, blind, hard of hearing or seniors.
  • Lucia is a user-friendly cell phone that allows persons who are disabled to remain independent.
  • Advanced features such as accessible buttons in different colors and shapes, voice guide to transform the phone into a talking companion, ergonomic design, combined with long battery life, make this high-quality, Swiss-made phone the perfect mobile phone for users who are disabled.
  • Lucia has a powerful battery and can operate for more than one week before requiring a charge (up to 7 days standby time and 10 hours of talking time).
  • Lucia allows users who are blind to enter their own contacts and move through the contact list to hear the contact names read out loud.
  • Low vision users benefit from extra large characters and can choose between various color schemes such as white on black or black on white display.
  • For emergencies, the phone has a dedicated SOS button on its back.
  • Easy to navigate menus with large and highly tactile buttons. The control buttons are different colors and shapes so that the user always presses the correct button.
  • Speech interface guides the user while using the phone. It speaks everything that is on the screen, speaks the keys that are pressed and even prompts the user to perform certain functions. Caller ID, amount of remaining battery power, contacts, list of missed calls and text messages are read out loud by Lucia. The user can select between more than 10 different voices.
  • Lucia is 100 percent accessible to individuals who are blind. Its features make it the perfect phone for individuals who are visually impaired, blind, hard of hearing or seniors.
  • To assist people who are hard of hearing, the phone has a “sound boost” function that provides additional volume during phine calls with the press of a button. Lucia has premium speakers to maximize clarity and sound experience.

 

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

 

 

 

Notes for GTT Toronto December Meeting all about screen readers for PC’s. 

Here are the notes for the December meeting.

Jason Fayre, the Adaptive technology specialist at CNIB, opened the meeting. He began by letting the group know that the next meeting, on January 21, will be on social media with Chelsey Mollar.
There was a go round to introduce ourselves.
 
Jason began his presentation on comparing screen readers by inviting questions at any time. He said that in the second half, there would be time for small group question and answer. Jason gave some background on his experience with access technology. He worked for Arkenstone, who did early OCR, worked as a tech support representative for Freedom Scientific who makes Jaws, and now works for CNIB.
 
His concentration will be on Jaws, NVDA and Window Eyes, which are the 3 major screen readers. The intention is to give a clear idea of what each one does, why one might choose one over the other, and what’s good and bad about each one.
 
Job Access with Speech, or Jaws, has been around as long as DOS in the 80’s. In the mid 90’s they released the first versions for Windows with Windows 3.1 the latest version is Jaws 17. It’s a good product. One deterrent can be cost: around $1100. Moving up from one version to another is about $250, up two versions will be more. If you buy a copy, you can buy an SMA, about $300, which gives you the next 2 upgrades for free. You’re allowed to install Jaws on up to 3 different systems. One of its strengths is efficiency on the internet. Another is the variety of voices available. He demonstrated the default Eloquence voice, then pointed out that the newer voices have greatly improved responsiveness. Insert control S is the keystroke to switch voices. He demonstrated Vocalizer Expressive Ava, a female voice, and pointed out its clarity. You have to have the voice installed before the keystroke will work. Go to help, web resources, then vocalizer expressive if you’re on a version before Jaws 17.
 
Another place where Jaws really shines is with using Braille. If you want or need to use Jaws without speech, you can do so with a Braille display effectively after some initial configuration. The other area where it excels is training. You get about 16 hours of training materials when you buy the product. Web Aim does a survey each year to rank screen readers. When they started in 2010 or so, Jaws was at 75% use among blind people. It’s now at 30% because more options are available.
 
A group member asked if Windows 10 is compatible with Jaws 16. Jason answered that as of July this year, Jaws released a version of 16 that does work, so get the latest version of 16.
 
Another question was what makes Jaws better with the Internet. Jason replied that it’s mostly because they’ve been doing it for a long time, and are constantly updating. Also, a new feature called smart navigation improves access to complex websites. 
 
Another question was about PDF documents. Jason said that Jaws now has a feature that allows you to scan a document and run it through OCR. This is in Jaws 17. With any version of Jaws, go to the help menu where you’ll find an option for What’s New.
 
Someone asked whether it’s possible to use voice input rather than the keyboard. Jason said that it’s always advisable to know the keyboard, but there are two products called JSay and Dragon Dictate that, used together, will allow you to use speech input. This option is very expensive however, so if you don’t actually need to dictate, you’re better off learning to type if you can. A group member noted that ADP will pay for these products if they’re necessary.
 
Jason continued with NVDA. He said that NVDA nonvisual desktop access, is what he uses himself. NV access out of Australia produces it. It’s free, and it’s very good. A couple of blind guys started developing it in 2006 to level the playing field. In many countries access technology is prohibitively expensive. Currently NVDA is available in 40 languages and run in 120 countries. It has about 20% of the screen reader market. NVDA is totally free. They do ask for donations, because its development is run on grants and donations. Jason said he donates regularly. Because it’s free, the voice used has to be free. The voices Jaws uses are owned by Nuance Communications Jaws pays them for their voices. NVDA has to use a free voice; the one they use is called ESpeak. Newcomers to synthetic voices can be easily turned off by it. There are options. One is to use voices that come built into Windows. They’re free but not very responsive. There are also companies who have made better voices available for NVDA. About $90 will buy you a range of voices to choose from. These are the same voices you can get on the IPhone. A good thing about NVDA is that it’s snappy and responsive, even more so than Jaws. It’s as good as Jaws or better on the internet, particularly with firefox. Jason said he liked to use NVDA partly because he likes to support an organization run by blind people. One of its drawbacks is working in corporate environments. PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel are difficult or undoable. For most things people do at home, NVDA is perfectly functional. NVDA made a point of making its interface similar to what Jaws uses. ESpeak can go very very fast if you like high speed speech. Microsoft Office support is getting better, but it’s not there yet. Braille support is coming along too. It can support Braille input in grade 1. Output is sketchy, it depends what display you’re using. It’s still not seamless. NVDA on the internet uses very much like Jaws, headings is H, buttons is B, they made an effort so that there would be less of a learning curve. NVDA works quite well with Windows 10, maybe a bit better than Jaws. He advises not to upgrade to Windows 10 if you can help it. You have 30 days to back out if you do upgrade.
 
A group member asked for a demo of NVDA on a web page. He did a Google search. He demonstrated using H to move between headings, and showed using F7 to get a links list. The links list is called an elements list, because you can get lists of other elements like headings, not just a list of links. The best experience with NVDA on the internet will be with Firefox. It also works with Crone. Chrome is generally not good for accessibility. One drawback of NVDA is the lack of technical support, because it’s a free utility. They’re working on some paid options for support, but there are many online groups for peer support. Their website has resources to link you to paid training, remote or in person. The question was asked whether NVDA has remote access capability. Jason replied that there’s an add on called NVDA remote, which allows someone to remote into your system, or visa versa, for training or troubleshooting purposes. Jaws has a version of this too.
 
Jaws, http://www.freedomscientific.com
NVDA, http://www.nvaccewss.org
 
The third option for screen readers is Window Eyes. It is produced by A I Squared, which used to be called GW Micro. It’s been around since about 1998. In the last few years they made an agreement with Microsoft such that, if you own a copy of Microsoft Office, you can get Window Eyes for free. http://www.windoweyesforoffice.com. It will make sure you have a licensed copy of Office, then you can download Window Eyes. Their web support has improved significantly lately so that it’s on par with Jaws and NVDA. Many companies are moving to a model of subscribing rather than downright ownership. For example, a $7 per month fee will get you access to Microsoft Office. This can be a more financially accessible option. Window Eyes comes with training materials available online. There were stability issues with Window Eyes in the past, but that’s mostly ironed out now. There’s a new product called Zoomtext fusion, Zoomtext combined and integrated with a functional screen reader. Someone transitioning from large print to speech would find this useful. It’s new in the past few months. The agreement with Microsoft Office doesn’t apply to the fusion product. The cost might be somewhere around $1000 U.S.. Window Eyes is used in corporate environments, but not as commonly as Jaws.
 
Each of these 3 products has in common that they’re supported by scripting. This means that if you have to use a product that isn’t compatible by default, it’s possible to write code to make the screen reader interact properly. A group member pointed out that Apple endorses the use of Window Eyes over any other screen reader for using ITunes.
You can find some podcasts about using Jaws with various products at
http://www.freedomscientific.com/fscast
The group broke up into informal conversation.
 
Yin gave a report of a phone meeting with gtt people from around the country.
Monthly there’s a phone call between the leaders of the various gtt groups. In the last one, Kim gave a history, in 2012 the first meeting in Ottawa took place. Kim got a grant to expand the gtt groups. This is how groups in various provinces and cities started. The latest Ontario gtt group is in Northern Ontario. Communities are pretty spread out, so they host phone meetings.
 
The needs identified for groups as a whole at the moment are: how to use an Android phone, magnifying devices. How can we accumulate all this information in one place that’s accessible, and how to keep this data base up to date. They mentioned there’s an IPhone 1-800 number, and a Microsoft accessibility line. This information will be made available soon. Apple accessibility and Microsoft answer accessibility desk. The group in Ottawa sometimes breaks up into small groups, or sometimes just operates informally.
 
Ian asked our group at large how people would like to structure the second half of meetings. Are we happy with informal, or do we want more structure? The trend seemed to be toward less formality. A suggestion was made that during introductions, people might give their name, plus what they are hoping to get out of the meeting as a way to identify themselves to the group. Also, there might be meetings without pre-defined topics to allow people to get specific things addressed. The third idea was for a phone meeting.
 
Tom Decker was the minute taker for the phone meeting of group leaders from across the country, so information about that phone meeting will show up on Facebook. Kim is a faithful blog writer. Contact her to subscribe, we will post her email address. Gtt.toronto@gmail.com is how our information gets distributed. Subscribing there will get you access to all information. There’s a monthly open conference call for any participants.

Reminder GTT national conference call tonight WEdnesday October 14 7 PM eastern. All about surfing the web.

Hello.

This is just a reminder about our national call tonight.

Gerry Chevalier will give a presentation on surfing the web with a screen reader.

Here is his description.

Gerry Chevalier will demonstrate and discuss techniques for efficiently
navigating web pages using a screen reader. Topics will include shortcut
navigation keys, navigating links, headings, tables, and filling in forms.
The demonstration will include two web sites:
1. CNIB/CELA Library book search which is familiar and used by many of us to
find our favorite books.
2. Freedom Scientific Surfs Up web site which is a valuable self paced
training tool that is provided free by Freedom Scientific to help you learn
how to navigate web sites.

Here is the call in information.

1-866-740-1260

The passcode is 

5670311


Useful Resource: Reading PDF’s with jaws

This tip was sent to me by a GTT participant.

 

JAWS TIP OF THE WEEK

Many documents are distributed in PDF format. Unfortunately, not all PDF files are accessible to someone using JAWS. I’m going to talk about how to read PDF files and some techniques you can use if things aren’t reading correctly.

The application used to read PDF files is called Adobe Reader. The latest version of Adobe reader is version 11. On the desktop, it is labeled as “adobe Reader XI.”

If you are opening PDF files from links on web pages, there is a setting that should be changed in Internet Explorer to improve accessibility. This will ensure that the PDF opens in Adobe Reader and not inside Internet Explorer. You only need to do this procedure once.

To make this change, do the following:

1.Open Internet Explorer.

2.Press Alt+T to open the Tools menu.

3.Press the letter A or arrow down to Manage Add-ons and press Enter.

4.Press Alt+T to select the Toolbars and Extentions radio button.

5.Press Tab to move to the Filter By combo-box.

6.Press the letter A to select All Add-ons.

7.Press Tab to move to the list of add-ons.

8.Press the letter A to locate Adobe Reader. You should hear something like “Adobe PDF Reader, Adobe Systems, Incorporated, Enabled, 12/3/2014 1:31 AM, 11.0.10.32 9.If you hear the word “Enabled”, press Tab to locate the Disable button and press the Spacebar to activate it.

10.Press Alt+L to activate the Close button.

Reading pDF files:

For the best accessibility, a PDF file should be “tagged” for accessibility. When this has been done correctly, JAWS will know the correct reading order for the text. Also, you are able to navigate through a PDF file the same way you navigate through a web page. You will know if a PDF has been tagged if the document opens immediately without any dialog being displayed. Depending on the size of the document, JAWS may only let you read one page at a time. If you are moving through the document and JAWS stops reading after the first page, press Ctrl+Page Down to switch to the next page. You are able to use quick navigation commands to read through the document. These include H for heading and P for paragraph. Note that these commands only work with what is displayed using the virtual cursor. So, if you are only seeing one page at a time, pressing H will not move you to a heading on another page.

 

Dealing with untagged documents:

If you open a PDF file that is untagged, a dialog will pop up asking you how you want to deal with the document. You need to make a choice in this dialog before you can read the PDF file. T He first combo box asks you to select the reading order. Your choices are:

Infer reading order from document: Tries to automatically determine the correct reading order by analyzing the document (this is often the best choice).

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Reads the text as it appears on the page, from left to right and top to bottom. This may not work well on multi-column pages.

Use raw print stream

Use the Infer Reading Order selection first. If that doesn’t work, try Left to Right, Top to Bottom.

Pressing Tab from the Reading Order combo box takes you to a Radio button that lets you set how much text is displayed at a time. You can set this to either Read visible pages only or entire document. How this is set by default will depend on the size of the document. Setting this radio button to read entire document will cause adobe reader to process the entire document before you can read it. If the document is very large, your system can become unresponsive for a period of time while the document is being processed.

Pressing Tab again takes you to a checkbox titled Always use the settings from the reading preferences (do not show this dialog again).” I recommended leaving this checkbox unchecked, since you may need to change the settings on a per-document basis.

Pressing Tab one more time takes you to a Start button. Press Enter on this button to start processing the document. You can also press Enter from anywhere in this dialog to start processing.

Once processing is done, you should be able to read the document. If this document isn’t reading correctly, try a different reading order. You can press Ctrl+Shift+5 to change the reading order.

If you try and readthe document and you hear “Alert: Empty Document,” this means that there is no text in the document. Some PDF files just contained scanned images of the pages. In this case, you will need to use an OCR solution to read the document. Examples of software that will read these types of PDF files are Openbook and Kurzweil 1000. JAWS 16 can also read these type of PDF files.