Welcome to the March 2015 edition of AppleVis Unlimited, our monthly series which aims to highlight what’s new and noteworthy in the accessible app landscape. Below, you’ll find a recap of the best content posted to AppleVis - from new app entries, to app updates, to podcasts and blogs. For easier navigation, the major sections of this post are at heading level 3, and each individual item is at heading level 4.
New and Noteworthy App Entries
Blindfold Wildcard (Free with in-app purchases)
Blindfold Wildcard is an iOS variant of the game "UNO" that has been designed for rapid audio play.
Blindfold Wildcard includes several modes of play, such as discard or draw, and discard or draw until you can discard. Since there are many rule choices for the game, you can customize it for many of those rules.
Current version: 1.0.3 (March 4, 2015)
Google Calendar (Free)
Get the official Google Calendar app for your iPhone to save time and make the most of every day.
- A new Schedule View - See your schedule at a glance with photos and maps of the places you’re going.
- Events from Gmail - Flight, hotel, concert, restaurant reservations and more are added to your calendar automatically.
- Assists to fill in your calendar - You can quickly create events with smart suggestions for event titles, places and people.
- Different ways to view your calendar - Speedily switch between viewing a single day to getting an overview of multiple days at once.
- All your calendars in one, easy place - Google Calendar works with all calendars on your phone, including Exchange and iCloud.
Current version: 1.0.2 (March 10, 2015)
Google Sheets (Free)
Create, edit, and collaborate with others on spreadsheets from your iPod, iPhone, or iPad with the free Google Sheets app. With Google Sheets you can:
- Create new spreadsheets or edit any that were created on the web or on another device
- Share spreadsheets and work together with others in the same spreadsheet at the same time
- Open, edit, and save Microsoft Excel files
- Get stuff done anytime -- even without an internet connection
- Format cells, enter/sort data, view charts, insert formulas, use find/replace, and more
- Never worry about losing your work -- everything is automatically saved as you type
- Protect your spreadsheets with a 4-digit passcode
Current version: 1.1.7894 (March 5, 2015)
Google Slides (Free)
Create, edit, and collaborate with others on presentations from your iPod, iPhone, or iPad with the free Google Slides app. With Google Slides you can:
- Create new presentations or edit any that were created on the web or on another device
- Share presentations and work together with others in the same presentation at the same time
- Open, edit, and save Microsoft PowerPoint files
- Get stuff done anytime -- even without an internet connection
- Add and rearrange slides, format text and shapes, and more
- Present right from your device
- Never worry about losing your work -- everything is automatically saved as you type
Current version: 1.0.6503 (March 23, 2015)
MyHeart Counts (Free)
Apple’s new ResearchKit allows you to participate in important medical research studies easily through your iPhone. Stanford Medicine invites you to join the MyHeart Counts study to improve our understanding of heart health. The MyHeart Counts app is a personalized tool that can help you measure daily activity, fitness, and cardiovascular risk. It can also help you better understand your own heart health and contribute to our understanding of how to keep hearts healthy around the world. Join our research effort and make your heart count today!
The app can help you measure your activity through the sensors in your iPhone or the Apple Watch, or any wearable activity device linked to Apple Health App. If you are able, you can also do a walking fitness assessment. Plus, using your cholesterol results and blood pressure, the MyHeart Counts app will provide a calculation of your risk for future heart attack or stroke, as well as a relative “heart age.” By helping you track your activity levels and giving you feedback, we aim to help people be more informed and empowered in their health. We may also ask you to test different approaches to help you be more active so we can understand how mobile apps in the future can help prevent heart disease.
Current version: 1.0.2 (March 17, 2015)
NFB Connect (Free)
Put the nation’s largest organization of the organized blind in your pocket! The new mobile app from the National Federation of the Blind is here!
Receive notifications of the latest news from the National Federation of the Blind. Get alerts when your favorite blog has a new post. Have Fast Facts about the NFB at your fingertips.
You’ll be able to listen to your favorite NFB publications like the Braille Monitor and Future Reflections, read the latest postings on all the NFB blogs, and play the Presidential Release at your chapter meeting from your iPhone! Traveling? You can find the closest National Federation of the Blind chapter meeting wherever you are. And you can see what’s happening in your Federation family by checking upcoming events.
Fully accessible with VoiceOver, the NFB mobile app puts Federation information in your hands.
Editor's Note: While the app’s description states that NFB Connect is "fully accessible with VoiceOver," members of our community have reported that there are actually some accessibility issues with this first release. More information on these issues can be found in NFB Connect's AppleVis iOS App Directory entry.
Current version: 1.0 (March 19, 2015)
The Dreamhold (Free)
The Dreamhold is interactive fiction — a classic text adventure. No graphics! No point-and-click! You type your commands, and read what happens next.
The Dreamhold is designed for people who have never played Interactive Fiction before. It introduces the common commands and mindset of text adventures, one step at a time. There’s an extensive help system describing standard Interactive Fiction commands, as well as dynamic hints which pop up whenever you seem to be stuck.
Current version: 1.0.4 (December 21, 2013)
visor - low vision aid (US$0.99)
Turn your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch into a hand held low vision magnifier. Enlarge difficult to read text by 4 magnification levels and display it in 5 different viewing modes. Optionally, turn on the LED flash of your device to help you see clearer in low-light conditions.
Current version: 1.3 (March 20, 2015)
Notable App Updates
Be My Eyes - helping blind see (Free)
Blind users can request help from a sighted person and the sighted users will then be called for help. As soon as the first sighted user accepts the request for help a live audio-video connection will be set up between the two and the sighted user can tell the blind person what she sees when the blind user points his phone at something using the rear-facing camera.
Current version: 1.4 (March 3, 2015)
Summary of Changes in Version 1.4
In addition to a host of bug fixes, updated translations, and general improvements, Be My Eyes 1.4 includes the option for users to make a test call (also found under Profile Settings); the ability to add a profile picture for non-Facebook accounts; and a requirement that all users who register as blind use VoiceOver in an attempt to prevent abuse of the app.
Blindfold Solitaire (Free With In-App Purchases)
Blindfold Solitaire is a fully accessible Solitaire card game for both sighted and visually impaired people, designed for rapid audio play.
Blindfold Solitaire includes Klondike 3, the typical game of solitaire where you build all four suits from ace to king in separate piles, and 28 cards are dealt into seven piles on the tableau, where the first pile contains 1 card, the second pile has two cards with only the top card showing, the third pile has 3 cards with only the top card showing and so on. Each time you draw from the deck, you get 3 more cards.
Current version: 1.2.4 (March 24, 2015)
Summary of Changes in March Updates
The developer reports that there are lots of new features, so suggests that people re-read the User Guide available in the app. The changes include separate in-app purchases for Spider Solitaire and FreeCell games; more settings options; fixes for international voice problems; and general bug fixes.
MBraille (Free With In-App Purchases)
MBraille brings you a mobile braille keyboard.
With the free features you can type, edit and send tweets and text messages using contracted or uncontracted English braille.
With the full version you can also use braille to
- call contacts or telephone numbers
- send email
- do facebook status updates
- add calendar entries
- fire away internet search engine queries
- the text typed is automatically put to clipboard when you switch apps.
- interact with other 3rd party applications
- check spelling
- save and open text files
- sync to dropbox
Current version: 2.0.0 (March 12, 2015)
Summary of Changes in Version 2.0.0
MBraille has been a favorite amongst our community, so much so that it was voted Best iOS App in the 2013 AppleVis Golden Apple Awards.
While some had wondered about the long-term viability of MBraille with Apple's built-in Braille Screen Input feature, development appears to still be going strong. Version 2.0 includes better editing support for all users; spelling and text macro support for Pro users; a new in-app purchase for document management (includes saving and loading documents and Dropbox sync); user interface refinements; and bug fixes.
Mint: Money Manager, Budget & Personal Finance (Free)
The free Mint app helps you spend smarter and save more. Easily pull all your accounts, cards and investments into one place so you can track your spending, create a budget, receive bill reminders, and get customized tips for reducing fees and saving money. You can also check your credit score for free while learning how you can improve it.
Current version: 4.1.0 (March 2, 2015)
Summary of Changes in Version 4.1.0
The developers of this popular finance app have been seeking accessibility feedback from the AppleVis community over the past few months, and it’s great to see this being rolled out in updates to the app.
The latest update, 4.1.0, states in the release notes that the Login, Signup, Split Transactions and Transaction Detail Pages are now all accessible.
Storm Shield (US$2.99)
Severe weather alerts for your exact location. Storm Shield Weather Radio gives you storm-based alerts for tornado, hurricane, flood, thunderstorm, winter storms and other life-threatening weather events via voice and push notification.
Storm-based or polygon alerts help reduce false alarms by alerting you to severe weather based on your exact location within a county. Many other products still use county-based alerts (meaning you'd get an alert even if your location in the county is not within the threatened area).
Current Version: 3.4.5 (March 23, 2015)
Summary of Changes in Version 3.4.5
Storm Shield 3.4.5 brings improved VoiceOver accessibility (with a note from the developer thanking beta-testers for their feedback), enhanced radar display, and general bug fixes for crashes and other issues from the previous update.
Twitter is a free app that lets you connect with people, express yourself, and discover more about all the things you love.
See what your favorite celebs and athletes are chatting about. Be the first to hear breaking news. Catch a glimpse behind the scenes at concerts, sporting events, and more.
Then join the conversation: Tweet your own text, photos, and video to your followers — and maybe make a few fans along the way.
Current Version: 6.24.5 (March 28, 2015)
Summary of Changes in March 2015 Updates
In addition to adding support for Apple Watch, Twitter's accessibility team recently (version 6.24.1) added a new option to control whether VoiceOver would speak both screen names and usernames when reading tweets. This setting may be found under the "Me" tab: Settings> Accessibility> "Include Usernames in Timelines."
Recent News and Views
Apple Releases iOS 8.2 With Support For The Apple Watch And Focus On Performance And Stability Improvements
By AppleVis | March 9, 2015
Apple has [on March 9, 2015] released iOS 8.2 to the public, bringing with it a series of performance and stability improvements and support for the forthcoming Apple Watch.
For blind and low vision users, Apple addressed an issue which caused VoiceOver to crash when exiting certain apps. This would result in the iOS device becoming unresponsive for anything up to 60 seconds.
While iOS 8.2 does not contain as many improvements for blind and low vision users as we have seen in some recent releases, our testing has found that there do not appear to be any new bugs introduced in this update. Additionally, Apple confirmed that there are accessibility improvements coming in iOS 8.3 (to be released later this Spring). Specifically, we have been told that iOS 8.3 will include bug fixes for Safari, Braille Screen Input, Mail, Braille displays and general device usage.
Recap of Apple's Spring Forward Event (March 2015)
By Mehgcap | March 9, 2015
Today [March 9, 2015], Apple unveiled four new things, a price change for the Apple TV, and minor updates to its existing line of MacBooks. We saw the Apple Watch, a 12-inch Retina Macbook, HBO Streaming, and Research Kit, a platform that will greatly enhance medical research and studies. We also got iOS8.2, which includes the Apple Watch app, and some small fixes and improvements.
Rumored Apple Watch Accessibility Features
By AppleVis | March 9, 2015
Today [March 9, 2015], Apple announced the release of its highly-anticipated wearable, the Apple Watch.
While today’s Apple event answered many questions about the Apple Watch's final feature set, pricing and availability, one of the issues yet to receive much attention - and yet one which is vitally important to users of assistive technology - is what, if any, accessibility features the watch will have.
Why I'm Not Excited About the Apple Watch...Yet
By Michael Hansen | March 23, 2015
Since purchasing my first iPhone in 2010, I’ve self-identified as an Apple fanatic. I’m the type of person who goes out and buys the newest iPhone model each and every year, because I like to have the latest and greatest Cupertino has to offer. After hearing Apple’s ‘Spring Forward’ event on March 9, I was convinced that I wanted...no, needed...an Apple Watch. Now that the excitement of the Apple Watch launch has subsided, however, and now that I’ve had some time to think about the device and how I would use it, I’m not getting too excited about the Apple Watch—at least, not yet.
This Month in Podcasts
A Demonstration of the Native Twitter iOS App
In this podcast, Jamie Pauls gives us a demonstration of the official Twitter iOS app.
AmpKit For iOS: Transform Your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch into a Powerful Guitar Amp & Effects Studio
In this podcast, Carla gives us a walk-through and demonstration of AmpKit, an iOS app that transforms your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch into a powerful guitar amp & effects studio.
Just attach your electric guitar or bass using an interface, and you will have the option of 30 guitar amps, 30 pedals, 25 cabinets and 8 mics, all based on real-world products.
The app offers recording capabilities with mixing and non-destructive re-amping; various upload and sharing options; and a Tuner and Metronome featuring technology used in GuitarToolkit.
Listen to podcast: "AmpKit For iOS: Transform Your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch into a Powerful Guitar Amp & Effects Studio"
Read the AppleVis iOS App Directory entry for AmpKit
Visit the App Store page for AmpKit
An Introduction To YoruFukurou; A Mac Twitter Client That Actually Works With VoiceOver
In this podcast, Alex Hall gives us an introductory overview of YoruFukurou (also known by its translated name of NightOwl), a powerful Twitter client for Mac OS X. With a relatively simple and accessible interface and lots of keyboard shortcuts, YoruFukurou is probably the most popular Twitter client amongst VoiceOver users.
Listen to Podcast: "An Introduction To YoruFukurou; A Mac Twitter Client That Actually Works With VoiceOver"
Read the AppleVis Mac App Directory entry for YoruFukurou Visit the Mac App Store page for YoruFukurou
A Walk-Through And Demonstration Of Blindfold Wildcard For iOS
In this podcast, AnonyMouse gives us a walk-through and demonstration of Blindfold Wildcard, an iOS variant of the game "UNO" that has been designed for rapid audio play.
Google Translate For iOS: Translate With Your Voice, Camera, Keyboard Or Handwriting
In this podcast, AnonyMouse gives us a walk-through and demonstration of Google Translate, a free iOS app that enables you to translate with your voice, camera, keyboard or handwriting.
Listen to podcast: "Google Translate For iOS: Translate With Your Voice, Camera, Keyboard Or Handwriting"
Read the AppleVis iOS App Directory entry for Google Translate
Visit the App Store page for Google Translate
Introducing Blackjack Free For iOS
Updated: since this podcast was recorded, the app has been renamed Premium Blackjack.
In this podcast, AnonyMouse gives us a walk-through and demonstration of Blackjack Free! for iOS.
Blackjack, also known as 21, the card game found in casinos all over the world can now be experienced on your iOS Device. And, what’s even better is that it’s from the same developers as Dice World, who have again done a great job to ensure that their newest game is 100% accessible with VoiceOver.
Quick Tip: How to Configure the OS X System Clock to Announce the Time at Hourly, Half-Hourly, or Quarter-Hourly Intervals
In this podcast, David Woodbridge shows us how to configure the Mac OS X system clock to automatically announce the time at hourly, half-hourly, or quarter-hourly intervals.
TellMeWhen For iOS: Keep Track Of New Books, Music And Movies By The People That You Like
In this podcast, AnonyMouse gives us a walk-through and demonstration of TellMeWhen, an iOS app that makes if easy to keep track of new books, music and movies by the people that you like.
TellMeWhen will keep you informed of when new books are published on the iBooks Store by your favorite authors or contain any of the search terms that you've asked it to monitor. It will also report new albums by your favorite artists or movies featuring your favorite actors.
Listen to podcast: "TellMeWhen For iOS: Keep Track Of New Books, Music And Movies By The People That You Like"
Read the AppleVis iOS App Directory entry for TellMeWhen
Visit the App Store page for TellMeWhen
Traveline GB: Real-Time Bus Times And Journey Planning For The UK
In this podcast, Bryan McGlashan gives us a walk-through and demonstration of Traveline GB, an iOS app providing journey planning for Great Britain. Simply tell the app where you want to go, and it will plan your journey by bus, train, coach or ferry.
You can save your favourite stops and journeys to use again, and there are options to narrow down your choices and explore your routes. In addition, the app displays bus departure times at any stop throughout Great Britain. In many towns and cities, this information isn't just scheduled times, it's real live countdown information from GPS-tracking of the buses. When travelling by bus, the app offers next stop announcements if you're not sure where to get off.