AppleVis Unlimited: What's New in Accessible Apps for July 2016
Welcome to the July 2016 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
BeSpecular - help the blind (iOS, Free)
BeSpecular is the best way to do a good deed so that even when you have a busy schedule, you can help someone who’s blind. As a blind/visually impaired person, you can ask text/voice questions and receive quick replies that are friendly and helpful.
Do you want to help/volunteer in your community, but you don’t have the time?
Helping your community should be simple, convenient, and fun.
Now you can help someone who’s blind by using your smartphone. You can spend a few seconds listening to the question, look at the picture(s), and reply with a friendly voice note or text message.
- Use your eyes and intuition which no computer can replace,
- Help blind or visually impaired people from around the world,
- Learn what it’s like to live blind,
- Do a good deed and feel amazing,
- Make a real contribution to someone else’s life.
Are you blind or visually impaired & need that extra little bit of help?
You should be able to conveniently ask your questions and know that someone who’s sighted will happily and quickly be able to help.
Now you’re able to personalize your questions to find out exactly what you’re looking for. You can upload or take photos and ask with a voice/text message. You’ll receive as many friendly and helpful replies as you need.
- Ask your question and receive your reply shortly,
- Use the app in various situations, e.g. getting more detailed descriptions of items you’d like to buy online, read the ad insert you found in the mail, understand what’s going on with your computer when your Screen Reader won’t work, re-live memories with beautiful descriptions of your photographs, etc,
- Remain on a first-name basis and not have to reveal any personal info,
- Ask as many questions as often as you’d like
Current Version: 1.0 (July 1, 2016)
Blindfold Basketball (iOS, Free with In-App Purchases)
Blindfold Basketball is a fully accessible audio game that's just like playing basketball on an indoor court.
In Blindfold Basketball, the tutorial teaches you how to move on the court, pick up the ball, dribble and shoot with 3 lessons. Then you start playing one of the coach game. Coach tells you where to go, and which of 5 different types of shots to make: such as a free throw, dunk, hook, jump or post shot.
As you move from level to level in the coach games, your shooting must become more accurate to score points.
Once you get good at the coach games, you can play with opponents are the court. Depending on the game, some opponents move around randomly and others play a strong defensive game, trying to block your shots.
Current Version: 1.2.4 (July 10, 2016)
Blindfold RS Games (iOS, Free with In-App Purchases)
RS Games specializes in the development of accessible games, products and software for the blind and visually impaired. RS Games are played by thousands of visually impaired people on Windows and Mac computers, and Blindfold Games and RS Games teamed up to create this app.
Now you can play any of the 20 different multi-player games on an iPhone, iPad or iPod. Just login with your RS Games account, or create a new account, and start playing.
Several of the games are free, and others are available with an in-app upgrade.
You can start a public game or a private game, or you can join one of the public games that haven't started yet. You can add computer bot players to your game to make it more exciting.
Current Version: 1.3.7 (July 25, 2016)
Blindfold Sound Search (iOS, Free with In-App Purchases)
Blindfold Sound Search is a fully accessible matching game that is inspired by matching games and interesting sounds for both sighted and visually impaired people, designed for rapid audio play.
There are several types of games in Sound Search.
- Name That Sound improves your skill at matching an object with its sound.
- Find That Sound is a matching game where you must remember the square where each sound is located.
In both games, you start out matching 3sounds to complete the level. Each time you complete a level, the next level has the prior level's bird songs, along with two more sounds randomly mixed up. In both games, you win points for good matches, lose points for bad matches, and can be played for dozens of levels.
There are several sound packs available as upgrades: Common Animals, Asian Animals, National Anthems, Musical Instruments and Everyday Sounds.
Blindfold Sound Search comes with 2 free small sound packs: animals and sampler.
Current Version: 1.1.0 (July 26, 2016)
Escape from the Amazon (iOS, US$0.99)
‘Escape from the Amazon’ is an interactive story that combines the best of the much loved ‘choose your own story' games with the exciting possibilities of your iPhone or iPad.
A group of travellers, one of them your partner, is in a plane crash in a remote area of the Amazon rainforest. They are depending on you for their survival; as their only lifeline, you make life and death decisions. The fate of your partner is in YOUR hands.
The thrilling ‘Escape from the Amazon’ is a story by horror writer Stephen Quid. It takes place in real time over the course of several days. As your friends struggle for survival in a breathtaking jungle landscape, you will receive notifications of new messages and questions, and can respond to them directly in the game or from your notifications screen on your iPhone or iPad.
‘Escape from the Amazon’ is an immersive adventure that challenges your knowledge, your confidence and your willingness to take risks. With your love’s life on the line, what will YOU do?
Current Version: 1.0.3 (January 29, 2016)
Full Metal Runner (iOS, Free)
Full Metal Runner is a mobile running game playable for visually impaired players. This game is motivated by Cybathlon which will be held in Switzerland in 2016.
With conscious UI, players are able to enjoy the game with their eye closed.
Drone system applied to this game helps players know the distance from obstacles in front of players and dodge them.
Current Version: 1.0.1 (April 26, 2016)
iSharing Talk - Walkie Talkie (iOS, Free)
Turn your iPhone into a Walkie-Talkie.
Don't waste time on phone calls and text messages. No more waiting for the phone to ring.
Instantly talk to your friend at once with the touch of a button. Your friends can listen to your message while you talk or check it out later.
Fast, Easy, Simple and Free.
No setup needed if you have a Facebook account. Connect with Facebook friends via iSharing.
Current Version: 1.5.0 (June 10, 2013)
Scrivener (iOS, US$19.99)
Typewriter. Ring-binder. Scrapbook. Scrivener combines all the writing tools you need to craft your first draft, from nascent notion to final full stop.
Tailor-made for creating long manuscripts, Scrivener banishes page fright by allowing you to compose your text in any order, in sections as large or small as you like. Got a great idea but don’t know where it fits? Write when inspiration strikes and find its place later. Grow your manuscript organically, idea by idea.
Whether you plan or plunge, Scrivener works your way: meticulously outline every last detail first, or hammer out a complete draft and restructure later. Or do a bit of both. All text sections in Scrivener are fully integrated with its outlining tools, so working with an overview of your manuscript is only ever a tap away, and turning Chapter Four into Chapter One is as simple as drag and drop.
Need to refer to research? In Scrivener, your background material is always at hand. Write a description based on a photograph. Reference a video or PDF. Check for consistency with an earlier chapter. On the iPad, open two documents side-by-side; on the iPhone, flip between research and writing with just two taps.
Once you’re ready to share your work with the world, simply compile everything into a single document for printing, or export to popular formats such as Word, PDF, Final Draft or plain text. You can even share using different formatting, so that you can write in your favorite font and still keep your editor happy.
Current Version: 1.0 (July 20, 2016)
Team FM (iOS, Free)
What makes our station special?
Hand-picked music, twenty-four hours a day, divided into ten great genres, so there's something for everyone.
Absolutely no commercials, just occasional promotional material to keep you in the loop.
The weekend comes alive with top name shows for you to enjoy.
Get our dedicated app and give Team-FM a try today!
Current Version: 1.0 (July 21, 2016)
Terminology 3 - Extensible Dictionary and Thesaurus (iOS, US$2.99)
Terminology is a browser for the English language – part dictionary/thesaurus and part research tool. Terminology is designed to make it easy to explore words and phrases, diving down to more and less specific terms - accessing the web and other apps for more detail and sharing.
More than a dictionary, Terminology can be extended with custom actions to search the Internet as well as other reference apps which support integration – making it a great place to start all your searches.
One of the most popular reference apps on the App Store, Terminology is a Universal (iPad/iPhone) app, ready for iOS 9, with iCloud sync of favorites terms, lookup history and custom actions.
Current Version: 3.3.4 (July 18, 2016)
Timecrest: The Door (iOS, Free with In-App Purchases)
There exists another world, and that world desperately needs your help.
Alyncia is about to be destroyed by meteors. When it seems all hope is lost for this magical world, a young mage named Ash establishes a connection with you and discovers that you have the power to alter time in Alyncia.
In this time of darkness, Ash needs a friend. Ash needs you.
- EXPERIENCE AN EPIC STORY with over 170,000 words and multiple endings.
- DECIDE who lives and who dies. Your decisions change the story, so choose wisely.
- EXPLORE ALYNCIA at your own pace with our new non-linear maps.
- IMMERSE YOURSELF in a world of fantasy and magic, with 14 musical tracks to set the scene.
- BUILD A TEAM and make friends. Unlock secret storylines by building your relationship with other characters.
Timecrest is a nonlinear story based game with multiple endings where every choice you make matters. The story progresses in realtime. Ash will be notifying you on what is happening in Alyncia and awaits your guidance throughout the day.
Current Version: 2.2.3 (July 19, 2016)
All recent app entries posted to AppleVis can be found at:
Notable App Updates
Dark Sky - Hyperlocal Weather, Radar, and Storm Alerts (iOS, US$3.99)
Dark Sky can tell you at a glance exactly when it will rain (or snow) up to an hour in advance, so you’re free to walk the dog or run out to lunch and know you’ll stay dry. You can also explore the most beautiful weather animation you’ve ever seen, both forward in time or back.
(Dark Sky is available in the US, UK and Ireland.)
Current Version: 5.1.7 (July 21, 2016)
Changes in Version 5.1.7
- Some minor VoiceOver fixes
- Fixed a bug that caused repeated nags when Location Services are disabled
- Map UI tweaks / bug fixes
- Fix an issue with deleting locations
- Fixed an issue with dew point reporting incorrectly with Celsius units
Recent News and Views
Apple Releases Software Updates for iOS, OS X, watchOS, and tvOS
By AppleVis | July 18, 2016
Today has seen another flurry of software updates from Apple. In addition to the release of iOS 9.3.3, there have also been updates for the Mac, Apple Watch, and fourth-generation Apple TV.
Full release notes for these updates are not yet available, but it is safe to assume that there will be the standard mix of bug fixes, security patches, and under-the-hood performance improvements. We will update this post if we learn of any significant new features or changes.
We have been able to carry out some limited testing of iOS 9.3.3 and Mac OS X 10.11.6 prior to their public release, and our experience suggests that blind and low vision users are likely to find no accessibility-related changes. However, we have heard sketchy reports of some people experiencing problems with the VoiceOver volume level behaving inconsistently on iOS 9.3.3. At this point, we are unsure of the extent and full nature of this possible problem.
Small Talk: Speaking up on VoiceOver and the iPhone
By Morgan | July 15, 2016
More than twenty years ago, I was attending a MacWorld Expo during a business trip. One of my favorite distractions at these events was to hunt down any Macintosh software that used speech. Self-voicing software was rare and VoiceOver did not exist. I remember visiting with an exhibitor about their new product. I never clicked as to what the application might do for me, but the vendor promised that it would talk. Good enough. I relinquished $35 for a diskette and ran back to my hotel room to play with my new toy.
While booting my Macintosh PowerBook 170, I decided to do some multi-tasking. I called my young son, something I did every day when I was on the road. At his age, he always had plenty to share regarding the grind of First Grade. As his highlights were often similar to those from the day before, I thought I could get away with simultaneously installing my new acquisition. Bad move.
While Richard recounted his exhausting day at school, my computer began to speak. It was not Agnes, the early synthetic voice from Apple with the familiar nasal twang. It was the recorded voice of a young woman, letting me know how well the installation was progressing. She sounded very warm and sultry.
”Dad, is there a girl in your room?"
Attempting to sound very alone and guilt-free, I quickly answered, "No, that is the computer talking."
Good things might not last: American Heritage Dictionary is no longer accessible at all
By Amir | July 14, 2016
It feels like losing an old friend. Or perhaps losing one's love of life. But American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language was my friend in the world of iOS apps and my love in the world of dictionaries. So going to bed one night with an awesome dictionary which ticks all check boxes in terms of accessibility and getting up the next morning, hearing about the app's takeover by a new developer, re-paying for and downloading it, and finding it an absolute mess in terms of accessibility is nothing but a huge blow to one's morale. And the story doesn't even end there...
Why is an accessible dictionary such a big deal?
Ask a word fiend this question -- I mean someone who basks in knowing words like "sesquipedalian," and you'll get some slap-in-the-face answers. But, seriously, if you're into reading and words, you know that using the built-in iOS dictionary isn't easy. You first have to select a word somewhere which, depending on the app at hand, might be very difficult or impossible, and then use the Look up/Define option from the Edit menu, if such a menu even exists for your app, via a couple of Rotor gestures. So the built-in iOS dictionary doesn't allow you to look up words by typing a word into it manually. Moreover, it's not as comprehensive as some of the full-fledged third-party dictionaries out there in that it doesn't offer audio or phonetic pronunciations, etymologies, synonym distinctions, derivatives, inflected forms, etc.
Blind Apple Engineer Speaks of the Passion and Dedication of Apple’s Accessibility Team
By AppleVis | July 11, 2016
In the article, Castor speaks passionately about Apple’s deep commitment to accessibility and her own personal journey.
Coming so soon after the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) passed a resolution in which it called Apple’s testing for the accessibility of its products “inadequate”, it’s hard not to suspect that Apple’s press and public relations team has been busy trying to set the record straight - both with the original Mashable article and the many follow-up articles from other mainstream outlets (see for example 9to5Mac, MacRumours and AppleInsider). Even Tim Cook’s Twitter account joined in, tweeting “Proud of our talented team dedicated to providing #accessibility for all users”. It’s also noteworthy that the Mashable article actually mentions the NFB, pointing out that two years ago the organisation said “Apple has done more for accessibility than any other company.”
Regardless of whether this positive and concentrated focus on accessibility was an orchestrated attempt by Apple to indirectly respond to the NFB resolution or if it was simply happenstance, the Mashable article offers an interesting glimpse into Apple’s work to ensure the accessibility of its products and the people involved.
Apple Releases First Public Previews of iOS 10 and macOS Sierra
By AppleVis | July 7, 2016
Apple has today issued the first preview releases of iOS 10 and macOS Sierra for members of its public beta testing program.
The Public Beta Program allows end-users the chance to test pre-release software and provide meaningful feedback directly to Apple. If you have a secondary device—or are an experienced user willing to put up with the quirks of beta software—and have an interest in helping make the next releases of iOS and macOS the best possible for VoiceOver users, one of the best things you can do is beta-test and report your findings directly to Apple. All accessibility-related feedback submitted through Feedback Assistant will be routed to the right people, and your reports are being read, taken seriously, and followed-up.
If you aren’t already registered with Apple's Beta Software Program and wish to learn more, visit the program’s website for more details and to register.
On NFB Resolution 2016-04, Software Testing, and Apple's Commitment to Accessibility for All
By Michael Hansen | July 6, 2016
The National Federation of the Blind has done it again.
Earlier this week at its annual convention in Orlando, FL, members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)—a United States organization of, for, and lead by blind people—passed a resolution calling on Apple to "make nonvisual access a major priority in its new and updated software by improving its testing of new releases to ensure that nonvisual access is not limited or compromised." The resolution further calls on Apple to "work actively to incorporate feedback from testers who use VoiceOver during the beta testing phase of software development to ensure that accessibility for blind individuals is properly and fully addressed."
If you knew only what was presented in that resolution, you would think that Apple was just another company who gave lipservice to accessibility, didn't really care, and just talked the talk to look good. A lot of other companies do it, after all.
But there is more to the story that the NFB, for whatever reason, doesn't appear to realize. In the course of my work with AppleVis, I've had the opportunity to provide very meaningful feedback directly to accessibility decision-makers at Apple. Everything I've seen suggests that Apple's Accessibility Team is a very dedicated group of professionals who really do want to deliver the best and most accessible products. All of my interactions suggest that accessibility really is a part of Apple's core (pun not intended), and that it isn't simply something talked about in the media every once in a while. Apple gets it, and they continually raise the bar that everyone else is measured by.
NFB Passes Resolution Calling Apple's Software Testing 'Inadequate', Seeking Changes
By AppleVis | July 2, 2016
Update, 7/4/2016, 3:25 PM CDT: Members of the National Federation of the Blind have just passed Resolution 2016-04. The resolution, Resolution 2016-04, calls on Apple to "make nonvisual access a major priority in its new and updated software by improving its testing of new releases to ensure that nonvisual access is not limited or compromised." The resolution further calls on Apple to "work actively to incorporate feedback from testers who use VoiceOver during the beta testing phase of software development to ensure that accessibility for blind individuals is properly and fully addressed."
At its annual convention, members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)—a United States organization of, for, and lead by blind people—are considering passage of a proposed resolution concerning accessibility bugs in Apple Software.
The proposed resolution, Resolution 2016-04, calls on Apple to "make nonvisual access a major priority in its new and updated software by improving its testing of new releases to ensure that nonvisual access is not limited or compromised." The resolution further calls on Apple to "work actively to incorporate feedback from testers who use VoiceOver during the beta testing phase of software development to ensure that accessibility for blind individuals is properly and fully addressed."
This Month in Podcasts
Audio Game Hub for iOS; 8 Experimental Audio Games to Challenge your Skills
The included games let you play in the casino, attend the medieval archery contest, escape the dark labyrinth, fight the finest samurai warriors and improve your memory at the animal farm.
The games are:
- Slot Machines
- Samurai Tournament
- Samurai Dojo
Introducing BeSpecular, an App That Enables the Blind to Receive Sighted Assistance Via Their iOS Device
In this podcast, Thomas Domville introduces us to BeSpecular, a new iOS app that enables the blind and vision-impaired to use the camera on their iOS device to seek assistance from BeSpecular’s community of sighted volunteers.
Using the BeSpecular app, you take one or more photos of what you need help with and attach a voice message detailing exactly what you would like to know.
The photos and question are sent to BeSpecular’s community of “sightlings”. Those sightlings who are available can reply via the BeSpecular app with a voice or text message. The recipient then rates out of 5 stars the helpfulness of the sightling.
A complete list of all podcasts posted to the AppleVis website in the past month can be found at www.applevis.com/podcasts