AppleVis Unlimited: What's New and Noteworthy for June 2017
Welcome to the June 2017 edition of AppleVis Unlimited, our monthly series which aims to highlight what's new and noteworthy on the AppleVis website. Below, you'll find a selection of the best content posted to AppleVis - from new app entries, to app updates, to the latest news and podcasts. 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
Actiview - Empowered Entertainment (iOS, Free)
Actiview is your all-in-one app for accessibility content at the movies!
When you go to an Actiview enabled movie theater, connect to the Wi-Fi and choose from the available services, including:
-Audio Description -Amplified Audio -Closed Captioning -Multi-language Captioning -Sign Language Interpretation
All of this content will be synced to the movie and streamed right to your device, no other setup required!
Current Version: 2.0.2 (June 16, 2017)
assistEyes GIF - Reaction GIFs for the Blind (iOS, Free With In-App Purchase)
Hey! My name is Nick, and I'm legally blind. If you're like me, you've noticed that most people love sending hilarious GIFs to each other all the time, and you find yourself feeling like you want to do the same. But you can't, because none of the GIF apps out there work with VoiceOver, so while you can randomly choose a GIF for some given hashtag or meme, you have no clue what content you're sending.
I built this app for myself, but I think you'll love it too.
assistEyes GIF is the first GIF app built specifically for the blind and visually impaired. Browse thousands of GIFs by hashtag or search, choose one, and send or copy it via standard iOS share sheet. And of course, they all include descriptive tags that are exposed to VoiceOver. What's more, you can also access the same fully accessible GIF library directly inside the iOS Messages app via the included iMessage app.
Current Version: 1.0.1 (June 9, 2017)
Blindfold Games (iOS, Free With In-App Purchases)
Kid Friendly Software has released the following new games this month:
Burn(t) (iOS, Free With In-App Purchase)
What if you had to survive in a zombie apocalypse? In this riveting interactive novel, you make the story. Save your parents? Or let them die… Alliances or murder? Its your choice, choose carefully or it’ll be your last.
Current Version: 1.1.0 (December 2, 2014)
Dark Defender (Mac, Free)
Dark Defender is my second game inspired by an old arcade. This time, as the name suggests (because my imagination is just that bad) this game is based off of Defender). Fleets of alien abductors are slowly invading planetoids inhabited by humans. Your task is to clear as many planetoids as you can of alien abductors and kill as many of their motherships as possible.
Current Version: Public Beta 1
Dolphin EasyReader (iOS, Free With In-App Purchase)
EasyReader is a FREE accessible reading app for readers with dyslexia, low vision or blindness. Browse & download from the World's largest collection of talking book and newspaper libraries. Or copy text from anywhere on your phone & hear EasyReader read it back to you. Experience perfectly synchronized text & audio. Or for text only titles, EasyReader can add a human sounding voice of your choice. Boost comfort or contrast - choose colours, text size and highlights to suit your visual needs.
EasyReader is fully optimized for use with iOS VoiceOver and iOS supported Braille displays.
EasyReader connects directly to World's largest collection of accessible book libraries with 100,000s of titles:
- Legimus (Sweden)
- Inläsningstjänst AB (Sweden)
- NLB (Norway)
- Nota (Denmark)
- Bookshare® (US)
- RNIB Bookshare (UK)
- CELA (Canada)
- Vision Australia (Australia)
- Passend Lezen (The Netherlands)
- Anderslezen (Belgium)
- SBS (Switzerland)
- KDD (Czech Republic)
- DZDN (Poland)
- ePubBooks (All languages, no login required)
- Project Gutenberg (All languages, no login required)
Current Version: 1.2 (June 27, 2017)
Aira (iOS, Free to Download but Requires Paid Subscription)
Aira offers an always-on service designed to help blind and low-vision users gain greater mobility and independence. By utilizing live video, audio and data streams, Aira provides personalized assistance from trained Aira Agents, family members, or friends. These agents, backed by state-of-the art technology, serve as visual interpreters, helping our users accomplish a wide range of daily tasks and activities.
Current Version: 1.8.1 (June 5, 2017)
MUDAbility (Mac, US$10)
Have you been searching for an accessible MUD client for the Mac? Well, iAccessibility is excited to announce that your wait is over. iAccessibility is proud to announce MUDAbility, an accessible MUD client for the Mac.
MUDAbility 1.1 is here and here is the full feature list.
- All output is spoken with system set text to speech.
- Words are spoken as typed so VoiceOver is not required.
- You can press command + 1 through command + 0 to hear the last 10 spoken items in the output.
- Rate is configurable through commands.
- We have added built in help to give instructions on what commands to type.
- Up and down arrows to select the most recently used commands.
- Control Key will stop and start speech.
Current Version: 1.1
Speech Central: Web Text to Speech (iOS, Free With In-App Purchase)
The first ever text to speech app to feature interactive web on the go. Users can interact with web sites and RSS feeds and pick articles to be read aloud by using headphones or Bluetooth hands-free. Listen to the internet and browse it without looking to the screen while commuting, walking, running, doing the housework or another activity and save an hour each day!
This way the app also makes the web much more accessible for people with eyesight disabilities or dyslexia.
Add a web article for reading from any app that can share a web site link (including any web browser) – just press the Share button in it and starting the speech or saving the text to be read aloud later is only a tap away.
The app is not just a reader of the internet content, you can import various text file formats to be read aloud - supported document types are: .docx, .pptx, .odt, .odp, .html, .txt, supported ebook formats are .epub, daisy and .fb2 and emails in .eml format. All those formats will work only if a document has no DRM.
Current Version: 2.6.7 (June 26, 2017)
VO Lab (iOS, US$7.99)
A great app to learn the basics of VoiceOver and get you on your way to using your iOS Device. VO Lab is an educational iPad game designed for people who are blind or have low vision to learn touch gestures and concepts of VoiceOver, Apple’s built-in screen reader on iOS Devices. The app is both entertaining and educational, and provides beginning learners of VoiceOver with opportunities to gain the required foundation skills to use the iPad or iPhone independently.
In the different levels of VO Lab you follow the instructions of a strange professor in his chemistry laboratory, in preparation of an experiment with fictional chemicals (producing amazing sounds).
VO Lab for iPad is self-voicing, with clear, spoken instructions and audio feedback. Because VoiceOver is not used, you can safely explore and develop VoiceOver touch gesture skills interactively, without the risk of unexpected and unwanted outcomes. Risk-free, hands-on learning in a gamified learning environment with fun sound effects: that’s what makes VO Lab a unique VoiceOver tutorial!
Current Version: 1.0.2 (April 29, 2017)
All recent app entries posted to AppleVis can be found at:
Notable App Updates
Seeing Eye GPS (iOS, Free Trial, Then Requires Paid Subscription)
The Seeing Eye, the pioneer in guide dogs, and Sendero Group, the pioneers of accessible GPS, have teamed up to create The Seeing Eye GPS™.
Almost 20 years of user feedback and feature requests are behind the design of all Sendero GPS products. The accessible features in The Seeing Eye GPS™ are only the beginning of what is yet to come as users help in evolving this first fully accessible GPS product for the iPhone.
The Seeing Eye GPS™ is a fully accessible turn-by-turn GPS iPhone app with all the normal navigation features plus features unique to blind users.
Unique to The Seeing Eye GPS™:
- Instead of multiple layers of menus, the three important navigation elements are on the lower portion of every screen: Route, POIs and Location.
- At intersections, the cross street and its orientation are announced.
- Intersections are described (e.g. four-way) with the clock face orientation of the streets.
- There are two choices for POI data (Google Places and Foursquare).
- Directions are configured appropriately for Pedestrian and Vehicle routes, including heads-up announcements for approaching turns, turn now, continue straight and upcoming turns.
- If one wanders off the route, it's automatically recalculated and updated turn information is announced.
- Point your phone in a given direction to hear what is nearby with the LookAround Wand.
- Nearby Points of interest and intersections are automatically announced.
- Ability to run in the background or with the screen locked for iOS 7. If you are running an older version of iOS 6 only the sound effects will play and the phone will vibrate at turns and at your destination but no speech output. Note: Continued use of GPS running in the background can dramatically decrease battery life.
Current Version: 3.0 (June 14, 2017)
Changes in Version 3.0
- Added Waypoint Routes, similar to Manual “Breadcrumb” routes that are in our other Sendero GPS products. All you have to do to create a Waypoint route is walk the route and the app will save points along the way. Waypoint routes are helpful when there are no street maps, as in a park or campus.
- Redesigned the Points of Interest user interface to make searching for POIs more streamlined. You can now use the Nearby POI Shortcut Gesture (double tap, hold and release on the POIs Menu button) or go to the POI Search Screen to search for a specific POI or a POI category. Unless you select a category, the search will be in All categories.
- If a POI search finds no results, in addition to expanding or cancelling the search, you can now select switch POI source. Your default POI Source will not change if you switch POI Sources for a POI search. You can set your default POI Source in General Settings.
- Added indoor navigation support, Beacons button on the POI screen, as part of our current federal grant from the National Institute of Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research. Beacon coverage is limited to a few locations in the US, UK, Germany and Turkey. We will be working to expand this coverage over the course of the grant, so stay tuned!
- Added Uber to Route type options. The app will send your location and destination to Uber so that you can schedule an Uber ride.
- Added an additional setting for the Shake sensitivity, you can now choose Hard, Medium or Off.
Twitter (iOS, Free)
Twitter is what’s happening in the world and what people are talking about right now. On Twitter, live comes to life as conversations unfold, showing you all sides of the story. From breaking news and entertainment to sports, politics, and everyday interests, when things happen in the world, they happen first on Twitter.
Current Version: 7.1 (June 23, 2017)
Changes in Version 7.0
Introducing a new look that makes Twitter feel easier to use.
- New side navigation menu allows you to quickly access your profile, accounts, settings, and privacy all in one place.
- Bolder headlines and rounded designs help you to identify and focus on what matters.
- Links to articles and websites now open in Safari’s in-app viewer, which makes it easier to access accounts you’ve signed into and allows access to Reader mode.
- New, intuitive icons make it easier to follow along and engage with Tweets.
- Tweets now update instantly with reply, Retweet, and like counts so that you can easily see conversations as they’re happening.
- Accessibility settings are now in a more prominent location. New settings are also available, such as increased color contrast and opening links in Reader View, to improve legibility and readability on some websites.
- You can now add filters and stickers on your profile pic to better express yourself.
Recent News and Views
Down to Earth: My First Hundred Days with AirPods
By Morgan | June 28, 2017
My mother used to claim I would lose my head if it were not screwed on. How I have suffered with that ancient rebuke. Dear Mother, I do not lose things. I simply store them in mysterious places.
In May of 2015, my wife and I invited our 27-year-old son to join us on our first trip to Paris. This vacation was especially important to me. I used to be somewhat fluent in the language, having studied French throughout junior high, high school and college. To my great pleasure, after landing in the City of Lights, I discovered that I had not lost my command of the language, and through some miracle, I had not lost anything else. My passport was still in my pocket, the Euros were still in my wallet, and my guide dog was still at the end of his leash.
I also managed to hang on to my iPhone. I did not lose it in the Catacombs, or atop the Eiffel Tower. I had it with me in the Louvre and in Notre Dame. I even replied to emails in quaint cafes and I used it to capture the magical sounds of a truly enchanting city.
And then, a few days into our Parisian adventure, we decided to take the Paris subway from our hotel to a fancy restaurant. We walked down the millions of steps into the tunnels and waited for the Metro train. My son and I agreed that his Mom should get on the train first so that we could most easily keep track of each other. It seemed like a great idea.
The train rolled in. The doors flew open. My wife stepped in. The doors closed. Richard and I were still on the platform. The grand plan was falling apart.
A Review of the O6, a Media/VoiceOver Controller for iOS
By mehgcap | June 26, 2017
What if I told you that you could have a tiny device you can use to control the music, audio books, or podcasts on your iPhone or iPad? Nice, right? No fumbling with on-screen buttons, no limited AirPod controls, no missing the rewind function on your AfterShokz headset. But what if I then told you that this same device can be a remote control for VoiceOver itself? That, without having to touch your screen, you can open and navigate apps, double tap, change the volume, even take a picture? Well, a new product says it can do all of this. It's called the O6, made by Fingertips Labs, and I've been using it for the last few weeks. I'm here to tell you what it is, what it isn't, and if you might benefit from getting your very own. Once you’re done with this review, or maybe even before you keep reading here, have a look at the O6 manual.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will say this up front. I was contacted by the makers of the O6, specifically a co-founder of Fingertips Labs named P.K. I was provided a free unit with one accessory (a belt clip) to test. This is a $118 USD value. However, the company stressed to me that they want honest feedback, not a promotional article. Though I was given a free review unit, I can assure you that this did not influence my evaluation in any way.
Exactly What Is It?
The O6 is a small, round device with just three controls on it. It is meant to offer basic media control or, in a different mode, basic VoiceOver gesture replacement. It connects via bluetooth, and is therefore easily kept in a pocket, on a table, clipped to a belt, or otherwise moved around. More than that, though, the O6 companion app is designed to give you easy, remote access to popular services. With the app and an O6 unit in hand, you can check email, Twitter, articles saved to Pocket, and other feeds without touching your iPhone or iPad. Keep reading, and this will make more sense.
Physically, the O6 is a round dial set on a non-moving, thin base the same diameter as the dial. Put another way, think of two small disks stacked atop one another; the top disk can rotate freely while the bottom disk stays fixed. In the center of the rotating dial is a button, and the whole dial can also be pressed in to act as a second button. Two buttons and a dial are the only controls the O6 offers. The vertical edges of the dial are ridged for easy grip, while the top face of the O6 is almost entirely covered in soft, grippy rubber. A rubber ring tactually separates the center button from the dial around it. The center button is also textured differently than the rubber on the face of the dial.
What I Learned the Day My Apple Watch Drowned
By mehgcap | June 26, 2017
I love my Apple Watch. That’s been true ever since I got one in early April of 2016. I wore it every single day, with no exceptions at all, for over a year. I hadn’t worn a watch in years, but as soon as I got my Apple Watch, I didn’t go any longer without it than I needed to. I took it off at night to charge, then put it on first thing the next morning, taking it off again only to shower. I love my Apple Watch.
The day our story begins was just two days ago, on June 24 of 2017. I upgraded from a first generation Watch to the Series 2 in early May, and have been doing lap swimming at a local pool four times a week since then. The Series 2 tracks my distance, time, heart rate, and other metrics, in addition to doing everything else I enjoy about the Apple Watch.
Anyway, I was swimming along, getting near the end of my workout, when there was an odd tugging on my left wrist. I ignored it, figuring I’d imagined it. A few strokes later and the sensation hadn’t gone away, so I paused and felt my wrist. To my shock, I felt something terribly wrong. The smooth glass of my Watch screen met my questing fingers, but as soon as I touched it, the glass moved. It shifted about, clicking against the metal of the Watch casing with a sound I still remember as being oddly loud in the water. Not knowing how bad the damage was, I swam to the wall of the pool with just my legs, holding the glass in place with my right hand.
As I took the Watch off in the locker room, I realized how hot it had gotten. I brought it close to my nose and smelled hot metal. It turns out the waterproofing of the Series 2 doesn’t work if the screen falls off. My Apple Watch was dead in the water. To make matters worse, I hadn’t stopped my swimming workout on the Watch before this happened, so I had no credit for my efforts. Worse still, I was on day 297 of my move streak, meaning I’d met or exceeded the calorie-burning goal on my Watch every day since September of 2016. To the software, though, a broken Watch is the same as a missing Watch or a lack of effort. Good bye, longest move streak ever. Maybe I’ll see you next year.
In an effort to look on the bright side, I thought I’d use the days I’m suddenly Watch-less to evaluate things. Is the Apple Watch truly important to me, or is my relationship with it built more on habit? Is using my phone for everything really worse, or do those who question the need for a Watch have a point? Because I’m me, I wanted to take my Apple-related misfortune and turn it into a blog post exploring these questions. Here we go. Oh, and don't worry: my free replacement will arrive tomorrow.
Ryan McLeod Wins Prestigious Apple Design Award for the Accessibility, Uniqueness, Game Play and Innovations of his iOS App, Blackbox
By AppleVis | June 7, 2017
Every year at its Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC), Apple celebrates and acknowledges through its Apple Design Awards the mobile and desktop apps which raise the bar in design, technology and innovation.
Presented in a ceremony that traditionally follows the WWDC keynote presentation, it was tremendous to see Ryan McLeod - developer of the iOS app Blackbox - think outside the box - winning one of these prestigious awards this year. The award was cited by Apple as recognition of Blackbox being "fully accessible, and offering unique and ingenious gameplay, deep iOS integration, and clever innovations".
According to Apple’s own report on the 2017 Design Awards, Blackbox is:
... a refreshingly stimulating, engrossing, and clever puzzle game that breaks through the “fourth wall” of iPhone to take you beyond the screen and make your world a part of each solution. Designed and developed by one person, Blackbox was chosen as an Apple Design Award winner for being fully accessible, and offering unique and ingenious gameplay, deep iOS integration, and clever innovations. Blackbox offers puzzles that rely on minimalistic clues, deliberate movement, elegant animations, and visual cues to expand creative thinking and encourage players to solve puzzles by turning, shouting, clicking, snapping, and more. It is fully accessible, taking a highly visual interface designed to be navigated by touch and and other sensory inputs, and adding a brilliant sonic interface that enables a new world of gameplay for everyone. It uses haptics for sensory feedback to make puzzles more personal, nuanced, and tactile, and relies heavily on the iPhone’s camera, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer to enable sensory inputs. Additionally, by using CoreAudio, CoreLocation, Core Telephony, AVCaptureSession, iCloud, and GameCenter in novel ways, this app takes advantage of an enormous range of iOS technologies. Blackbox challenges the player's ingenuity and creativity through innovative presentation and unique interactions. The result is a game that is impressively clever and unlike anything we’ve played before.
A Preview of New Accessibility Features Set to Come Later this Year in iOS 11, watchOS 4, tvOS 11 and macOS 10.13 High Sierra
By AppleVis | June 7, 2017
At its annual Worldwide Developer's Conference this week, Apple previewed some of the new features coming to its iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS platforms later this year. At this point, it's worth noting that this software is still in beta form, and not all features--particularly, the specifics of how they will be implemented--are finalized. With that said, below is what Apple has told us will be coming for users of accessibility features:
- Enhanced Dynamic Type: Text now grows to larger sizes especially designed for users with low vision, and app UIs adapt to accommodate those sizes.
- Redesigned Invert Colors: While using Invert Colors, media content and images won't invert with the rest of the screen making them easier to view
- VoiceOver descriptions for images: With images, three finger tap to have VoiceOver describe what's there. VoiceOver can detect text that's embedded in an image, even if it hasn't been annotated. Or it can also tell you whether a photo contains a tree, a dog, or four faces with smiles.
- Expanded Braille Editing: Using a Braille display with Apple devices--now including Apple TV--is easier than ever. Your display shows you the text you're editing in context, and your edits are seamlessly converted between Braille and printed text. You can also customize the actions that your Braille display performs on your Apple device by programming new keyboard commands.
- Spoken/Brailled Captions for videos: Delivers closed caption content orally or in Braille to provide additional context for VoiceOver users
- Improved PDF support including access to forms: Tagged PDFs now receive support for reading detailed information such as tables and lists
- Type to Siri for Accessibility: Supports basic search queries for those who prefer to type to interact with their device
- Highlight Colors in Speak Selection and Speak Screen: You can now customize the colors that your iOS device uses when highlighting text with Speak Selection and Speak Screen.
- Switch Control typing: It's easier than ever to type with Switch Control. Get access to more predictions, so that you can scan and type whole words at a time.
- Additional closed captioning style: Video captions now include the option of a new larger, outlined style for subtitles and captions.
- Additional audit capabilities in Xcode’s Accessibility Inspector: Apple’s powerful Accessibility auditing tool, the Accessibility Inspector built into Xcode, now has capabilities to help developers find Large Text bugs in iOS applications.
Additionally, users will now be able to add and organise some of what's displayed in Control Center. Among the items which you will be able to add are:
- Accessibility Shortcut
- Guided Access
- Text Size
The Siri voice has been enhanced to sound more "natural". At this time we do not know if any VoiceOver TTS voices have also been improved; or if there are new voice options.
Summary of the WWDC 2017 Keynote
By mehgcap | June 6, 2017
Welcome Back to WWDC
It doesn't feel like a whole year since I covered a WWDC keynote, but it really has been that long. Now we're back here again, reviewing what Apple announced at this year's keynote event. Did Apple reveal a Siri-based smart speaker? A new set of Macs? New iPads? What's in the upcoming macOS, iOS, and other software? Well, I'm here to give you all the highlights so you don't have to watch the full video (though you can if you want to.
I'm really pumped about a lot of this year's announcements, and I can't wait to share everything with you.
Apple announced updates to watchOS, macOS, and iOS today. tvOS for the Apple TV 4 got a brief mention, but it was mostly to tell us that Amazon Prime Video will be coming to the platform this fall, at long last. The other software categories were covered in much more detail, so I'll tackle them in their own sections below.
Yo, Human! Call Four Assistants: Accessing Life with Adaptive Technology
By Nicholas | June 1, 2017
Digital Assistants are becoming standard in most modern homes. They are available on most devices and computers in some form. They are gradually working more and more together as an environment. Looking ahead to the future, I can not yet tell if we are heading towards Star Trek or more towards the Jetsons. With all these 'currently fringe' technologies beginning to overlap, I hope the future focus remains on accessing life, as well as the technology. With this in mind, I thought a more light-hearted post might be appropriate. And just in case, make sure your conveyor belt has the latest updates. :-)
Just for fictional fun. A not so far-fetched spoof and a small tribute, simultaneously.
Me: (to iPad) Siri?
Bink, Yes Nicholas? Me: Who is that IP?
Bink, I'm not sure. Should I run a 'WHOIS,' on the net? Me: Okay, thank you.
This Month in Podcasts
Creating Ringtones with iTunes for Mac
In this podcast, Jessica Karim demonstrates how to create a ringtone using iTunes for Mac-as well as how to sync that ringtone to an iOS device.
A Walk-Through and Demo of Dark Defender for Mac
In this podcast Piotr Machacz gives us a demonstration of Dark Defender, a free Mac game inspired by an old arcade game in which fleets of alien abductors are slowly invading planetoids inhabited by humans. Your task is to clear as many planetoids as you can of alien abductors and kill as many of their motherships as possible.
Game Review: BlackBox for iOS
App Store Description:
Frustrating, fun, and full of surprises… There’s more to Blackbox than meets the eye. Can you find all the meta challenges?
HINTS: Every challenge has been tuned to be on the cusp of maddening but always solvable. Some challenges take time, perseverance, and perspective to understand, but if you’re really stumped rest assured there are hints. To enjoy the game to it’s fullest, only use them as a last resort!
LEVEL PACKS: Blackbox is jam-packed with 50 free challenges. Get far enough and you'll get the option to pay to unlock more advanced challenges and support the game's future development (and keep it ad free)!
A complete list of all podcasts posted to the AppleVis website can be found at www.applevis.com/podcasts