Being able to “read” a book or magazine is so often taken for granted. However, individuals with any type of print disability or visual impairment have to compensate somehow to do this simple thing. Thankfully, there are services like what is offered at Bookshare.org for those users. Bookshare is a website and service specializing in offering books, textbooks and periodicals to users who are visually impared or have print disabilities. They call themslves “An accessible online library for people with print disabilities” and that is an apt description.
I first learned about Bookshare from my counselor at the Division for Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) and am very thankful to have found them. Once I provided the documentation that they required of my print disability and paid the annual membership fee ($50), I got access to their entire catalog. As of this writing, they have over 364,000 titles in all genres of books along with many magazine and even a large number of daily newspapers. Users can download and read the materials in a large number of ways. These include reading via smartphones and tablets through apps, on a computer through the website or for those who need braille materials, they can download to braille displays or to print. I personally use the Go Read app on my Android tablet and the Read2Go app on my iPad to access the books that I want. The best thing about the service is the sheer volume and quality of the selection of books. I very rarely encounter a book that I cannot find in their catalog. Bookshare is able to get materials into their catalog either by volunteer users who scan in and create files for the service, or through agreements with publishers who provide their materials directly to Bookshare.
Bookshare also excels in offering materials for students with print disabilities, offering free memberships for students who meet the requirements. To have free access to such a large, comprehensive library would be a huge boost to students with accessibility needs.
Look for future posts reviewing the individual apps that have access to Bookshare’s catalog of materials as they are all good, but some are better at certain things than others.
Like many families, we love family board game night. You know what I mean, that one night where you all get together around the table and play your favorite board games. It might be Ticket to Ride, the Game of Life or a favorite for the little ones like Chutes and Ladders. Whichever game it is, it’s an important tradition because it means we are together, having fun.
Unfortunately, as someone who is visually impaired, board games are not easy for me. I constantly have to get my magnifier out to read something, or ask for someone to point out something else and it just isn’t as fun as I’d like it to be. Fortunately, there is a company trying to do something about that. 64 Ounce Games is a company that makes accessibility kits for many popular board games just for gamers who are sight limited or even completely blind. The kits often include board overlays with braille printed on them and transparent card sleeves with braille printed on them to allow players to read the cards. The kits do require some initial assembly and knowledge of braille to use.
What an exciting idea and one that will surely help many board game fans that have had to give up their favorites due to their sight. For more information, check out this great blog post on Geek and Sundry or visit the 64 Ounce Games website and store.
I’ve loved to read comic books for a very long time. I enjoy the medium as a unique way to tell a story with speech balloons, thought bubbles, panels and art. But besides all that, I love super heroes and one of the biggest players in the comic book sandbox in Marvel Comics. Some of my favorite characters and stories come from Marvel including the X-Men, Daredevil, She-Hulk and Thor. So naturally, when Marvel released a subscription service, I was pretty excited.
Longform App Review
This Internet age that we now live in, promotes reading in quick, bite-sized posts, blogs and articles. It seems that in many ways, long for journalism has gone the way of the dodo. Then, I came across the website, longform.org, which curates and pulls in articles from all over the web that are longer in nature than your standard Internet posts. These articles come from highly respected sites like The Atlantic, National Geographic, The Verge and Sports Illustrated among others. The app, Longform, serves as a very feature rich reader application for all of this great content. More
Another great site that focuses on the world of digital publishing, Good eReader is equal parts eBooks, eReaders, gadgets and news, updated with several posts a day so I always find something new to read. They also have video reviews and a radio show to round out their offerings. Highly recommend that you add them to your regularly visited sites list.
Computer monitors in larger sizes can be quite expensive. They tend to be very high resolution and you end up paying for that pixel density at the cash register. However, not everybody needs their 24 inch monitor to be able display 3 point text with razor sharp precision when zoomed in at 300 percent. Some of us can't even read 3 point text because it is simply too tiny. There is another option for those of us who want a larger monitor for our computer but don't need retina display level resolution. Buy a 1080p HDTV to be your monitor instead.
Typically, you can get even a screen as small as 24 inches with 1080p for far less than a computer monitor and it will provide plenty of resolution for your computer needs. As a side bonus, it can serve as a TV when you aren't computing. Personally, I use two 32 inch TVs as my monitors and have been very happy with the results. I paid $179 for my most recent one which I use with a Mac mini via the HDMI connection. While it can't display at ridiculous resolutions, 1080p is plenty for my eyes.
Keep this in mind when making your next monitor purchase.
For the last couple of years the National Library Service offers audiobooks for download via their BARD website that can be downloaded to play on provided digital players. This was a boon to visually impaired clients because they no longer had to use the cassette tape players, nor did they have to request cassettes and wait for them to arrive in the mail. However, with the popularity of smartphones and tablets, it was only a matter of time before an app would be created and released. BARD Mobile is that app and it has been released for iOS devices running at least iOS 5.
The app works pretty well, allowing any book to be downloaded to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad for later playback. The interface for downloading new books is a little clunky, requiring books to be on your Wish List before being available for download. There is no built in Search function for new books, other than through a link in the app to the BARD website. Playback is very similar to the standalone digital players so it should feel quite familiar to BARD clients with the hardware.
All in all, a huge step forward for visually impaired users and I look forward to future developments and for it to be released on the Android platform.
Google Glass offers intriguing technology that is surely to evolve and eventually, change how some of us live our lives. One such possibility, is to perhaps assist those with visual impairments. I came across this video showing two such projects, utilizing Google Glass to help those with visual impairment function safely in unfamiliar environments and to answer questions.
What is most exciting to me is that this is after just a few short months of Google Glass being in the hands of these developers. What will the future hold?
Part of the OpenGlass project (http://openglass.us/)
The biggest downside up to this point to Android for me has been the lack of systemwide screen zoom/magnification. Apple’s iOS has had it forever and has made the iPad my go to tablet for all sorts of tasks, including reading magazines with the small text that goes with it. Android has always lagged behind iOS in this accessibility feature, until now.
The latest Android Jelly Bean release, 4.2, includes zoom/magnification at the system level for the first time. This makes me very happy and is honestly, a game changer for those with sight limitations.
To access this feature, go to your system settings and select “Accessibility/”
You will now see an option labeled “Magnification gestures.” Select this and click the toggle switch to “On.” Included on this screen are the instructions for using this new feature. In iOS, you use a three finger tap on the screen. Now in Android, you tap the screen three times and this activates the feature. You can pinch and zoom to increase or decrease magnification and to pan the screen, you drag the screen with two or more fingers to move around. Triple tap the screen to turn off the zoom completely.
If you have any interest in the world of e-books, electronic publishing, e-readers and even libraries, teleread.com is a great site to visit. We especially love their coverage of the latest e-readers that are hitting the market, accessibility and the fact that there are new posts everyday to check out. You can be sure that you will see some of their stories linked here on techdecoded.com.