Archive for January, 2007

Better Vista for People with Low Vision

You’re about to start hearing a whole lot about Windows Vista. It’s Microsoft’s $10 billion replacement to Windows XP and from the end of January it will start appearing on all new computers.

I’m writing a whole separate website to deal with issues surrounding Vista’s Accessibility – more on that later.

In the meantime I thought I should announce that the vector-scaling mentioned in this article on my website has, in fact, appeared in the final release Windows Vista (albeit it not to the extent that I would have liked). Essentially the DPI of the whole screen can be scaled to ‘magnify’ the text and graphics (such as icons) with the effect occuring after a brief restart. Because the graphics are vectors instead of bitmaps there are no signs of pixellation or blurring.

It’s a little like changing the screen’s resolution – but better!

Add comment January 23rd, 2007

Askability Symbol Supported Site

AskAbility is a new pictorial website from the Children’s Society. It relays current affairs to children in an accessible manner and has a central forum for children to express their views.

The articles are written in a simple, accessible style and are fully symbol-supported making much of the content appropriate for adults with learning difficulties.

The symbols were provided by Widgit Software who have had success with their own SymbolWorld website leading to an increasing interest in the use of symbols on the web.

AskAbility, askability.org.uk

Add comment January 16th, 2007

Robot Controlled by Brain


From the Neural Systems Group at the University of Washington:

We have developed a non-invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) that allows a user to command a humanoid robot to pick up objects and bring it to specific locations. A humanoid robot can use sophisticated robotics and computer vision techniques to explore the environment, discover possible objects and interactions, and interact with the objects selected by a user. In this way, a simple BCI-based selection interface can enable a user to perform significantly complex actions.

It seems impressive to be able to control so many complex robotic movements using brain-computer interface alone. Unfortunately my understanding is that the BCI is only used to decide which of the two blocks the robot should pick up. This is done through a scanning program similar to one-switch scanning.

Further information about the processes involved are available on their website.

Neural Systems Group, http://neural.cs.washington.edu/

1 comment January 15th, 2007

Me! Conference

Thursday 18th and Friday 19th January 2007
The Multimedia and E-Learning conference is taking place at the RIX Centre in the University of East London. It’s a two day participatory event focussing on inclusion for people with learning difficulties through the use of multimedia technology for information, advocay and learning.

The event will bring together people with learning disabilities, their social carers and teachers, alongside multimedia developers, policy makers and researchers.

I’m giving a talk in the morning of the first day on the use and benefits of assistive technology. In the afternoon I’m running an exciting workshop where attendees will be able to get some hands-on experience of the sorts of activities that AT makes accessible to people with a range of physical and cognitive difficulties.

Tickets can be booked online.

The RIX Centre, www.rixcentre.org

Add comment January 11th, 2007

Using Form Fields in Word

Microsoft Word’s form fields feature allows you to make great accessible worksheets and cloze procedure activities for students who struggle to use a pencil.

This tutorial takes you step-by-step through the process of making these activities.

Better Living Through Technology tutorial: Using Form Fields in Word

Add comment January 10th, 2007

The Grid 2

Sensory Software have released the long-awaited update to this popular access and communication tool. The Grid 2 builds upon the successful innovative features found in the original version of The Grid.

Demo CDs are now available from Sensory Software.

Read more about The Grid 2 on bltt.org

Sensory Software, http://www.sensorysoftware.com

Add comment January 9th, 2007

Novint Falcon 3D Haptic Mouse

Novint Falcon 3D Haptic MouseThis unsual alternative to the mouse has been described as a floating doorknob on a 3-way axis.This completely alternative way of controlling the pointer could be more accessible for people with physical or even cognitive difficulties.

The device has force feedback which I have observed in the past can help some users get to grips with the cause and effect issues of using any pointing device.

Only careful assessment and trial will decide whether this will be useful for people with disabilities.
Novint Flacon, http://www.novintfalcon.com

Add comment January 8th, 2007

Flash 9 Supports Full-Screen Mode

The Internet is providing us with an increasing number of free games embedded into web pages using the Flash format. The simplicity of these games makes them suitable for pupils with physical and/or learning difficulties.

However many of the games run in small boxes within a web page making them unnecesarily more difficult to access: the games can be too small to see, targets too small to click on and the other content on the page can be distracting.

The recent release of the free Flash Player 9 plugin now allows these games, and other Flash content such as videos, to be run full-screen. The option can be activated by right-clicking on the Flash content and selecting ‘Go Full-Screen’ from the context menu. A switch-accessible button could also be programmed on to some activities.

It may take time for many sites to catch up with this new feature, and some may decide not allow the feature at all. Currently full-screen mode is available mostly to video content and an example can be seen here in the BBC Motion Gallery.

The update should allow popular programs such as Inclusive Technology’s SwitchIT Series to be broadcast over the Internet and could possibly lead to a subscription approach to switch gaming and activities.

Some games are also available at near-full-screen by making the browser window as large as possible. Examples include the Incusive Technology switch-accessible games found on the BBC Cbeebies website.

Add comment January 7th, 2007

New Clicker 5.2 Patch

Crick Software have released a patch for Clicker 5 that allows it to work alongside the new Internet Explorer 7. This is an important patch since Windows upgrades to Internet Explorer 7 automatically, stopping Clicker 5 from working at all.

According the the Crick website, the Clicker 5.2 patch includes the following improvements:

  • Speech enhancements – even better speech, with the facility to change pronunciations.
  • Sorting – automatic alphabetic sorting of pop-up word banks, and an optional sorting tool for all grids.
  • Pop-up word banks – your word bank will automatically open at the correct letter if you have started typing a word.
  • Prediction – built-in support for Penfriend word prediction.
  • Clicker Writer – addition of Undo button and more formatting tools.
  • Internet Explorer 7 support – if you upgrade to Internet Explorer 7, you must upgrade to Clicker version 5.2.

You should download the free update from the Crick Software website.

Add comment January 6th, 2007


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