Posts filed under 'Improving Technologies'
For many years most major web browsers have had built-in text size controls. Although it is generally very useful, the feature has its limitations as some pages fall into an unreadable mess and some others fix their text to a certain size and won’t budge.
Internet Explorer 7 ships with a new feature called Page Zoom that magnifies the entire page up to 400%. This includes the text and graphics and leaves the layout intact. However it’s not all clear sailing as my article on web page magnification clearly illustrates.
The article also looks at the free PageZoom add-on for Firefox which attempts to provide a similar feature.
February 15th, 2007
Microsoft Anna is the new SAPI voice included with Windows Vista.
Anna replaces the robotic Microsoft Sam with a smoother, more realistic voice. She is included free with Windows Vista and should work in any program that uses the SAPI speech including Clicker 4 or 5, Writing With Symbols and the free text-to-speech programs such as Narrator, ReadPlease and Free NaturalReader.
Unfortunately Microsoft has no plans to make Anna available to users of Windows XP or any operating system other than vista.
You can listen to my sample of Microsoft Anna and visit the Text-To-Speech Section of the BLTT website.
February 12th, 2007
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!
January 23rd, 2007
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
January 9th, 2007
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.
January 7th, 2007
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.
January 6th, 2007