WordLens is a new iPhone app that can be used to recognize text within graphics and translate it (just Spanish->English and English->Spanish for now). Because this uses optical character recognition, we wonder if the technology could also be used to address the inaccessibility of bitmapped text on Web pages by capturing text and relaying it to a speech output program instead of a translator.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) tested support for HTML5 among commonly-used browsers, and found that Internet Explorer 9 does the overall best job. However, these results are not entirely consistent with the accessibility-focused review of HTML5 being done by the Paciello Group (which gives the nod to the current Firefox beta), and some accessibility items seem to not be covered in the W3C testing. La luta continua.
Small-footprint CCTV-type devices are blooming all over to provide people with visual disabilities magnified or audio access to product labels. However, this may be an involved process, especially if the labels are located in odd places–no one wants to be crawling all over a mattress, for example, just to get a shot of the “Do not remove under penalty of having bedbugs sprinkled in your hair” tag. Enter Directions For Me, a website that lists the product label information for food, health and beauty products, and a miscellaneous set of other consumables. This lets anyone pull up relevant product information on a smartphone or tablet during or even before their shopping trip. Buyer paradise? Well, yes, if Horizons for the Blind, the sponsoring non-profit, has continued funding to add, modify, or delete information on a regular basis. Fingers firmly crossed.
The first commercial app is now available for the Kindle: a uniplayer version of Scrabble. Can it be used with Kindle’s voice output capabilities? Now that there’s a precedent, will there be other apps that take advantage of Kindle voice output? Will Larry Wanger’s article on Kindle accessibility affect the number of blind users who even buy one? Tune in tomorrow…
Skimming through a review of the upcoming Internet Explorer 9 release, we saw some changes that might be problematic for assistive technology users. For example: “All but the most essential interface elements in the browser have been removed or hidden in IE9, by default.” (Is there a clear way to get them back so users don’t have to go through a long learning curve?) “Warnings and dialog boxes no longer pop up and demand your attention. Instead, notifications and action buttons appear in a discreet bar along the bottom of the window, where you can address them at your convenience. (Will screen readers pick up on this? Will it be too subtle for people with low vision? Is indiscretion still an option?) “The most useful innovation in IE9 is the introduction of what Microsoft calls pinned shortcuts….you open a website in an IE9 tab, then drag its icon from the address bar (or drag the tab itself) onto the Taskbar, where it’s pinned just like a program.” (Any way to do this without dragging?) Fingers crossed that some of this will have been addressed, or at least documented, by the release date.
Coding kvetch: A perusal of the Apple Developer notes for designing websites to be compatible with the iPad shows that one of the guidelines discourages exclusive use of mouse-specific event handlers such as mouseover and mouseout. Instead, they encourage use of Safari-specific DOM Touch events. Would it be possible for us to all get along on a universal scale by using hardware- and browser-independent event handlers such as onfocus and onblur?
Project Gutenberg is a long-standing project that transfers out-of-copyright books into electronic text formats–usually classic fiction, but there are some oddball gems scattered in as well. Now comes word that some fraction of these titles will be available through the iBooks store for iPad users from the get-go, presumably compatible with the built-in VoiceOver screen reader. So for the first time, people who are blind or have learning disabilities will be able to access The Story of Crisco at the same time as everyone else.