Friday, August 27, 2010

Comparing iPads, Netbooks, and Auggies for AAC Use

Comparing iPads, Netbooks, and Auggies for AAC Use: "

ipad-heldRJ Cooper has put together two very helpful pages for people thinking about purchasing an iPad for use as an AAC device.

The first page compares an iPad with RJ Cooper’s own “Auggie” device, the second compares an iPad and a Netbook.

Girl holding a black leather case with a shoulder strap

RJ Cooper's daughter models his iPad case with shoulder strap

I think his comparison pages are great and can certainly very helpful for people deciding what device to purchase, but I do have a few comments about the comparison tables:

  • Contrary to what RJ wrote, the iPad can be used with a stylus. It needs to be a stylus (such as the Pogo brand) which is designed for use with iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch type devices, but there are many of these on the market now. We have discussed stylus and mouth stick users previously on ATMac.

  • RJ writes that the menu button (the “Home” button on the iPad’s front) is too accessible. I agree completely, but note that this is easily remedied in many cases by adapting the case you have the iPad in, reversing the iPad in its case (so the home button is not exposed) or covering the button with a piece of plastic. I have a forthcoming video article on this topic which will display these solutions in action.

  • The keyboard is listed as “On-screen or keyboard dock and Apple keyboard”. The keyboard dock has a built-in Apple keyboard and is one option. An Apple bluetooth (wireless) keyboard is another option, but in fact the iPad will work fine with virtually any standard Bluetooth keyboard (one that doesn’t need a driver loaded on your computer before it works). With the Apple brand bluetooth keyboard there are a few additional functions available via the keyboard’s function keys, but other than that any brand of bluetooth keyboard is fine.

  • Web page capability is listed as “Standard pages only” which is quite vague. Any web page will work fine except that pages with Flash or Silverlight content won’t load the Flash/Silverlight sections. None of the web sites I regularly visit have any Flash/Silverlight content except for advertisements (and I’m happy the ads don’t load!) so I have never found this a problem, but if there are web pages that you must be able to access through the device it’s worth trying these out on an iPad when you visit your local Apple store just to make sure they’re OK.

RJ Cooper has some other pages you might find useful also:

Making Pointer Work On The iPad has a technique similar to that previously described in our article Accessing the iPad: Mouthsticks and Styluses. The theory behind the two was the same, but Paul’s implementation here was less bulky and having the foil at the end means the end of the pointer was still rounded. If you have access to conductive foam (your local electronics store can probably help), a third option was discussed on LifeKludger’s article DIY Touchscreen Stylus using Conductive foam.

RJ Sells an iPad Carry Case in black and red, it’s a sturdy leather case with a shoulder strap - perfect for AAC users. I’d love to have one of these to carry my own iPad in!

The iPad Bumper Case is perfect for attaching the iPad to mounting devices in a removable fashion, and the Bumper Case provides a little more protection to the device also.

The iPad Speaker is a small battery-powered bluetooth speaker which can easily be attached to the iPad’s back, or to a stand or the outside of a case and significantly boosts the iPad’s volume. Again, perfect for AAC users.

RJ also offers an iPad Stand perfect for positioning the iPad on a table, desk, or wheelchair tray, and an a small mounting arm available in articulating and non-articulating versions and very adaptable for use as an iPad Mount.

If you’re an iPad AAC user, or a parent/supporter/teacher of such, what accessories do you use?

– Ricky Buchanan

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This article was originally published at 'Comparing iPads, Netbooks, and Auggies for AAC Use' and is copyright (C) Ricky Buchanan 2010. Please do not republish without permission.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

QuickAdvice: Dragon Search Goes Medical

QuickAdvice: Dragon Search Goes Medical: "

QuickAdvice: Dragon Medical Mobile Search

Dragon Medical Mobile Search by Nuance Communications icon

Dragon Medical Mobile Search (Free) by Nuance Communications is the third in Nuance’s series of iPhone applications, this time aiming strictly at the medical field. Those that are in the medicinal field can appreciate Nuance’s mobile medical search.

When the app is first launch, you’ll have to accept the user agreement (I’ve attached an important part of the terms that you may want to take a look at in the screenshots) before you can do anything. Basically, Nuance can collect and use the Speech Data in this app to help enhance the speech recognition in this service as well as others.

Once you accept the agreement, you can optionally register your copy of the app as well, providing your name and email, and some information about your profession in the field (though these are completely optional and I skipped them, since I’m not in the field).

Dragon Medical Mobile Search by Nuance Communications screenshot

Now that we’re past these required steps, it’s time to put Nuance’s well-acclaimed dictation service to work. Simply tap and speak a medical term into the app. It will automatically detect when you are done talking, and begin fetching results. This screen will also contain the latest search history at the bottom, with an option to clear.

Dragon Medical Mobile will pull up results from several popular sources for medicinal info: Google, Medscape, IMO,, and Medline. You can access stuff like drug-to-drug interaction information, medications, ICD-9 code lookups, and anything else medical related. You can scroll through these sources with the horizonal tool bar at the top. If a search query isn’t correct, you can also tweak it until you get the right results.

Links can be viewed directly on the screen, with more browser-like options when viewing Google results. For Google results, you can also open in Safari or copy the link.

I found that the speech recognition is pretty spot on most of the time, although it seems to have some difficulty with differentiating letter sounds that are similar, such as ‘b’ and ‘p’ and ‘v’. So for terms like that, unless you can get it perfectly, it may take several tries before it will finally recognize what you’re actually looking for. But for everything else, the result should be accurate and instant.

Dragon Medical Mobile Search by Nuance Communications screenshot

Once again, Nuance Communications has another excellent app on their hands, although this one is much more narrowly tailored. But if you’re working in the medicinal field and want something to aid you on-the-fly with great speech recognition, then this is definitely a great choice. It’s simply a great pocket companion for you while on the job in case you need to reference something or get a refresher on a condition.

This is pretty much the same as Dragon Search, except for medical info. Nuance Communications claims that this app is free for a limited time only, despite their other apps being free since the beginning.

Who knows how long this app will remain free, so if you need it, grab it now!

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iPad Assistive Technology/Disability Round-Up

iPad Assistive Technology/Disability Round-Up: "

An iPadThere have been a lot of articles on a lot of websites about accessibility and the iPad since the specifications were first released. Now that our USA readers and bloggers have begun to get their hands on the devices there are even more articles being written, and I’m sure more will follow as the 3G enabled devices are released in the USA and both models become available in other countries starting on May 28th. As an assistive technology enthusiast and disabled blogger, it’s fantastic to see so much interest in the non-mainstream uses of these devices!

The iPad And Vision Impaired Users

ipad-heroThe “Booked” blog from mainstream has written Apple’s iPad Brings Easy Reading to the Blind which may help explain to able-bodied people who so many blind users are excited about the iPad.

Mac-cessibility has written about the iPad’s use for those who will use its VoiceOver screen reader in a series of articles entitled “A First Look At The iPad”:

AccessWorld, a publication of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), has published a great article by Bradley Hodges about his first 24 Hours with the iPad.

The Mac-cessibility round table podcast special episode #5 discusses the iPad.

UNC’s Brian Payst, in the Stuff blog has written about the iPad for blind users, particularly thinking of students, in The iPad And Accessibility and The iPad And Accessibility, Round 2.

The RNIB in the UK published first impressions of the iPad’s accessibility (curiously, only available as a Word document) by a partially sighted user and a blind user.

The iPad and Deaf Users

The blog (which, by the way, has a new layout and a new editor) has published several posts about the iPad too:

The iPad And Mobility Impaired Users

Jane Vincent from Access On Main St (I think this is a cool blog name!) has written about the iPad as environmental control unit, and about possible problems with multi-fingure or multi-hand gestures in iPad Gives Users More Than One Finger.

The iPad And Communication Impaired Users

ipad-heldKati, a frequent commenter here, has just pre-ordered her iPad. She plans to use The iPad As An Affordable AAC Solution for herself, as an adult with Ataxia.

Glenda from Do It Myself Blog has just bought herself an iPad while on a trip to America for a blogging conference. She reported:

My friend Hope was having trouble figuring out what I was saying and she asked, “Where’s your iPad?” In that moment, I felt a sense of normalcy and acceptance. Using an iPad, which could become as commonplace as the Blackberry and iPhone, is not yet another thing that makes me different. I wasn’t using a strange, unfamiliar device to communicate with this group. People were drawn to it because it was a “recognized” or “known” piece of technology rather than being standoff-ish with an unknown communication device.

How fantastic! You can read her excellent review here: The iPad as an Affordable Communicator: Initial Review.

Other iPad Information

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox released their First Findings From iPad Usability User Testing. Their findings are preliminary but disappointing:

iPad apps are inconsistent and have low feature discoverability, with frequent user errors due to accidental gestures. An overly strong print metaphor and weird interaction styles cause further usability problems.

Hopefully iPad app developers will take these findings into account when developing future apps.

Glenn Fleischman at TIDBits reported that the iPad Camera Connection Kit’s USB adapter works with USB headphones and headsets. At almost the same time, TUAW noted that at least some USB keyboards work on the iPad via the USB adapter too, although keyboards only work after displaying an error message. Since neither of these functions are officially supported by Apple they may stop working with any iPad upgrade, but for the moment they seem to be fine.

If you’re willing to jailbreak your iPad (and thus void your warranty), you can also enable iPad voice commands and use a Magic Mouse with your iPad which have major accessibility implications. Unfortunately, Jailbreaking has been known to break devices in un-fixable ways though, so any of these things are definitely “at your own risk”.

iPad Assistive Technology Accessories

It’s also worth noting that as well as the huge range of general-audience cases, speakers, mounts, and stands for the iPad there are some specifically chosen for their accessibility potential. RJ Cooper has made available a great set of accessibility-friendly accessibilities for iPad users:

Apple themselves have a keyboard dock available for the iPad and its keyboard has some keys that interact with the iPad specifically, as described in iLounge’s iPad Keyboard Dock Review, but there is no full keyboard control or anything near it but The Apple Blog has a complete list of known iPad hardware keyboard commands which work with the bluetooth keyboard and are better than nothing.

Other Commentary

Suzanne from Abled Body pointed out the lack of accessibility about the iPad’s keynote announcement and other accessibility deficiencies about the launch which really are inexcusable. If Apple’s going to be promoting accessibility of its devices then accessibility of its web pages really is important too.

Have you read, or written, other articles about the iPad and how it could be used for a person with a disability? Contact me or leave a comment and I’ll add your article to the list!

- Ricky Buchanan

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This article was originally published at 'iPad Assistive Technology/Disability Round-Up' and is copyright (C) Ricky Buchanan 2010. Please do not republish without permission.

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ShapeWriter - iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad Typing Without Lifting Your Finger

ShapeWriter - iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad Typing Without Lifting Your Finger: "

Icon for ShapeWriterShapeWriter lets you write on the iPhone and iPod Touch by tracing your finger over the keys you want on the keyboard, and using smart prediction to do the rest. It also features automatic spacing and capitalisation, and the ability to add new words and acronyms just by typing them once. It’s difficult to explain the technique in words, so I suggest you watch this video:

ShapeWriter comes in three versions in the iTunes App Store, all compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

ShapeWriter is free and features:

  • Basic note taking using ShapeWrite gesture keyboard

  • Automatic spacing and capitalisation

  • Case key for cycling through all possible capitalisation cases

  • Highlight/selection by double tap or sliding over text

  • Command strokes (e.g. Cmd-c-o-p for copy)

  • Automatic correction of common misspellings

  • Support for English input only

  • Practice game and competitive scoreboard posting

ShapeWriter Lite costs US$2.99 and also features:

  • Use ShapeWriter for sending and replying to email

  • Backup all notes via email

  • Rearrange notes order manually

ShapeWriter Pro costs US$7.99 and features all of the above plus:

  • Landscape mode and orientation lock

  • Sorting notes in any order (by date, title)

  • Background grid on/off switch

  • Customisable fonts

  • Customisable notes colours

  • Notes password protection

  • Notes content search

  • SMS texting support (on iPhone only)

  • Support for French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Swedish inputs

You can upgrade from one version to another using in-app purchases to save cost, if you already have one of the paid versions.

ShapeWriter is also available for Android, Windows Mobile, and Tablet PC devices.

Website: ShapeWriter

- Ricky Buchanan

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Japanese researchers develop robotic wheelchair that can follow humans

Japanese researchers develop robotic wheelchair that can follow humans: "

We've already seen robotic wheelchairs designed to navigate autonomously, but it looks like some researchers at Saitama University's Human-Robot Interaction Center are taking a slightly different approach with their latest project. They've developed a wheelchair equipped with a camera and a laser sensor that instead of tracking its surroundings, simply locks onto a nearby human companion and follows them around. It can even apparently anticipate the direction the person is going to go by using a distance sensor to check which way their shoulders are facing. Still no word on a commercial version, but the wheelchair is already being field-tested in care centers, where the researchers say it could be particularly useful if the facilities are short-staffed. Head on past the break to check it out in action.

Continue reading Japanese researchers develop robotic wheelchair that can follow humans

Japanese researchers develop robotic wheelchair that can follow humans originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 12 Aug 2010 23:59:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Apple Announces Magic Trackpad

Apple Announces Magic Trackpad: "

Magic Touchpad with hand on itI’ve had “wireless multi-touch trackpad” at the top of my person Apple wishes for several years now, so I was thrilled at Apple’s announcement announcement of the Magic Trackpad yesterday. The announcement itself was somewhat hidden amongst announcements of updates to the iMac series, which now have faster processors and better graphics capabilities, but the Magic Touchpad is of special interest to users with disabilities.

From Apple’s website:

Desktop users, your time has come. The new Magic Trackpad is the first Multi-Touch trackpad designed to work with your Mac desktop computer. It uses the same Multi-Touch technology you love on the MacBook Pro. And it supports a full set of gestures, giving you a whole new way to control and interact with what’s on your screen.

Magic trackpad viewed diagonally - same shape as the bluetooth keyboard

And by “full set of gestures” they really mean all of them - this device uses the same preference pane as the MacBook touchpads use. This is fantastic news especially for iMac and Mac Pro users who use the VoiceOver screen reader, as the revolutionary “touchpad as screen” where you can control the screen reader using gestures like an iPhone or iPad.

Daniel Rowe, from the MacVisionaries group - a mailing list for blind Mac users, took the plunge yesterday and bought himself a Magic Trackpad. He said:

I’ve only used VO [VoiceOver] with multi-touch trackpads briefly before as I have an iMac. But because I use the iPhone I could see the benefits such an interface would bring to Mac OS.

Having spent nearly two days with the trackpad, I personally thing that it is the best thing to happen in assistive technology recently. To be able to visualise how things are laid out on the screen is just amazing. It’s larger size is also an advantage. It has really changed the way how I use my Mac and I won’t be going back to using the numpad commander unless I have to.Daniel Rowe

He mentions the larger size - I can’t find any specific dimensions on Apple’s website but from looking at their photos of the Magic Trackpad beside a bluetooth keyboard and judicious use of a ruler on my own Apple bluetooth keyboard I think the active area on the Magic Trackpad must be close to 11cm by 11cm, or just under 4 1/2 inches in either direction. That’s a lot larger than the MacBook trackpads, which should also help those who have trouble with fine motor control, or find making small gestures difficult for any reason. Reviewers on the Apple website also mention it makes it possible to use two hands to make gestures needing more that one finger.

You can see the size in this photo with the Magic Trackpad beside an Apple wireless keyboard.

You can see the size in this photo with the Magic Trackpad beside an Apple wireless keyboard.

The Magic Trackpad also has a physical click (the entire trackpad depresses if you click it) as well as a tap-to-click, either of which can be enabled or disabled as desired. Many other features can be customised to fit the users needs and preferences too. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about the options and set-up when mine arrives, but until then here’s a peek at the preference pane:

Preference pane for trackpad

Preference pane for the MacBook and Magic Trackpads.

The Magic Trackpads seem to be available from all Apple stores around the world immediately (including online stores), but those countries served by non-Apple-branded stores will have to wait a few weeks. The Australian online Apple store is shipping these currently and estimating 24hr delivery time, for example, but my local Mac-licensed stores are estimating the end of July as the earliest they’ll have stocks available.

– Ricky Buchanan

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This article was originally published at 'Apple Announces Magic Trackpad' and is copyright (C) Ricky Buchanan 2010. Please do not republish without permission.

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