Accessibility of Facebook on the desktop

Maximising the accessibility of a website is always of great importance. As well as the developers improving accessibility there are also a plethora of tools available that increase the accessibility client side. I always encourage the use of client side tools as it makes for a richer more seamless experience.

In the quick look video below I demonstrate the ability of Hacker Vision
for Google Chrome. Hacker vision is an extension which is capable of intelligently inverting websites, by which I mean will only invert text and background elements rather than images. This is a vast improvement over say the invert feature built into Apple hardware, as the built in invert operates at the hardware level the entire screen is inverted. Resulting in such elements as images becoming inverted. Hacker Vision negates that and makes for a far more pleasant web experience for the low vision user.

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TheTrainline – Accessible User Journey

In order to improve accessibility and user interface design, I am embarking on a project highlighting user journeys.

These user journeys are primarily aimed at user interface and user experience designers, with the idea to improve accessible design. However, they will also serve a purpose of demonstrating whether an app is accessible to the visually impaired community.

My first test video is for TheTrainline, this is an application that allows you to purchase tickets and check live arrival and departure times. I have concentrated on the purchasing ticket user journey for this video, but do intend to cover other features of the app, to discuss how the user interface can be improved.

Apple and IBM great partners for an accessible enterprise

Accessibility in the workplace is often viewed as a difficult task. Thanks to the increasing IBM and Apple partnership this may become a thing of the past.

Through the mobile first initiative IBM are now beginning to offer the mac desktop as an enterprise solution. This removes one of the biggest barriers to accessibility in the workplace. With Windows being the dominant platform within the enterprise there was a need to install additional software to increase accessibility. This could be seen as adding additional complexity and cost to the system. While there are solutions in place to finance this accessible needs, the additional cost will not be required with the enterprise level switch.

Accessibility will be baked in to every single Mac desktop. No need for specific accessible software or hardware. The same desktop that other employees utilise can now be used by those with a need for accessibility tools. This has removed any additional cost and complexity to supporting users who require the use of accessibility tools.

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Raspberry Pi, Dropbox and syncing external folders

In order to silence my every so slightly aging iMac I decided to swap the mechanical HD for a SSD. This also had the added benefit of increased speed, with one downside. A large reduction in storage capacity, I had gone from 1Tb down to 240Gb.

Around the same time I had upgraded my Dropbox to the Pro account, 1Tb of storage. I thought my storage problem would be solved. Oh wait, hang on, I still need the files locally to sync with Dropbox.

This problem set me down the path of configuring my Dropbox to sync files outside of the Dropbox folder. But instead of the folder being on an external drive (too noisy!), I would place the external folder on a Raspberry Pi with an external drive, placed in another room. No noise!

The following is a guide on how you can configure a Raspberry Pi with a Samba share, which in turn can be symbolically linked on OS X to a folder within Dropbox. Therefore, allowing you to have a large synchronised version of your Dropbox files locally.

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An accessible oven?

Continuing my foray into the kitchen, I am amassing an even larger collection of specific kitchen gadgets. With the new diet commencing, I had a need for omelettes. In an attempt to be a little healthier I use more whites than yolks. To aid in splitting the whites from the yolks I purchased an egg separator. It works surprisingly well and acts as a reminder. There is often a solution to a problem, you just have to look for it.

 

It is often these gadgets created for very specific use cases that enable me to function in the kitchen. While never envisaged to be used for the blind their highly specialised function often makes them suitable for myself.

 

I have found there are numerous gadgets that aid in the prperation of food but not in the actual cooking. I feel this is because the oven. Hob and microwave don’t receive much focus in terms of specific use cases, and therefore, do not see large functional improvements.

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Now anyone can bake?

Over the past few weeks I have become interested in advancing my baking and cookery skills. This introduces a number of obstacles as a blind individual, mainly there are a lot of tasks that have the potential to hurt you!

I have begun to break down these tasks and will be covering them in a series of posts. For today though I would like to focus on weighing.

This is a surprisingly difficult task, from measuring out liquids to weighing items for baking and cooking. There are a few speak kitchen scales out there, but as ever with products for the visually impaired they are grossly over priced for their limited and often lacklustre feature set.

So I was incredibly excited when I found the Drop scales, especially with their slogan “Now anyone can bake”. I certainly fit into the anyone category, so I popped down to the local Apple Store and made a purchase with the idea to test their accessibility. The Drop scale connects over bluetooth to an iPad and displays the weight on screen, it also has a large array of features that walk you through baking and cooking specific items as well as such features as auto scaling the weights of recipes.

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Review – FitBit Charge HR

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I am a great fan of anything related to fitness tracking. I am constantly testing different wearables to identify one that not only tracks useful information, but is accessible. I was excited to hear about the FitBit Charge HR, as I have become interested in tracking my heart rate. The following review is thanks to FitBit allowing me to test out the Charge HR, in order to highlight how useful it can be to someone with a visual impairment. The FitBit Charge HR is a watch type wearable that is able to track steps taken, heart rate, floors ascended, distance moved and calories burnt.

Setup

For the visually impaired market there are not many consumer goods that can be purchased and configured without sighted assistance. The one exception being Apple, well I say one, there are now two exceptions. As the other is FitBit. I was pleasantly surprised by the configuration of my Aria WiFi Scales, as this could all be achieved from my iPhone. I was further surprised when the same could be said for the Charge HR. As the configuration takes place within the FitBit app it means the entire process can be assisted with VoiceOver, there is however, one little caveat – Bluetooth pairing. This requires you to input a 4 digit number displayed on the screen of the Charge HR, the screen is high contrast so a low vision user would be able to pair. If you are unable to rely on sighted assistance this step can be overcome by using a service such as TapTapSee or BeMyEyes, as the screen is of high enough contrast for it to be easily seen by either of these services.

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Qualifying for Boston

Running Boston often appears on many marathon runners radars, it had appeared on mine. I did however think a qualifier was a long way off, perhaps 5 years down the line. That was until I had breakfast with a friend of mine.

We were chatting about marathons and I flippantly said yeah cant run Boston this year as its the same day as Manchester. “No it isn’t Simon, its the day after”. Wait so if I ran Manchester quick enough I could get on a plane and run Boston? Then jump on another plane and run London?

After realising it was possible there was only one thing left to do, find a qualifier. It turned out there was one, and only one qualifier left in the UK. Therefore, I had one shot, the only snag, I hadn’t trained since returning injured from the USA.

I turned up to Birchington-on-sea barely fit enough to run a half and had to run a Boston qualifier. It turned out to be one of the toughest races in recent memory. The course itself was a simple out and back repeat, with an aid station back at the start. The first half went reasonably well, then my lack of training shone through, my body just wasnt conditioned to run a marathon, it had been two months of little training while I healed.

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Deep learning and audio description

The audio describing of video content is abysmal. Only a small a mount of video content on television is described and the same goes for movies. Move into the online sphere, Netflix, Vimeo, YoutTube and there is simply no described content.

There are numerous problems like this and addressing them creates huge possibilities for the sighted too. Hence when reading about Clarifai’s deep learning AI that can describe video content I was excited. There system has been created to increase the the capabilities of video search, as if the AI can identify the video content it can serve more accurate search results.

But the ability to perceive and describe what is in a video has implications for the sight impaired. If this could be released as an add-on for Chrome or another browser, it would allow a whole host of video content to be described. While this may be some way off, it is easy to see how such systems can serve multiple purposes.

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An international half

Over the past few months I have been training primarily with a friend, she is relatively new to running and is yet to compete heavily. So when the topic of her running her first half marathon came up I thought it might be fun to run it in the snow. That idea was quickly quashed as it turns out it is incredibly expensive to run a snow race – who knew!

A little searching around and we found another half in Terassa, a town an hours train journey from Barcelona. Neither of us could speak spanish but thanks to Google translate and a spanish speaking friend we managed to enter the race. A quick check of the race entrants we noticed we were the only brits, time to represent our country!

It wouldn’t just be a case of turning up and running, we first needed to collect our race numbers and timing chips from Terrassa the day before the race. After 8 modes of transport we finally arrived to collect our numbers and timing chips. This is the first time we noticed there may be a slight language barrier, while a high proportion of people in Barcelona can speak spanish, heading to the smaller towns reduces this considerably. To the point no one at the number collection spoke english, we managed to collect our number, chip, sack and present, we did however, lack any pins to attach our numbers.A prepared runner may have brought their own safety pins, but neither Rachel or I were particulary prepared.

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