IBM Serendipity

Two years ago in the middle of my degree I went to meet with IBM HR. The idea was to have a chat to them about my vision of an inclusive and accessible world through technology..

IBM stand at a fantastic point within the technology sector where they have the ability to touch a huge amount of organizations in wildly different fields. It was this very point that made me think IBM and I could be a perfect match.

There is a need for all technology to be inclusively designed, to enable everyone to have universal access. From mobile devices, to the internet of things to access to transport. Indeed it was IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative that made me believe there was a way to make the world accessible through the advancement of new technologies.

I pitched to HR that I would be a wonderful fit for an accessibility evangelist, working with all manner of partners focussing on how technology could be made inclusive. From advising on human interface interactions that not only had visual elements but auditory and haptic, to communicating complex information in new and interesting ways. I continued by highlighting that the opportunity to interact with clients at the early stage would aid in a universal design approach amongst all technology.

read more

Looking forward to Apple TV OS

My favorite piece of technology in the living room is my Apple TV and it is about to see a significant update. I love the Apple TV for two reasons VoiceOver and Netflix. VoiceOver is fantastic at assisting in navigating the UI as it reads aloud all the elements and Netflix has fantastic audio described content.

However, it is limiting. I only access my media through Netflix but I have a world of other media. I have numerous DVD and Blue-Ray discs all with great audio described content. The problem is how I access this media. For example, identifying the discs or navigating the menus are both challenging and require sighted assistance. There just isn’t an a great accessible removable media device.

So the current solution is to rip these discs along with their audio described content and AirPlay them to my Apple TV. This allows me to use a screen reader to select the content I would like to listen too. But it shouldn’t be this hard and I hope the Apple TV can help in this respect.

read more

Learn to code in a day?

Learning to code in a day, the premise seems a little far fetched, so I was certainly intrigued by the event at Decoded in London.

With the breadth of possibilities of coding so large the focus of the day was on the specifics of creating an app that incorporated location data. Even this reduction in focus seems like a mammoth task, especially considering the course is not aimed at people with previous coding experience. In fact it is billed as aiding new comers in obtaining these skills in a day.

So with zero prior experience, is it possible to enable someone to create a location based app within a day? The quick answer is yes. Everyone on the course successfully created a location based app.

The day is broken into a few distinct learning methods, lectures, hands on and team tasks. These three different methods enable participants to gain a rounded knowledge of coding. The introduction lecture is a whirl wind tour of the beginnings of coding, I was disappointed that this didn’t feature Alan Turing, but it was a whirlwind tour after all! This lecture also included the technologies we would be utilising in order to create our app, HTML5, CSS and Javascript.

read more

The questions…….

My favorite part of public speaking is the Q&A section at the end. Its interesting to be challenged by people all the time, I especially like questions that start with “I know its personal but…..”. These questions are usually challenging to answer and I do enjoy that. While that may sound scary to be stood on stage while possibly thousands of people stare and wait for an answer, it always leads to interesting trains of thought.

Recently at an event for PWC I was asked the question “What is your biggest dream”. Now looking back and with time to think about it, while I answered the question honestly I didn’t feel I gave the justification as to why. It is after all the why that makes it interesting.

The question was – “What is your dream”. I responded with “to be VP of accessibility at a major tech company”, then went on to discuss my dreams within the realm of adventuring.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more