Using the iPad with a screenreader

As part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day I’ve just spent 1 hour using my iPad with VoiceOver, the in-built screenreader. I have some limited experience of using screenreaders, but being sighted have never used one for for an extended period of time. I have used them on PCs, but was especially interested to see how they worked on a touchscreen device.

I spent what can only be described as a very frustrating hour and now have an even greater respect for screenreader users.

I was attempting to continue with my normal work but several problems prevented me from performing straighforward tasks. I’m not saying these are problems with VoiceOver on the iPad as it gets good reviews from blind users. I share them to illustrate how tricky it could be for a blind user to access a device such as the iPad with no previous experience.

So that I couldn’t cheat I also turned on the screen curtain which turns the whole of the iPad’s screen pen black.

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Free VI Technology Events in April

HumanWare VictorReader Stream Sight Village Scotland presents an opportunity to learn about the latest technology for people who are blind, or who have low vision.

Key suppliers will be demonstrating a range of technology suited to different tasks and needs.

Typically, the technology featured includes screen reading software, digital talking book players, screen magnification, digital magnifiers, and tools to produce Braille.

Suitable both for people who are completely new to this technology, and those who have some background wishing to update their knowledge, these events are FREE to attend and will be held at the following venues:

  • Edinburgh – Hilton Hotel, Grosvenor Street, Edinburgh, EH12 5EF between 10 am and 3:30 pm on Tuesday 5th April.
  • Glasgow – Hampden Park Stadium, Glasgow, G42 9BA between 10 am and 3:30 pm on Wednesday 6th April.

Image above is of a VictorReader Stream Digital Talking Book device, taken from the Humanware UK site. This item may be borrowed for evaluation purposes by members of the BRITE Equipment Loan Bank.

Sight Village visits Scotland March 2010

Sight Village is a FREE exhibition featuring a wide range of technology for people who are blind or who have low vision. Suitable for those new to this area of technology, as well as more experienced practitioners seeking an update, the latest in Braille, screenreading, magnification and alternative format technology will be available. Key suppliers will be on hand to provide demonstrations and answer questions.

Exhibition times

  • 2nd March 2010 – 10.30am – 4.30pm
  • 3rd March 2010 – 10.30am – 3.30pm


The Assembly Rooms 54 George Street Edinburgh EH2 2LR

Sight and Sound Technologies Demonstration

Sight & Sound Technology recently demonstrated some of their latest products at the RNIB Employment and Learning Centre in Edinburgh.

The Freedom Scientific Focus40 Blue Braille display is a light-weight portable Braille display solution that can connect to a pC/laptop/netbook via USB or wireless Bluetooth. Once connected, a screen reader such as JAWS for Windows can communicate the screen’s contents to the Braille display. This technology solution is suitable for someone who is deaf-blind or someone who would benefit from having information physically presented which can be very helpful for maths and sciences. In addition, the Focus40 Blue has a Braille keyboard that can be used to input information into the user’s computer.

The EuroBraille/ESYS line of Braille displays also connect to a computer running a screen reader via USB and Bluetooth. In addition to the very similar functionality to the Focus40 Blue (mentioned above), these units also contain rudimentary note taker applications.

For more information please visit:

SUPA Event

The Scottish Usability Professionals’ Association hosts regular seminar-style events with usability professionals giving presentations on projects they’re involved with. The December 2009 session focussed on mobile web usability and IPhone application development.

The keys to making the mobile web a positive experience for users is keeping your mobile web site simple, intuitive and easy to use. Since mobile devices come in many shapes, sizes and standards with a wide variety of display capabilities and data connections to the Internet, it is suggested that the default mobile web site caters to the lowest-common denominator while providing an option to access the full site for users using high specification browsers that can handle rich internet media. A pleasant side effect of designing a mobile web site using the aforementioned values is that it will generally be accessible too.

While the Edinburgh’s Festival Apple IPhone application developed by Loc8 Solutions was specifically cited, IPhone application development was discussed in general.

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Sight Village 2008

Sight Village is an annual exhibition show-casing the latest in the world of Assistive Technology products for the blind and visually impaired. Every year for three days in mid July, dozens of Assistive Technology companies from around the globe offer seminars, demonstrations and stands to introduce their products to industry, professionals and consumers.

While his blog entry will include Monty’s highlights from the event, a comprehensive article will soon be posted in the Resources area on the BRITE web site.

Screen readers in brief

Representatives from the three most popular Screen Readers in the UK were on-hand to demonstrate and discuss the latest versions of their products.

JAWS for Windows: Version 10 (out this autumn) promises to continue improving access to the web.

HAL/Supernova: Version 9.02 contains improved internet support and a new scripting language to complement Map files.

Window-Eyes: Version 7 (soon to be released) contains a new powerful COM-Object scripting

What I have observed during this round of Screen Reader updates is how close in functionality they are starting to become!

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Using the JAWS screenreader on the Web – a new online tutorial for beginners

The WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) site contains a wealth of fantastic resources relating to web accessibility, both for the ‘techie’ and ‘not-so-techie’ reader!

The site now includes a useful new tutorial aimed at beginners on how to use the JAWS sceenreader with the internet. This is useful for those of you who are supporting students new to JAWS, who want to learn more about how a screenreader works, or who want to test how accessible specific web pages are for blind users.

The tutorial includes all the basic keyboard commands you’ll need to get started, plus handy tips and links to further resources including where to download a free demonstration copy of JAWS. Click here to access the tutorial.

Techshare 2007

One of BRITE’s Assistive Technology Development Officers, Monty Lilburn, attended the recent Techshare conference. Read on to learn more about the conference and to find out more about some of the specific sessions Monty attended during the conference, including:

– TV via the internet: a unique access opportunity
– DAISY Pipeline, Automated Document Format Transformations
– Accessible Video with Flash Technology
– The RNIB Book Site – delivering Daisy books online
– Web accessibility
– DAISY: The Digital World Library
– A comparison of Hal, JAWS and Window-Eyes in Office 2007
– Intellectual Property Protection: Approaches to Digital Rights Management


The RNIB’s annual Accessibility/Assistive Technology conference for professionals – Techshare 2007 – was held in London last month. This year Techshare attracted over 400 delegates from 25 countries. Although previous conferences focused specifically on blindness-related topics, this year’s event benefited from an expanded focus to include sessions and showcases targeted at a variety of disabilities. In addition, Techshare hosted the annual DAISY Technical Conference which allowed delegates from each forum to attend both streams of sessions.

Techshare offered delegates an opportunity to attend pre-conference workshops, listen to keynote speeches and attend presentations given by experts in the field of accessible technology.

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