The Importance of Accessible Instructions

(Photo by Omar Albeik on Unsplash)

Recently it was announced that Lego would be releasing it’s instructions in both braille and audio forms thus opening up their line of products to the blind community.

According to an article from Washington Post all this came about because Matthew Shifrin lobbied Lego to add more accessible instructions. Before he started working with Lego Shifrin apparently ran a website  where he made custom instructions for pre-existing sets with a close friend.  

Though Lego instructions are nothing compared to how difficult Ikea instructions are, they’re still pretty taxing for those who can’t see very well. I used to have to pull the instructions up on my phone or computer and zoom in (A LOT) to properly read them. So I appreciate Lego stepping up and making their products more accessible so that those who struggle with low vision or those who are blind can enjoy them.

Thanks for reading, if you have a suggestion for what we should cover next feel free to leave a comment. And if you liked this post please leave a like as it helps put us on the map.

Sources Cited:

(Natanson, H. (2019, August 28). Lego just released audio and Braille instructions. They did it because of a blind man who never gave up. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/08/28/lego-just-released-audio-braille-instructions-they-did-it-because-blind-man-who-never-gave-up/)

Speaking Email App Review

Speaking Email is an app that uses your phones voice assistant to read you emails aloud to you hands free,and was developed by BEWEB LTD for the IOS app store, and Google Play store. The app does rely on a subscription service ($4.99 for a month, $9.99 for three months, or $29.99 for the year) but there is a free mode that has less features.

Probably the best thing about speaking email is the user interface. The simple design makes it super easy for the visually impaired to use the app. All the buttons are decently sized so those with residual vision should have no problem navigating. The app also has voice commands for those who are blind or just want to listen to emails while driving and can’t use their hands.

The app has a ton of customizable preferences so that you only see what you want to see in your emails. For example you can disable emails from the promotional and social categories. You can also choose which parts of the email get read such as subject, signatures, and attachments. You can even change the voice of the AI assistant that reads your emails.

My only real problem with Speaking Email is that the app can have a hard time telling between what’s spam/promotional and what’s important. For instance I got an email from google when I connected my G-mail to the app,  which the app thought was promotional material. Luckily if you swipe back or previous email it will go back and read it to you.

Pros:

  • Simple UI
  • Easy for the blind/visually impaired to use
  • Customizable preferences
  • Responsive voice commands

Cons:

  • Difficulties with spam/promotional material

Conclusion: Speaking Email is an incredible app that is a must have for those who are blind or have a visual impairment that prevents them from reading emails themselves.

Final Score: 9/10

Thanks for reading, be sure to keep an eye out for more content and reviews soon, and if you think there’s a product or app we should review please leave a comment.

Vhista App Review

Note: This app was reviewed in tandem with two other scanner apps TapTapSee, and Seeing AI.

Vhista is a scanner app for the blind and visually impaired developed by Juan David Cruz Serrano for the IOS app store , and Google Play store.

The first major issue I had was that a lot of times the camera doesn’t detect that there’s an object in front of it. This issue seems to be caused primarily by tabbing out of the app and then tabbing back in without restarting the app. While restarting the app seemed to help a little bit the detection was still pretty hit or miss.

Vhista’s biggest flaw is easily the detailed image scan which you activate by tapping the screen. Instead of actually telling you what the object is the app just spouts a bunch of guesses and hopes something lands. For example I scanned my dog (the Bulldog from previous reviews) and the app just gave me a list of dog breeds. While the first breed it guessed was the correct one, this method of object detection is more likely to cause confusion for those who are blind.

The active camera mode doesn’t fare much better. Almost every object the app managed to detect was incorrect. For example the app thought a trash can was a toilet, and that a light switch was a paper towel. While the app got both right upon scanning again, it’s probably enough for most to find a different app.

Pros:

  • Voice over support
  • Subscription is only 50 cents a month

Cons:

  • Does not show text for detailed scans
  • Most objects were incorrectly narrated
  • Does not do well with large print enabled
  • Requires a subscription

Conclusion: Vhista is a below average scanner app. Almost every object I scanned was incorrect and worse yet is the fact that the app didn’t detect a lot of the objects I tried to scan. If you’re looking for a proper scanner app you’re better off looking elsewhere.

4/10

CBS News Investigation Finds “Bad Braille” in Major Cities

According to an investigation by CBS bad Braille is being found in major facilities across the U.S.  Per the article there have been numerous complaints to the Justice Department’s Disability Rights division over bad or misleading Braille in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Kansas, Illinois as well as several other states. What’s alarming about this is that the places lacking in Braille are hospitals, public libraries, and U.S. public transportation systems like the Albuquerque bus system.Most blind/visually impaired who live on their own have no other way to get around other than the U.S. public transit system, so to know that some of those bus stations either don’t have Braille or that the Braille is incorrect is worrisome to say the least.

The article also mentions that a branch of the D.C. Public Library is has a huge lack of braille on signs and no Braille labeling for audio books, which is slightly infuriating see as audio books are one of the primary sources of entertainment for the blind. Hopefully this gets addressed but by the looks of it the government has known about this for awhile and has done nothing about it so unfortunately this will likely stay as it is unless they get serious push-back from advocates. 

Thanks for reading, if you think there’s a topic we should cover, feel free to leave a comment. 

Sources cited: Dorsey, Steve. “Bad Braille Plagues Buildings across U.S., CBS News Radio Investigation Finds.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 28 June 2019, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bad-braille-plagues-buildings-across-u-s-cbs-news-radio-investigation-finds/.

4 Ways to Pass the Time if You’re Visually Impaired

Entertaining yourself when you have trouble seeing can be a challenge sometimes. Luckily a variety of fun activities exists that can help you pass the time. Here’s our list of 4 ways to pass the time if you’re visually impaired.

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4. Rubik’s Tactile Cube: Starting off our list is the Rubik’s Tactile Cube. The Rubik’s Tactile Cube works like a normal Rubik’s Cube but each tile has a marker on it so those who are blind have a way to match the tiles. They cost roughly $14 on Amazon and if you miss being able to solve a Rubik’s Cube or have never previously owned one I’d recommend giving it a shot.

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3. Large Print Playing Cards: Messing around with a deck of cards has been a favorite pass time for as long as anyone can remember and I doubt it’s going away anytime soon. Luckily for those who are visually impaired they make large print card decks, so if you’re in dire need of a time waster, for $7 this is a safe bet.

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2. Podcasts:  whether you’re working and need something to listen to or are just bored, podcasts are an excellent way to pass the time. Podcasts are available on  itunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Amazon.

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1.Audible: Rounding off our list is Audible, Amazons digital store front for audio books. Audible is a great way for those unable to read for themselves to still be able to enjoy literature. While the storefront is free to use Audible has a membership plan (Free if you have Amazon prime) that gets you one free book a month as well as discounts.

Thanks for reading our list of ways to pass the time if you’re visually impaired. If you feel we missed something feel free to leave a comment.

10 IOS Apps for the Visually Impaired

Despite smartphones being a huge part in our everyday lives not a lot of people realize that there are a ton of helpful apps for the visually impaired. With that being said here’s our list of the 10 best IOS apps for the visually impaired.

 

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10. Vhista

Seller: Juan David Cruz Serrano

Price: Free (In-App Purchases)

Stars: 5/5

What It Does: Vhista is an object Identification app that uses machine learning and your phones camera to narrate your surroundings. The app is also capable of describing other peoples appearances and can even predict emotions.

 

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9. Color Inspector

Seller: Aaron L’Heureux

Price: Free (In-App Purchases)

Stars: 3.8/5

What It Does: Color Inspector is a color identification app meant to help those who are color blind differentiate between different colors.

 

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8. Prizmo Pro Scanner

Seller: Creaceed SPRL 

Price: $9.99 (In-App Purchases)

Stars: 3.6/5

What It Does: Prizmo is a document scanner app capable of scanning and recognizing text based documents, business cards, and images. The app uses voice guidance to help those who are visually impaired properly position their phone to scan the document. Once scanned the app is capable of recognizing the text and reading it back to you.

 

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7. AIpoly Vision

Seller: AIpoly Inc

Price: Free (In-App Purchases)

Stars: 3.6/5

What It Does: AIpoly is an object and color recognition app that identifies and narrates objects in the environment to those who are visually impaired. AIpoly can recognize over 1,000 items without the subscription and does not require an internet connection to function.

 

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6. Talkler

Seller: Talkler Labs, LLC

Price: Free (In-App Purchases)

Stars: 4.5/5

What It Does: Talkler is a free app that lets you control your email via voice commands. The app can read your email to you, mark emails as unread, record a response, and delete emails.

 

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5. TapTapSee

Seller: Cloudsight, Inc

Price: Free

Stars: 4.3/5

What It Does: Taptapsee is an object identification app where you tap anywhere on the screen to take a picture and then the app’s AI will recognize the object and speak the identification back to you.

 

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4. Be My Eyes

Seller: S/I Be My Eyes

Price: Free

Stars: 4.8/5

What It Does: Be My Eyes connects those who are visually impaired and volunteers via video call, where the volunteer can provide assistance in completing simple tasks. 

 

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3. NantMobile Money Reader

Seller: IPPLEX Holdings Corporation 

Price: Free

Stars: 3.7/5

What It Does: Nant is a currency identification app that is capable of identifying 21 different currencies and then speaks the denomination back to the user. 

 

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2. Seeing AI

Seller: Microsoft

Price: Free

Stars: 4.5/5

What It Does: Seeing AI is an identification app that utilizes AI to narrate the world around you. The app is also capable of recognizing text and people.

 

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1. BARD

Seller: Library Of Congress

Price: Free

Stars: 3.6/5

What It Does: BARD is the national library service for the blind and physically handicapped, which provides over 100.000 free, downloadable books and magazines, as well as musical scores to those who qualify.