Summer Reading recommendations

I am an avid reader (well duh) “smile”.  The following is a list of books I’ve enjoyed over the last year and recommend, especially as things slow down for the summer.  Not all of them are specifically disability related, but several are about technology and have an unusual perspective.

Blind Courage by Bill Irwin — Story of how a blind man and his guide dog hiked the entire Appalachian Trail

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green — Love story and two cancer survivors.  Currently out in theaters

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd — Best book I’ve read in awhile.  Takes place on a plantation during the early-mid 1800′s and alternates between the point of view of a slave and the pro abolitionist daughter of a slave owner.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan — Fun mystery for writing and technology lovers.  I call it a non gory, techie version of The Da Vinci Code.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple — Another whimsical story about technology and unusual family dynamics

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline — Futuristic dystopian-style novel that takes place in the year 2044.  Reality bites, so most of society spends all of their time in virtual worlds.  Also brings back fond memories of the old school 80′s video games.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak — Fictional account of living in Germany during World War II.  Very moving.

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Library Technology for People with Disabilities Webinar

Slides: LibraryTechnology_Disability - includes links

App Links

MagLight - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/maglight+-magnifying-glass/id486195285?mt=8

Magnifying Glass Flashlight - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.IdanS.magnifyingglassflashlight

See It Video Magnifier – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/see-it-video-magnifier/id514559829?mt=8 

ASL Dictionary - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/asl-dictionary/id353574642?mt=8

Dragon Dictation - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dragon-dictation/id341446764?mt=8

Dragon Mobile Assistant - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nuance.balerion

Policies and Tipsheets

ALA Disability Policy - http://www.ala.org/ascla/asclaissues/libraryservices

ASCLA Tipsheets - http://www.ala.org/ascla/asclaprotools/accessibilitytipsheets

Tools and Guidelines

Colour Contrast Analyzer – http://juicystudio.com/services/luminositycontrastratio.php

WAVE Web Accessibility Tool –  http://wave.webaim.org/

WP Accessibility plugin - https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-accessibility/

Accessible book formats

Bookshare - https://www.bookshare.org/

LEAP – Library eBook Accessibility Program, a partnership with Bookshare: http://company.overdrive.com/files/LEAP.pdf

Further reading

A Web for Everyone

 

 

Posted in Accessibility, Assistive Technology | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day!

May 15 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. It has been an exciting year for the accessibility world with FDA approval of the Argus II bionic eye, gene therapy for deafness and the latest news that FCC has approved the InnoCaption real time mobile caption service.

I will be doing my part for accessibility awareness by presenting a webinar on library technology for people with disabilities next week for the state chapter of the American Library Association.

Despite the stereotypes that libraries are dead or outdated, they’re in fact working hard to stay on top of the latest technology trends. They are no longer limited to the physical building full of books.  Libraries offer e-books, virtual reference services and other outreach programs that can help serve patrons who can’t get to a traditional library.  There are a lot of mainstream technologies that can be used to help people with disabilities, but awareness of them is limited.

More awareness of mainstream technology’s accessibility capabilities leads to more independence for people with disabilities, which in turn helps them participate more fully in society.  The iPhone was a huge turning point for the disability community and remains on top with its accessibility features.  Mainstream technology accessibility can help make them more employable and benefit social interactions.

For example, I have several different sources of income, all from home.  I provide library research services through chat for over 100 public and academic libraries, and teach an online library research skills course.  Working online removes the transportation barrier and lets me create my own working environment that is best for my vision and hearing.  These opportunities weren’t around 5 years ago.

The technology and potential are there.  It is just a matter of making people aware of how it can help the disability community.  Even though today might be dedicated to the cause, don’t forget, accessibility awareness is something that should happen every day.

 

 

 

Posted in Accessibility, Disability Awareness | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Gene therapy and cochlear implants

There’s an article that’s circulating the web today featuring Australian researchers who have found a way to potentially restore some hearing using gene therapy.  This method can be used in conjunction with cochlear implants to create richer, more natural sound quality than cochlear implants provide today.

Cochlear implants currently can hear relatively naturally, but still have a slight electronic quality to them.  Many articles about cochlear implants say that they don’t hear music very well, but I can contest that.  Music sounds amazing to me, especially in stereo sound.  It may not be totally in tune, but it still sounds good.

When I lost the rest of my hearing in my left ear, I also lost some of the natural quality of my overall hearing.  My right ear with the CI alone did not sound as good.

I was stuck in a Catch-22.  My natural hearing fluctuated a lot, and served more as a supplement to my right CI rather than an equal partner. My new cochlear implant in my left ear provides a lot more volume than hearing aid did, but my hearing is purely electrical.

It would be awesome if there was a way to get the volume I have with my cochlear implants, plus natural sound quality comparable to what I had with my cochlear implant/aided natural hearing combo.  But, it will probably take awhile yet to implement because human testing and hearing stability hasn’t been done yet.

I definitely see a more biological, fully internal cochlear implants in my future.  Lots of exciting advancements to look forward to!

You can read the full article on the ABCNews website at: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/study-gene-therapy-boost-cochlear-implants-23443690

Posted in Accessibility | Tagged , , | Comments Off

The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family Review

Worlds Strongest LibrarianI am a librarian, so I was drawn to The World’s Strongest Librarian, a memoir about a librarian living with Tourette’s.

Tourette Syndrome is characterized by involuntary movements and outbursts.  In Josh Hanagarne’s case, his were outright beatings that left him bruised and scratched up.  The syndrome affects everyone differently, some worse than others.  It was hard to read about at times, but helped me understand how much this syndrome can affect daily life.

The World’s Strongest Librarian focuses a lot more on Josh Hanagarne’s personal life than his job as a librarian.  I wish the book said a little more about his job, but it wasn’t really the central theme of the book.  It was interesting to see how his experiences with Tourette’s and as a Mormon led him down the path towards becoming a librarian.

One thing I really like about library science is that it is such a broad field that you can create a niche for yourself in whatever subject or type of library you feel most comfortable with.  I struggled at the traditional reference desk because of my hearing loss, but found a niche with chat reference.  I am thankful the technology is there to allow me to do that, and the need for virtual reference services is growing due to the connections to patrons on a wider geographical scale.

The book is available both in Kindle and in hardback.

 

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , | Comments Off

Help support Grail to the Thief: An Interactive Audio Adventure

A new no screen, audio only adventure game is trying to get support via Kickstarter.

Want to learn more?  Visit their fundraising page at:
Grail to the Thief: An Interactive Audio Adventure.  It includes a video that demonstrates how the game works.

 

Posted in Product Reviews | Tagged , | Comments Off

Modern fonts are a frustration for low vision users

There’s a rather unfortunate trend towards “clean, modern” fonts that are not a good thing for low vision web users.

For examples, check out the Adobe Light/Thin font choices.

The text is thin, so it doesn’t create enough color contrast, even on a black on white background.  Enlarging the font helps a little bit, but not enough to make a significant difference.  This forces low vision users to have to strain more to read, which causes fatigue.

Eye strain also makes nystagmus (rapid eye movement) move faster, so it makes it harder to focus on text.

My eyes feel exhausted all the time.  I am working up the motivation to teach myself how to use screen readers so that I can take some of the load off my eyes.

Even worse, many web designers are using grey text on white backgrounds, which makes it a double whammy.

There are browser accessibility add-ons that help increase contrast, but they tend to be buggy.  Integrate readable font so readers don’t have to rely on faulty add-ons that aren’t really able to adapt to specific sites very well.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Web Accessibility | Tagged , , | Comments Off

A Web for Everyone: Review

I wrote an earlier post about A Web for Everyone with an introduction to the book.  I finished it a couple days ago, and still highly recommend it for all web professionals.

Two main points I got from the book:

  • Integrate accessibility from the beginning.  It should be part of the regular development life cycle.
  • Reach out to people with disabilities who can give you first-hand feedback.  Knowbility and Loop 11 have joined together to create a database of users with disabilities called AccessWorks.

The book also includes interviews with key web and accessibility experts including Mike Paciello, Steve Faulkner, Ethan Marcotte, and others.

A Web for Everyone has an extensive list of resources for more reading on the topic.  I have the print edition, but this is an advantage for the Kindle version–no need to manually type in the links.

Posted in Accessibility, Web Accessibility | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

WordPress accessibility features going in the right direction

WordPress has made great strides in accessibility since I started this blog four years ago.  It is much easier to enlarge the post editor page so I can see what I’m writing. The page content conforms to the browser zoom settings now.  There are also more ways to include accessibility from the start that doesn’t require a lot of hardcore coding.

The latest default theme, Twenty Fourteen, is accessible.

If you’re completely new to WordPress, you might want to check out the guide: WordPress for Badeyes by Geof Collis of Badeyes.com.  The guide takes you step-by-step through the process of downloading and installing WordPress, then building an accessible site.

After you purchase the WordPress for Badeyes from the Badeyes website, you can view it in HTML format, or download PDF, Word or Daisy formats.  I used the HTML format, which was easy to navigate.

The guide provides good plugin suggestions for security and post customizations.  It also describes how to use both the FTP and visual editor to install and edit WordPress.  You’ll use the Badeyes Wireframe theme, which is fully accessible out of the box.

WordPress for Badeyes is not the most polished formatting wise, and I think the content could be broken up some more so that readers can clearly see the steps to downloading and using WordPress more clearly.  The paragraphs are a little long.

The grammar setup is different than what I’m used to.  No commas or punctuation within the sentences, and a lot of capitalization.

But, keep in mind that the guide is developed for accessibility, and is optimized for screenreaders and for good color contrast.

Additional resources on WordPress and Accessibility

https://codex.wordpress.org/Accessibility - Accessibility guidelines in the WordPress codex

WP Accessibility plugin - plugin that adds skip links and other accessibility features to your WordPress site

 

Posted in Accessibility, Uncategorized, Web Accessibility | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

MED-EL RONDO cochlear implant processor–a first-hand look

Opus 2 and RONDO CI processorsI feel like I have 5 ears.  Seriously.

When my left ear was implanted, I received an Opus 2 behind-the-ear processor, a backup, and a 3rd free.  The 3rd one was a promotion RONDO single-unit processor that MED-EL is offering until June.

Then, after that, I also was able to trade my older, obsolete processors for another RONDO and Opus 2.

Now that I have two RONDO’s, one for each ear, I can wear them interchangeably with my Opus 2′s.

Here are some pros/cons to the RONDO:

Pros

  • Smaller and thinner than it looks online
  • No cords, less chance of it slipping off, which makes it more suitable for pilates, yoga or any other exercise that requires a lot of bending.
  • Nothing on the ear
  • MED-EL is developing accessories for the RONDO: sportsband and a rumored waterproof bag similar to Cochlear’s Aqua Accessory

Cons

  • The microphone points up, so it’s like you’re hearing from the top of your head (this makes no sense to me).
  • Not as easy to listen to music with headphones or use the phone
  • Not much color choice, but there are SkinIts

The Opus 2 processor microphone sits on the ear, so it can be used more naturally with the phone, headphones, and in conversations facing people.

With all of that said, this is the first single-unit processor out there, so over time, they’ll make it smaller and hopefully design it so that it will feel more like the sound is coming from the ear, rather than the head.

I am glad I have two types of processors so that I can use them for different circumstances, but I think I’ll stick with my Opus 2′s for the majority of the time.

Find out more about the MED-EL cochlear implant processors on their website at www.medel.com.

Posted in Accessibility | Comments Off