Google Chrome High Contrast Extension

I am having a really hard time trying to find the best combination of adaptive technology and services to make it easier to work on the computer.  I have enough vision to read regular sized print, but prefer to enlarge text so my eyes won’t tire out as quickly.

None of the magnifiers such as ZoomText or Windows Magnfier work very well for me because they only show portions of the screen, then glide around.  Not really fast enough for me to find what I need.

I’ve been playing around with High Contrast settings on my Windows 8 laptop.  I really like light on dark, because it is easier on my eyes, but then I run into issues with images inverting and with some text not inverting.

Google Chrome has an extension called High Contrast (very creative!).  The extension offers several options: invert colors, grayscale,  increased contrast, and yellow on black.

High Contrast on Google Chrome works fine on many websites, (like a charm on Google of course), but skews others.  I tested all of the options.  Facebook especially doesn’t handle it very well.  Text gets muddled, and I can’t click on buttons.

The webchat service I use for my chat reference job blanks out.  This extension would be really helpful if it worked for this site, because I have to read text quickly.

I don’t know enough about the backend code for the extension to say for sure, but my guess is that the success of the extension depends on the code in the websites themselves.  When it inserts the high contrast code, the individual websites decide how they handle it.  So, this issue should be addressed when developing websites to browser specifications and to meet accessibility standards.

What Google Chrome extensions do you recommend?

 

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Share your feedback to help make Netflix accessible for everyone

Help spread awareness to make online streaming services like Netflix accessible by sharing your feedback on The accessible Netflix project blog.  The goal of this project is to help make Netflix accessible for the visually impaired by requesting audio descriptions for movies and TV shows.

On a related note, Crossway Media Solutions has developed a Netflix alternative that provides audio transcriptions for movies and TV shows.  Learn more about this upcoming project at http://talkingflix.com/.

 

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First-hand look at the accessibility updates in iOS 7.1

iOS 7.1 came out yesterday, and I downloaded it on my iPhone 5S.  It’s a much-needed update.  The fingerprint sensor seems to be working a lot better, and I’ll be interested to see if my phone stops the “reset freezes.”

For a list of accessibility features and improvements, I suggest taking a look at AppleVis’s post called:
What’s New and Changed for Blind and Low Vision Users in iOS 7.1.

I turned on some of the low vision features: Button Shapes, Reduce Transparency, Darken Colors, and Reduce White Point.

Button shapes creates outlines around buttons, so that you can differentiate them from text.  For example, the General > Accessibility labels you see when navigating the phone’s  settings.  I never really paid attention to this before, but I can see how it would help, especially since it tends to blend into the rest of the text.

Darken Colors is supposed to make the text and background colors contrast better.  I have this setting set up in Google Chrome, and I love it because adequate color contrast seems to be really hard to come by.  On my phone, however, I couldn’t really tell any difference.

Reduce Transparency helps a lot with contrast issues.  I also turned off Reduce Motion in the last iOS 7 update.  That one was making me dizzy on top of having to strain to read text on the transparent screen.

Reduce White Point could use a dimmer switch.  I don’t think it makes the white dark enough.  Or, even add a light gray or sepia option?  Just going out on a limb there.

Invert colors is an existing feature, but I really like it, and would like to see more options and adjustments available for it, such as the ability to not invert images, and to choose the color scheme.  It is much easier for me to read white on back, but it throws off images and icon appearances.

I like where Apple is going with the accessibility features, and I hope that they will continue to add new and refine existing features.

 

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Using Amazon as a go-to place for asssitive technology equipment and accessories

I use Amazon a lot because I can’t drive, and the Prime 2-day shipping is really convenient.  For years I spent so much money on hearing aid batteries at the drugstore, only to find out I could get them much cheaper on Amazon.  This discovery was a godsend because I now wear cochlear implants, and they run through batteries much more quickly than my hearing aid did.

For years, I used HearMore.com to buy my Sonic Boom alarm clock, but after getting substandard customer service when accidentally ordering the wrong product,  I no longer order from them.  The email response was curt and had spelling errors, plus I had to pay shipping again to get the right product.

I’ve compiled a list of products I’ve bought on Amazon over the last few years, and recommend.  Check those out on the Buy Equipment and Accessories Page.

Lastly, by purchasing products linked from this blog, you can help me generate revenue to keep this blog up and running.  My goal is to generate enough revenue to help support disability advocacy projects and organizations.

Want me to review your app, product, or book, or help spread awareness for a project?  Let me know!

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Currently Reading A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences

I highly recommend A Web for Everyone by Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery to anyone working with accessibility, usability, user experience, and just web design in general.  It was published just recently in January 2014.

This book resonates with me because it advocates and provides instructions for integrating accessibility from the beginning of the project, rather than as a touch-up job at the end.  It also explains that designers need to take into account that the people using their websites do not fit into one mold.  You can’t possibly fit everyone’s needs, but you want to attempt to reach out to as many users as possible.

I am an interactive learner, so I don’t normally read books about web design unless I can follow a tutorial, but A Web for Everyone is written in a plain-language, easy-to-read writing style, so I don’t have any problem following it.  It also helps having a set of personas with a variety of backgrounds and abilities to identify with the different design scenarios in the book.

It is a good resource guide because it links to important guidelines such as the W3C’s WCAG 2.0, as well as helpful links to well-known accessibility experts.

Once I’m done reading the book, I will write a more thorough review.

A Web for Everyone is available in both paperback and on Kindle.

 

 

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NC State Screen Magnification Survey

Researchers in the NC State Computer Science department have released a survey for people who use screen magnifiers for Windows, Mac, and mobile devices.

You can take the survey at: Screen Magnification Survey

 

 

 

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National Telework Week

This week, the week of March 3-7, is National Telework Week.  Teleworking means working from home, on the road, and, well anywhere besides in the office.

I think it is a great opportunity to foster global collaboration.  It brings more diversity to projects and provides flexibility for people who can’t work within the traditional workday time frame.

Teleworking is a huge benefit for people with disabilities, especially for ones like myself, who can’t drive.  Over the last five years, I’ve managed to piece together two or three sources of income all from home.  I currently work as a freelance blogger for a game review blog and as a Reference Librarian for a chat-based reference service.  I also have a few other online projects here and there.

Teleworking really helps me maximize my “productive” time.  I don’t have to worry about going out at night, or spending hours on the bus.  When I took the bus to an office I felt like I was at the mercy of Daylight Savings Time.  I can live where I want, and still do my job.

The one major drawback to teleworking is that you don’t get face-to-face interaction like you would at a regular office.  I’ve met colleagues and friends online, but it isn’t quite the same.  One way to offset this is to use the time flexibility to get out of the house.  Volunteer for a charity, join a Meetup group, try out a class at the gym.

Discipline is another thing you have to stay on top of.  You have to create your own structure for “work time” and be proactive with how you allocate your money towards health insurance, retirement, etc.

There seems to be a growing trend towards teleworking, and working “gigs” rather than 9-5.  It will be interesting to see how this tend plays out.  I hope that it will bring disabled workers to a more even playing field in the workforce.

Telework Resources

Elance: www.elance.com - hub for freelance projects for a variety of different careers

I Need a Library Job Virtual Work page: http://inalj.com/?page_id=56476 - this page includes technology related jobs and additional telework job resources.

Indeed.com: http://www.indeed.com/ - In the location field, type in “remote” or “telework.”

 

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Kindle Fire accessibility features

kindle fireGood to see Amazon finally making an effort to make the Kindle Fire accessible.  They basically ignore the e-ink Kindle, but you can find accessibility add-ons for Kindle-for-PC and the Kindle apps.

Their Kindle Fire HD and HDX, come with a set of new features for vision, hearing, and mobility impairments.

For vision, you can increase the font size, change color contrast, explore by touch, and use text-to-speech to read the content.  Hearing includes video captions for the videos that have it enabled, and mono audio for people who can only hear out of one ear.

You can hook up a keyboard through bluetooth.  This is listed under mobility, but can benefit anyone.  I like using an external keyboard so I don’t have to hold my tablet up close to my face.

The full accessibility list and details can be found on the Accessibility for Kindle page on Amazon.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the newest Kindle Fire, so I can’t give a first-hand review.  I just want to put it out there.  If you have used the Kindle Fire’s accessibility features, feel free to chime in in the comments.

I am interested to know how Kindle Fire accessibility compares to the Apple iPad, especially VoiceOver vs. IVONA text-to-speech.  Apple is starting to lose ground in the accessibility realm, but Amazon’s accessibility features are maturing.

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Captioning and transcription services

Good captioning and transcription services are hard to come by at a reasonable cost, but I think more companies are starting to see the value of offering these services.  It is only a matter of time before competition helps drive down the cost and improve the quality.  These services are essential for the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as for people who don’t have access to audio for whatever reason.

I recently completed an online training certification that included captioning for all of its videos.  I’m not really an audio learner, so I turned off the sound and just followed the captions.  They were good enough that I could get everything I needed.

I recently got an email on a listserv about a company called Rev that provides transcription services for audio and video files for webinars and other online training sources.   They charge $1 a minute and have a 48 hour turnaround.

You can learn more about the service at: http://www.rev.com/transcription.

What captioning or transcription service do you recommend?

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New job board for people with disabilities

Enable America: www.enableamerica.org is a resource designed to help people with disabilities find employment.  They just launched a new online job board, also on their website at http://www.enableamerica.org/employment/index.

The new job board features major companies like Lenovo, Duke Energy, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

 

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