Wednesday, 20 August 2008

When you got no cash...

... and you just have a copy of JAWS and you want to do some audio editing of files you've created in your Olympus DS-40, what better than to try Audacity. It's free and can be used with screenreaders. Honestly it can. We (sorry, that's the Royal 'we', I should say Teresa) asked Audacity and they said, 'Hey, try the Beta version', and lo, it works. I just tried it!

And how do you work out how to use it? A rather nice man called David Bailes at Chorlton Workshop for hsbp has written a whole host of JAWS Guides. Somebody buy this man a pint. Or several.

Friday, 15 August 2008

You say J-Say, I say J-Say!

Normally I view software demos with some degree of scepticism. Marketing gurus try to tell you it's everything you need and these extra bits that you can pay a few quid more for are all you've ever wanted and the package will save you money in the long run. Hmmmm. Well today I was genuinely impressed.

As I mentioned in last week's blog, we've been working with a blind student who wants to be able to use a screenreader and speech-to-text software at the same time. I tried it out. Doesn't work. UNTIL....... through the wonders of Web 2.0 technology (anRSS Feed) this great site Top Ten Tech Tidbits of the Week by Dean Martin (no not the singer!!!) pointed me in the direction of J-Say which works to bring together JAWS and Dragon Naturally Speaking. I mentioned this to Teresa (who works with me and also loves all this stuff) and she duly got in touch with T and T Consultancy and this morning we had a brilliant demo by Brian Hartgen, who coincidentally also wrote the programme.

It makes a difference when you're being shown the software by the man who wrote it, who also happens to be an end user and blind. He knows it all. Knows it's quirks, could answer all our questions and I could tell our student was impressed. I know I was.

You may say that he's an expert, that he's spent the past 5 years working with this software, but we're not naive, we know the student has a lot before him, that he'll need to learn how to use all 3 programmes, but what I saw today was a truly useful product being demonstrated by someone who has to use it every day. Sure he's still trying to get us to buy it, but there was no hard sell, just enthusiasm for a useful piece of software and a realisation that it could make our student's life much easier. Best demo I've ever been at. Thank you Brian!

I want a copy. New budget, leaving job in a month.... think anyone would notice??

Friday, 8 August 2008

Software to talk to software to help accessibility

We've recently been working with a graduate student who's about to leave the institution to start work. He's in the midst of doing his summer research project, but is making the most of us to get to know more about assistive technology. He's visually impaired and has been using Zoomtext for quite a number of years and all through his past year at Oxford.
However, with difficulties in navigating using the keyboard, he's been wondering about Dragon Naturally Speaking (I've got to know this quite well over the past couple of weeks!!).
He was also wondering about better Web Access with a screenreader, so we're thinking about JAWS.
The question is do they work together? The simple answer is not really. You need another programme to get them to work together to the best of their ability. We've discovered one called J-Say which has been developed by T and T Consultancy. They are also responsible for J-Tunes which makes iTunes accessible - although I like Apple products for their simplicity they use a lot of graphics which make it difficult to work with assistive software.
I'm saddened by the need to have extra costs associated with assistive technology, but I'm intrigued at the thought that 2 different products designed with different users in mind could be used by one person.
We're getting a demo next week, so I'll keep you posted on how easy it is to use.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

It's the thought that counts!

I just had to relate this tale from a friend of mine who recently visited Orkney. Whilst in the Tourist Info she had to visit the loo. The sign for the 'Ladies' was printed in large black letters and laminated nicely. Underneath there was another sign, printed in large Braille letters and laminated. Yes you read that right, printed not embossed. After having laughed herself silly, she pointed this out LOUDLY to the friend she was with. On returning to the same Tourist Info 3 days later, she was pleased to see the sign this time properly embossed.

Still at least they'd thought about it in the first place...