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Music Identification iPhone App to Get Restored VoiceOver Accessibility

October 31, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

New versions of Shazam Entertainment’s music-identification iPhone apps will restore VoiceOver accessibility for blind listeners.

23-year-old blind computer programmer Jason White said the inaccessible Shazam update interfered with VoiceOver on his iPod Touch even after switching away from the app, forcing him to completely close the app in order to restore VoiceOver accessibility.

“When I attempted to use Shazam, speech from VoiceOver ceaced or was extremely sluggish,” White said. “I was quite disconcerted when the problem first occured, because I didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t tell if Shazam was causing VoiceOver to freze, or whether the entire unit had just frozen, since Voiceover is my primary access method to the iPod.”

Peter Mahach, a 14-year-old blind iPhone user from Poland, said he used Shazam to identify the music in sound clips he enjoys collecting.

“shazam was a really great tool which allowed me to identify a sound clip and listen to the full version of the song via YouTube,” he said. “When shazam 3 came out, it did get expanded but also got considerably more unlabeled buttons and the youtube feature, which before would load up the first match now displayed some search results, and if you tapped on one it did absolutely nothing.”

Mahach said Shazam became inaccessible after a recent update, and he has missed the ability to use the app.

“I did have issues with voice over stopping speech when the app began tagging, so what I did to stop recording was disconnect my headphones from the iPod which effectively caused the app to stop recording and identify the song,” Mahach said. “Now the app completely stopped being usable for the moment and if I need to identify something I have to fall back on trying to hear as many words of the song as possible, then googling for them.”

Shazam Entertainment got bug reports from customers about audio management issues and crashes after the update.

“When we implemented version 3 of our application on the iPhone, it was a very big scope, there were a number of bugs, a few people complained about crashing and one of those bugs was that VoiceOver stopped working,” said Roy Rosenthal, legal counsel for Shazam Entertainment. “When the microphone is on, the app can’t also implement VoiceOver. We actually have a copy of a long e-mail from someone who voiced this concern. It was the only one we did have, but our fix to it was go into your Shazam settings and turn off your microphone.”

Rosenthal said the company moved fast to squash the bugs.

“As of two days ago, we submitted version 3.1 of Shazam Free, and that has fixed the bug,” Rosenthal said. “VoiceOver will be back in as soon as the approval process goes through, which usually takes three days to a week on Apple’s side.”

Rosenthal said the VoiceOver fix will find its way into the paid-for Shazam Encore app on its next release, version 3.1.1, slated for the middle of November.

He said the company values customer feedback.

“It’s frustrating for us, because the bigger complaint we were getting from customers was that it was crashing and, so, we scrambled like crazy to fix that and that’s why 3.1 is coming out so quickly,” Rosenthal said. “I think we have a good reputation with our users and we’d like to keep it that way, so if there are issues of accessibility out there we’re going to act pretty quickly to take care of those.”

Categories: iPhone

Touch Typing Your Way to New Apps and Social Networking on the iPhone

October 28, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Kevin Chao demonstrates shopping in the iTunes App Store, posting to Twitter and sending a text message by entering text on the iPhone’s virtual on-screen keyboard using the touch typing method.

Follow these steps to switch between “standard typing” and “touch typing” modes:

  1. Move to a field that requires typing and double tap to start editing.
  2. Positioning two fingers on the screen, twist them like a dial several times until you hear “Typing Mode” spoken.
  3. Flick up or down to toggle between “standard typing” and “touch typing” mode. Standard typing mode is the default, which requires double tapping or split tapping on everything in order to type. Touch typing, which is the mode being demonstrated in this podcast, allows automatic entry of text as soon as the finger is lifted. Touch typing mode can be faster for advanced users.

Download, Play or Pause – Touch Typing Your Way to New Apps and Social Networking on the iPhone

Categories: iPhone, podcast, tips

Exploring the Neighborhood with Sendero GPS LookAround Version 1.1 for the iPhone

October 28, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Sendero Group offers a $5 iPhone app that aims to help blind people navigate outdoors using their iPhones.

After installing the LookAround app, following these steps makes a great deal of information about the user’s surroundings immediately available.

  1. Orient the iPhone so that its screen is facing up toward the sky, the back is facing the ground and the power button is facing away from your body.
  2. Find Sendero GPS on the Home screen and double tap it to launch the app.
  3. Shake the iPhone to hear the direction you are facing, your address, nearest cross street and closest point of interest.

Download, Play or Pause – Exploring the Neighborhood with Sendero GPS LookAround Version 1.1 for the iPhone

Categories: podcast, travel

Apple Mum on VoiceOver Accessibility of Mac App Store and OS X Lion for Blind Customers

October 20, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said nothing in his Wednesday Back to the Mac event about continued VoiceOver accessibility of a new Mac App Store and OS X Lion operating system for the company’s blind customers.

The new Mac App Store will offer iTunes-style one-click purchasing and installation of apps for the Macintosh computer operating system. Developers will be able to start submitting apps in November and the store’s grand opening is scheduled for Jan. 20.

A member of Apple’s accessibility team declined to comment on the status of VoiceOver accessibility in the Mac App Store.

“Since the Mac App Store is not available to the public and all features have not been announced, we can not comment on it any further,” said an unnamed member of Apple’s accessibility team.

Apple also has no comment on continued integration of the VoiceOver screen reader on the company’s new OS X Lion operating system slated for a summer 2011 release.

“As Steve said in today’s keynote, the features discussed were a ‘Sneak Peek’ into just a few of the new features being added to Mac OS X,” the unidentified accessibility team member said. “As I am sure you already know, Apple can not comment on pre-release software. Not all features are complete, and any part of it may still change.”

Blind computer science student and registered Apple iOS developer Kevin Chao said he’s not surprised at Apple’s silence on accessibility plans.

“I don’t really blame them,” Chao said. “If they say something now, they can be held accountable. Usually, they don’t talk.”

“By listening to our customers and applying thoughtful solutions to previously unsolvable problems, Apple continues to set a high standard for accessibility,” states Apple’s accessibility website. “Inventions such as braille mirroring, which enables deaf and blind kids to work together on the same computer at the same time; the world’s first screen reader that can be controlled using gestures; and captioning of downloadable digital movies are perfect examples of Apple innovation.”

It is anticipated that Apple will continue these accessibility commitments and innovations into its next operating system and far beyond.

Categories: Uncategorized

Recording the World Using Voice Memos on the iPhone

October 20, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Kevin Chao demonstrates recording and trimming audio on the iPhone using the built-in Voice Memos app. Voice Memos is a handy utility for tasks ranging from basic voice-note taking to recording a demonstration of another iPhone app or feature right on the device without the need to use any additional equipment.

Download, Play or Pause – Recording the World Using Voice Memos on the iPhone

Blind Video Experiment – Standing on a Street Corner – Take 2

October 19, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I have implemented some useful feedback I received Tuesday morning, and this second take from the same street corner is the result. The iPhone was oriented in landscape mode and I took care to pan more slowly by moving my hips and shoulders while keeping my feet still. Additional feedback is now requested. The next video will be completely different.

Watch this video on YouTube.

Categories: iPhone, video

Wouxun Dual-Band Amateur Radio Handheld Transceiver Shows Promise for Blind Hams

October 18, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Jarrod Jicha demonstrates and provides basic instructions in the use of the Chinese Wouxun dual-band amateur radio handheld transceiver. This partially-accessible radio provides a level of limited voice output that surpasses anything currently available in other radios.

Buddy Brannan has written a mini-manual describing battery installation, orientation and programming of the Wouxun radio from a blind user’s perspective. We thank Buddy and the Courage Center Handiham System for making this information available to the blind community.

After listening to Jarrod’s demo, I am uncertain how I feel about this rig. On one hand, it represents a step forward in the accessibility of handheld amateur radio equipment. Alinco, Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu, the prominent manufacturers of amateur radio transceivers, do not include voice output in their handheld radios. On the other hand, in many respects, it provides little more accessibility than we have with radios that don’t include voice output. As I listened to the demo, I was struck by how voice output was provided in areas where we could learn to navigate without it, while important tasks like reading the frequency and selecting from menus remained silent. This radio reminds me of cell phones such as the LG enV3 or my wife’s Motorola I350 NexTel radio that don’t go far enough in providing fully-accessible voice output of all functions. One wonders about the level of thoughtful research and testing that didn’t go into the development of electronics featuring limited accessibility. The radio’s accessible battery indicator is a very nice touch. There are some concerning reports that the Wouxun radios aren’t as durable as those from the leading manufacturers, so be careful not to drop this rig. Despite the potential downfalls, I am excited about the availability of a radio that gives blind hams one more usable choice in a field that is sadly too limited.

Additional information:

Download, Play or Pause – Wouxun Dual-Band Amateur Radio Handheld Transceiver Shows Promise for Blind Hams

Categories: Uncategorized