Monday, 14 September 2009

Latest iPods help the visually impared to access learning

Access to technology requires very careful consideration for many users and for many reasons. For some the reason may be a physical difficulty or a physical attribute that they as an individual do not possess.

I remember doing my Masters Degree in the late 90’s and feeling challenged myself when it came to using the keyboard quickly enough to get the 20,000 words of my thesis into the machine. I looked at voice recognition at this time and found it so ‘clunky’ that I realised my keyboard skills were perhaps more developed than I realised, even if some way short of a press correspondent or company secretary competence.

For many, Access considerations will require the purchase of additional hardware or additional software but for some, support can be provided through the configuration of the device in its standard form.

One such example is the iPod touch (3rd Generation) Voice Over. This device has a set up function that enables a blind person to hear about the part of the screen and the functionality they are engaging with. This feature, combined with additional user gestures, enables a blind person to access the device and its functionality. It does it in a way that enables the user to understand the context of their engagement rather than in a bland list of functions or commands enabling the blind person to build up a good mental picture of the electronic environment.

This feature is incredibly available in 21 languages currently too and the speed of the voice is adjustable to suit the listening capability of each individual.

So, when carrying out user assessments to improve accessibility, don’t forget to consider all of the functions that many providers include within products as standard features.

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Brendan Geoghegan