The ABC is trialling audio description (AD) on its iview service. AD describes non-verbal action during a television program. AD can greatly enhance the television experience of people with a vision impairment. It can describe where a scene is set or what a character is wearing. The trial is currently limited to the iview website and the iview app. Vision Australia is disappointed the trial is limited to only iview. It also wants the government to make AD mandatory on Australian television.
Finding a house to live in can be very difficult for people with disabilities. Apart from cost, houses are rarely easily accessible for people with disabilities. The federal government has created design guidelines to help make houses more accessible. Smart house technology can make houses even more disability friendly. The technology gives people with disabilities easy control of household functions like temperature and lighting. It can enable people to live a more independent life.
These days most people own a smart phone. And while the majority of people are lost without such a device, some phone companies are now realising smart phones are not on everyone’s wish list. I have friends that prefer basic and compact mobile phones that are easy to use and not expensive. There are now many choices available when it comes to the right phone for the right person.
Braille is a system of raised dots that enables people with a vision impairment to read and write. I learned braille as a six year-old. Learning braille enabled me to become literate. Some argue the transition from braille to computerised speech has not been welcomed by many people with a vision impairment. In my view, modern technologies have put people with a vision impairment on a more equal footing with sighted peers. While my need for braille has reduced over the years, I’ll always be grateful for its existence.
I run an editing and writing business called Artful Words. A few years ago I made a website for my business. Now I am creating a new one. It is important to me that my website is accessible to all visitors. I have been learning a lot about this. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines discuss issues with website accessibility. I need to think about these as I build my new website. Development, design and content all matter. There are also tools I can use to check the accessibility of my new website.
CamFind is a free and easy to use phone application that allows you to identify objects by taking photos. CamFind can be a helpful tool, especially for a person without sight. BrailleTouch is a program that allows you to type on an iPhone touch screen, using a Braille keyboard. While I found this application a bit frustrating to use, I like the idea of it.
What are the advantages of using a guide dog rather than a white cane? A woman once told me I needed a dog to guide me across the road. Vicki and Maribel both use guide dogs. Vicki likes that her guide dog helps her to avoid branches and holes on the ground. Maribel feels more independent with a guide dog. You need to be organised if you have a guide dog. It can also be costly to care for the dog. I like to use a cane. When a cane breaks, you can replace it. And after a day’s travel you can throw it into a corner.
Robots are already helping people with disabilities. In Melbourne people with autism and dementia are using robots in trials. La Trobe University’s Dr Rajiv Khosla is in charge of the trials. He has created the software for seven small robots that can sing, dance and play games. They read interactive stories and newspapers. They can issue reminders to take medications. The robots learn how their user is feeling and then respond appropriately. Dr Khosla envisages a future where many people with disabilities use robots.
A microphone is needed, preferably built into a headset.
Microsoft Windows has a few features to help people with disabilities use computers. Speech recognition allows a user to tell a computer what to do. Narrator reads text aloud. Magnifier increases the screen size. Even the mouse pointer can be enlarged. Windows also has an onscreen keyboard. These accessibility features are free with Windows. Some are easy to use, while others take patience and time to learn.
My husband wanted to return our beloved teletypewriter but I said no. When I was young I used it to call my deaf friends. We typed messages to each other and the messages were sent through the telephone connection. With the teletypewriter I could not call hearing families, businesses or services. Now I use a fantastic service called the SMS NRS . I text my message to a relay person who then texts or speaks it to my caller. I receive any messages back via text on my phone. Now I can call anyone, anywhere and anytime. It is time to say goodbye to my teletypewriter.