Panel: Brian Norton, Belva Smith, and Wade Wingler
Q1. Large Print iPad Keyboards Q2. Low cost PDF readers for textbooks Q3. Augmentative Communication app for Deaf Blind students Q4. Intellikeys not working with USB port Q5. Using WordPress to make screen reader friendly for my podcast’s website Q6. Most complicated AT solutions ever
Send your questions: 317-721-7124 | email@example.com | Tweet using
——-transcript follows ——
WADE WINGLER: Welcome to ATFAQ, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions with your host Brian Norton, Director of Assistive Technology at Easter Seals Crossroads. This is a show in which we address your questions about assistive technology, the hardware, software, tools and gadgets that help people with disabilities lead more independent and fulfilling lives. Have a question you’d like answered on our show? Send a tweet with the hashtag #ATFAQ, call our listener line at 317-721-7124, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The world of assistive technology has questions, and we have answers. And now here’s your host, Brian Norton.
BRIAN NORTON: Hello, and welcome to ATFAQ episode 15. I want to welcome my panel today. Today we have Belva Smith. Belva, you want to say hey?
BELVA SMITH: Hi, guys.
BRIAN NORTON: Also have Wade Wingler in the room.
WADE WINGLER: Hey, everybody.
BRIAN NORTON: And my name is Brian Norton. We are down one person today. Mark Stewart is not with us today. He’ll be back on our next show.
WADE WINGLER: I think he’s off working on his Halloween costume or something.
BRIAN NORTON: Right, exactly. So for new listeners, just wanted to kind of let people know how the show works. Throughout the week and leading up to the show, we take questions from our listeners, and they can send us your questions in a variety of different ways. They can give us a call on the listener line which is 317-721-7124. They can send us an email at email@example.com . Or through Twitter they can do hashtag #ATFAQ and that’ll come to us. We gather those questions up on a biweekly basis will try to answer those questions and publish our show. You can find our show on iTunes. You can find us on ATFAQ show.com, through Stitcher, or at www.eastersealstech.com.
To begin our show, we just had a comment, I got an email from a guy named TJ. TJ is familiar with our show.
WADE WINGLER: He may be more familiar with our show than we are.
BRIAN NORTON: Exactly. TJ actually transcribes all of our shows and creates—
WADE WINGLER: A text narrative.
BRIAN NORTON: Yeah, a text narrative of our show week in and week out. He was actually listening to ATFAQ, the last show we released. We had a question about unlocking the Samsung Galaxy S6 by voice. He had a comment. I’ll just kind of read through his comment here. He says, I’m finishing up the file right now, but I just got finished with the question regarding unlocking a person’s Galaxy S6 with their voice. You mentioned that S-Voice can do it, but there is an app that will work all across Android, not just Samsung devices. It’s actually the Google Search app. It has a function where you can train it to recognize your voice, and it can do a voice search from anywhere on the device, whether directly within the Google app, on another app, or even when the screen is locked. Furthermore, when the screen is off, and the phone is charging. You train your voice to the keywords “Okay Google”, and it will only recognize that voice model. Then, as long as the version of android is recent enough, you can actually go into the security settings and activate Trusted Voice, which will unlock the phone when it recognizes that key phrase. It works very well.
WADE WINGLER: Wow.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s interesting. I did not know the Google search app could do that.
BELVA SMITH: So do you think you unlocks it just for the search or does it unlock it for full function?
WADE WINGLER: My assumption is that it unlocks it because you’re going into the security settings and activating a trusted voice which would open it up, which is cool.
BELVA SMITH: Yeah.
BRIAN NORTON: Very cool. I always appreciate it when our listeners can kind of chime in. We give our best to give our best answers, but I know a lot of you use the technology just like we do and maybe have some follow-up to our questions. Thank you.
WADE WINGLER: And it makes me wonder if, when TJ is transcribing this section, is it like when you look into a mirror, into a mirror, into a mirror? When you transcribe what you’ve transcribed, what you’ve transcribed, what you’ve transcribed. Caught in a loop there?
BRIAN NORTON: That’s right.
WADE WINGLER: If anybody, by the way, is interested in the transcriptions of our show, you just go to our website. If you head on over to ATFAQshow.com. Each episode, if you scroll down a little bit, we dump the full text of the show into there. That’s for accessibility and it also helped people find content when they are doing Google searches as well. We appreciate TJ and all the work that he does to get those transcripts there. Check them out. It’s kind of cool.
BELVA SMITH: We appreciate Google Search too.
BRIAN NORTON: Yes.
WADE WINGLER: We are very appreciative.
BRIAN NORTON: Absolutely.
BRIAN NORTON: So don’t forget, if you guys have questions, please call our listener line. That’s 317-721-7124. Let me go ahead and jump into our first question. The first question is, I’m looking for a large print keyboard for my iPad. Do you guys have any suggestions?
BELVA SMITH: I actually find one that’s really cool. I know I’m not going to say the name right so I’ll spell it first. It’s AZIO.
WADE WINGLER: Ah-zee-oh?
BELVA SMITH: Azio. It’s a large print backlit keyboard. You can get it on Amazon for $36. Bluetooth. It’s pretty cool. It’s black with blue. I’m not sure, but I think you can change the light of the backlight from blue to red.
BRIAN NORTON: That is interesting. A couple of other places I found as well. You can find some large print keyboards through AI Squared. They’ll actually sell you some. They look a lot like the Mac Mini keyboard you can get with your Mac mini and other devices. They have some overlays that are large print, so you can actually make any of those Apple keyboards large print by going there and purchasing either the overlay or the actual keyboard themselves.
The other one I’ll throw out there, this is more of a full-size keyboard and kind of mimics the big keys keyboard that we use for a lot of folks that have targeting issues. They’ve got bigger keys. They are 1 inch key reasons so they are very large keys. But if you need large print and you need assistance with actually targeting the keys, being able to get your finger on the right key at the right time, these larger keys can help with that. There is a keyboard out there called the Big Blue Vision Board, and it’s got large keys and it’s got large print. It can come in handy for folks with a couple of those multiple issues that come up
BELVA SMITH: And I just want to throw out there, Enable Mart is a good place to go and search for the large print keyboards, because basically you’re just looking for a large print Bluetooth keyboard. So that’s why I went to Amazon to look for one. The one that I chose was not the only one. They have lots of different ones. Check out Enable Mart, check out Amazon. Do a Google Search.
BRIAN NORTON: Excellent. There is also — I found this place. These are overlays, so they are kind of like a skin covering to your keyboard. iSkin has these things called pro touch visual assist keyboards. They are made for Apple products, but they will actually let you make not only these little Bluetooth keyboard as well, but if you have a laptop computer, like a MacBook Pro and other kinds of places, you can go in and actually get the overlay for those, and it just kind of holds to the top of those keys. It gives those large print. They come in a variety of different colors, so black and yellow, white and black, black and white, those kinds of things.
BELVA SMITH: Right. You can also get the stickers, the large print stickers to put on your standard Mac keyboard if you want. If you’ve got the Mac Mini keyboard, but you just need the letters to be larger, you can order those stickers to put on. I’m not a huge of those because they do tend to come off, but that’s a cheap alternative to buying a new keyboard.
BRIAN NORTON: We’ve been lucky recently when they’ve got — that used to be what you had to do. You had to get these keyboard labels, the stickers, and then they started to come out with all these ones that are premade, they are silkscreened on there, they last a lot longer. That’s made a huge difference for folks.
BELVA SMITH: I will say if you’re going to use those and you’re not doing it — or probably even if you are — doing it on a keyboard, it’s a good idea to make sure that you wipe it off so you don’t have your finger grease all over the keys before you try to stick it on the — or oil.
WADE WINGLER: Is that the technical term? Finger grease?
BELVA SMITH: Finger oil.
WADE WINGLER: When you’re eating onion rings?
BELVA SMITH: There we go.
WADE WINGLER: Are you guys using a keyboard on your iPads much? Are you still using iPad with just a touch screen?
BELVA SMITH: It depends on what I’m doing. I do prefer a tactile keyboard, but it’s not always convenient to get it to connect and so on. So I am both, I guess.
WADE WINGLER: And for the record, we are all sighted and don’t rely on Voiceover all the time. If you were using Voiceover all the time, do you think you would use a keyboard all the time was still not?
BELVA SMITH: I don’t know, because I can say that I’ve got some people that are as quick as they can be on here with the on-screen keyboard.
BELVA SMITH: How about you, Brian?
BRIAN NORTON: I use a keyboard — it really kind of depends on the app I’m using. Some of the apps just aren’t — you don’t need a keyboard. A lot of apps like where I take a picture of something and it brings up the text, does OCR and it reads it back to me, a lot of those things don’t require keyboards to get that functionality to work. But then there are other apps like when I email and when I make a calendar appointment and other kinds of things, I will use my keyboard most of the time. I prefer the input. It’s just faster. I’m not a very good two-thumb typer on my iPad. It’s just big enough where you can’t sit there and hold and do all that kind of stuff. So I prefer my keyboard.
WADE WINGLER: What keyboard are you guys using?
BELVA SMITH: I have the — what is it? The Kensington?
BRIAN NORTON: I think we use the Zagg Folio.
BELVA SMITH: Yeah.
BRIAN NORTON: I found it a little bit more durable and I like how it not only provides the keyboard but it provides protection for it.
BELVA SMITH: I like the feel of the keys. The push of the keys is nice.
BRIAN NORTON: Yep. What about you, Wade?
WADE WINGLER: I recently switched and started using the Logitech ultrathin keyboard folio. It’s a little bit like the Zagg. But I find that I’m not using it. There’s a couple of reasons for it. One, the keys are off-center from the screen a little bit, so the screen is in the middle and my hands have to move just a little bit to the left, and I feel awkward doing that. My sausage fingers have a hard time with the little keys on the keyboard anyway so I fumble finger a lot of stuff. But then I recently got the new MacBook, so I’ve stopped using my iPad, I have to confess. I use a very little anymore and that’s because this new MacBook — not the new MacBook Pro, but the new MacBook that just came out a few months ago is so thin and so small, and I prefer a regular keyboard anyway, that I’ve almost totally stopped using my iPad and I’ve gone back to using my Macbook.
BRIAN NORTON: It’s almost the argument back in the day that people had, notetakers for persons who are blind or visually impaired, versus having a full laptop with a full-fledged screen reader on it. I can see the argument going back and forth between an iPad with a keyboard versus your laptop and a keyboard. I would say I’m probably in that same boat. I don’t have the ultr- small, thin MacBook, but I have a MacBook, and I would almost rather take notes on it; however, really depending on the application and what I’m trying to do, I do use my iPad. I go out and do a lot of ergo eval’s. I like to draw things on my screen. So I use a couple of different iPad apps, one being Audio Notes, one being Notability to kind of draw things and represent things for folks on my screen because of that touchscreen interface that it has. Based on the task, I kind of waffle back and forth between using my laptop or my iPad. Of course, everything syncs which is nice because everything is backed up and I have everything pointing to Dropbox or an online iCloud or other places. That works pretty well for me.
BELVA SMITH: If I’m going to do anything productive, I’m going for my MacBook. But if I’m just surfing the web, wasting time, whatever, I’ll do it on my iPad.
BRIAN NORTON: So let’s say a question just came to you, if it came to you, what do you do? You can send us your questions through Twitter at hashtag #ATFAQ. Take a moment and do that. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a moment to do that right now.
We’ll go ahead and jump into our second question. The second question is, I have difficulty carrying and handling textbooks, so my school provided me with PDF versions for the semester. Although this is helpful, the very same reason I have difficulty with the textbooks also means I have difficulty accessing my computer. I’m looking for a simple low-cost way to have PDF files read to me so I don’t have to continually scroll. Any suggestions? And I think what they are talking about is, although you have a PDF version on the computer and its nice you don’t have to carry around a textbook, you still have to be up to control the program that PDF file is in. So sometimes navigating and sometimes maneuvering around the screen to be able to get into different menus and things like that can be a challenge for folks. They are looking for low cost ways and probably simple ways for them to be able to read the PDF file and looking for suggestions on that.
BELVA SMITH: My first suggestion would be to check with your school’s disability services, because often times they will have devices that they can loan you throughout the course of the school year or whatever the class is that you are taking. Those devices would be something probably like a Victor Reader. My second piece of advice would be if you are 18, then you would probably want to look for your local VR office and find out if they can provide you any kind of support while you’re getting your education.
The next thing I would say is if you’ve got some money, look for an iPod Touch for around $199. You can open up any PDF and use your Voiceover and tell it to start reading and it will read from the beginning to end — doesn’t matter if it’s 100 pages — without you ever having to screen again. I did look, Walmart has the iPod Touch for, like, $199. But if you’re a college student, I know that’s a lot of money. I would suggest checking with a pawn shop by most college campuses. You’re going to find a pawn shop and you will probably find yourself an iPod Touch for under $100.
WADE WINGLER: Did you just recommend our listeners go to a pawn shop?
BELVA SMITH: I did. Why not?
WADE WINGLER: Because it’s stolen, that’s why.
BELVA SMITH: Well, probably. But they are buying it legally, right?
WADE WINGLER: The opinions of those on assistive technology — are not those of the management.
BELVA SMITH: Exactly.
WADE WINGLER: Or just steal one.
BELVA SMITH: No, don’t do that.
BRIAN NORTON: Your neighbor has an iPod.
WADE WINGLER: That was a joke, just kidding.
BELVA SMITH: So I’m wondering, what kind of computer are they using? Are they using a Mac? Are they using a Windows? Because if they are using a Mac, then they’ve already got their Voiceover. Maybe they are reading their PDF trying to use Read Aloud rather than using the Voiceover. If you’ve got a Mac, then don’t use the Read Aloud, go ahead and use your voice over. But if you got a PC, then your only other option would be to use a screen reader like NVDA or something and that can be kind of tricky.
BRIAN NORTON: I actually recently came across a similar situation. They had actually given her PDF files for her textbooks, and I found that Adobe, the new Adobe Reader app, they actually give you the ability to use a reader, but you can actually, if it’s a readable PDF that your school provides you, and most of the time the things that schools provide you is a readable PDF, within Adobe Reader itself, there is a reader.
BELVA SMITH: Different than Read Aloud?
BRIAN NORTON: It’s read aloud. Did you mention already?
BELVA SMITH: I did.
BRIAN NORTON: Man, I skipped right over that. I sit over here and I just shake my head up and down all the time, yeah, that’s a great answer.
WADE WINGLER: He was just worried about the jail and police officers.
BRIAN NORTON: The other thing is if you do have a little bit of money, I would say take that money and go to NaturalReaders.com instead of the pawn shop. They also have —
BELVA SMITH: So you’ve never bought anything from a pawn shop?
BRIAN NORTON: I’ve never been in a pawn shop to be honest with you.
BELVA SMITH: Oh, my gosh. I’ve bought a lot of jewelry from the pawn shop.
BRIAN NORTON: Have you?
BELVA SMITH: Yeah.
BRIAN NORTON: Maybe I ought to look at that. It is getting close to Christmas.
WADE WINGLER: Mark Stewart, see what happens when you don’t come on?
BRIAN NORTON: Natural Readers, they actually have a free download that you can read PDF files. It’s basically a little menu system that will pop on the screen for you where you can point at the text, select something and make that read for you. But they also have one where, within Adobe Reader within Microsoft Word or some of these other apps on your computer, it puts a little toolbar up there and you can just be able to click on “start reading for me” and it’ll start reading for you. And then also even less expensive, if they are giving you readable PDF and you have an online storage place like Dropbox or other kinds of places, stick those files and Dropbox. If you have an iPod Touch, if you have an iPad, there are lots of really great apps that are very low-cost that can actually read those back to you as well. Claro PDF comes to mind, Voice Dream comes to mind. There’s probably four or five really good readers, text to speech readers for iOS or Android.
WADE WINGLER: I will say I am all about Voice Dream. I have just been a user of the product. When I was in grad school, I would scan in all of my textbooks, convert them over to PDFs, throw those PDFs into Dropbox and then let Voice Dream Donald them from Dropbox and read them out loud. I drive about one hour each day to work, so I would get in the car and I would say go and have it just read out loud textbooks to me so that I would use that time in the car to just do the first read. Now, not everything can be read that way, but just a first skim, understand in general what’s going on in a textbook, that was really helpful for me.
BELVA SMITH: If I’m just trying to have the book read to me, why would I want to buy Voice Dream when I can just use Voiceover?
WADE WINGLER: Because the voice is so much clearer. It also gives you the ability to highlight and change the spacing so you can do some of that stuff where the visual representation is easier to read. Not that I was reading visually when I was driving down the road, but it gives you more control over it.
BELVA SMITH: And if you pause and come back later, you can take it right up where you left off. With Voiceover, you don’t have the ability. That’s a very good reason right there.
WADE WINGLER: And if I’m just spot reading stuff, my wife doesn’t like this, but at stop lights I’ll have an email come in and I’ll do the two finger swipe from top to bottom and have it read just an email out loud to me. But it doesn’t give you the level of control or the quality that something like Voice Dream does. And it’s what, $5? $10? Something like that?
BELVA SMITH: I thought it was like $20.
BRIAN NORTON: It’s been a while since I’ve downloaded it. I’ve had that app on my iPad or iPod for a while.
BELVA SMITH: I think it’s like $9.99, but for $20 you can buy their bundle which is three different —
BRIAN NORTON: I think you can even upgrade voices.
WADE WINGLER: It’s $10, and then you can buy more voices, and each voice is three or four dollars. It’s available for iOS as well as Android.
BRIAN NORTON: I think it’s really the control that you can get over the content and the voice and how it reads. That’s the difference between some of those text to speech readers like Claro PDF and Voice Dream versus just a standard screen reader.
WADE WINGLER: Voice Dream has also come out with writer not too long ago as well, so it’s the same Voice Dream interface but it also gives you the ability to do word processing and have it read out loud while you are writing. That’s part of the bundle.
BRIAN NORTON: And they are two separate apps.
BELVA SMITH: But the first thing I would do is go ahead and check with your disability services, because if they got you the PDFs, they may be able to help you find a device at no cost.
BRIAN NORTON: Yeah. Many universities provide Kurzweil or Read and Write Gold. I know here in Indiana, IU makes Read and Write Gold available through there IUware, so to software download for any student that can go in there and download that. But a lot of other universities, most of the ones I can think of have Kurzweil as well in their repertoire or in their adaptive labs and make that available to students.
BRIAN NORTON: So don’t forget to send us your questions. Our listener line is 317-721-7124. This is actually an email I received from Jewel. A college student who is deaf/blind but never learned sign language is looking for an AAC app, which is a communication app for the iPhone, but can’t afford more than $30. She needs categorical boards for quick phrases, synthesized female speech, the ability to type to talk, and full Voiceover accessibility. She will be using her iPhone with a braille display. It doesn’t say which braille display. Which apps should I recommend to her, and are there funds to get her a more expensive app if necessary?
BELVA SMITH: So the question is are there funds? I thought it said there were funds. She’s saying are there any? It’s a college student, so that means we are probably talking about someone who is over 18. I would direct this person to the VR office, the vocational rehabilitation office, because that’s what they are there for, to help people get their education so they can get a job or help them keep a job. That’s the first thing I would do, is direct them in that area.
I would also suggest, which I’m assuming this person probably is associated with a disability services, but I would also make sure that they’ve developed a relationship with the disability services there at the college campus to see what they might be able to suggest or offer.
And as far as AAC apps, I have looked long and hard, and I wasn’t able to come up with any specific apps, but I do have some tricks that I use when I’m working with individuals that are deaf/blind for communication. Again, knowing what braille display they are using can be helpful, because Humanware does have the DBC, which is a deaf blind communicator, that’s a whole package of software and hardware, but the whole purpose in that was so that you could have face-to-face communication with someone who is sighted. Freedom Scientific, I believe they still have their face-to-face set up, although you don’t hear much about that one anymore. HIMS Chat is also a good app that is free. It allows you to make little “hello, my name is” — I forgot what I’m trying to call it.
BRIAN NORTON: Little phrases?
BELVA SMITH: Little phrases. And then also have a face-to-face conversation. I also am a huge fan of the buzz cards by Sorenson. Those are great for doing your phrases. If you go to the coffee shop and you order the same coffee every day, you can just make your card that says I want my white chocolate cappuccino or whatever. I also have done lots of training with individuals using just the app Notes, where I type, it shows up on their braille display, they use their braille display to type back, I see it on the screen as text. And then I also use Big, which is just a note app that is just a big black background, white text app. That’s what I was able to come up with. Did you find anything?
BRIAN NORTON: I was even thinking they were keyboard shortcuts within the iOS system. You can set up an abbreviation expansion, if you will, where you can type a couple of letters and it will expand out into something different. That may get you closer to the quick phrases. And then using something like Voiceover, you know, which would have the synthesized female speech and would be able to type to talk and those kinds of things. That’s just an app I use a lot for signature lines and other kinds of things to be able to quickly enter text into the screen.
It’s often hard to find that full-featured assistive technology software that you are looking for when you’ve got very specific criteria that you are looking for. It’s hard to find something that has all of those things in it. Maybe you can get pieces and parts from different particular apps. In this case, when you’re using Voiceover, you can get the fully synthesized speech. You can use keyboard shortcuts or any of these other DBC, deaf blind communicator, the chat from HIMS, to be able to do some of those quick phrases and be able to type to talk and those kinds of things.
WADE WINGLER: You know, I think we are missing the point here little bit on this question. She’s very specific. This is a college student who is deaf/blind and wants a full-fledged augmentative communication system, something that has category boards so that she can drill right down to Taco Bell in the menus and the things you want to have there, with phrases programmed in as well as the ability to type and talk. I’m not sure that there is any full-fledged AugCom system out there except Proloquo2Go that is Voiceover compatible.
BELVA SMITH: Is it going to work with the braille display?
WADE WINGLER: My guess is it’s going to because — Proloquo2Go, which is $250, it doesn’t even come close to fitting within her budget, that is a Voiceover compatible AugCom system. It’s one of the more popular ones in his full-featured, but expensive. If it’s going to be Voiceover compatible, then yeah, it’s probably going to work with the braille display. The thing I wonder, though, is this something that, if it were used specifically for telephone communication, would the National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program, the I Can Connect program, be a possible funding source for this?
BELVA SMITH: She’s looking for face-to-face.
WADE WINGLER: So she’s not wanting to use it for the telephone?
BELVA SMITH: Isn’t that what I heard and the question?
WADE WINGLER: She isn’t that specific. She’s talking about just using it for communication. I think to be qualified in the program, it has to be used for telephone communication.
BELVA SMITH: Distance communication.
WADE WINGLER: If her primary goal — let me ask you Belva. I don’t know if it’s fair to put you on the spot or not. If her primary goal was to do email or telephone communication, with this kind of a system, that’s a potential funding source for it?
BELVA SMITH: Absolutely.
WADE WINGLER: And so if they were interested in learning more about that, was the website for I can connect? Is it just ICanConnect.com?
BELVA SMITH: You just said it. It’s ICanConnect.org. You can also go to our website and get more information about it as well.
WADE WINGLER: Because we do a lot of those services here in Indiana, but there are other programs in other states. I really think we are probably looking at Proloquo2Go to have a full-featured AugCom system that is also Voiceover an inherently braille compatible.
BELVA SMITH: So in that case, because she’s only got into $30 budget, she probably would want to definitely get in touch with their local VR office.
WADE WINGLER: Somebody, because that app is a $250 app.
BELVA SMITH: That came up in one of our answers not too long ago. It’s an app that I have not had much experience with. That’s what it didn’t come to my mind.
BRIAN NORTON: Proloquo2Go is very specifically augmentative communication for folks that aren’t able to voice and are looking for some sort of device to be able to voice for them and communicate for them. It’s a very specific AugCom app, and hence why it’s so expensive.
BRIAN NORTON: Our next question is, I have a client who uses the Intellikeys USB Keyboard for input. In fact, he has bought the Intellikeys USB and an older model Intellikeys that is connected with serial to PS2 cable to USB adapter. It’s actually kind of strung together. The newer USB keyboard is unable to keep up with his input while the older one keeps up just fine. My question is, why does the older one produce faster input than the newer USB version?
WADE WINGLER: I have no idea.
BRIAN NORTON: I don’t have a whole lot of ideas either. It’s interesting, because as they upgrade inputs for computers, they are supposed to be faster. If your USB is not as fast as your serial input, well, that’s interesting. Either I would say maybe it’s a software interface or maybe it’s the overall sensitivity of the actual device itself, if it’s not putting text up there fast enough.
BELVA SMITH: I think you were going down the path I would go. If it were me, the first thing I would be looking at is what on the actual keyboard could be causing this to happen, not so much the connection of it. I haven’t worked with one of these keyboards in a really long time, but when I was trying to do some research on it, I’ve seen that this is only compatible with Windows XP and Windows 2000, nothing newer? Is that true?
BRIAN NORTON: I think that’s what they list on the website. I don’t think they’ve had a newer version Intellikeys for a while. The Intellikeys USB has been around for quite a while.
BELVA SMITH: Right.
BRIAN NORTON: But I have actually used the Intellikeys on a Windows 7 machine and it has worked fine. There is software that drives the process, so there is a piece of software that will identify the keyboard when you turn on the keyboard. The keyboard will light up letting you know that the software has recognized it. But I’ve not necessarily had that same issue with a USB version being faster than the old serial version. I know for a fact the serial version — because in research for this particular question, they don’t make the serial one anymore.
BELVA SMITH: Right.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s old. You can still find them, eBay, pawnshops, other places.
BELVA SMITH: I would suggest, and I’m sure they probably have already thought about this, but I would suggest maybe trying it in a different USB port than the one you got it in.
WADE WINGLER: Check your drivers. Check your firmware updates.
BELVA SMITH: Other than that, I really couldn’t begin to guess.
BRIAN NORTON: I even looked in research for the question. I’ve even look for other alternative keyboards. That’s a unique keyboard, but you can’t find a whole lot of other keywords that are in that class where it’s not a keypress keyboard. You don’t have manual keypresses that you do. It’s a touchpad. It recognizes different overlays and different types of keyboard overlays that you can slide in and out of the keyboard. I don’t know if you guys have used that or listeners have had any experience with that, but it’s a really great keyboard. In fact, I would even classify it as one of my favorite keyboards of all time just because of the flexibility you have. For folks who have targeting issues or access issues to the keyboard, it can offer a whole lot to them. I don’t have a whole lot of good answers for it.
BELVA SMITH: Another thing you can try, just out of curiosity, if you could plug it into a different computer and find out do you get that same slow response on a different computer, because if so, that would probably —
WADE WINGLER: Narrows it down.
BELVA SMITH: Yeah, to the keyboard itself and not something on the actual computer. Troubleshooting is really the only thing I can suggest.
BRIAN NORTON: Excellent. If there are people who are listening and they have suggestions or answers or potential answers to the question, or maybe even know of a different keyboard that may be able to kind of help out with that, chime in. Let us know. Send me an email, email@example.com. I would love to have your input as well and maybe answering this person’s question.
BRIAN NORTON: If you haven’t done so already and you have a question right on the tip of your tongue, give us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or maybe even give us a call on our listener line, 317-721-7124. You can hear your own voice on the show.
Our next question is, I am totally blind and have my own website with a blog and podcast. I stepped away from it couple of years ago for a few different reasons. I want to get started again but I want to freshen up my website and make sure that it is and accessible as accessible as possible. I use WordPress, and for example, I would like to make sure I am missing anything that allows me to properly label graphics as well as include share bonds for social networks that are accessible by a screen reader. Any suggestions as to which theme or plug-in might work the best for not only being accessible to those who visit my page but also be accessible for me to implement using JAWS?
BELVA SMITH: Thanks for providing which screen reader you were using.
BRIAN NORTON: Exactly. I’m kind of looking over here at Wade.
BELVA SMITH: I’m looking at Wade too.
BRIAN NORTON: Wade is kind of the guru around here.
WADE WINGLER: I don’t know if I would go that far. Actually, I have found that WordPress is a pretty decent platform, at least from the user perspective, the webpage you are perspective, because a lot of the themes are fairly accessible. We’ve used a thesis in the past as a basic theme, and that’s worked pretty well in terms of its built-in plug-ins and widgets and those kinds of things. Our current website, eastersealstech.com, is built on Simone as a theme right now. We switched from thesis to Simone just to get a responsive website so that it would work well on a computer or a tablet or a phone and work well. Really, we didn’t picked them because they were hailed as accessible themes. We picked them because we liked the way the left. We liked the features they brought. What we did is some test installs. We went ahead and installed them on some sort of a test site, and then we played around with the accessibility on them to verify that it worked pretty well.
For us, the process kind of looked like this. With our most recent update, we switched over to Simone. We picked the plug-ins that we knew were going to be the most critical, the things that allow us to interface with our constant contact email list, the things that provide social media buttons, down the side, and those sorts of things. And then we just sort of ran those on a test website. We used the wave toolbar and then we also just cranked up a screen reader. I forget if I used Voiceover or if I used JAWS to kind of check out the site. We just try to see if it would be accessible. We did have a little trouble in finding a widget that would allow us to put our social media sharing site stuff on there. We ended up with one just called Social Media Widget that does a pretty good job.
But you know, it’s a little bit interesting and frustrating, because when we talk about accessibility and creating a website that’s accessible, there’s a lot of trial and error and there’s always some trade-offs as well. I do some teaching about web accessibility and some testing in that way, and very rarely do I find a website that’s perfect. I find websites that have little promise here and there and sometimes you’re making a trade-off between functionality and a disability. Now, I’m going to backpedal and say that accessibility wins each time. You can’t develop something that’s inaccessible, but, I guess what I’m trying to say is when you are using automated testing services like the wave toolbar, sometimes you’re going to get some responses back from that, some potential errors that may need to look a little bit deeper and really see what the user experience is like. I’ve even seen websites that will pass an automated sense and look really good, but the usability isn’t great and you can tell that they probably haven’t had somebody who uses assistive technology take a look at it even though they were developed a website that is technically accessible.
I would say play around with them. We are using Simone now. We are pretty happy with that. We weren’t unhappy with Thesis and its accessibility, we just didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t responsive. The other thing is, as you are looking around, there are some developer forums who deal with WordPress and accessibility. If you just Google WordPress accessibility, you’re going to find some discussion boards, and you’re going to find some people have some of that discussion. The last little tip I will give you there, if you search for the word accessibility, you may or may not find stuff. If you look for A11Y, that’s the shortcut, the Internet shorthand for accessibility. If you look for A11Y in WordPress as you are Googling the different services you want to check out, I think you may find some pretty good stuff there.
BELVA SMITH: Wade, I want to add, if you would put this in the show notes, Site Ground, they actually have some tutorials about using JAWS with WordPress. There are some user groups for folks that are using WordPress and JAWS. That might be something to look into maybe becoming a part of that.
WADE WINGLER: And now it’s time for the wildcard question.
BRIAN NORTON: Right now we have the wildcard question of the week.
BELVA SMITH: Where is our music?
WADE WINGLER: We do that in post. I add that in later.
BRIAN NORTON: Postproduction. Right now we have the wildcard question. This is where Wade gets to ask us an off-the-wall question.
WADE WINGLER: Not necessarily off-the-wall. Just wild.
BRIAN NORTON: These aren’t super complicated. Just once we don’t have a chance to look at.
BELVA SMITH: Easy now because of Mark isn’t here.
WADE WINGLER: I was going to ask something really complicated. I think it’s an easy and complicated question. Everybody in this room has been doing assistive technology for a long time, over 20 years for me, almost 20 years for Brian. Belva, what, 15-plus for you?
BELVA SMITH: 13 plus.
WADE WINGLER: Quite a long time. We have all worked with hundreds of individuals and their assistive technology solutions. Here’s the question. What is the most complicated assistive technology solution you have ever implemented? I’ll go first to give you guys a minute to think about this.
BRIAN NORTON: They are all so complicated.
WADE WINGLER: Sometimes they are sometimes they are. I did one, and Brian, you were involved in this one a long time ago. There was a young guy who had Ataxia Telangiectasia. Basically it boiled down to he was a wheelchair user. He had extremely limited use of his hands. His verbal skills were pretty limited. His voice was pretty weak and not very articulate. He had a vision impairment, but it wasn’t really because of an optical problem. It was because his eyes constantly sort of rolled into the back of his head all the time. He sort of had sort of a need for large print, but it wasn’t because he didn’t have good visual acuity. It was just because he had to kind of work real hard to bring his eyes down to where he could see, and then his eyes would sort of roll back again.
His job was to do data entry in a workshop. Basically the situation was there were other people with disabilities in this workshop, and they would be doing packaging or whatever work they were doing, and at the end of each shift, there was a paper document that said this person did this many today in this much time, and this person did this many today in this much time. The guy that we were working with was super smart and didn’t have any problem in understanding the information. It was his job to put it into a spreadsheet so they could bill for it and keep track of it.
The challenge was he couldn’t use his hands on a computer keyboard effectively. If you handed him a teacher paper, it would very quickly get rumpled or torn because of the spasticity in his hands. So using his hands wasn’t a possibility. He also needed really large print and a bigger computer screen due to that situation with his eyes.
So what we ended up doing was, he was a single switch interface user. We ended up putting a pillow switch in his hand, and he would use the switch to activate Easy Keys which was an old DOS based program at that point that kind of, I think, still lives on. An automatic document scanner, and then at that point a 31 inch CRT bazillion pound computer gaming monitor. We did some scripting to make all this happen.
In the end, what would happen is the worship supervisor would come in to the kid’s office — he was a 20-year-old man — put a stack of papers on an automatic document feeder scanner. The user would then activate a series of scripts that would fire up the program, scan in the document, zoom them up into the viewer that came with this HP or Epson scanner, zoom it to the level of magnification that he needed, fire up Excel, open up the spreadsheet, and then get him set up so that he could switch back and forth between those zoomed in, scanned in document, switch over to Excel, and then use Easy Keys to type that information into the spreadsheet.
The interesting thing was, using single switch access is a fairly slow access method for a lot of people. He was doing a lot of document scanning back and forth. He was so smart that he would just memorize a whole line of information. He would scan a whole sheet of paper, memorize the 15 or 20 or sometimes 30 pieces of information that was on it, flip it back over to Excel and type it all back in with a high level of accuracy. He was able to do the job. He was able to do it using just his hands and his pillow switch to scan it in. It was very successful until eventually he passed away. He’s a guy that I miss and became friends with. He was able to use a pretty complicated assistive technology set up. Brian, you worked on that case a little bit.
BRIAN NORTON: I did. That was a pretty amazing thing that happened in that room. That was really cool. Given the challenges that were there and the technology back then. That’s probably been 15 years ago.
WADE WINGLER: Because I’m old. I haven’t done anything useful recently.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s pretty darn amazing. Anybody who knows me or has been around me in this field, one of my favorite things to do is low-tech technology. I love spending time at Lowe’s and I love spending time at Home Depot and all these other hardware places. I came across a client who, he had left side hemiparesis, so no use of his arm on the left side. He was a ticket tearer at a movie theater. This kind of project has lived on in my life for probably eight, nine, 10 years now, where we wanted to create a way for them to be able to tear tickets. If you’ve been in the assistive technology field for a while, maybe you’ve run across this kind of stuff. Really, the two dollar option to be able to fix somebody’s issue with that is you stick a hacksaw blade on the kiosk. So you just screw a hacksaw blade to the top of the kiosk, hacksaw blades are often times — I won’t put a blanket statement out there because I’ve seen people cut their fingers with a hacksaw blade. It’s really sharp enough to cut paper but not sharp enough, most of the time, to cut you unless you really try.
WADE WINGLER: You lay it on its side when you screw it down, right? So it’s laying flush against the top of the surface.
BRIAN NORTON: It’s laying flush and enough for you to be able to get that movie ticket up and underneath it and rip up against the plate to be able to tear it. For him that worked really well. The challenge was he was at a pretty busy movie theater. They wanted to increase his hours. We needed to come up with a way to be able to make that much faster for him. That meant creating something that was a little bit more automated. Over the years, there have been four or five revisions to this technology. The initial one was a —
WADE WINGLER: Norton 1000.
BRIAN NORTON: Norton 1000. It was a guillotine machine with a sensor in there. It was an L-shaped metal box. We worked with a machine shop and went back and forth with that machine shop umpteen times, numerous times, trying to get it right, trying to get it to work well for them. He would take that ticket, slide it into this L-shaped box, it would hit the sensor, and this little guillotine would just come chomping down on that bit. That worked on a ticket. The piece would chop off with slide down into a drawer and then at the end of the day — because movie theaters actually sell tickets to tell what kind of attendance was there. He would be able to pull that drawer out and take those to get out of there. I guess what I love about it is it’s now gone from that, we moved to a letter opener application. We took an old modified letter opener to be able to do that for them.
WADE WINGLER: An electric letter opener.
BRIAN NORTON: An electric letter opener. And then we also have more recently took an electric pair of scissors and have now gotten it up to being able to tear seven, eight tickets at a time. That’s really turned out pretty interesting. It was just real complicated, thinking about how you can make that happen. And then trying to get all the different folks involved. I’m not a machinist. I don’t machine. I don’t do modifications like that. I have an idea in my head, and then U got to get these other places and parts and pieces to mesh together to make that happen. That’s what I really love to do. It was one of my more complicated ones. It’s a really lived on since then. I’ve done probably four or five revisions of that over the years to make it better and more improved and be able to tear more tickets at one time.
BELVA SMITH: So the same guy is still doing the same job?
BRIAN NORTON: He is. He’s moved around to some different movie theaters. Most of the time we are looking at what we are doing for him. Yeah, he is.
BELVA SMITH: That’s amazing. So my story is nothing like either one of those. I actually have two that come to my mind. Most of my clients are visually impaired. I am usually trying to help them be able to do things non-visually. About maybe eight years ago, when handheld magnifiers were not as popular as they are today, nor as powerful. CCTV’s were also still big and bulky. I had a guy who was low vision going to school to become a transmission technician. You remember this because you went with me.
WADE WINGLER: I went there.
BELVA SMITH: He was in a very dirty, greasy environment, sometimes wet, sometimes cold. But our goal was to get him inside of this transmission to be able to see all of the little pieces and screws. He was taking them apart and putting them back together, so millions of pieces everywhere. What we ended up doing was taking — I don’t even remember what magnifier we ended up using. We did one of the head lights and attached the magnifier and then had it show up on a TV up on the wall for him. I will say that he did graduate and he was in the top of his class. He did very well.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s amazing. There are literally hundreds of small, little pebbles and beads.
BELVA SMITH: I was like, oh, my goodness, how in the world will you ever remember where all of these are going to go back? Okay, you can take it apart. I’ll buy that because you really don’t have to see too much take it apart. But when it came back to putting it back together, it was amazing to see how he was able to stick it all right back together.
BRIAN NORTON: Very cool.
BELVA SMITH: That was in southern Indiana.
BRIAN NORTON: I remember something like that. It’s been a while.
BELVA SMITH: We probably talked about it many times.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s very cool.
WADE WINGLER: I love talking about those old stories of people like that. I would invite people, if you have stories like that, that you want to drop in, a one or two minute version of that on our listener line, we would love to have you do that. We can pop them into the show here. It might be a need segment to drop in, or stories or something like that, from the old-dog AT people.
BRIAN NORTON: Love it.
WADE WINGLER: The listener line is 317-721-7124. Call in and tell us your story. We might put you on the show.
BRIAN NORTON: Perfect. Thanks everyone. Thanks, Wade. Thanks, Belva.
BELVA SMITH: See you.
WADE WINGLER: Think for having us.
BRIAN NORTON: Again, here’s how to find our show. You can search assistive technology questions on iTunes. Look for us on Stitcher. Visit us at ATFAQshow.com. Also, if you have a question that you’ve not wanted to ask yet but it just you are biting your tongue on it, please give us a call. 317-721-7124. You can send us a tweet at hashtag #ATFAQ. Email us at email@example.com. We definitely want your questions. In fact, without your questions, we really don’t have a show. Be a part of it. Have a great day.
WADE WINGLER: See ya.
BELVA SMITH: Be like TJ. Share your comments.
WADE WINGLER: Be like TJ. That’s the nickname for the show: be like TJ.
BRIAN NORTON: Be like TJ.
WADE WINGLER: He’ll get a huge kick out of that.
TJ CORTOPASSI: 🙂
WADE WINGLER: Information provided on assistive technology frequently asked questions does not constitute a product endorsement. Our comments are not intended as recommendations, nor is our show evaluative in nature. Assistive Technology FAQ is hosted by Brian Norton; gets editorial support from mark steward and Belva Smith; is produced by me, Wade Wingler; and receives support from Easter Seals Crossroads and the INDATA project. ATFAQ is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more of our shows at www.accessibilitychannel.com.