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The National Federation of the Blind’s Inclusive Publishing Conference is a one-day online event focused on digital publication accessibility. Join us as we work together for an accessible future in digital content.

Register today for the Inclusive Publishing Conference.

Date and Location

Thursday, October 1, 2020
12:00 noon to 6:40 p.m. ET

Who Should Attend

  • Educators
  • Students
  • Publishers
  • Everyone interested in what goes into creating accessible digital content


Don’t miss presentations like “Accessible-by-Design E-books and Audio Books Best Practices for Inclusive Publishing” and “Best Practices for Ensuring Accessible Content in Your University Course,” among many others. 

More Information

Register today and visit the Inclusive Publishing Conference webpage for more details coming soon regarding the agenda, featured speakers, and more.

By:  Stephen Polacek

I’ve played video games for most of my life.  I’ve never really thought about accessibility in games until I met a blind coworker who played as well.  He told me about this shooter made specifically for blind people that only used sound cues.  It made me more aware of how those with disabilities can enjoy hobbies that most people would consider impossible to make accessible. 

You can find nearly type of disabled gamer on YouTube or Twitch.tv.  Many of those with physical disabilities have special controllers or use a keyboard with special scripting to function as a controller that’s easier for them to use.  Those with visual impairments or total blindness play with enhanced audio setups to more easily distinguish directional sound and then just challenge themselves to make it as far possible, sometimes with sighted assistance. 

close up of Adaptive gaming kit box.

Developers have started incorporating some changes and features as well.  I’ve noticed more and more recent releases try to incorporate color blindness features or additional UI features to deliver information visually, in the case of deaf or hard-of-hearing users.  While many of these features are rudimentary and you’ll likely see complaints about how useful they are, such as the colorblind features in Overwatch, it’s still an improvement that accessibility is starting to become a part of the development process.

This lead me to an organization called The AbleGamers Charity (ablegamers.org).  This organization is a non-profit dedicated to helping disabled individuals get into the hobby of gaming, with either custom controllers or assistive technology and scripting.  It’s really cool to see my hobby and my new profession meshing in this manner.  If you’re at interested in video games but were unsure how you could play with your disability, I’d definitely recommend looking into them or other communities, like the Visually Impaired Gaming sub-Reddit, and seeing how you can overcome this hurdle. 

For those interested in hosting an adapted gaming night, please take a look at this link from us: http://mdod.maryland.gov/mdtap/Documents/Accessible%20gaming%20Guidebook.pdf

Blue background white letters "IAAP"IAAP just announced a new resource for its members.  This Accessible Built Environments Initiative is an extension of the work of the Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES).  This helps bring in resources for those looking into accessibility into public spaces and/or workspaces.  This is being led by a taskforce created to expand IAAP’s availability to its members and launch a new certification program for built environment accessibility.  The pilot version of this exam will be available this month.

Here’s a quick explanation for those interested.  Built environments refer to a human-made space.  Buildings, cities, and public spaces all fall in this category.  Recently, the science of it includes effects on mental and physical health.  While architectural accessibility has been an important factor for decades, the improvements in technology mean this built environment accessibility has no factors to consider.  With smartphones, ride services, and even things such as the rentable scooters or bikes in cities, how are these new options made accessible and or how will the environment need to change to accommodate new methods of accessibility?  GPS and mapping tools are become so precise, they can be used to trigger apps on your phone that inform you of local food choices or recommended spots. 

There’s obviously a lot to consider in this arena but if you’re looking into a new area of accessibility, this will be a good place to start. 

Hey everyone!  This is James Whitney, AT Clinician MDTAP

Part of my job here at the Maryland Assistive Technology Program is to consult with Maryland residents with varying abilities / disabilities and assist them in the process of finding AT to best fit their unique needs. There are so many devices out there to purchase that hold value and can greatly improve aspects of an individual’s life.

I want to discuss some of the free-of-charge, already-included-in-your-device, accessibility features that your phone, computer, or tablet currently offer. I will discuss these below for each of the big 3 operating systems.  Over the next few bog posts, we’ll discuss options related to vision, hearing, mobility and learning.  

First up:  Support

How to access these settings:

  • Apple: à Settings à Accessibility
  • Windows 10 à Settings à Ease of Access
  • Android à Settings à Accessibility



Apple Support: If you are a customer with a disability and utilize our accessibility features such as VoiceOver or MFi Hearing devices, call (877) 204–3930 for direct access to Apple representatives who are trained in providing support for these services. https://www.apple.com/contact/

Windows 10 Disability Answer Desk: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility/disability-answer-desk?activetab=contact-pivot%3aprimaryr9

Android Accessibility Support: https://support.google.com/accessibility/android?hl=en#topic=6007234

#ResilientPwD Texts

National Disability Institute (NDI), which manages the ABLE National Resource Center, has launched the #ResilientPwD text messaging campaign to deliver information, tips and interventions to people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. The texts, which are available by signing up for a free subscription, will be sent two times per week for six months and are intended to help combat stress and feelings of isolation, build positive thinking and establish new behavior patterns that promote emotional well-being and financial resilience. People can sign up to receive these messages by texting the keyword RESILIENT to 833-632-0273 or by visiting nationaldisabilityinstitute.org/resilientpwd.

Phonetic Braille

By Stephen Polacek:

Louis Braille created a system for covering music but it operates separately from literary braille.  Does this cause problems for singing?  According to this author, yes.  She developed a different system for phonetic sounds, primarily for the purposes of vocal music, described to work as “Designated symbols, mutually accessible by the sighted and the blind, represent the singing sounds of six languages.”

I came across this announcement through the IAAP’s newsletter, which linked to this MultiBriefs article.  https://exclusive.multibriefs.com/content/new-phonetic-system-created-for-braille-readers/education

The author, Cheri Montgomery, is a faculty member of the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University.  She decided to develop this new code after working with a student who struggled to participate in class because of limited resources.  The code is meant to convey the phonetic intonations of language and make foreign languages more easily readable, which can be the case in classical music.  It is marketed as being for those learning to read, speech therapists, and vocalists.  The system was vetted by an instructor from the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center.  It is also intentionally limited to languages used in classical compositions, though I don’t know if this includes cultural considerations. 

I’m curious what some braille users would say about this system.  I’ve worked with some blind musicians who use braille for their music but none of them were vocalists.  At the very least, it seems interesting and a direction that, from what I know, has not been explored in Braille usage. 


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