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Neither ice nor snow nor bitter cold shall slow down scientific progress (or those talking about it). So take a moment to rest your snow shovel and catch up on some of the coolest highlights from this week’s assistive technology news. AT in the news from 3/2 thru 3/6.

Robotic glove puts rehabilitation into the hands of stroke patients

Hawaii to develop technology park focused on state’s aging population

A new approach to education technology takes emotions into account

Passing it on: nonprofit’s used medical gear helps those in need

Why this developer cried when he watched Comcast’s ‘talking TV guide’ commercial

IBM helps developers design mobile apps for people with disabilities

For children with visual impairments, food is a way to explore their other senses

British universities’ best ideas revealed

Will robots help the bedridden see the world?

How Cloud is Creating Employment for the Blind and Disabled

Accessibility Standards for Equipment Covered By the Communications Act

How Engineers Envision a Blind-Friendly Facebook

The Best Adaptive Technologies Are Designed by, Not for, People With Disabilities

How New ABLE Accounts Will Help Americans With Disabilities

Some smartphone apps have to be cleared by the FDA

Blind Man Now Able To See Shapes Thanks To Bionic Eye

Robots open up the world of art

Microsoft Accessibility Resources for Developers

Mobile accessibility- how WCAG 2.0 and other W3C/WAI guidelines apply – new draft for review

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard

Working wisdom: How workers with disabilities give companies an edge

In N.J., a battle over Braille instruction

Tools can help elderly keep independence


Avoid Screen Reader “Freak Out”

Modern screen readers are able to read dynamic, scripted content updates within a web page. However, if the content a screen reader is currently reading or focused on changes or is removed/hidden from the page, the screen reader “freaks out” due to this loss of focus, and typically reverts focus to the top of the page. This can be very problematic if a page has continually updating content areas (such as a page area for updating sports scores or stock quotes). This screen reader issue can generally be avoided by ensuring that page content updates are controlled by the user or that they do not update when the screen reader is within that area of the page. ARIA live regions provide a mechanism for avoiding screen reader “freak out”. When page elements disappear or are hidden, such as when a user closes a modal dialog window, focus must be set with JavaScript focus() to a logical element within the page.

We’ve been filling up our AT Library Tours about as quickly as we announce them! If you haven’t been on one yet, now is your chance, and just in time for warming weather.

May 13, 2015 – 1-3 p.m. May Registration online.

And if you want to get a sneak peek of what we have in the AT Library, visit our Virtual AT Library.

We’re not going to ask you whether the dress is white & gold or blue & black, though you’re more than welcome to let us know what you see. But, if you know what I’m talking about, then you’re probably also aware of other pop culture news this week that just happens to include AT & disability, like the incredibly popular Comcast video of the 7-year-old blind girl’s reimagining of the Wizard of Oz, or the buzz about Eddie Redmayne winning an Oscar for portraying Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything. Anyway, read about these and more right here in our AT news wrap up for the week of 2/23 thru 2/27.

Self-driving cars and robot soccer

Bring back TTS (text-to-speech), Kindle

All together now: how accessibility in games is giving everyone the chance to play

This Boss Gives the Disabled What She Says They Want Most: Jobs

New Technology Showroom in Hartford Offers Solutions for Those with Disabilities

Boston’s Snowy Sidewalks Can Be A Big Challenge, Especially For The Disabled

Researchers investigate hi-tech solutions to help patients get more out of their assistive technology

Looking for a good DIY AT design idea?

Applied Physics Laboratory receives $4M to develop a retinal prosthesis

Grasp telepresence robot puts a remote teacher on your shoulder

Technology helps disabled US veteran walk again

University works to improve website accessibility for students with disabilities

(VIDEO) Watch this short sensory disability awareness film created by Basingstoke Disability Forum

A Great Speech and AT Evaluation Guide for Parents

Accessible Apple: How The Apple Watch Will Improve Security for the Visually Impaired

Now You Can Use Stephen Hawking’s Tech to Speak With Facial Expressions

This moldable device enable individuals with mobility issues to grip keys, pens, styluses, cookware, etc

Meet the Team That Makes It Possible for the Blind to Use Facebook

New assistive equipment to maximize human sensorimotor function

World’s first hands-free smartphone for the disabled

Clinton schools use font to help students with dyslexia

App Lets Anyone See for the Blind

Eye-Controlled Wheelchair Wins Top Design Award

Guide to Buying Low Vision Magnifiers

Devices give blind filmgoers Oscar-worthy experience

Comcast Beautifully Shows How a 7-Year-Old Girl Who Is Blind Imagines The Wizard of Oz

EyeMITRA, Cameraculture’s low-cost, eye health assessment tool for mobile devices, on our homepage


CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. A CAPTCHA is typically presented as a graphic with distorted letters or numbers that a user must decipher and enter into a text field. Although CAPTCHA attempts to ensure a response that is generated by a person, nearly all modern CAPTCHAs can be readily solved by computer programs. Graphical CAPTCHAs cannot be made screen reader accessible. By their nature, CAPTCHA introduces usability, accessibility, and cognition issues for end users, and therefore should be avoided when possible. When necessary, audio CAPTCHA (distorted audio is played instead) should be provided in addition to a graphical CAPTCHA.

NVDA 2015.1 Has Arrived

Contributed by Joel Zimba, Special Projects Coordinator, MDTAP


Keeping to their regular milestone schedule, the folks at NV-Access (Non Visual Desktop Access) have released the first official release of the popular NVDA screenreader of 2015. The unimaginative yet descriptive title of NVDA 2015.1 can’t lead you astray.  If you are running an even slightly recent version, you’ll be prompted to update when you next start the application.

There are several great new features in this release.  Most exciting to me—the ability to read MS Word files in “Browse mode.”  This causes a document to respond much like a webpage.  All of the quick navigation commands (such as pressing “h” for the next heading) as well as all of the others familiar “browse mode” features seem to work as expected.  Messages in Outlook also start in “browse mode” automatically.   There are several other features, like improved performance in Internet Explorer and Skype. NVDA is certainly starting off the year on the right foot.

For those who may be unfamiliar with NVDA, it is a free and open-source screen reader for Windows OS.  For some years now, it has been a very respectable alternative to other costly screen reading systems like Jaws For Windows.  In fact, NVDA works well enough that paying hundreds of dollars for another package becomes hard to justify unless you need a specific feature.  Many point to remote access as one of these features, though this may soon be a reality for NVDA users as well.

MDTAP also recommends NVDA for testing websites for non-visual accessibility.  The price is right, and the installation couldn’t be easier.  If the free voices aren’t to your liking, there are many paid alternatives available.  NVDA can also use the voices which come with MS Windows. Each successive version ships with higher and higher  quality voices, so try them out before breaking out your chest full of hard-earned sheckles.

If you find NVDA to your liking, consider  donating to their project.  A “Donate” menu option is provided directly within NVDA.



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