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Navigating With BlindSquare

Contributed by Joel Zimba, Special Projects Coordinator, MDTAP

Navigation apps are an important tool for blind iOS users. While mainstream GPS apps, like Google Maps or Apple Maps are accessible to varying degrees, there are many solutions designed specifically with the blind iOS user in mind.

One such app I have been testing recently is BlindSquare.  This complicated, but highly useful tool, draws upon information from the popular FourSquare service to create a unique navigation solution. BlindSquare will query FourSquare for points of interest near your current location.  By pointing your iPhone toward the various compass points, you can “look” in a specific direction to find out what is around you. If you select a destination from a list, the distance and direction of travel will continually be reported as you travel.

As BlindSquare connects to FourSquare for this information, information such as address, telephone, website and even menus can be had at the touch of a button. If specific travel directions are desired, the route can be generated via a GPS app of your choosing.  This is one key to BlindSquare’s power. It bridges GPS programs with  FourSquare and presents the information in a way which may be especially useful to a visually-impaired user.

Another interesting feature of BlindSquare is exploring an area virtually.  This is great for planning a trip, or just figuring out where you might want to eat lunch after next week’s meeting downtown.

BlindSquare can be very chatty, so there is a filter setting for limiting the verbosity of the information BlindSquare provides as you travel.  Spoken notifications can also increase as your proximity to a destination increases. As you can see, there are many customizable behaviors for BlindSquare which means it can be used in many different ways.

BlindSquare has been around for several years now, and it has received much favorable recognition. So far, I have only scratched the surface of what can be done with BlindSquare, and I look forward to using it in the future.

The iHear Hearing Aid app is a $.99 app that provides sound amplification for those with hearing loss. Run the app and point the iPhone in the direction where the conversation is occurring and listen to how the app amplifies the sound through the headphones.

A few things to remember:

1.) After installing, remember to reboot your iPhone.
2.) You MUST use basic headphones to hear the amplified sound. Note the very nice headphones provided by Apple have a built-in microphone that over-rides the iPhone microphone, which will NOT work right with this app.
3.) You MUST use an iPhone with microphone.
4.) Because there is only ONE microphone, it will be mono (play only in one ear). We are researching adding bluetooth headset compatibility for a future release, but stereo bluetooth headsets are NOT supported at this time.
5.) WHEN the app is LOADED, you must THEN adjust the volume of the amplifier, by using the VOLUME buttons on the side of your iPhone. Note this volume control (with the app loaded) is DIFFERENT from the regular iPhone volume!

There were some holidays happening the past few weeks, causing us to miss a couple of our Friday news wrap-ups. But  we’re back and brining you the coolest technology news of the week, like we do. AT in the news for the week on 1/5 thru 1/9.

Beyond alt-text: a wave of new senior corporate positions in accessible technology

Blind & visually impaired people can apply for a free currency reader from the Dept. of Treasury

The Rise of the Exoskeletons

Weavers Turn Silk Into Diabetes Test Strips

4 Weighted Wearables for Sensory Integration

Avaz – Help Kids with Autism Speak – Free AAC App for Autism Support

Helping hand: A robotic arm will give disabled people a lift

EyeComTec Announces New Affordable Software Solution for Paralysis Sufferers

Online Games to Help Build Early Literacy Skills

Students Design Calming Chairs For Those On The Spectrum

Anonymous cash donation helps disabled three-year-old’s dreams of communicating come true

This Little Robot Went to Market

Kids with dyslexia can thrive in specialist school

Give Someone a Lift- & Save Money » Products and services

AbleGamers crown mainstream, indie titles as their Accessible Games of 2014

NJ Students Design 3D Printed Handle to Enable a Disabled Classmate to Open Her Locker

New science helps a paralyzed man move his legs for the first time in years

Obama Signs ABLE Act

Technology allows disabled to turn ideas into sculpture

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Launches AudioEye Enabled Forms Submission

All accessibility resources for Google put into one convenient web page

Bypass technology directly to your head? That’s now a reality for those experiencing deafness

Most popular app in 2014! See how we’re using it w/kids w/disabilities

My Top Book-Reading Apps for Braille Users by Scott Davert, AppleVis Editorial Team

This Man Invented a Font to Help People With Dyslexia Read

Sesame is the first touch-free smartphone for disabled people

Bat signal for blind example of campus innovations

Brain hat helps paralyzed make music

How to keep an eye on your elderly parents

Listening to music can have clinical benefits on cognition and communication for people with dementia

Twitter Accessibility 101 – Alternative text for images

Financial Wellness Webinar: New Year, New Financially Secure You

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
3:00 – 4:00 P.M. EDT

Start the New Year off on the right financial foot. Join the discussion on free tax preparation resources and credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that can help you keep more of what you earn, the importance of assessing past and future financial goals, and changes in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that could affect you in 2015. Expert speakers will identify favorable tax provisions, discuss why using tax time is good time of year for a financial review, and identify ways to utilize all available resources to improve your financial well-being for a prosperous 2015.

Register for this webinar here


Server-side Image Maps

Server-side image maps (typically an <img> with the ismap attribute) allows x and y coordinates of where a user clicks the image with a mouse to be sent to a server for processing. For example, for a state map, the x and y coordinates of where the user clicks could be analyzed to direct the user to a web page for the county they clicked. Server-side image maps are not keyboard accessible – one cannot click a particular point on an image using the keyboard. Instead of server-side image maps, client-side image maps (wherein clickable areas or ‘hotspots’ are defined) should be used. Client side images maps (<area> elements with appropriate alternative text and a logical navigation order) are fully accessible to both mouse and keyboard users.

We’ve been updating our online apps directory with a whole lot of new apps. Visit Apps, Apps and more Apps!, where you can find a collection of apps categorized for a variety of disabilities along with brief descriptions, prices, and links.


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