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Crowdsourcing site aims to be world leader for venue accessibility data

A new online platform built around user ratings and feedback is aiming to become “the world’s leading provider of accessible venue information,” according to the site’s developer.

The Access Earth site is about to launch in full after ten months of public testing in beta stage, with a mobile app to follow soon. The platform allows users to give scores and leave comments about the accessibility of hotels, restaurants and other locations around the world. This information is then available to other users.

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Social networking through voice rather than vision

A free communication app based on voice messages is proving popular with blind and visually impaired users, and has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help expand its community.

Users of the Vorail app communicate by recording questions or thoughts as short voice messages, which are available for other users to listen to and reply. Users just need to set up a basic profile, without any photos or images.

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Tactile Braille tablet brings pictures and content to life over 14 lines

A Braille tablet computer, thought to be the first of its kind available to the public, is about to be launched with a series of potentially game-changing features.

BLITAB is a tactile tablet computer designed for blind and visually impaired users, claimed to be the first such tablet by its developers. The design features a page of Braille over 14 lines, plus a smaller touch-screen below. Through the touch-screen, which has voice-navigation, users access the internet, email, documents and other content, which is then converted into Braille above. This includes pictures, graphics, maps and other images, which can all be represented on the Braille display.

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Navigating life’s obstacles: Wayfindr Q&A

Audio navigation systems can be a useful tool to help blind and visually impaired people become more independent and mobile, particularly when used in an app.

The Wayfindr project has just unveiled a valuable contribution to the field by releasing the first ‘open standard’ for audio navigation. The standard features detailed guidelines to help developers, transport services and building owners create digital navigation systems that can be used by blind and visually impaired people.

Last year, Wayfindr organised a trial in London’s Eutson Tube Station, featuring blind and visually impaired participants navigating the station through a demo mobile app. The app spoke directions out loud to the users, triggered by Bluetooth ‘beacons’ around the station. With the trial successful and the open standard released, it seems like there’s big potential for Wayfindr to make a real difference.

E-Access Bulletin spoke to one of the Wayfindr team, Katherine Payne, to find out more.

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A cautious welcome as Europe looks to lock-in web accessibility

A provisional agreement to make public sector websites and mobile apps across Europe more accessible has been reached, creating mixed reactions from the accessibility community.

The deal between the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission was made earlier this month, and relates to the existing ‘Directive on Web Accessibility for Public Sector Websites’, which has been the subject of debate since its introduction in 2012 (See e-Access Bulletin’s previous coverage at the following link: http://eab.li/b ).

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The Kindle begins to find its voice with text-to-speech

Amazon is making its Kindle e-readers more accessible for visually impaired users by introducing a screen-reader feature.

The VoiceView screen-reading function is now available on the Kindle Paperwhite model by plugging in the ‘Kindle Audio Adaptor’, a USB device designed by Amazon specifically for use with the Kindle. Users plug the adaptor into the Paperwhite charging jack, before plugging in headphones to the adaptor, and can then listen to e-books and navigate the Kindle interface through text-to-speech and touch-screen functionality, with eight adjustable reading speeds.

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Your assistive technology queries answered online by an expert

Anyone seeking advice on assistive technology will be able to call on the expertise of a technology professional, thanks to a community forum on the website of disability charity Scope.

The charity’s ‘Ask an assistive technologist’ service allows users to leave questions on the forum, where they will be read by a specialist, who will then leave advice for the user to pick up. Users just need to register on the site to become part of Scope’s online community, and can then post questions.

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Conquering the website accessibility divide

By Donna Jodhan.

There is the digital divide and then there is the technology divide. Now I’d like to add the website accessibility divide to this list.

The ‘website accessibility divide’ refers to those of us who are unable to access websites due to navigable and usability reasons, versus those who do not have any difficulty accessing websites.

The former group often describes those of us who are visually impaired, and for me, as one who falls into this category, I can tell you that it makes a huge difference in my personal life whenever I am unable to do things such as: access information independently and in privacy; complete forms on my own; request information without having to ask for sighted help; download and read documents without having to ask for sighted assistance; read content on a website on my own.

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Low-cost refreshable Braille display set to revolutionise the market

A device that could become ‘the world’s most affordable refreshable Braille display’ – costing around 80-90% less than current systems – has been unveiled, and should be available for purchase later this year.

The Orbit Reader 20 was announced at the Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference – known as CSUN – in the United States, by the Chair of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Kevin Carey, in his role as president of the Transforming Braille Group (TBG).

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Integrate accessibility into teaching practices, says field expert

Accessibility should be weaved into more educational curriculums and demonstrated in teaching, a specialist consultant told delegates at a recent conference.

Speaking at the ‘Digital Accessibility in Higher and Further Education Conference 2016’, David Sloan, a user experience engineer from accessibility agency The Paciello Group, said that accessibility needs to be integrated into the fabric of any curriculum featuring digital content creation, and can no longer be taught in isolation.

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