If you’ve Tried Online Dating, A Research Team Would Like to Hear about It

Originaly published at: http://www.blindbargains.com/bargains.php?m=15209

If you have used online dating in the past year, researchers at the University of Washington want to hear from you. The 20-minute survey is available for people with or without disabilities, and participants can enter to win a $5 Amazon gift card. The survey letter is below.
My research team at the University of Washington is interested in peoples’ experiences online dating. Anyone who has online dated (including websites and mobile applications in the past year is eligible to participate. However, we are very interested in recruiting
participants with disabilities.

You can go here to fill out the survey.
http://tinyurl.com/onlinedatingsurveyuw

Please email
onlinedatingsurvey@uw.edu
with any questions or concerns.

The survey should take 20 minutes or less and you can enter to win one of several $5 Amazon.com gift cards.

Survey data is confidential; you will be redirected to a second survey to enter the drawing; should you choose to enter the drawing, your contact information will be kept separately from survey responses.

Thank you for considering, and please pass this onto your friends with and without disabilities!

Bespecular Joins the List of Apps to Help People who are Blind get Sighted Assistance

Originaly published at: http://www.blindbargains.com/bargains.php?m=15502

Another app has launched which hopes to be able to provide sighted assistance to people who are blind. Bespecular, is an app which allows you to take a picture, and then record a question regarding that picture either through text or by recording a question via audio. The picture and question will then be submitted to sighted volunteers who can assist with your question. It’s also possible to take multiple pictures of the same item and to get multiple answers regarding the same question. Sighted volunteers will then respond with an audio answer to the question, and you then have the opportunity to rate the assistance they provided. At this time, there appears to be no way to get answers delivered in textual format, though the company stated on its website that this app is now in a public preview format. A source link is to a podcast with a walk-through of the app for iOS. It states that the app will always have a free version, and that it will be entirely free to use until the end of 2016. Bespecular is a free download in the iOS App Store, and is also a free download on the Google Play store It does require the creation of an account before you are able to use it, but this process doesn’t appear to have any issues.

A Review of the Be My Eyes Remote Sighted Helper App for Apple iOS

Originaly published at: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw160202

Bill Holton

Many iPhone users with visual impairments use a video FaceTime or Skype call with a friend for a brief session of sighted help—to find a hotel room door, for instance, or to help set the controls on a washer or dryer. But what if your friends or family members are not available when you need assistance? Or maybe you call the same person again and again, and you worry you might be overstaying your welcome?

Mobile identification and text recognition apps such as TapTapSee, Talking Goggles, and the KNFB Reader can take up a lot of the slack, but there are times when you really do need a working pair of eyeballs. Now, thanks to a new iOS app called Be My Eyes, sighted help is just a tap away.

How Be My Eyes Works

Be My Eyes pairs sighted volunteers with visually impaired individuals who would appreciate a bit of remote assistance. The app is free both to download and to use.

For visually impaired users, the app could not be simpler to use. Most of the screen is taken up by a single control to connect you to the first available helper. Double tap this button and your device will announce, “Creating connection request.” A few seconds later a sort of electronic ring tone begins to play, and soon you are connected to a sighted volunteer through a two-way audio and one-way video connection using the opentok/tokbox video platform.

The volunteer can view your environment through the higher-resolution rear-facing camera. With a connection established, you can converse with the volunteer, introduce yourself (if you like), and ask for help with whatever identification task is at hand. You can disconnect at any time.

When you first open the app you are asked if you need assistance or wish to provide it. In either case you are required to register. You can do this using your Facebook credentials, or you can create a Be My Eyes account with your name, e-mail address and the password of your choice. More about this later.

If you register as a helper, you merely need to leave the app running in the background. When it’s your turn to offer assistance, the app will alert you. If you don’t respond within 10 seconds or so, the app servers will move onto the next person in the queue and alert them. “At first we tried pinging ten people at once, so people requesting assistance would not have to wait so long for a response, but we started getting e-mails from volunteers who were frustrated because they wanted to help, but were not the first to respond,” says Hans Jørgen Wiberg, the service’s founder.

Turning an Idea into a Service

Like many of us, after a few remote FaceTime sessions, Wiberg had the idea that we could more easily obtain sighted help if there were only some way to tap into a wider network than just our friends and family. Unlike most of us, however, Wiberg put action to thought, and he isn’t even a programmer. Wiberg, who lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a part-time upholsterer and Regional Chairman of the Danish Association of the Blind.

Wiberg took his idea to a local startup meeting, where people come together to exchange and refine ideas for new businesses and services. There he teamed up with seven others, none of whom were programmers. They formalized their idea and began searching for grant money.

With just a few thousand donated Danish Krone, the group hired outside developers to create an iOS app. They released it in the Danish App Store in November of 2014, and beta tested it with just a handful of users. After the user base reached 150 blind users and 400 helpers, the group was awarded a substantial grant from Velux, a Danish window and skylight company. Development continued until January 15, when the Be My Eyes app and service were released worldwide.

“The response was more than we dreamed,” says Wiberg. “In just a few days we had over 60,000 users, most of them potential helpers,” he says. “The signups came so fast, by the end of the second day we had to suspend the service while we moved to the largest server our provider can host.”

The main app screen displays a running count of the number of sighted and blind users who are registered. It also displays the number of individuals who have been helped—over 10,000 in the first six days. A future app update will also include the numbers of volunteers who are currently available. “This will help users have some idea of how long it will take to either offer or receive help,” says Wiberg.

Putting Be My Eyes Through its Paces

I first tried Be My Eyes just a few days after it was released. The first two attempts were unsuccessful: after 20 minutes I had not yet been connected to a volunteer. I was using the app late on a Sunday evening, around the time when the servers were being swamped with setup requests, so those circumstances may have played a part in the delays.

The next day I tried the app several times, and each time I was connected within 2 minutes. According to Wiberg, this is the norm. “There are going to be people who for some reason cannot answer an alert in time, and we have to connect to several different helpers, one at a time, before a request is answered. Other times there may be server problems caused by our rapid growth. My advice to users seeking help is that if there is no response within 3 or 4 minutes, disconnect and immediately try again.”

My first Monday call was answered by a woman in Britain. My question was simple: “Is this package of teabags caffeinated or decaf?” “Caffeinated,” came the reply, and after a quick “thank you,” I disconnected. Total time: less than 2 minutes from start to finish.

My second request was answered by a man in California. He helped me access my thermostat and find the LCD off setting.

My third session was answered by a man in Germany. I had inadvertently left the plastic cover to a vegetable seed starter on the patio table, and sometime during the night it had blown away. Together the volunteer and I search the backyard for it. We did not find it, but the help was still useful as it saved me the considerable time I might have spent walking around the yard, hoping to encounter it.

One task I did not try, and hope I do not have cause to for some time to come, is getting help with the computer error message that has in the past locked up my screen reader or prevented it from booting. My computer seems to know when all of my friends and family are unavailable. It must—why else would it always choose those times to crash?

On initial setup, the Be My Eyes app uses your iOS device’s default language setting to direct your calls. English speaking helpers are always connected with English speaking help requesters, French with French, and so forth. But the app’s Setting menu offers you the ability to add additional languages, which is how I was able to connect with an English speaking helper in Germany.

Privacy

According to Wiberg, your personal information is not shared with the helper. You may then wonder why you need to enter your name and e-mail address to create a Be My Eyes account. When I posed this question, Wiberg replied, “Both the helper and user can report a problem member, and we can then block that [account] and prevent [the user] from returning.” Unfortunately, the version I tested, 1.2 (45), did not require any e-mail verification, which means someone could make up a series of false accounts and cause mischief. Perhaps verification will be a part of an update in a future version.

Common sense would dictate that Be My Eyes users avoid asking questions about bank or credit card statements, medical reports, or any other information you want to remain private. Wiberg offers a useful rule of thumb: “If you were walking down a street and needed to know what you are considering asking [a Be My Eyes helper], would you feel uncomfortable asking a stranger?” If so, find some other way to obtain the information. Some may wish to consider the opposite scenario: Perhaps there is something you wish to keep private from your friends and family?

It’s probably best to avoid asking a Be My Eyes helper to assist in orientation at a busy intersection or other potentially dangerous scenario. Currently, the app contains no rating system for users to weed out what I can only believe would be a very few bad apples.

What’s Ahead for the Be My Eyes App

Wiberg is determined to keep the service free. He states that currently they have enough money to pay for development and server resources through next September. Consequently, I would not be surprised to see a Donate button pop up in a future release of the app, on the company’s website, or both.

The app is currently available only for iOS devices. There are no immediate plans to create an Android version.

Ironically, the biggest hurdle Be My Eyes currently faces is finding enough blind users. “The response to the opportunity to become volunteers has been overwhelming,” says Wiberg. “If they don’t get the chance to become fully involved, they may grow frustrated and uninstall the app.”

Until I uninstalled it, I had a dinosaur app on my iPhone to entertain my granddaughter. Every so often, even when the app was not running, I received an alert asking if I wanted to play. I can see many potential helpers who might reset their phone or change devices, and forget to restart the app. Perhaps a future update might include a similar gentle reminder to those with the app installed but left closed for several weeks?

I also hope Wiberg and his colleagues publish a Be My Eyes API that would enable other apps to seamlessly link to the app. BlindSquare, which we reviewed in the July 2014 AccessWorld , offers the ability to reach out to someone in your contact list for a bit of e-mail or text message help. Imagine how much more powerful BlindSquare, or the Seeing Eye App for iPhone, would be if users could request sighted help directly from within their accessible navigation app?

As it is now, Be My Eyes is an extremely powerful platform whose time has come. I will still keep both TapTapSee and KNFB Reader on my iPhone home screen, but Be My Eyes will definitely be my fallback—and in many instances, my go-to—resource for those times when greater independence can best be achieved by knowing when and how to ask for help.

NBC will make ‘The Wiz Live’ accessible for the visually impaired

Originaly published at: http://mashable.com/2015/12/02/wiz-live-visually-impaired/?utm_campaign=mash-prod-synd-apple-all-full&utm_cid=mash-prod-synd-apple-all-full#TTU7nN7pLgqm

NBC’s live broadcast of The Wiz Live will be fully accessible for people with visual disabilities.

The musical production will be the first live entertainment show in U.S. history to provide video description to viewers with Secondary Audio Program audio feeds, according to an announcement by Comcast. Video description is defined as “a narration track between the natural pauses in the dialogue that describes the action happening on-screen.”

“Comcast’s commitment to include video description with the performance of The Wiz Live! is ground-breaking,” said Kim Charlson, President of the American Council of the Blind in the announcement. “The path to accessibility is a journey of inclusion of all audiences.

Tom Wlodkowski, the vice president of accessibility at Comcast Cable in TV, who was born blind, explained why it was such an important development.

“When I tune-in to a program that includes description, I can follow along much better and get much more enjoyment from that particular show or movie,” he says in a statement.

It will be a big first for NBC, which has recently put on two live musical broadcasts: The Sound of Music in 2013 and Peter Pan in 2014. The Wiz Live, which will air Dec. 3, is an adaptation of the 1975 Broadway musical starring Stephanie Mills.

The NBC production stars a slew of big names, including Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Uzo Aduba, Amber Riley, David Alan Grier, Ne-Yo and newcomer Shanice Williams, who won an open casting call and will play the role of Dorothy.

New law requires movie chains to offer open captioning and audio descriptions in theatres

Originaly published at: http://www.hawaii247.com/2015/12/30/new-law-requires-movie-chains-to-offer-open-captioning-and-audio-descriptions-in-theatres/

Honolulu, Hawaii – A bill introduced by Kauai Representative James Tokioka (Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Omao), and signed into law by Governor David Ige will make Hawaii the first state in the nation to accommodate for the hearing and visually impaired at movie theatres statewide.
HB1272 requires anyone that operates a motion picture theater in more than two locations in the state to provide open captioning during at least two showings per week of each motion picture that is produced with open movie captioning. It also requires them to provide an audio description of any motion picture that is produced and offered with audio description. The measure takes effect Jan. 1, 2016 and sunsets Jan. 1, 2018.
The law allows equal access to movie theaters for the deaf, blind, deaf/blind and hard-of-hearing communities. It also brings Hawaii closer to achieving full inclusion for our deaf and blind communities that was first initiated with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
The law removes communication barriers and provides equal access to persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have poor vision through reasonable accommodations at movie theaters. It will also help seniors who have trouble hearing, as well as individuals who are learning English as a second language by providing the written dialogue on screen.

Pixar’s New App Gives the Blind a New Way to Experience Movies

Originaly published at: http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2016/01/23/pixar-new-app-gives-blind-new-way-to-experience-movies/

While we all love going to the movies, the experience often becomes a huge challenge for the blind and low-vision community when the visual aids provided by theaters are broken (or can’t even be found). Fortunately, that may be about to change.

Pixar Studios is developing an app that syncs your phone with a narration track. Interspersed between segments of dialogue, it describes what’s happening on-screen — characters, action, costumes — through your headphones.

Last month, Pixar threw a party at their Emeryville headquarters to test out the new app, in collaboration with Bay Area non-profits like LightHouse for the Blind, the Blind Babies Foundation and Guide Dogs. Complete with an expansive red carpet, the event was a Gatsby-like dazzle of light and noise, flashing cameras and a whole fleet of seeing-eye dogs. The evening culminated in a screening of “The Good Dinosaur.”

There are definitely some kinks to be worked out. A large portion of the audience — sighted and non-sighted alike — had trouble downloading it onto their phones. But thanks to a few Pixar employees, looking only mildly nervous, everyone soon had it working. Lisamaria Martinez, the director of community services at the LightHouse for the Blind, explained that it offered great improvements over current visual aids.

“Often I’m handed the handset for the hard of hearing,” she said. “Then I have to rely on the fact that they’ve charged the device…and that they’ve turned on the audio-description tracks. A lot of times they don’t and I have to go look for someone…and I’ve lost the first 15 minutes of the movie.”

Going to movies with her four-year-old is particularly discouraging.

“My kid’s a pretty smart kid, and he asks lots of questions: Mommy, what was that? How do I explain something that needs explaining when I don’t even know it happened?”

As the film began and animated talking dinosaurs galloped across the screen, the theater filled with laughter. Many folks who had never fully followed a film before suddenly knew what was happening. Read in an almost comical monotone, the female narration track was concise and dry — a bit like IKEA instructions. Here’s an example: “A bush rustled nearby. Arlo hides. A fully-grown chicken-like dinosaur with red eyes looms over them.”

Yet no one seemed to mind the hollow voice, and when the lights came up, the applause was raucous. Ms. Martinez was excited by how thorough the narration was.

“During the movie,” she explained, “I realized that it had dialogue, [but] not nearly as much as other movies. If that wasn’t there, I’d be so lost. Being able to have accessibility in my own power, it’s empowering to me.”

For much of the audience, Pixar’s new app offers much more than a chance to merely follow along. It offers the possibility of a drastic change — that a group of people who have long been left out of a full movie experience can finally feel included.

Screenworks to host closed captions and audio description workshop

Originaly published at: http://if.com.au/2016/07/18/article/Screenworks-to-host-closed-captions-and-audio-description-workshop/DGMGPDCVHF.html

As part of a commitment to make screen media accessible to the hearing and visually impaired, Screenworks will deliver a closed captioning and audio description workshop next month.

The workshop will aim to educate filmmakers on the simplicity and significance of closed captions for the deaf and audio description for the blind in screen media; how it increases the opportunities and helps address delivery requirements for some broadcasters and exhibitors.

The seminar will be headed up by captioning expert Michael Lockrey and audio description manager Alison Myers.

Lockrey is a former chairman of the Australian Communication Exchange, a not-for-profit organisation providing phone access to the deaf and hearing impaired, and is a passionate advocate for correct captioning across all media.

As a profoundly deaf man, Lockrey has developed an app “no more craptions” to easily transform Google’s auto-captions into correct closed captions, and has won a national award for his advocacy.

Myers is the audio description manager at The SubStation. After many years as a captioner, Alison branched out into audio description in 2008 and has been a passionate advocate ever since, seeking to expand its use, audience and accessibility in Australia.

Screenworks’ general manager, Ken Crouch was keen to emphasise the significance of this seminar.

“We are very lucky that two experienced advocates, Michael Lockrey and Alison Myers are leading this workshop. We expect that not only will it increase the accessibility of screen media for people with disability it will also raise the quality of close captioning and audio description across our film industry,” he said.

The event, to be held in Byron Bay on August 18, is free event but places are strictly limited.

Tickets and more information www.screenworks.com.au.