Accessibility Camp 2015 in Toronto

Accessibility Camp 2015 at OCAD on Saturday October 17th turned out to be eye opening. Going in this reviewer was looking for Accessibility/Assistive software which could be applied for No vision and Low Vision computer users with emphasis on color blindness. There were many presentations about the subject so  attendees got to see some great free apps but also surprisingly expensive software and hardware available for various  disabilities. In adiition there was an afternoon Open Data Hackathon looking at utilizing the wealth of Toronto city OpenData available for use by all all citizens but with an eye to taking advanatge of Accessibility data. Here is a rundown on  some of the Assistive Technologies shown . The next review in the series will look at the Open Data Hackathon.

No Vision/Low Vision Software Tools

There is a remarkable amount of software and hardware available to assist both no vision and low vision computer users. Two companies , AI Squared and Freedom Scientific dominate the field. Freedom Scientific has software that makes zooming and/or directly reading for Low Vision users – nearly six times more common then low vision users- a lot easier:
accfreedomsci
Freedom Scientific has the broadest range of No Vision and Low Vision hardware-assistance aid including several braille output devices as well as special computer readers and video augmenters. But the prices for this hardware is prett dear averagingy between $1000 and $3000 dollars.

Less expensive was some Low Vision software which allowed any portion of a screen to be enlarged:
accfreedomsci
T
his software not only zooms but also will readout highlighted blocks of text. The interface is easy to operate but the software only runs on Windows [no Mac or Linux versions]. Also the price on the full version of MAGic is $599.

So this reviewer was interested in what AI Squared had to offer in Low Vision software that magnified and also did read-out of highlighted text blocks. They certainly delivered as seen in the screenshot::
accsitecues
Zoomit also provides easy magnification and text block read-out like MAGic.But AI Squared offers a Mac version of its ZoomIt product while making text blocks for audio read-out a bit easier to do. However, the cost of Zoomit is also $599US. – so there is no price relief. However, AI Squared also  has a SaaS version of Zoomit called Sitecues that brings the same magnification and text block audio read-out to websites for any of popular browsers. All website owners have to do is add some small scripting code onto the pages on their website where they want to add Zoomit-like capabilities. From the demo, it is dead simple. But the downside is that AI Squared has a complex charging algorithm for SiteCues.

Free Accessibility Software

Having seen the relatively high price of magnifying software, this party was looking for some free software which could do at least magnification if not text-block readout. Well talking with Accessibility attendees several recommendations were offered and here is the best of the free software. Firs, for Windows users there is free Desktop-Zoom program that offers a wide range of magnification control options. Users have a choice of zooming in-and out using the mousewheel with  CTRL, ALT or SHIFT key or use the arrow keys with  CTRL, ALT or SHIFT:
aacdesktopzoom
However despite many efforts the text block read out feature worked very erratically in Windows 10. So a Chrome extension called Zoom was tried and its magnification in Google’s Chrome browser worked quite well. one could apply magnification to any single web page or extend that same magnification to all the pages browsed in Chrome. So I could recommend a range of alternative for Accessibility assistance to a client.

Color Blindness 

However, that client was interested in what could be done for color blindness because members of her staff and family had that ailment. Fortunately, the cross chatter at the conference produced a couple of very good solutions here too. First, there is another Chrome extension, No Coffee Vision Simulator which shows how a web page looks to viewers with not just Color-blindness but a whole range of visual impairments:
accnocoffee
The Vision Simulator really gives a strong view of what various visual deficits do. No Coffee simulates 8 different color blindness symptoms. This is valuable feedback. But another website, Paletton.com, offers even more for Web Designers. First it allows Designers to try out a number of different color layouts based on compliments, triads, tetrads, and other color theory combinations:
accpal1
This is already very valuable information in deciding on a color palette for a theme or website. But then, Paletton allows users to the see chosen palette used in 1 of 5  example web page layouts like so:
accpal2
So now you get to see the chosen palette of colors spread on a example webpage . But in this case one of the 8 color blindness conditions is used to alter the chosen palette of colors. So this is how the website looks to someone who has Protanopia. But there is more. Users have available a popup for fine adjustments of hue, saturation, brightness, and contrast. This where it is possible to make corrections based on contrast and hue adjustments that make color blind adjustment very effective. Discovering this tool is a blessing because now one can show the client first the effects of color blindness but also adjustments to make a website better perceived by the color blind while still using pleasing colors for the majority of users.

Summary

Attendance at the Accessibility Conference at OCAD  turned out to be very fruitful. First, the conference covered the state of the art in Accessibility/Assistive Technologies. Second, state of the art premium and free software for dealing with a wide range of visual impairments were reviewed. Finally, a  solution for a very specific client problem with color blindness was addressed with two great and free tools available was discovered. In sum, it was a very useful day of exposure to the World of Accessibility.