Blind People Reading Print They Can’t See? There’s an App for That!

I am a legally blind individual with an eye condition called Bardet Biedl Syndrome and have difficulty reading printed materials. Typically, I read using electronic magnifiers such as a Close Circuit TV or Freedom Scientific’s Ruby magnifier. But, these have downsides. A CCTV, especially a desktop version, is not portable, and the Ruby, though it’s portable, is generally for quick reading and it is just one more item for the user to carry with them.

Now, thanks to the advances of mobile technology, there is another way! The National Federation of the Blind has made the dream of reading print for blind, visually impaired, and print-disabled individuals into a reality with the KNFB Reader, a fast, accurate, and easy to use app for an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. You can now also use KNFB Reader on any Windows 10 computer, phone, or tablet. The KNFB Reader mobile app reads print aloud and can be used to read just about any printed material accurately and almost instantly.

It’s so easy. You simply take a photo of the words with your mobile device, and the app reads these aloud with high quality text-to-speech through optical character recognition (OCR). The KNFB Reader has tilt guidance and a field of view report to tell you if you are getting the right photo. It doesn’t matter if you can see that you have the whole page in range or even if it happens to be upside-down. Talk about the miracles of technology!

The KNFB Reader app is really a great tool. I have used it to read my pay stubs and the printed mailing addresses on envelopes. KNFB Reader reads the text flawlessly. I first use the field of view report to make sure I have as much of the document captured as possible, then take a picture. You can also use the tilt guidance feature to make sure the camera is level with the document. If you are scanning a lot of documents, I recommend purchasing a stand to rest the phone or tablet on. The National Federation of the Blind’s Independence Market sells one for $12. We all have smartphones with us all the time these days, so this app gives you the ability to independently read printed material wherever you are, which is very convenient!

The KNFB Reader can be used to read bills, class handouts, PowerPoint presentations, business cards, song listings on CD cases, books, and so much more. The original device, which was invented in the 1970s by Ray Kurzweil, was the size of a kitchen freezer and it was not portable! Now it is portable and can be downloaded onto any device.

The KNFB Reader is available for Apple, Android, and Windows 10 devices for varying prices. You can visit the Apple AppStore, the Google PlayStore, or the Microsoft Windows app store to find current pricing. The manual for KNFB is posted on the home page of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey, www.nfbnj.org, the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, www.nfbofillinois.org, and the National Federation of the Blind of Delaware, www.nfbde.org. The manual is also available within the app itself. Step-by-step instruction videos can be viewed at www.knfbreader.com. If you have any questions regarding KNFB, please direct them to the KNFB Reader Liaison for New Jersey, Rick Fox, at 973-743-6107 or richardfox1@comcast.net.

You can live the life you want with KNFB Reader!

Some of the above material originated from www.nfb.org/knfbreader.

Please download the KNFB Reader from:

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Siri and the Visually Impaired: Call Me Apple!

When Apple first introduced the voice assistant Siri with the iPhone 4S in 2011, I can tell you that many people I know were thrilled to say the least. Siri with its ability to translate voice commands has the potential to make life so much easier for visually impaired individuals. Using voice commands to look up phone numbers and make phone calls is just the tip of the iceberg. In surveying my colleagues in the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey’s Technology Division, I heard countless other use cases, including creating appointments with reminders, setting wake-up alarms, sending text messages, getting directions, checking the weather, getting word spellings and definitions and even performing basic math.

In short, Siri assists those of us who can’t see by allowing us to use our voices to get things done just by asking. The wonders of modern technology never cease to amaze me.

Many individuals use Siri on their iDevices, but only know a handful of commands. I discovered a complete listing of Siri commands compiled by applevis.com, a website for blind and low-vision users of Apple products, including Mac computers, the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV and Apple Watch. You will find Siri commands for all kinds of inquiries. Here are some of the categories:

  • Making phone calls (including calling 911 and the fire department)
  • Managing phone conversations and voicemails
  • Using Apple’s FaceTime
  • Finding contacts
  • Reading, sending and replying to messages
  • Scheduling meetings and conference calls
  • Checking calendars
  • Receiving reminders
  • Making notes
  • Posting to Facebook and Twitter
  • Using maps and getting directions
  • Finding local businesses and restaurants
  • Playing music
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Making mathematical calculations
  • Searching the Web
  • Looking up photos and videos
  • Managing iDevice settings
  • Taking dictation
  • Getting the latest news, sports, weather, entertainment and stock market information
  • And the list goes on.

Despite the wonder of this amazing technology, there are definitely areas for improvement from my perspective. For example, those of us with speech impairments get frustrated with Siri. You know you said a word clearly enough, but Siri doesn’t interpret it correctly. Sometimes my “g” sounds like a “d” so Siri might have trouble that way even when I am speaking clearly. After several repetitions, I usually give up and enter my inquiry manually. I have read that researchers are working on technology that better recognizes unusual voices or speech patterns, so hopefully one day Siri will be able to learn how a particular individual speaks. This would make a big difference to those with speech impairments or people who speak with a hard-to-understand accent and allow us to use Siri more.

No doubt, the next iteration of Siri will bring even more improvements that address some of the existing deficiencies. In the meantime, perhaps Apple developers would like to talk to some of us “real users” with disabilities? We see and hear things from a different perspective and can definitely offer some opinions and useful feedback. Call me Apple!

You can also read this post at http://www.perkinselearning.org/technology/blog/siri-and-visually-impaired-call-me-apple.

QuickBooks for the Blind

Most individuals use QuickBooks for their bookkeeping needs with point and click visual techniques.

But what about those who are blind, visually impaired, and print disabled? Up until 2013, it was a challenge. I know from personal experience. I had to use a combination of a screen magnification software called ZoomText and a screen reading software called JAWS (Job Access with Speech) in order to get tasks done in QuickBooks. Now I use JAWS with some specialized scripts produced by the nonprofit company MyBlindSpot, Inc. The scripts, QuickBooks Blind, have allowed me to become more efficient with bookkeeping projects for my personal company (Mackey Enterprises, LLC) and to open the door to become treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey.

Additionally, a powerful testimonial can be found by pointing your browser to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZklXouXyORk

These next 2 videos are examples of MyBlindSpot’s 60+ Self Paced Virtual Lessons that walk consumers, step by step, through the check writing process. It mirrors the instructions included in MyBlindSpot’s MBS User’s Guide, both of which were developed and drafted by people who happen to be blind, and built upon 20 years of source documentation used when training sighted consumers.

Lesson 50 Writing a Check:

Lesson 56 Sending an Email Directly from an Invoice Screen:

Thanks to MBS QuickBooks Blind and the programming improvements made by Intuit, QuickBooks has been made accessible and will continue to improve access for the blind, visually impaired, and print disabled users via the build in and scripted keyboard access to program features.

To view additional videos provided by My Blind Spot, Inc. which include sample virtual lessons, please visit their YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/MyBlindSpotInc. Additional information on MyBlindSpot and the QuickBooks Blind project can be found at http://www.myblindspot.org/.

This post can also be viewed at http://www.perkinselearning.org/technology/blog/quickbooks-blind.

Navigating Microsoft Outlook Nonvisually

As many people know, Microsoft Outlook is used to view email, contacts, calendar events, and so much more. Most individuals navigate Outlook using the mouse. But those who are blind, visually impaired, or print disabled navigate it from a different perspective with the keyboard.

Here is a listing of keyboard commands to easily navigate Microsoft Outlook. These commands work for Outlook 2010 and later.

Main Outlook Features

Ctrl+1 = Switch to Mail
Ctrl+2 = Switch to Calendar
Ctrl+3 = Switch to Contacts
Ctrl+4 = Switch to Tasks
Ctrl+5 = Switch to Notes
Ctrl+6= Switch to Folder List in Navigation Pane
Ctrl+7 = Switch to Shortcuts
Ctrl+Shift+b = Open Address Book

Messages in Main View

Main Window

Tab/Shift+Tab = Cycle forward / backward between screen elements (Navigation Pane, Message List, Search, Reading Pane)
Ctrl+Shift+i = Go to Inbox folder
Ctrl+Shift+o = Go to Outbox folder
Ctrl+y = Go to another folder as specified
F3/Ctrl+e = Go to Search box
Ctrl+m/F9 = Check for new messages
Alt+Arrow Left/Alt+Arrow Right = Go back to previous view / forward to next view
Ctrl+n = Create new message
Ctrl+Shift+m = Create new message (from any Outlook view)

Navigation Pane

Arrow Up/Arrow Down = Navigate downward / navigate upward in Navigation Pane. Press space or enter to select.
Press shift+tab and/or tab to jump between Message List and Navigation Pane
Arrow Left/Arrow Right = Collapse or expand group in message list
a…z = Jump to folder with letter typed. If more than one folder exists, immediately continue typing second or third letter until reaching folder
F2 = Rename folder
Delete = Delete folder

Message List and Single Messages

Tab/Shift+Tab = Cycle forward / cycle backward between Screen Elements (e.g. Navigation Pane, Message List, Search, Reading Pane)
Arrow Down/Arrow Up = Move down / move up between messages
Arrow Left/Arrow Right = Collapse / expand groups (e.g. week)
Shift+Arrow Down/Shift+Arrow Up = Select multiple adjacent messages
press and hold ctrl, arrow up/arrow down and space = Select multiple non-adjacent messages
Ctrl+Shift+v = Move message to folder
Insert = Add Quick Flag to message
Ctrl+Shift+g = Add Custom Flag to message
Ctrl+Alt+j = Mark message as not junk
Ctrl+q/Ctrl+u = Mark as read or unread
Ctrl+Alt+m = Mark for Download
Ctrl+Alt+u = Clear Mark for Download
Ctrl+Shift+w = Display blocked content menu. Press ctrl+shift+w, then p to download blocked pictures/images.
Alt+Enter = Show email properties
Ctrl+Shift+s = Post to folder
Ctrl+Shift+y = Copy item to folder
Space/Shift+Space = Page down / page up through message text in Reading Pane
Enter = Open message
Ctrl+./Ctrl+, = Jump to next/previous message (in single message view)
Ctrl+p = Print Message
Most Shortcuts work in Message List and when viewing single messages

Messages in Compose View

Manage Messages

Tab = Cycle between To, Cc, Subject, and Message Body
Alt+m = Choose From account from which to send message
Alt+u = Jump to subject
Alt+s = Send
Ctrl+s/Shift+F12 = Save Message
F12 = Save Message as
Ctrl+click = Jump to URI while in edit mode
Ctrl+k = Insert hyperlink
Alt+n, then a, f = Attach File to message: Insert => Add F
Alt+n, then a,s = Add Signature to message: Insert => Add Signature

Format Message Body

Ctrl+x/Ctrl+c/Ctrl+v = Cut/ copy/ paste
Alt+o = Display Format menu
Ctrl+Shift+p = Display Font dialog box
Shift+F3 = Switch case between all upper, all lower, and first letter upper.
Ctrl+Shift+k = Switch case to/from small capitals
Ctrl+b = Switch format to/from bold
Ctrl+i = Switch format to/from italic
Ctrl+u = Switch format to/from underline
Ctrl+Shift+l = Add/remove bullets
Ctrl+l = Align left
Ctrl+r = Align right
Ctrl+e = Align center
Ctrl+t/Ctrl+Shift+t = Increase / decrease indent
Ctrl+[/Ctrl+] = Increase / decrease font size (or use ctrl+shift+;)
Ctrl+Space = Clear formatting (or use ctrl+shift+z)
Ctrl+Shift+h = Delete next word
Ctrl+Shift+j = Stretch paragraph to fit between margins
Ctrl+Shift+s = Apply styles
Ctrl+t = Create hanging indent
Ctrl+Shift+t = Reduce hanging indent
Ctrl+k = Insert hyperlink
Ctrl+q = Remove paragraph formatting

Create Items

Ctrl+Shift+a = Create appointment
Ctrl+Shift+c = Create contact
Ctrl+Shift+l = Create distribution list
Ctrl+Shift+x = Create fax
Ctrl+Shift+e = Create folder
Ctrl+Shift+j = Create Journal entry
Ctrl+Shift+q = Create meeting request
Ctrl+Shift+m = Create message
Ctrl+Shift+n = Create note
Ctrl+Shift+h = Create new Microsoft Office document
Ctrl+Shift+s = Post to this folder
Ctrl+t = Post reply in this folder
Ctrl+Shift+p = Create Search Folder
Ctrl+Shift+k = Create task
Ctrl+Shift+u = Create task request

Calendar Shortcuts

Create and Manage Appointments

Tab/Shift+Tab = Select next/ select previous appointment in Calendar View
Ctrl+n = Create new appointment (when in Calendar)
Ctrl+Shift+a = Create new appointment (in any Outlook view)
Ctrl+Shift+q = Create new meeting request
Ctrl+g = Set up recurrence for an appointment or task
Tab/Shift+Tab = Jump to next / previous input field
Ctrl+f = Forward an appointment or meeting
Ctrl+r = Reply to meeting request with message
Ctrl+Shift+r = Reply All to meeting request with message

Calendar Views

Ctrl+Alt+1 = Switch to Day view
Ctrl+Alt+2 = Switch to Work Week view
Ctrl+Alt+3 = Switch to Full Week view
Ctrl+Alt+4 = Switch to Month Week view
Alt+1…0 = View from 1 through 10 days

Navigate Calendar

Ctrl+Tab/F6 = Move between Calendar, TaskPad, and Folder List
Tab/Shift+Tab = Select next/ select previous appointment
Arrow Left/Arrow Right = Go to previous / next day
Arrow Up/Arrow Down = Go up / down in current view
Home/End = Go to beginning/end of current view
Page Up/Page Down = Jump one page up/ one page down
Shift+Arrow Up/Shift+Arrow Down = Day View: Extend / reduce selected time
Alt+Arrow Down/Alt+Arrow Up = Go to same day in next / previous week
Alt+Page Down/Alt+Page Up = Go to next or previous month
Alt+Home/Alt+End = Go to start or end of week
Ctrl+g = Go to date

Contacts Shortcuts

F3/Ctrl+e = Find contact or other item
F11 = Enter name in Search Address Books box
Shift+letter = In Table or List view of contacts, go to first contact that starts with specific letter
Ctrl+a = Select all contacts
Ctrl+f = Create new message addressed to selected contact
Ctrl+j = Create Journal entry for selected contact
Ctrl+n = Create new contact (when in Contacts)
Ctrl+Shift+c = Create new contact (from any Outlook view)
Ctrl+o/Ctrl+Shift+Enter = Open contact form for selected contact
Ctrl+Shift+l = Create new distribution list
Ctrl+p = Print
F5 = Update list of distribution list members
Ctrl+y = Go to different folder
Ctrl+Shift+b = Open Address Book
Ctrl+Shift+f = Use Advanced Find
Ctrl+Shift+. = In an open contact, open next contact listed
Esc = Close contact
Ctrl+Shift+x = Open Web page for selected contact (if one is included)
Alt+d = Open Check Address dialog box
Alt+Shift+1 .. 3 = In contact form, under Internet, display message 1 .. 3 information
Ctrl+Shift+d = Dial new call

Tasks Shortcuts

Alt+F2 = Show or hide To-Do Bar
Alt+c = Accept task request
Alt+d = Decline task request
Ctrl+e = Find task or other item
Ctrl+y = Open Go to Folder dialog box
Ctrl+n = Create new task (when in Tasks)
Ctrl+Shift+k = Create new task (from any Outlook view)
Ctrl+Shift+u = Create new task request
Ctrl+o = Open selected item
Ctrl+p = Print selected item
Ctrl+a = Select all items
Ctrl+d = Delete selected item
Ctrl+f = Forward task as an attachment
Shift+Tab = Switch between Navigation Pane, Tasks list, and To-Do Bar
Ctrl+j = Open selected item as Journal item
Ctrl+z = Undo last action
Insert = Flag an item or mark complete

Business Card View

a-z = One or more letters of name that card is filed under or name of field that you are sorting by will select specific card in list
Arrow Up/Arrow Down = Select previous / select next card
Home/End = Select first / select last card in list
Page Up/Page Down = Select first card on current page / next page
Arrow Right/Arrow Left = Select closest card in next / previous column
Ctrl+Space = Select or cancel selection of active card
Shift+Arrow Up/Shift+Arrow Down = Extend selection to previous / next card
Ctrl+Shift+Arrow Up/Ctrl+Shift+Arrow Down = Extend selection to previous or next card, regardless of starting point
Shift+Home/Shift+End = Extend selection to first / last card in list
Shift+Page Up/Shift+Page Down = Extend selection to first / last card on previous page
Tab/Shift+Tab = Move to next / move to previous field
Enter = Move to next field, or add line to multiline field
Shift+Enter = Move to previous field without leaving active card
F2 = Display insertion point in active field to edit text

Other Outlook Shortcuts

Ctrl+Alt+s = Define Send/Receive groups
Shift+F9 = Start send/receive for current folder, retrieving full items (header, item, and any attachments)
Ctrl+b = Display Send/Receive progress when send/receive is in progress
Ctrl+Alt+Shift+F12 = Save Form Design
Ctrl+Shift+F11 = Save Form Data
Ctrl+n = when on InfoPath folder. Create new InfoPath form
Ctrl+Shift+w = Select Message InfoBar and, if available, show menu of commands
Alt+F11 = Open Visual Basic Editor
Alt+F = 8Play Macro

Additional keyboard commands

If there are any additional keyboard commands not currently listed, please feel free and send me a comment. I will make sure they are added to the listing.