Web2Access updated with automatic checker and Accessibility Statement generator.

Thanks to a group of MSc computer science students at the University of Southampton and colleagues, we have updated Web2Access to fit with WCAG 2.1 Success Criteria and provided an automatic checking system that produces an Accessibility Statement.  It is a copy of the UK government’s latest template that can be adapted to suit individual needs after a website or service has been reviewed.  Any number of pages can be reviewed when you use the automatic checker and there is a visual appraisal system to double check false positives or negatives, including the words used to describe images as alternative text, overlaps on zoom and orientation issues for mobile technologies.  There is also the original manual checker for use with a screen reader and keyboard only access to add to the automatic checks.

There are some basic instructions on the Web2Access review page and we hope it will help with all the last minute testing that might be going on at the moment!    It can also be used alongside all the other checkers mentioned on LexDis.

ATbar working with MindMeister for mind mapping support.

In playing with the online browser based mind mapping tool MindMeister we have found that not only does ATbar work well when you are editing your maps but also when you embed them into a website as is demonstrated with this blog.

So you maximise the Mindmeister map presented on this page by selecting the window in the map’s bottom toolbar – it opens a new window in the browser and you can launch ATbar to read the text on the mind map branches, add a tint overlay, use the dictionary etc.  The overlays work best with Firefox and Chrome as then you can click through the tint to highlight text for reading with the text to speech etc.   These features do not seem to work with IE at present.

As you can see from the mindmap we are now developing a system to automatically check all the plugins so that we can make maintenance a little easier and have a quick way of checking when things are not working.

Do tell us about any other ideas or findings you have when using the toolbar as we want to make it as useful as possible.

ATbar provides more colour and voices and Azzapt is launched at Bett 2013

ATbar overlay in WordPress







Try the latest version of ATbar with its coloured overlays and choice of male and female voices. When used with Chrome, Safari and Firefox you can even write your blog with the overlay in place as demonstrated in the picture above! Sadly Opera and Internet Explorer do not allow this click through feature.  There is a choice of cream, pink, pale blue and green colours.

Both the Arabic and English versions of the toolbar now have the option to use male and female voices for selected text – if you want to stop the text just refresh the page and reload the toolbar from your bookmark or move to a new page.

The Azzapt app, that was developed over the last two years as part of the MyDocStore project, with Iansyst and Raspberry Software is now working well on iPads and iPhones and has been mentioned as one of the things to see at Bett 2013 by Sally McKeown in her recent blog. As Sally said, it is “a new cloud-based service which makes materials more accessible for people with disabilities when they are out and about. It works on computer, tablet or smartphone”.

More project outcomes coming soon in 2013!

Latest updates to Synote mobile, ATbar and LexDis projects

We continue to work on our projects, updating and trying new ideas!  Here is the latest news about Synote mobile,  LexDis and ATbar.

Synote mobile has built on the work on Synote Researcher and allows users to not only take YouTube video with transcriptions and captions but to also annotate with the use of tags, colour and work on a mobile phone or tablet.  The website has still to offer good search features but if you browse for recordings you will see the changes compared to the original version of Synote. 

Lexdis screen grabLexdis is now running as a WordPress site with students and colleagues adding strategies directly from a link on the website. We really would like more strategies and are excited about the number that are coming related to mobile technologies.


Magnus has ensured that ATbar automatically updates so users no longer have to check for updates, the website has several additions including a wiki for guides and other ATbar related information, a forum for questions and a services section which includes a way of supporting the spell checking feature to improve results.

ATbar desktop toolbarNawar has worked on the desktop toolbar for Arabic users and this is now available for beta testing. It has four functions: an onscreen keyboard, a screen reader, a magnifier and colour overlays. Please become a beta tester and download the desktop toolbar from Github. This toolbar is very much ‘work in progress’! If you want to join the team in testing and wish to know more about this work please visit our project blog.

Virtual Experiments @ Southampton University

There are a collection of Virtual Experiments available thanks to a University of Southampton STEM project and they provide an easy way of interacting with equipment to make changes that show you :

Diode Testing

Measure current and voltage of a diode in various conditions

Transformer Modelling

Perform open circuit, short circuit and load tests on an unknown transformer

Syncronscope and V-Curves

Use the Syncroscope and lamps to syncronise a motor with 3 phase power

Hydrogen Oxygen Explosion

Mix oxygen with Hydrogen and find the pressure at which the explosion occurs

Electronics Introduction

Observational experiment introducing some simple logic switches and a Analogue to Digital converter

Hooks Law

Simple Experiment to measure hooks law with a calibrated newton meter

Cell Growth

Measure the growth rate of cells at various temperatures with the help of timelapse photography

Rate of Reaction

Change the concentrations of thiosulphate and measure the reaction time

Thermal Resistivity

Use the labview program to measure the resistivity of several wet and dry materials

Phasor Simulation

A simulation to help visualise phasor synchronization

Water Flow Simulation

Add Doping and Sampling points along a river to try and map the underground waterflow

Other Virtual Experiments

Previous work:

Virtual Experiments at Reading University

Aspects of the experiments work with NVDA screen reader in Firefox and they are being updated to make them more accessible in the future.  Tabbing order is not as good as it might be for keyboard only users but once again this is very much work in progress.

Going mobile to support STEM subjects

iphone using siri

Thanks to Apple -iPhone 4S - Ask Siri

It is not always easy to make choices about mobile apps and those that offer easy access can be hard to find. The iPhone has much of its accessibility built-in with VoiceOver, Zoom and Siri speech commands on the latest models.

The latest Android phones come with TalkBack, Kickback, and SoundBack  for screen reading and large font displays that need to be enabled under the Accessibility options.  Edwin allows the user to verbally ask a question on the web and have the answer returned as synthesised text to speech. The Code Factory have developed a series of apps including screen reading and magnification for the Android, Windows and Symbian operating systems along with Talks and Zoom from Nuance.

BIG Launcher on the Android can make all screens larger and help with reading small print and home icons so that locating items on the phone can be easier.

CapturaTalk offers users the chance to capture text and have it read back with highlighting as it has built in optical character recognition and the Image to Text on the iPhone works in a similar way but it sends the text to email or EverNote. The latter then synchs with a user’s desktop computer or can be stored in the Cloud.

Screenreader.net have just introduced a ‘Safe and Sound’ app for Android and iPhone that offers users a geo-location service with large buttons which talk when touched and a layout that is easy to use.

If writing notes is difficult it is possible to use Dragon DictationVlingo or INXS Dictation as long as you are online – the text can be saved and sent to other apps such as EverNote, email and Dropbox.

STEM Logo But what about specific apps that might help those studying STEM subjects?  Sadly many of the apps are not totally accessible with the built in screen readers but Super Calculator for the iPhone has been evaluated by AppleVis and it can be used for a wide range of formulae from a library that includes calculations for Physics, Trigonometry and Algebra. “Just select the equation and assign value for it and it will show the result. Super Calculator will calculate a numeric solution for your equation with the values you assign to variables.”

Quick Periodic Table of the Elements for iPhone, has also been evaluated by AppleVis and it “offers rapid access to information on the elements useful for anyone in the sciences and engineering. Four periodic tables summarize a variety of information. Separate screens for all 118 elements provide 22 specific types of data. Access to that data is provided by a searchable list of elements that the user can organize by atomic number, symbol, or name.”

If levels of light or heat need to be measured it is possible to use the Light Detector app which converts the amount to light to rising or falling audio tones. There are also apps that will provide hexadecimal RGB form for the colour captured by the camera such as Catch Color Free for Android or Color Picker for iPhone.

If you are working with maps it is possible to use the Ariadne GPS system on the Android that provides vibrations and audio signals as the fingure is traced over the map to help with the location of items.

Keeping up with the latest accessible apps is hard to achieve so it is best to check with sites such as AppleVis or The Mac-cessibility iPhone blog from Australia or EyesFree for Android.  

iPhone apps help the blind in all kinds of ways’ is another blog on the subject – published on the same day as this blog!


ATbar new version with AItype word prediction and Acapela English and Arabic voices

ATbarATbar has been rewritten to cope with English and Arabic languages thanks to Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Center). There is a standard Lite version and a build your own version. Plugins can be added to an empty ATbar to offer users a customisable approach to enhanced reading of accessible web pages.

The standard ATbar Lite is a bookmark that can be dragged to the browser toolbar (or added to favorites). It has a set collection of plugins. Fonts can be enlarged, their style changed with increased line spacing to aid readability. There is a spell checker and dictionary. Text to speech for reading selected text uses a female Acapela voice in both languages.

The use of Readability reduces clutter on a web page and word prediction comes thanks to AItype. It works with all plain text edit boxes. The entire look and feel of an accessible web page can be changed to offer high contrast mode with linear text or just colour changes to the text and links. The toolbar colour can be changed. It is possible to reset pages and exit the toolbar at anytime.

When a new web page is loaded the toolbar has to be relaunched.

To customise your own ATbar go to the marketplace and install the required plugins – the toolbar can be saved and used in a similar way to the Lite version.

Please let the ATbar team know about any bugs.

Using online Virtual Learning Environments with screen readers or magnification.

Working with different online environments can be very difficult,  especially if your access technology such as a screen reader or magnification program does not work with the chosen course software. There is also the issue of accessing files in different formats that have been uploaded to say Blackboard or Moodle.  The problem is that many institutions set up their systems in different ways, so you may not have the option to change the view other than by the way you use your browser. Blackboard colour choices

There is usually a way of changing the background colour and font size and colour of a learning environment, either by the settings of the program (as is the case with Blackboard) or via Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and other browsers, if not on the university computers, at least on your own computer. BBC My Web My Way has some easy instructions.  It is also possible to use a plug-in for your browser such as ATBar which offers font magnification, increases line spacing and colour changes – there is also a Moodle add-in called Moodle Block:Accessibility . Guides for using the JAWS screen reader with Blackboard exist and there is a YouTube video on using JAWS with Moodle.

It is important to be aware that although you may be able to navigate around the main part of the system there may be issues with the chat options and forums.  Insist on clear subject lines and easy ways of knowing when the discussion has changed topic.

If you are downloading documents, you may need to change their file format such as PDF to text format.  This is where a specialist service like RoboBraille can help or a general purpose one like Zamzar which offers many more file formats. MyAccessStudies is a service that has a choice of online assistive technologies to use with the uploaded documents.   DropBox allows you to view documents on your mobile or iPad in a chosen app.  Sadly none of these systems will work with diagrams, graphics and maps if you are accessing them with a screen reader and options such as tactile drawings using swell paper could be an alternative and the RNIB offer an accessible images service.

The next Accessiblog will provide links to desktop applications that can help with file format changes and ways of working with graphs and mathematical symbols but as a starter “The Access2Science web site provides articles and links on accessibility of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).” with specific links to some of the applications.



Tried and Tested Apps for iPhone and iPad

Here are a few iPhone and iPad apps that have been tried by Cheryl Dobbs, Aaron Smith and myself for the British Dyslexia Association.  Parts of this article have appeared in the Contact Magazine (May 2011).

If you would like to help us to build up a database of useful apps, comments on existing suggestions etc., just send an email to bdatech@btinternet.com. Please remember to include a note outlining why you found the app particularly useful.


Vod Lite (Free) A Daisy 2.02 reader with text to speech and highlighting. Total playing time is limited to 120 seconds. However, the full version (£15.49), allows unlimited playing.

Web Reader (£1.49 for iphone) and Web Reader HD (£2.99 for ipad) A text to speech application for reading any web page.

Speak it! Text to Speech (£1.49) A text to speech app which works by cutting and pasting text into the app. It comes with natural sounding speech synthesized voices but enhanced versions can also be purchased for an additional fee. Text can be highlighted as it is spoken but the keyboard needs to be displayed for this to function.

Comment: A useful utility with clear sounding speech – £0.59 for additional quality voices. I particularly liked the way the files can be saved as audio files and even emailed from within the application.

Blio (Free) Reads ebooks that are in the Blio bookstore with audio, customised fonts, colour backgrounds and images but also allows access to freely available ebooks and EPUB, PDF, or XPS formats, via iTunes or the web.

Comment:There are sample books available that offer an American voice and other voices can be purchased for £6.99 but not all books can be read with audio. If you have a PDF it will not reflow or allow access to VoiceOver for reading aloud but you can read it with white text on black and zoom in to enlarge the font.

CamScanner (Free*/+ £2.99/Pro £4.99) A portable scanner for your phone. It scans the document, whiteboard etc and saves as a pdf. You can either store this on your phone or, perhaps more usefully, send to email, Dropbox account etc N.B. The free version adds a watermark to the pdf.

Perfect OCR (£2.49): Use your phone to scan a document and convert to OCR. Save as a pdf or e-mail direct from the application.

Image to Text (free) This app allows the user to take a picture of some text which is then transcribed via Optical Character Recognition – saved as text and sent to others via email or read in the Evernote app.  Reading aloud can be achieved by using the built in VoiceOver.

Comments:Works quickly considering the OCR overhead and is accurate if there are clear fonts – filters out images and seems to cope relatively in the sunshine and with shiny surfaces – outputs basic text.  

Eye Reader (£1.49) This app allows the user to hold the phone over a page to magnify and illuminate text using the LED and camera. Not only is the text enlarged, but it can be read in the dark and is very easy to use. There are no set levels and the light automatically comes on when you launch the app. User settings are not available.

Comments: You need to hold the phone steady to get the clearest view and vary the distance to change magnification levels. It does not work so well for white text on black as the light causes reflections. Watch out for battery power with constant use!

Instapaper (£2.99) : A useful facility for saving and reading web documents to read when you are offline. The facility is installed as a bookmark. When browsing the web,  with one tap the document is instantly saved into the App for later access.

Comment: This is a useful facility for those using devices which are not 3G enabled. Items can be moved and saved into different folders.

Writing Support:

Dragon Dictation (Free) This is a lite version of the popular speech to text application but requires web access to function. Text can then be sent direct to sms, email, Facebook etc.

Comment: This app has surprising accuracy considering the fact that it does not require any “training” to use and is free. However, this version lacks text to speech (TTS) support which is a major issue for those with dyslexic difficulties. One possible way round this would be to copy the text into a third party TTS app such as Speak It! Maybe this is something Nuance could consider in a later paid version?

ZenTap Pro: (£1.99) This is an efficient text prediction software application from which emails, texts etc can be sent.

Comment: The layout of the keyboard in this allows for frequently used keys, such as punctuation, to be accessed from the top screen. An arrow key for moving around text – an option infuriatingly lacking in the main iPhone keyboard – is also available. Both of these options have made text production faster regardless of whether I make use of the prediction facility it was bought for.

iThoughts for iPhone and iThoughts HD for iPad. (£5.49) A mind mapping app. Can export directly to e-mail, Dropbox etc.

Writing and Drawing:

Pages (£6.99) This app provides a bite sized version of a range of word processing tools for both iphone and ipad.  A range of templates are included, shapes, tables and photos can be imported with a tap and documents saved or exported.

Comments: There are a range of note-taking apps around but this is a simple but elegant app which allows basic documents to be produced. Although documents can be directly exported to email, iTunes etc – the option to export directly to other facilities such as Dropbox etc would be useful. As a word processor, it is an easy product to learn to use but will await the time when a product appears on the market which might include an assistive toolbar providing facilities such  a spell checker and an easily accessible means of text to speech support.

Internet Search

Dragon Search (Free) Instead of typing in text when you want to search the Internet – just use speech.

Comment: again lack of text to speech facility but since the text required for a web search is limited this may not prove to be such an issue.

Google Search (free) Just speak into this app to search the internet (requires internet access).

Comment: this seems quicker than Opera and Safari browser searching and you can just say the words.  Sometimes the microphone goes mute and needs resetting.


Dropbox (Free) If you use more than one computer you may have used Dropbox to save and move documents between them. The facility is now available as an App allowing you instant access to your documents wherever you have web access.

Comment: This facility is excellent not only for back up and sharing files but also for transferring files such as photos between e.g. ipad and computer without the need to sync. Additionally, it is also a means of being able to use TTS fairly simply with documents such as pdf, word etc. Transfer the document to Dropbox and then open it via Web Reader to hear the document read aloud.


Daily Reminders (Free/59p*): A very simple notification pad for daily tasks.

Comment: If you use Outlook efficiently then this app will seem very basic to you. However, it is this simplicity which makes it a really useful tool for setting reminders for the tasks you need to do each day and one day ahead.

Evernote (Free) A very easy to use web service that links notes from the computer and iPhone or iPad whether they are text, audio or images – store them on one machine and they will automatically update on your portable device.

Comment: Allows you to keep your jottings safe and organised into notebooks – they can be tagged and easily found again. Recordings can be made, photos taken and all can be shared via email – they are automatically dated and a location can be noted to help the memory!  The free Image to Text app automatically sends text files to Evernote that can be read with VoiceOver.


Free and Open Source Software to aid those with Visual Impairments

This blog comes from a talk given at the 4Sight Bradbury Centre in Sussex linking up our work with open innovation and open source Assistive Technologies on the JISC funded REALISE project as well as free software to access the web and a few links related to the use of mobile phones.

Portable USB Pen drives for use with Windows operating systems can run light weight programs with an accessible menu.  Examples are:

Accessible RSS News Reader
Accessible BBC iPlayer
Accessible Podcatcher
Accessible BBC Live Radio
Clock for time and reminders
Calendar for diary and events
Accessible Gutenberg Library for free books
Accessible Internet Radio Tuner
Accessible PDF for reading PDF files.
Internet Explorer Appearance Editor
Disk Explorer for working with files and folders.

More portable apps can be found on the JISC RSC NE Scotland site

Mobile phone apps are appearing all the time for Android phones such as eyes free, talkback & Digital Talking Timer.  The iPhone has built in accessibility features such as VoiceOver and  Zoom but there are many more apps such as  Eye Reader and Voice of Daisy etc.  There are blogs about Android Access and many more about the iPhone.

Nokia and Blackberry also have their accessibility sites.  Nokia phones use the Code Factory and Nuance systems of screen reading and magnification.  Blackberry uses Oratio and the freely available Clarity Theme.  There is also the mobile forums advice about phone option

Further Resources
Screen Magnifiers

Links for Print to Audio that provide free software include

Web Access options

  • Firefox – Fire Vox for web page reading aloud, Readability to remove clutter,
  • ATbar – a cross browser toolbar with text enlargement, colour, font and line spacing changes, text to speech, dictionary and spell checker.
  • Web2Access – to learn more about which interactive and social networking sites are accessible.
  • Webanywhere listen to web pages being read aloud just by adding your chosen web address to the edit box on the site.
  • RNIB Accessibility toolbar for Internet Explorer
  • LowBrowse for Firefox – delivers web pages in a text friendly way with text to speech options and colour, font changes etc.
  • Black Window freeware – Enhance visibility and reduce distractibility of other programs

If you have any ideas for programs that you think would help your use of the computer please add them to the ideas already being discussed on the JISC funded REALISE project