Category Archives: Collaboration tools

AccessTools v2 – accessible menu for portable apps.

The latest version of the AccessTools Menu thanks to Chris Phethean who writes:

AccessTools menuThis year has seen a new version of the AccessTools menu system enter beta testing after another summer of development. It offers all the features of version 1 with the ability to tab through and use short cut keys for menu items, enlarge and change the font colours and background as well as launch programs directly from the pen drive without installation.  There is a new feature offering different languages and the ability to hide programs that are not required.  There are also easy links to Windows built in accessibility features such as the magnifier, onscreen keyboard and narrator text to speech.

In response to some issues which came to our attention during the testing of version 1 with regards to .NET runtime compatibility on older PCs, we decided to branch away from the original C# code and recreate the menu experience using Java. Whilst the Java program still requires a runtime environment to be installed on each machine, we are able to include this in the AccessTools package to be placed on the USB flashdrives. With the help of an open source tool, JSmooth, it was possible to wrap the Java Executable into a Windows .exe file, and in this process ensure that the Java Runtime placed on the USB drive will be used to launch the menu. At the cost of a slightly larger package size, this should ensure that most Windows PCs, whether they have Java installed already or not, will be able to run the menu.

Other issues were encountered with the Java version. Because Java programs run inside a virtual environment, getting them to communicate with the Windows Assistive Technologies is difficult. In order for screenreader use, the Java Access Bridge would need to be installed on any computer on which this functionality is required. Due to the portable nature of this project, this was not a suitable solution, and so we had to limit the visual appearance of this version (Java AWT was used instead of Swing, and the interface limited to mainly buttons).

Big improvements have been made under the hood of the new version of AccessTools. Due to the similarity of C# and Java, much of the code could be re-used with fairly small amounts of tweaking. This process allowed the previous code to be thoroughly reviewed, refined and improved, before any new code was even added to the system. The complicated nature of the downloader in Version 1, for example, has been simplified by ensuring that each application offered will be in the same format (a single zip file), which means we can offer a much more streamlined process of downloading and installing new applications.

Finally, we owe many thanks to Fx Software who have kindly allowed us to redistribute their software as part of this project. This means we can add this wide range of incredibly useful assistive technologies to the open source tools provided in version 1.

First day of technology strategies from the University of Tokyo

Having arrived at the centre for AT2Ed at the University of Tokyo RCAST I immediately learnt about the Thursday morning meetings to discuss the latest technologies that are available.  It appears from the team’s blog (translation best viewed in Internet Explorer!) that the Ipad is the recent talking point.  This was borne out on  Tuesday evening when it was time to explore Shibuya and discover the true meaning of a weak pound!  (It is expensive here at the moment!)

Rumi using ipadRumi Hirabayashi (taking a PhD in dysgraphia and technology) using her iPad guided me around the area as can be seen from the picture.  Whilst walking around I learnt more about several apps that helped when translation was lacking!

The Hitsudan Patto app can be used with the iPad positioned between two people to text each other rather like the view you have using a Tony Churchill Lightwriter. However, with the ipad it is possible to draw as well as type.

The next app that Rumi showed me if we could not hear or see eachother in the crowd – it is called iBannerHD – a LED scrolling banner of words or symbols!

But the one I liked the most was iBrainstorm - a free mindmapping app which allows you to move post-its around with links drawn where you like.  Text can be written by hand or on the post-it via the keyboard.  It is possible to rub out mistakes etc and when complete email the result or save as a picture.  Ipad with iBrainstorm

All these apps work on an iphone as well.

Tomorrow we are off to the New Education Expo 2010 in Tokyo for the next batch of new strategies and technologies!

Just leave messages on the office door via the BoogieBoard!

Boogie Board

iPad provides support as an assistive technology and others hold their breath for the alternatives.

iPad accessibility information is provided on the Apple website but we have yet to explore the Android and  Dell Streak apps or other android features for accessibility.

When it comes to iPad, Richard Ells from University of Washington Information Technology Dept, (Seattle USA) provided links to:

A Whole New World – How an iPad is helping a boy with cerebral palsy

The iPad as an Affordable Communicator
This is an Initial Review – A person with cerebral palsy tries out Proloque2Go app on an iPad

iPad App Helps Autistic Teen Communicate
iMean is an app that turns the entire iPad screen into a large-button keyboard, helping speech-challenged communicate needs and ideas.”

MindMeister for iPad is now available from the iTunes store and syncs with your online mindmaps.

Spectronics have a list of iPhone/iPad Apps for AAC

Ricky Buchanan of ATMac talks about how she is going to explore more apps and the fun of the ipad

Finally the Telegraph say that the RNIB thinks the Apple iPad is ‘great gadget’ for blind people