Category Archives: ATBar

ATBar as the next version of TechDis toolbar with Fix the Web

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.

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.

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.

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

Web browser accessibility extensions plus a move into apps

The five most commonly used browsers all have extensions or add-ons that can help you surf the web.  Here are some suggestions for each one.


The Mozilla Firefox extensions include:

  • Color That Site! – changes the background colour of web sites
  • Text to Voice 1.05 – adds text to speech to a site
  • Colorfultabs – makes your tabs appear with different colours
  • Wikilook –  provides meanings for words when selected
  • – a dictionary button that also provides access to a thesaurus, translations and spell check
  • Google toolbar – which has a spell checker, time, calculator, dictionary and many more add-ins and also works with Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer
The Chrome extensions include:
The Opera add-ons include:
Opera also has its own e-book reader and built in spell checker.
Safari Add-ons are new and the built in Safari Reader strips out surrounding clutter.
Finally don’t forget the ATbar will work with any browser and provide text enlargement, a dictionary, spell checking, text to speech and a way of changing colours and fonts and citing web pages.
When it comes to apps we are exploring iPad, iPhone and Android ones. iPhone and iPad apps are all available from the Apple app site and  study type apps that are useful ones include:
  • Dragon/Google Voice  Search
  • Dragon Dictate
  • Web Reader – $1.99
  • My Homework
  • Evernote

The Android Apps include:

  • WalkyTalky – spoken walking directions from Google Maps and Intersection Explorer
  • EasyNote
  • Google Search
  • Digital talking timer
Links to more of these types of resources will follow shortly.

Fix The Web launched to focus on e-accessibility with ATBar reaching 2m users!

Citizens Online has launched an innovative project called Fix the Web with the rather ambitious aim of (at least partially) addressing e-accessibility issues from a grass roots perspective, making use of social media for network effects.

The idea is that disabled people can report faulty websites and requirements for pieces of software which people with technical skills can address. Web fixing tools may be the solution along with emails to web developers. If this can be achieved on a large scale then change is possible!

At this stage input is required from both disabled people and techies on the scope of the project and on developing the website.

Further information can be found at

The ATBar has recently reached over 2 million users. 2m users stats