Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Free OCR option for students

Does your professor scan articles and send them as an image in a pdf? If you use screen-reading software you know what a hassle this scenario presents.

Good news: you no longer have to rely on Student Disability Services or expensive software to access the text. Google offers Optical Character Recognition (OCR)!

1. Download Google Drive to your computer.
2. In File Explorer, paste the pdf into the Drive folder.
3. Open Chrome and sign into your Google account.
4. Open Google Drive in Chrome.
5. In Chrome, highlight the file.
6. Press App Key.
7. Arrow to “Open with Google Docs” and press Enter.
Give the process a moment because there is no audio feedback.
8. Press Control +A to copy and open a Word document/
9. Press Control V, and Control T quickly after pasting to clear formatting.
There may still be some clean up.

This tip came from Dr. Denise M. Robinson. She's got a YouTube Channel.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Device curriculum

New venture: Washington State Dept. of Services for the Blind asked me to develop a curriculum to get college-bound students up-to-speed with the Stream by HumanWare. This week the lesson plans were approved. A contract is in the works.

Why would a student use a Stream rather than a small digital recorder or their iPhone?

The Stream is much more versatile than a recorder. It's more rugged, affordable, less obtrusive, and easier to use than the iPhone.

The Stream interface is all tactile--similar to a game controller. A student can load books, their notes, record lectures, find references, bookmark, download podcasts, and listen to Internet radio stations. The recording capability works very well in large rooms.

The Stream lets students search and save Wikipedia references. Since colleges do not allow students to cite Wikipedia, this option is still useful in finding better sources.

The lesson plans will assist me in getting students signed up with the National Library Service and Learn Ally--a great option for accessible textbooks--and in utilizing other online content.

To learn more about the Stream, visit the HumanWare site: http://bit.ly/2d8UxGn

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

King County website

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to sit in with the King County Information Technology management and representatives from the Blind, Deaf, and Deaf-Blind communities to discuss web accessibility.

Back story: The county website use to be very accessible, but got redesigned. This issue came to the attention of Councilman Upthegrove, whose father is now legally blind. A few months ago, Councilman Upthegrove called a hearing where people testified about challenges. The website was a common theme.

I was unsure how this initial meeting would be productive. We were asked to bring suggestions to make the site accessible. Ask 40 different people and you get 40 different answers.

We were asked if there was a state website that serves as a good example of accessibility. No. The State of Washington is tackling the same issue. At the time of this post, their own employees cannot access basic information using screen reading software.

Note that public servants genuinely desire to do the right thing. This is a learning curve that is being addressed across the country.

Thank God we had a seasoned accessibility consultant in the crew to steer conversation toward the best resources and a plan. Below are some of the take aways.

1) The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are online.
2) WebAIM offers a checklist: http://webaim.org/standards/wcag/checklist
3) The County needs to develop a broad strategy. What areas are priorities? What areas are low-hinging fruit?
4) Then the County should consider hiring an accessibility consultant because this project needs to be done right and ensure that accessibility becomes policy.
5) When the County gets to the testing phase, please consider paying people for their time. The people who came to this meeting already volunteer much of their time.

Accessibility policy will make King County a better place to live and benefit everyone who uses the website. When Major League Baseball made their sites accessible, their web designers discovered that it can improve SEO and made them look cutting edge rather than retro. Web designers need us.