Need access to better nutrition? There’s an app for that

Kel Smith, author of the just-released “Digital Outcasts,” and about whom you will soon read more here on the Accessible Insights Blog, has been reaching out to his fans, friends and colleagues in an effort to bring attention to a great cause. Just this morning, Kel sent out information about his project, and I was so eager to get the details to my readers that I asked Kel if I could post excerpted content of his email below. Want to make a real difference in the health and well-being of people with limited access to nutritious food? Read on to find out how.

Kel’s project is called Aisle Won. For screen reader users, note that the spelling is w o n, as opposed to the numeral one. It’s a combination mobile app and outreach program to connect people living in “food deserts” with sources of healthy, affordable food. Kel has been developing this for the past year or so, and just launched the pilot. Now, he is reaching out to folks to help spread the word.

Kel writes: “An estimated 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts and rely on unhealthy sources of nutrition, such as corner bodegas and fast food restaurants. To say that this is a health problem of growing national concern would be an understatement. For people with disabilities who cannot leave their homes, it’s an even greater burden.”

Here’s how it works: shoppers place an order and check a map to see where locally-grown produce is available in their neighborhood. They can maximize purchases according to individual budgetary and dietary needs. They can also peruse recipes that are delicious and easy to prepare. Local urban farms, then, expand their reach into more areas. Everybody wins.

Anikto completely self-funded the first pilot, now being launched in the Clifton Park section of northeast Baltimore. “We have participating support from the Mayor’s Civic Works office and a six-acre plot called Real Food Farm.” Smith says. “To get Aisle Won to the next level, though, I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Wednesday was the first day and we already gathered 10% of our goal!”

So … if you follow nutrition literacy, are interested in urban farming, or just appreciate the importance of healthy eating — then please go to:

http://igg.me/at/aisle-won/x/3047094 where you’ll see details of the campaign, which will be live for 40 days. Please contribute to this delicious cause!

Connect with Kel:

215.285.2274
Kel.Smith@anikto.com
http://anikto.com
@KelSmith on Twitter
@DigitalOutcasts for info on Kel’s new book.
“Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward Without Leaving People Behind”
http://digital-outcasts.com

Maintain situational awareness while accessing audio input with AfterShokz

Sometimes, a good sales pitch can begin with a story. What follows is a story about someone I met at the recent CSUN13 conference. If you can stay with me until the end, I will try to make it worth your while.

One morning during the conference week while sitting alone at the Grand Hyatt Starbucks, at a tiny table adjacent to the busy lobby coffee bar, a voice said, “Excuse me, Mind if I join you?”

I looked up. “Of course not,” I answered, hurriedly clearing away the detritus of my coffee and muffin. “Thanks,” he said. “Tables are at a premium here.”

We introduced ourselves, and he asked if I was attending the conference. I said yes, then realized that I had not noticed that he was using a service dog, nor did he seem to have a white cane. “Are you?” I asked. “Are you exhibiting? A vendor?”

“Not exactly,” he explained. “But I’m here to market my product to the blind community. Here. Let me show you.” Then, he placed something on the table in front of me. “It’s a pair of headphones,” he said.

I picked up a feather-light, super-streamlined piece of gear, noticing immediately that it resembled no pair of headphones I had ever seen. “They’re called bone-conduction headphones,” he continued. “Let me put them on you.” He placed the headphones around the back of my neck, placing what would normally be the portion worn over the ears at my temporal bone instead. Then, I experienced a surreal sensation. I was hearing both full volume music coming from the headphones, along with the ambient noise of the crowded coffee shop. I could…feel…the sound, while not only hearing it, but also being fully aware of the activity around me.

Dennis Taussig is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer VP of AfterShokz, a company that has produced the world’s first open ear bone -conduction headphones for runners, cyclists, sports enthusiasts, and now, thanks to the blind community, an ingenious application for us, too.   
 
Originally, the technology was created by VoxTech, one of the leading companies in the world to supply this technology to the military.  Dennis worked on a number of projects with the principle of Voxtech, and one day Dennis was contacted to find out if a consumer version of this technology was possible.  Within months, a company was formed, and AfterShokz made it’s debut at the Consumer Electronics show )International CES in January, 2012. 
 
AfterShokz bone- conduction headphones are ideal for anyone who wants to maintain situational awareness while still listening to important audio cues, such as that which is provided by text-to-speech GPS navigation devices.  You can travel to your destination while hearing instructions from your iPad or iPhone, listen to music or a podcast while on a bus, or work out at the gym to your favorite motivational guru and still hear the tap of your white cane, the driver call out your bus stop, or your personal trainer counting off the reps.  It’s a fascinating product, and Dennis credits the blind community with providing the ideas that expanded the business. 
 
“I was getting calls from people who are blind,” says Taussig.  “And they kept asking if the headphones could be used with their Bluetooth devices for navigation.” 
 
Since his exposure to the disability community, Dennis has gone “all in” with respect to his commitment to accessibility.  He volunteers at Syracuse University working with disabled students, and he has assisted educators to enable their blind students to learn math by providing the headphones so that the students can hear their screen reader and the professor at the same time.  “They’re not cut off from the teacher, nor the teacher from them,” Dennis explains. 
 
The sonification lab at Georgia Tech has conducted a study on teaching systems for blind students, who are learning math graphing using audio.
AfterShokz is providing equipment for the testing, enabling the students to hear the sonification and teacher at the same time.
 
Dennis wants these headphones to be available to all of us, and he is so emphatic that they should not be financially out of reach that he has permitted me to offer my readers a generous discount towards the purchase of AfterShokz.  Go to the AfterShokz web site at www.aftershokz.com and choose from one of several models.  If you’d like to be able to make/take calls, order the Sportz M2 which features a microphone. If you require a headset that isBluetooth compatible, choose Bluez. Enter LL40 at checkout, and you’ll get 40% off the price.  No, I do not financially benefit, I just want my readers to experience the AfterShokz phenomenon.  Since I know my geek friends love a good technical specifications deck, just write to me using the accessible contact form on the page, and I’ll send you product data sheets on the different models, along with spec info.
 
Don’t forget to enter LL40 when you check out to save some serious coin. 
 
LL   
 

Blogging Against Disablism Day is May 1st, 2013

It’s time to start thinking about your contribution to the annual, international, “Blogging Against Disablism” day. Each year for the past several years, I’ve submitted an article associated with this event. Blogging Against Disablism Day, or BADD for short, is a way bloggers from around the world raise their voices in a concert of commentary about discrimination, disability, ability, inclusion, employment, trials, triumphs, and what it means to experience life with a disability from a singularly profound point of view…your own.

Write an essay, post it on your blog or web site, and on May 1st, read posts from other bloggers from all over the world who are sharing their stories. First, though, go to the BADD 2013 page and make a comment that you intend to participate. Your article will be linked to, and also tweeted, throughout the day. You can follow @BADDtweets for news and info about the event, and be sure to use hashtag #BADD2013 when you tweet about your post, or RT that of others. Come back here to the Accessible Insights Blog to read my offering, and feel free to link to your own post in the comments section here, too.

Read more about the event here:
http://blobolobolob.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/blogging-against-disablism-day-2013.html

See you May 1st!

LL

Author’s note: As an update to the above, I urge you to go to the BADD page and read the entry. As a result of a Twitter conversation that involved the use of the word “disablism,” I must point out that, in the post describing the event, there is a well-written explanation of the need for ‘linguistic amnesty.” The author makes the point that everyone brings to the table differing values as to effective and inclusive language, some of which may be off-putting or offensive to others. I almost asked permission to quote the text in it’s entirety, because I found it to be so valuable, but I’d rather you go to the BADD post and read it for yourself. it’s important that we do not allow ourselves to get bogged down by one another’s choice of words. I’m not saying it’s trivial, I just think we need to allow for a wide latitude on a day involving submissions from around the world, from places where use of what we might consider to be arcane terms may still be the norm. ~ LL

Answering some FAQ’s about the AT Work jobs board

One specific area of interest which has always been near and dear to my heart is the subject of disability and employment. In the past, I have been an employee in a corporate, retail, and commissioned sales settings. More recently, I have been an employer, and as a result of this varied background, I feel I have a fairly good view of the work search landscape. My efforts to advocate for people who have disabilities have not only consisted of direct hiring, but also offering advice to individuals seeking gainful employment. One of my most recent attempts at outreach in this area has been to set up a job board page, which is attach to my web site.

The job board site is not unlike many you’ve probably seen. many webmasters have added job board sites as a way to monetize their site or blog, or to add another “sticky” feature to their site so as to encourage more site visits or page views. Whatever the reason, many of the site owners who use these job board services use one of several that offer a site owner a variation of a main site, which is part of a larger network of jobs in a massive database. This is done by making available search niches that can be narrowed by region, state, job type, or any number of subcategories. Once you choose an area of interest that you believe will be relevant to your site visitors or site content, you can then “carve out” your little piece of the jobs database and create a jobs board page that is customized for your audience.

The job board itself is not monetized, in that they feature no ads. At least, the one I use does not feature ads. typically, work search is free to job seekers, and the fields that are populated with jobs come from the massive database of jobs that are collected from all over the web. The owner of the job board site can solicit for relevant postings from employers who are offering opportunities in that particular niche. In other words, if you have a job board site offering work in the hospitality industry, you might invite potential employers who are hiring for concierge or housekeeping or reservation positions to advertise those opportunities on your page. you can then charge the employer to place the ad.

On my own jobs board site, AT Work, I post jobs related to technology that require skills in the areas of accessible web development, 508 compliance testing, orientation and mobility specialists, educators or trainers who specialize in accessibility or disability awareness. Not all of the opportunities on my jobs board have been posted to my site specifically, some have come from the jobs database at large. On my site, employers can post a job for $39 which is significantly less than what Linked In or other career site and work search classifies charge.

The AT Work accessibility jobs board [http://tinyurl.com/6f5btoz] represents my little portion of the database. Additionally, I use the @Accessible_Jobs Twitter account to post tweets about career management, resume writing, economic news, work search tips, and general encouragement to followers seeking work. The jobs board isn’t specifically for people who are blind or otherwise disabled to find employment, rather, it’s for individuals who work in the field of accessible web development, usability, and so on.

Recently, I received a tweet asking how one might go about pursuing one of these job tweets, and if they are “real” jobs. The question inspired the realization that I haven’t written about the job board since I installed it around two years ago, and I thought it was time to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

1: Are the jobs “real” jobs?

Yes. Though not all of the opportunities are posted directly through my page, they are real job opportunities. Employers have to pay a fee to post a job. When they post a job opening with me directly, I frequently have an email exchange with them, so as to learn a bit more about the job being offered. For the employers who are actually paying the $39 to post on my site, I spend more time promoting that job. I might retweet it a number of times throughout the posting period, I’ll retweet it to my other Twitter accounts, or I’ll attempt to call your attention to it in some other way. I do all I can to assist the employer in finding the right person for the job, so as to ensure a win-win for all concerned.

2: How do I apply?

If you click on the link associated with the job tweet, you will be taken to a “more information” page, where you’ll see the job description and other relevant information. The company may be hiring for multiple positions, so you may be able to click a link that will take you further into the company Human Resources pages, where you can see a full list of all the jobs, whether or not in your area of expertise.

3: Do you tweet every job available on your site?

No. Since the job tweets are only served up to Twitter on a schedule that I specify, you’ll only see the newest job listings posted about every six hours. I did this so as to minimize cluttering up a follower’s Twitter stream. I’ve seen those Twitter feeds that spit out updates once every minute or two, and they drive me crazy. Typically, I unfollow them. I have no desire to irritate my followers.

4: How can I see a more complete list of available jobs?

Go directly to the At Work jobs board site. you can get to it by going to the Accessible Insights web site [http://www.accessibleinsights.info], which I recommend you do with your hand covering your eyes, as I have not updated the site in a long time, it has languished in a code graveyard, where it awaits a defibrillator or stem cell treatment. Click on the link that pertains to work search, and you’ll get there. Or, just go directly to the job board, bypassing the abomination that passes for my web site, which you will find by going to:

http://jobs.accessibleinsights.info/a/jbb/find-jobs

Incidentally, I’d like to hire someone to overhaul the site, so if you know someone…

5: I don’t see much that interests me there, how can I see more job listings?

At the bottom of the job listings page, there are a few search boxes that you can use to specify some particulars, such as full- or part-time jobs, jobs in related fields, or jobs in a specific geographical region. The AT Work jobs board only posts opportunities that are available in the U. S.

6: How does an employer post a job?

By clicking on the “post a job” link. The process is simple and straightforward. an employer can post detailed information, and the additional info can be accessed by job seekers who click on the “more info” link on the listings page.

7: Can you help me get a job?

I do not work in human resources, nor am I a work search consultant or headhunter. I am in no way associated with the Employment Services Department with the U. S. government, or any other employment agency. However, I’ll do all I can to assist you in your work search efforts, even if that means promoting your skills and expertise by featuring you as a “job seeker of the week.” You can read more about that here: [http://tinyurl.com/7o3ru8h].

I’m also happy to offer tips on work search, interviewing, and networking. As a long-time employer of workers in a variety of work environments, I can certainly assist with everything from skills assessment to resume writing. Or, if you just need someone to listen to your work-search misery and offer encouragement, I can do that, too.

For additional information or questions about any of the above, feel free to use the accessible contact form on the blog page. Always a pleasure to share my accessible insights with you.

LL

From stone tablet to a bite of the Apple

If you are among those who follow me on Twitter, you are likely already well acquainted with my recent changeover from one mobile phone platform to another. My intention to do this, as well as my reluctance, has long been a topic of discussion among my friends and fellow geeks. I’ve taken quite a bit of good-natured ribbing from people who, for nearly two years, have wondered how on Earth I can claim any expertise in accessibility, when clearly I am using technology from the Jurassic period. What follows is a short exposition on my long-overdue transition from the Windows Smartphone-based Motorola Q to the Apple iPhone 5.

The Moto Q, which my friends have dubbed The Stone Tablet, has been my only mobile device since 2007. To the dubiously named “Smartphone” operating system, I added Mobile Speak, a text-to-speech program by Code Factory. One feature I really liked about the Moto Q was the tactile qwerty keyboard, which made text entry easy. It seemed that most of the new devices were making use of touch screen technology. How could text entry be easy with a touch screen? I wondered. It’s not that I was unaware of the tidal wave of Apple products sweeping over the globe, it’s that I didn’t care. One could hardly avoid the constant din of Apple zealots, though, especially those for whom accessibility is a priority. But my setup served the purpose, it worked for me, and I had no real desire to give it up…that is, until the phone began to suffer from the ravages of old age, and yes, obsolescence.

For a variety of reasons, one of which was the necessity of accepting credit card payments when exhibiting my Elegant Insights Braille Creations jewelry at conferences and trade shows, I decided to at least entertain the possibility of switching to an Apple device, although I had no idea which one. My first foray into an Apple store was over a year ago at holiday time, when I stopped into my local Apple Store to buy a loved one a gift card. While there, I decided to ask the Apple associate to show me an iPad, which seemed like the best option for me at the time, and maybe get a demonstration of Voice Over, the text-to-speech feature built into Apple devices that makes using a touch screen possible for users who are blind.

Upon explaining my request to the associate, I was greeted by an awkward silence, and, according to my companion, a blank stare. “I don’t know what that voice thing is,” the young employee said, “I don’t think an iPad does that.”

“All of your products have Voice Over,” I declared, as confidently as I could, not entirely sure if that was true. “It’s built into the iPad, and if I knew how to bring it up, I’d show you.” Okay, now that was a bald-faced lie, I had never so much as held an iPad or IPhone in my hands, and I just really wanted to see one. But he never so much as let me touch one, since he began to back away, realizing that he would be unable to assist me, and the store was packed with people whom he could assist. I left the store empty-handed, except for the aforementioned gift card.

My interest was more recently piqued, though, when a friend showed me a variety of tablet sizes and models at a recent conference. I marveled at the full-size tablet, which seemed to be nothing more than a wafer-thin sheet of glass, reminiscent of a tray on which I’d served cheese at a dinner party.

After polling some tweeps and conducting a bit of my own research, I decided that in fact the device that would be best for me was the iPhone. While I had really enjoyed paying only $40 a month for my ancient cell service plan, I realized that having the phone combined with the iPad features would solve the most of my problems and meet the most of my needs. So, for my birthday, I decided to buy myself the gift of an iPhone 5.

Before it arrived in the mail, I gathered as many articles, podcasts, and user’s guides as I could get my hands on, and began to prepare for what I was sure would be a steep learning curve. Between the new operating system, the touch screen gestures, and a new speech interface to learn, the entire Apple IOS lexicon loomed large and intimidating before me.

Cutting to the chase, it took only a few days, once I got up and running, to master the device. Now, I can confidently claim fluency. However, it was the part of the process that occurred prior to the ‘after I got up and running,” part that I want to make note of here, simply as a way to help others who may be considering a similar switch. There are a few things you ought to know, and these things can make the difference between delight and utter frustration when it’s time to pull the device out of the packaging.

The first thing you ought to know is, people who know nothing about Apple devices really do know absolutely nothing. There isn’t much that can compare the Apple user experience to other devices that are made by other manufacturers, so do not under any circumstances listen to anyone who does not actually use an Apple product. This may include, but may not be limited to, cellular service providers.

Just to give you one example of what I mean by this, realize that there is a difference between activating the new cellular phone service plan, and activating the device. You may think this point to be obvious, but one hapless Sprint customer service associate who was unlucky enough to answer my call did not. Further, I was told, in response to my question about where I might find the serial number that is required to complete the setup process, I was told that it is located inside the phone. I was told to remove the back panel of the battery compartment, and enter into the phone the numbers printed on the decal.

In case you don’t know, you cannot remove the back of the iPhone. There is no battery compartment from which to remove the back panel, the serial number is either printed somewhere on the packaging, or it is on file with the cellular service provider from which you ordered the phone.

You should also know that it is possible to set up the device yourself, right out of the box, without sighted assistance. However, if you are a person who is easily frustrated, know that there is an easy way to accomplish this, and a hard way. I was determined to get my phone working on my own, but if you know you have a short fuse, just do it the easy way…take the device to an Apple store or the store that supports the cellular service provider, and have them set it up for you. At the time, I had no access to a nearby store, so unless I wanted to wait for someone who was available and willing to drive me some distance, I had few options. I was impatient to get going. Ultimately, though, doing it my way may have actually taken longer than waiting for four wheels and a couple of eyeballs.

Setting up the phone requires quite a bit of data entry, and if you are unfamiliar with how text entry is achieved on an Apple device, it also requires quite a bit of patience. Text entry was a matter of some concern to me, but as it turned out, I caught on quickly, and was able to enter the required information easily enough. What I found frustrating was that I wasn’t always entirely sure I understood what the phone was asking me to do. To express this idea in terms of the English language, the Apple dialect is a bit unfamiliar, word choice, usage, and syntax is different than what I had been accustomed to when using the “stone tablet.”

If you have not yet decided to change your outdated technology to an Apple device, are reluctant, or maybe just reject all things Apple out of hand, one reason you may feel this way could be due to your concerns about privacy. If you are among those still clinging fast to the illusion of privacy, I’m sympathetic. You should know that the moment you complete the setup process of the new Apple device, you have slipped from the edge and are now freefalling into the Apple abyss. You should carefully and thoroughly read the terms and conditions of use, as well as the Apple Corporation privacy policy, and that of the “artificial intelligence” assistant, Siri. Furthermore, you should scrutinize the TOS and privacy policies of any apps you download, whether free or paid. Frankly, I had to delete a number of apps, simply because their privacy policy, a misnomer if I ever heard one, made my skin crawl. If you have not already done so, and you are a blind user who has downloaded some of those object identification apps, you should take the time to learn what happens to the images of the items you photograph. It’s a little disturbing. If you are taking pictures of documents and mail for text recognition,place or object identification purposes, don’t think for a minute that you are the only one privy to the contents of that photo. Same goes for your use of the voice dictation features. There’s more, but I’ll let you make that horrifying discovery on your own.

I’ll say this for my new iPhone: Since it arrived, it has seldom left my side. I have never been one to keep my cell phone strapped to my person, I have never enjoyed using a cell phone, I dislike talking on one, I don’t like the way it makes voices sound, it’s harder to hear, it gets hot in your hand, and other than the few times it has been extremely convenient that I’ve had one, I find the overall experience of using a cell phone to be mostly dissatisfying. Since I’ve loaded up my IPhone 5, however, I’ve come to think of it as simply a hand-held computer that happens to sport a phone. I can easily see a day when I will, as eagerly as everyone else, anticipate the latest release of IOS, the newest app to drop, or the sleekest, lightest, most feature-rich iteration of the device itself. So…What’s next?

LL

Help build an inclusive Twittersphere with Easy Chirp 2

For those of you who follow these things, you already know that Twitter (www.twitter.com), the social media micro-blogging platform, is making changes to its Application Programming Interface (API). For those of you who have no idea what that means, or why it’s significant, allow me to get you up to speed.

According to Wikipedia, An application programming interface (API) is a “protocol intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other. An API is a library that may include specification for routines, data structures, object classes, and variables.” If you want to read more, go here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_programming_interface

Twitter has only had a single version of the API in its entire history. Now, they want to make changes, and update to version 1.1. They have announced new developer “rules of the road,” and have outlined the proposed changes here:

https://dev.twitter.com/blog/changes-coming-to-twitter-api

The changes will affect all third-party applications that interact with Twitter, such as those you might use as an accessible alternative to the main Twitter web site. Some of these third-party Twitter clients have already completed the necessary adjustments, while others may not even bother, and may simply disappear. Time is running short, however, because Twitter has announced the “sunset” of version 1.0 of the API here:

https://dev.twitter.com/blog/api-v1-retirement-final-dates

Ever since I first discovered Twitter, I’ve been using the accessible alternative created by Dennis Lembree. Originally called Accessible Twitter, the web-based version now goes by the name Easy Chirp. Due to the changes made by Twitter to the API, Dennis has been forced to reinvent Easy Chirp, soon to be Easy Chirp 2. Dennis needs your help. He has started a kickstarter profile, and needs your pledges. The money raised will be used to compensate the experts Dennis has hired to assist with the project. As usual, when making a contribution to a Kickstarter project, you will receive a thank-you gift commensurate with the amount of your donation. See more info here:

Help build an inclusive Twittersphere: http://tinyurl.com/c9fsj5v

“I created Easy Chirp over four years ago and am touched by the support it’s received from the community. Now it must be rebuilt due to the Twitter API change, and I hope to collaborate this time with a few other developers.” Lembree says.

Dennis plans some new features and additional streamlining to make Easy Chirp 2 even faster and more accessible. It will continue to support keyboard-only users, will work without Javascript, and will be better optimized for mobile devices. Of course, it will still feature the user-friendly interface you’ve come to expect, useable by people who have a variety of disabilities, and who use a variety of assistive technologies.

Says Lembree: “To me, Easy Chirp exemplifies what a web app should be: platform agnostic, accessible, and simple. It provides a unique and necessary service in the social media space.”

There is no shortage of Twitter clients in the market, which can be used with different operating systems and device types. I use Easy Chirp for my own reasons, not the least of which is that I know Dennis, like him, trust him, and appreciate his work. If you have used Easy Chirp in the past, but have never clicked on that “donate” button just below the sign-in link on the Easy Chirp home page, then scrape a few coins out from between the sofa cushions and send them Dennis’s way. We’ll be tweeting at one another again before it’s time to fly south for the winter.

Pledge to the Easy Chirp 2 Kickstarter here:

Http://www.kickstarter.com and perform a search, or go directly to the Easy Chirp 2 project page here: http://tinyurl.com/c9fsj5v

For all things Twitter API, go here:

https://dev.twitter.com/docs/api

You can follow Easy Chirp: @EasyChirp for updates, or you can follow me @Accessible_Info on Twitter as well.

LL