Let’s Get Cooking with Recipes for Switch Control

In my last post I focused on Recipes, a feature of Switch Control for iOS devices that can help switch users more efficiently perform repetitive actions such as flipping the pages of a book. This week, I will focus on how to set up these Recipes with step by step directions.

The first step to get the most of recipes is to connect a switch interface to your device. While iOS allows you to use the screen as a switch source (tapping on the screen will be recognized as a switch press), having a switch interface with at least two switches will provide more options: for example, you can set up one switch to flip the page in one direction, the other to flip it in the opposite direction.  Some of my favorite switch interfaces are as follows:

Each of these switch interfaces will allow you to connect at least two switches (typically a round button you press to perform an action on your device). The wireless switch interfaces will connect to your device over a Bluetooth connection. Pairing instructions will vary by device, but if you have paired a Bluetooth keyboard or headset to your device before the steps will be familiar. The wired switch interfaces will typically use a Lightning connection.

Once you have your switch interface connected and you have configured at least two switch sources, you can proceed to create a new Recipe for flipping the pages in a book (Important: I highly recommend setting up the Accessibility Shortcut before trying these steps – this will allow you to triple-click the Home button if you get stuck at any time and need to turn off Switch Control):

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and choose Switch Control (under Interaction).
    IMG_0766
  2. Tap Recipes and choose the Turn Pages option.
    IMG_0767IMG_0768
  3. Tap Assign a Switch and follow the onscreen prompts to select one of your switches and assign the desired action (a Right to Left Swipe or a Left to Right Swipe).
    IMG_0769IMG_0770IMG_0771
  4. Repeat step 3 to assign the second action to a different switch (a swipe in the opposite direction).
  5. Navigate back to the screen listing your switches and their actions, then choose one of the switches and assign its Long Press action to Exit Recipe. This will allow you to switch back to the typical mode of operation for Switch Control when you are ready to step out of the Recipe.
    IMG_0772IMG_0773

That’s it. Your switches will be ready to use. Recipes are accessed through the Scanner Menu that pops up by default when you make a selection. You can review last week’s post to see this Recipe in action.

Want to learn more about Switch Control? You should really check out Handsfree on the iBookstore. This is a book I co-authored with switch master Christopher Hills. The book has more than 20 closed captioned videos and step by step instructions for every aspect of using Switch Control for access and inclusion.

A small action with a big impact (Recipes for Switch Control)

Sometimes accessibility is about making small changes that bring about a big impact in people’s lives. Take the act of flipping the pages in a book. This is probably an action most of us take for granted.  For some people with motor challenges, though, the ability to flip the pages of a book is the difference between being able to enjoy a favorite book or being locked out of that experience.

In the past, the only way to accomplish this action (flipping the page of a book) was through the use of a cumbersome mechanical device. My friend and colleague Christopher Hills illustrates the use of such a device in a short YouTube video.

 

Description: As dramatic music plays, the video begins with the words “In the not too distant past…” then cuts to Christopher sitting in his powered wheelchair while a relative reads a book next to him. As Christopher looks on, his dad Garry brings in a large, industrial looking device that needs to be wheeled into the room. Garry proceeds to plug in the device and place a book on it. An external switch box has options for the various page flip actions. Christopher flips the pages of the book with this device, which uses a roller to turn the pages each time Christopher presses a head mounted switch that is connected to the external switch box. The video then cuts to “Now…”  and we see the same relative as in the opening scene sitting down at the kitchen table with his iPad, ready to read a book. With an over the shoulder shot, we see the relative turn the pages on his iPad as Christopher performs the same action next to him  by pressing a head mounted switch that is connected to his iPad via Switch Control.

With digital content and assistive technology, the cumbersome, mechanical device shown in Christopher’s video is no longer needed. Devices like the iPad now include built-in switch access (Switch Control) that can be combined with external switches to make flipping the pages of a book a much simpler task. In the embedded video, I demonstrate the use of Recipes to flip the pages of a book I created with the Book Creator app on my iPad. The book is I Am More Powerful Than You Think.

 

Want to learn more about Recipes and Switch Control?  You should check out a free book I co-authored with Christopher Hills – Handsfree: Mastering Switch Control on iOS . This interactive book has more than 20 closed captioned videos that go over every aspect of using Switch Control – from how to connect a switch interface to your iOS device, to how to control your Apple TV with a switch.

 

Apple TV Remote App: Accessibility Quick Take

A new Apple TV Remote app is now available for download from the App Store. The main difference between this new app and the existing Remote app (which you can still use to control your Apple TV) is the addition of Siri functionality.  With the 4th generation Apple TV, you can press and hold an onscreen Siri button in the app to speak Siri requests on your iOS device that will be understood by your Apple TV. This works just like it does when you press and hold the physical button on the 4th generation Apple TV Siri remote.

Setup

Setup was a pretty simple process. Upon launching the app, it quickly recognized all of the Apple TVs on my Wifi network (I have one of each generation) and showed them as a list. After I tapped on the device I wanted to control, I was prompted to enter a four digit code shown on the Apple TV (and automatically read aloud by VoiceOver) and that was it: my iPhone was paired to control my Apple TV.

The App Layout

The app has a dark theme, with great contrast, throughout. As someone with low vision I can say the the options on the app are much easier for me to see than the dimly labeled buttons on the physical Apple TV remote.

Apple TV Remote app layout in standard mode

The screen is divided into two sections: the top two thirds make up a gesture area that simulates the touch pad on the physical remote, while the bottom third includes onscreen options for the buttons. If you can see the screen on your device, right away you will notice the Menu button is much bigger than the other buttons. This is actually a welcome design touch, as the Menu button is one of the most frequently used options for controlling the Apple TV. Below the Menu button, you will find options for Play/Pause, Home, and Siri from left to right.

I tried to test the app with Dynamic Text (large text) enabled. This only made the text in the devices list (which lists all of your Apple TVs) bigger. It would be nice if Dynamic Text worked on the label for the Menu button as well, but with the bigger button and high contrast look, this is just a minor point.

You control the Apple TV by performing touch gestures in the gesture area at the top of the screen. When you come across a text entry field, the onscreen keyboard will come up automatically to let you enter the text (same as on the older Remote app). If you tap Done to dismiss the onscreen keyboard, you can bring it back by tapping the keyboard icon at the top of the screen.

With games, you can tap a game controller icon at the top  of the screen to change the layout of the app for game play. With the iPhone in the landscape orientation and the Home button to the right, the left two thirds of the screen will be a gesture area and the right one third will include  Select (A) and Play/Pause (X) buttons – surprisingly these are not labeled for VoiceOver. Tapping Close in the upper right corner will  exit out of the game controller mode to the standard layout.

Apple TV Remote app layout in game controller mode

From the one game I tried with the app, Crossy Road, I don’t think it will be a good replacement for a dedicated controller. There was just too much lag, probably due to the Wifi connection the app uses to communicate with the Apple TV. It may work with some games where timing is not as crucial, but definitely not Crossy Road.

Zoom

Zoom will work just like it does when using the physical remote: a quick triple tap on the gesture area will zoom in and out. The one issue is that the gesture area on the app does not accept two finger gestures. As a result, you will not be able to:

  • turn panning on/off: this requires a two finger tap.
  • change the zoom level: this requires you to double-tap and hold with two fingers then slide up or down to adjust the zoom level.

VoiceOver

The same limitations hold for VoiceOver. You will not be able to access the Rotor gesture on the Apple TV Remote app. Furthermore, the following gestures will not be available:

  • pause/resume speech: this requires a two finger tap.
  • read all from the top/current location: this requires a two finger swipe up/down.

If you have used VoiceOver with the older Remote app, then you will be familiar with how navigation works in this new app. With VoiceOver turned on in both the iOS app and the Apple TV, select the gesture area on the iOS app. As you flick or explore by touch in the gesture area, VoiceOver will announce the item in the VoiceOver cursor on the TV. You can then double-tap anywhere on the gesture area to make a selection.

For Siri, you will have to perform a standard gesture (double-tap and hold) so that you can speak your Siri request.

One interesting thing about using VoiceOver with the new app is how you access the Accessibility Menu. When you select the Menu button it will announce “actions available.” With a one finger flick up or down you can access the two actions: the default, which is “activate item” or “accessibility menu.” Depending on how you have your Accessibility Shortcut set up in the Apple TV settings, selecting the “accessibility menu” option will either toggle on/off one of the features or bring up the accessibility menu to allow you to choose.

Switch Control

I was not able to use the new app to control my Apple TV with Switch Control. The problem is that when Switch Control goes into the gesture area it does not recognize my input as I try to select one of the direction arrows to move the cursor on the Apple TV. This could very well be a bug that is fixed in a future update. In the meantime, you can continue to use the older Remote app if you need Switch Control to use your Apple TV.

In any case, Apple has promised to include Switch Control when tvOS is updated in the fall. This will be different from the current implementation in that the scanning cursor will actually show up on the TV and the iOS device will act as a switch source (at least as I understand it from my online reading, I have not been able to update my Apple TV to the latest beta).

Apple TV Remote app with Switch Control turned on, showing direction arrows in gesture area.

Conclusion

To be honest, I don’t use the included physical remote for my Apple TV all that much. It is just too small and easy to misplace for me. I actually have my existing TV remote (which I am very familiar with) set up to control my Apple TV, and I also often use the older Remote app on my iPhone for the same purpose. With those two methods I was not able to use Siri, but now that has changed. I see myself using Siri a lot more with this new app, especially for searching on the Apple TV.

There are a few limitations that keep this app from being a full time replacement for the physical remote if you use Zoom and VoiceOver, but I anticipate that those will be addressed in future updates.

Are you using the new app? Let me know your experience in the comments, especially if you are using it with Zoom or VoiceOver. I would love to hear how it has worked out for you.

5 Easy Accessibility Tips for Book Creator Authors

On the occasion of the Book Creator Chat (#BookCreator) focusing on accessibility, this post focuses on five easy to implement accessibility tips for Book Creator authors. By taking the time to consider the variability of readers from the start, you can ensure your books work for more of your potential audience.

1: Choose Text Size and Fonts Wisely

While Book Creator exports to the industry standard ePub format, the kind of ePub document it creates is of the fixed layout variety. This means that readers are not able to resize the text or change its appearance when they open the book in iBooks  (yes they can use the Zoom feature to magnify what is shown on the screen and Invert Colors to enable a high contrast view, but not everyone is familiar with these iOS accessibility features). At a minimum, I would recommend a text size of 24px as a good starting point to ensure the text is large enough to be easily read without too much effort.

When comes to the processing of the text, some readers may have dyslexia or other reading difficulties. While there are special fonts for dyslexic readers that can be installed on the iPad, there is limited research on their impact on reading speed and comprehension.

Instead, the consensus appears to be that clean, sans-serifs fonts, which are good for all readers, can also help readers who have dyslexia. In Book Creator, you can choose from a number of sans-serif fonts such as Cabin, Lato and Noto Sans, or you can use system fonts installed on your device such as Arial, Helvetica and Verdana. You should definitely avoid fonts in the Handwriting and Fun categories, as these are more difficult to decode even for people who do not have dyslexia.

Other tips for improving legibility include:

  • Left justify text. Fully justified text can result in large gaps in the text that can be distracting to readers who have dyslexia.
  • Use  bolding (instead of italics or ALL CAPS) to highlight text. The latter are more difficult to decode.
  • Use shorter sentences and paragraphs.
  • Use  visual aids to reinforce information in the text (but make sure to include an accessibility descriptions as noted later in this post).
  • Use an off-white  background. For some readers, an overly bright (all white) background can result in significant visual stress. To reduce this stress, you can choose a more dim background color in Book Creator. With no item on the page selected, tap the Inspector (i) button and choose a page under Background, then tap More under Color. A color toward the bottom of the color picker should work well.

    Custom color picker in Book Creator with light yellow color selected.

2. Add Descriptions to Images

Readers who are blind will rely on assistive technology (screen readers) to access the content in your books. Screen readers are only able to describe images to readers who are blind when they include a text alternative. Adding a text alternative is straightforward in Book Creator:

  1. With the image selected, tap the Inspector (i) button in the toolbar.
  2. Tap in the Accessibility field.
  3. Enter text that describes what the image represents rather than its appearance. WebAIM has an excellent article on how to create more effective alternative text for images.

    Accessibility field in the Book Creator Inspector.

    This video shows you how to add accessibility descriptions (alternative text) to images in Book Creator. 

3. Create Descriptive Links

Some of your readers will be listening to the content because they are not able to see the display. They will be using a screen reader (VoiceOver on the iPad) to hear the text read aloud. When the screen reader comes across a link that reads as “click here” or “learn more” the person listening to the content will not have sufficient information to determine if the link is worth following or not. Instead of using “click here” or “learn more” as the link text, select a descriptive phrase (“Learn more about adding accessibility descriptions) and make that the link text – as with the following example:

How to add a hyperlink in Book Creator.

 

4. Supplement Text with Audio

While the iPad has built-in text to speech features (Speak Selection and Speak Screen) and the quality of the voice continues to improve, some readers will still prefer to hear an actual human voice reading the text. Fortunately, adding a recording of the text is an easy task in Book Creator:

  1. Tap the Add (+) button in the toolbar.
  2. Choose Add Sound.
  3. Tap the Start Recording button (the red disk).
  4. Read the text and tap the Stop Recording button when finished.
  5. Tap Yes to use the recording.
  6. Move the Speaker icon to the desired location on the page (it should be right below the corresponding text).

5. Remember Bits are Free!

The only limitation to the length of your book is the amount of storage on your device. Feel free to spread it out! Too much content on a single page can be overwhelming for some readers. A better approach is to use white space to present a clean layout with information organized  into easy to digest chunks. This may require you to create more pages, but that’s ok – remember bits are free!

One limitation of Book Creator, from an accessibility perspective, is that it removes the closed caption track when it recompresses videos to be included in a book. This means the content in those videos is not accessible to those who are Deaf or hard of hearing (or other readers such as English Language Learners who can also benefit from captions). My current workaround is to upload the videos to my YouTube channel and then edit the auto captions created by YouTube so that they are accurate . This is not an ideal solution, as it requires the reader to exit iBooks to view the video in another app (Safari or YouTube), but it is the best workaround I have for now.

 

 

SLIDE into Accessibility: 5 Tips for Making Learning Materials Work for Everyone

At this year’s ISTE conference, I was on a panel focusing on accessible educational materials (AEM). The panel was one of the activities sponsored by the ISTE Inclusive Learning Network, of which I am the Professional Learning Chair. I only had about 10 minutes to share some tips with our attendees so I tried to convey them with an easy to remember mnemonic: SLIDE.

As a follow up to that panel, I created this blog post. I hope you find it helpful and look forward to your feedback.

Note: Document accessibility is a complex topic. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, just a few tips to help educators get started by taking some easy steps toward making their content more accessible.

When it comes to making documents more accessible and useful for all learners, small changes can have a significant impact!

By following these tips, you will ensure all learners can enjoy access to information as a first step toward creating more inclusive learning environments.

SLIDE

  • Styles are used to reveal the structure of the information
  • Links are descriptive
  • Images include alternative text
  • Design is clear and predictable
  • Empathy and an ethic of care are a key focus

Styles

Properly marked up headings are important for screen reader users, who can use a shortcut to quickly access a list of these headings and navigate to any section in the document (saving valuable time). For other readers, headings reveal the structure of the information and make the document easier to scan.

Thumbs Up
Select the desired heading text and choose from the styles menu in your authoring tool.

Thumbs Down
Choose formatting options such as making the text bigger and bold. The text will look like a heading but lack the proper markup.

Links

As with headings, screen reader users will often use a shortcut to bring up a list of the links in a document. Links need to be descriptive in order for them to make sense when they are accessed in this way, without the context of the surrounding text on the page.

Thumbs Up
Select some descriptive text and make that the link (see examples on this document).

Thumbs Down
Avoid using “click here” and “learn more” as the link text.

 

Images

Alternative text allows a screen reader to provide a description of an image to someone who is not able to see the screen.

Thumbs UpCreate a short description that focuses on the information conveyed by the image: i.e. “smiley face with thumbs up.”
Thumbs Down
Focus on the appearance of the image: i.e. “white circle with eyes and frown drawn inside.”

Note: Creating helpful alternative text is as much an art as it is a science. Much will depend on the context in which an image is used. WebAIM has some great resources that discuss the considerations for creating effective alternative text in more detail. 

Design

Through good design, you can reduce the amount of effort it takes your readers to process the information in a document, allowing them to focus on the meaning conveyed by the content rather than its presentation.

Some helpful design tips include:

  • Ensure sufficient contrast between the text and its background.
  • Use proximity and white space to make relationships clear: items that belong together should be close to each other and separated from other items by sufficient white space.
  • Use repetition to highlight patterns and build a cohesive whole.

Empathy

Even more important than implementing these tips is changing your approach to design so that it reflects an ethic of care. Remember that not everyone reading your content can see, hear or process information as well as you. As you approach your work, try to think about the diversity in your potential audience. Doing so will allow your content to reach more readers and have a greater impact!

According to the U.S. Census:

  • 1 in 5 Americans Reports Having a Disability
  • For Americans over 65, that figure is 40%

Accessible content will not only benefit other people. As you age, your ability to see, hear and process content may be affected. When you creat accessible content, you are also designing for your “future self.”

 

 

Global Accessibility Awareness Day Resources

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is a very special day for me. Without the many advances in digital access there is so much that I would not have been able to accomplish: getting a doctorate; writing a book; doing my work as an inclusive learning consultant (which involves travel, accessing the Web for research, creating presentations and more); being an advocate through blog posts like these,  my YouTube videos and ebooks..the list is long.

Digital accessibility is personal to me, and I’m grateful that people like Jennison Asuncion and Joe Devon took the initiative to not just create a special day, but start a movement. Even big companies like Apple are now getting in on the action. We are making progress!

I’m far from being an accessibility expert, but I try my best to continue learning and doing what I can to make things more accessible not only for other people but ultimately for myself when the day comes that I have lost all of my eyesight. And that’s the point of GAAD to me. You don’t have to be perfect, you jus have to take the first step!

I wanted to create this blog post as one stop shop for the resources I have created for GAAD:

Along with these resources, I had the pleasure of moderating the #ATChat discussion on accessibility in ed on the eve of GAAD. Here is a transcript of our discussion available on Storify. A big thank you to Karen Janowski and Mike Marotta for allowing me to do that.

As you can see, there are many ways you can contribute to the conversation and the work that is ongoing to make the world a better, more accessible place for all learners. The key is to take the first step. As I did during our ATChat, I want to leave you with the following challenge: what is one small thing you can do or try today to improve accessibility where you work?

5 Accessibility Features Every Learner Should Know

On the occasion of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) this week (May 19th), I created this post to highlight some of the iOS accessibility features that can benefit a wide range of diverse learners, not just those who have been labeled as having a disability.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 4.02.00 PM

 

It’s built in.

Every iOS device comes with a standard set of accessibility features that are ready to use as soon as you take the device out of the box. Let’s take a look at a few of these features that can benefit all users in the spirit of Universal Design.

Get started by going to Settings > General > Accessibility!

#1: Closed Captions

Closed captions were originally developed for those with hearing difficulties, but they can help you if you speak English as a second language or just need them as a support for improved processing. Captions can also help if your speakers are not working, or the sound in the video is of poor quality.

80% of caption users did not have any kind of hearing loss in one UK study.

Learn how to enable and customize closed captions on your iOS device.

#2: Speech

All iOS devices support built-in text to speech with the option to turn on word highlighting. Starting with iOS 8, it is possible to use the more natural Alex voice formerly available only on the Mac. TTS supports decoding, which frees you the reader to focus on the meaning of the text.

Breathe!: Alex takes a breath every once in a while to simulate the way we speak!

  • Learn how to enable and use Speak Selection on your iOS device.
  • Bonus tip!: Don’t want to make a selection first? No problem. Just bring up Siri and say “Speak Screen.” This will read everything on the screen!

#3: Safari Reader

Safari’s Reader is not really an accessibility feature (you will not find it in Settings) but it can help you if you find that you get distracted by all the ads when you are reading or doing research online. It is also a nice complement to the Speech features mentioned above. With iOS 9, you can now customize the appearance of the text and even change the background and font to make it easier to read when you surf the Web.

Left my heart in…San Francisco is a new system font available in iOS 9. It is designed to be easier to read, and is one of the font options available for Reader.

Learn how to use Safari Reader when you surf the Web.

#4: Dictation

Whenever you see the iOS keyboard, you can tap the microphone icon to the left of the space bar to start entering text using just your voice. This can help you get your words down on the page (or is it the screen?) more efficiently.

Try It!: Dictation can handle complex words. Try this: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Dictation supports more than just entering text. Follow the link for a helpful list of additional Dictation commands.

#5: QuickType and 3rd Party Keyboards

QuickType is Apple’s name for the word prediction feature now built into the iOS keyboard. Word prediction can help you if you struggle with spelling, and it can speed up your text entry as well. Starting with iOS 8, it is now possible to customize the built-in keyboard by installing a 3rd party app. The 3rd party keyboards add improved word prediction, themes for changing the appearance of the keys and more.

17 Seconds: World record for texting. Can you beat it?

Learn how to use QuickType and how to set up and use 3rd party keyboards.

Bonus Tips

Struggling to see the screen? – make sure to check out the Vision section in the Accessibility Settings. You can Zoom in to magnify what is shown on the screen,  Invert Colors to enable a high contrast mode, make the text larger with Dynamic Text, and much more.

Sources: