Awareness app for iPod touch

Cost: $4.99

iTunes URL:

Awareness bills itself as the “headphone app for the iPhone.” It is an app that lets you listen to music and other audio content on an iPod touch/iPhone while also picking up on ambient sound.

I have wanted an app like this because I really like listening to music on my iPod touch/iPhone (I have both) but I also need to be aware of my surroundings since I have limited vision.  I could not believe how well this app worked. At first I thought the price was kind of high for a one-trick pony, but given how well it works I think it’s worth it. It actually freaked me out a bit the first time I used the app while walking around my college campus. It was weird that I could hear people talking before they came into view. For a while, I felt “bionic”. The app is so sensitive (you can adjust this in the settings) that it even picked up the sound of my cane as I tapped on different surfaces during my walk.

This app would definitely be a big help to anyone who has a hearing impairment (including those who are losing their hearing due to old age and need some help hearing the tv, etc.). The cost and convenience would make it a great alternative for providing accommodations to students with hearing impairments in educational settings (it could replace a sound amplification system).

Text to Voice



Text to Voice is a Firefox plug-in that adds text to speech to any web page. After you install the add-on, you will see a small speaker icon in the lower right corner of the Firefox window. To use the extension, select some text on a web page and click once on the speaker icon. You will then hear the selected text.

This extension currently supports two voices (Male and Female). Of the two, I found the female voice to be the best in terms of clarity and pacing. The preferences can be accessed by right-clicking on the speaker icon.

You can also use the extension by selecting some text on the page, right-clicking on the selection, and choosing Speak It!. This should bring up a small window (your popup blocker might need to be disabled). One of the options on the popup window will be a link you can click on to download an MP3 version of the selected text.

ePub and Pages Tutorial

I am working on a screencast of how to create ePub documents for the iPad using Pages ’09.

Three things to keep in mind when creating ePub documents with Pages:

  • the ePub export feature is only available for word processing documents.
  • Your images should be added inline. A good way to ensure all images (as well as video/audio files are inline is to always use the Insert menu, instead of dragging in a file from the Media Browser or the Desktop).
  • Use the styles menu to add styles to headings. You can then use the TOC tab of the Document Inspector to check which items you want to be listed in the table of contents automatically created by Pages 09. The top item on the TOC will be used to divide your document into chapters.

The final thing I want to emphasize is that this format is really intended for text.  When VoiceOver is used to read the ePub document in iBooks, it will only read alternative text for those who are blind if the text is added as a caption underneath each image (such as Figure 1a. ….). This is essential for accessibility.

Update: You can get around the fact that Pages does not let you insert alt text for images by renaming your image file to match the desired alt text before you add it to the Pages document.