Google Action Blocks designed for those with cognitive impairments, but actually useful for anyone who wants a one tap selection to important features on their Android phone.
Action Blocks, a new Android app that allows you to create customisable home screen buttons. This mean you can create widgets with direct access a particular phone number, to a video, diary schedule for the day, documents etc. Google accessibility software engineer Ajit Narayanan and accessibility product manager Patrick Clary share more on the YouTube video below.
The Verge provide more information: ” After you install the Action Blocks app, you set one up by choosing from a list of predefined actions or by typing in your own. It works via Google Assistant, so anything you can ask for with your voice can be typed in. After you test that it works, you can save it as a button on the home screen.
Importantly, you’ll have the option to put your own custom image on the button. Again, the purpose of the features isn’t to let productivity junkies make workflows; it’s to help people with cognitive disabilities achieve tasks on their phones. So setting a big photo of a family member to make a video call is an essential feature.”
The Visolve webpage or download allows you to check to see if colours are sufficiently distinguishable from each other. This can help those with colour vision deficiency or colour blindness. You can upload an image and it will provide you with the original view and other selected options such as Red-Green transform, Blue-Yellow transform, Saturation increase, Red, Yellow, Green or Blue filter and with added hatching.
Visolve is also available as an app for iPhones or on Windows and Mac.desktop computers.
According to Stuart Ball this free Seeing AI iPhone or iPad app has multiple benefits for those with visual impairments or who are blind. It has been developed by Microsoft so has the ‘swiss army knife approach’ according to AccessWorld to telling you about the world around you. It searches out light sources, identifies colours and money and describes them using text to speech. It will recognise a person is approaching and offer a description. Barcodes can be read and optical character recognition is used for documents etc. Clear handwriting can be deciphered and scenes described.
I have found that Claro ScanPen works well with typed text and has the advantage of real time scanned conversions without an internet connection. You can take a photo of the text using your smartphone camera and the app will scan the content and read it aloud using optical character recognition (OCR). Having had the text read out you can copy and paste sections into another app such as Notes.
It works both on an iOS or Android phones and tablets and is available from the Apple app store and Google Play. The Android version is free and updates have fixed some of the glitches, the iOS version costs £6.99 outright at the time of writing. This version has a restricted number of voices for different languages, whereas the premium version with an annual payment of £9.99 provides unlimited access to many different languages and option to have 10 free scans before paying as well as a 14 day trial.
Dr Abi James – Research Fellow, University of Southampton.
I really like OneNote as I can dump all my research into different sections and pages, grabbing things from the web. I can share them with colleagues which has been made easier now that OneNote can be used both off and online and there is a Chrome extension called web clipper. You need to have a Microsoft account and download the extension. The icon sits at the top of the browser and when there is something you want to keep for reading later you can choose to have the complete page or sections etc. OneNote has always been good at automatically capturing where the clip comes from with a URL but this method allows you to add to the information.
Office lens is a free app available on an iPhone, Android and Window smartphone that links to One Drive accounts and allows you to take photographs and put them straight into Microsoft Office applications. The really good thing about Office Lens is that when I take a picture of a presentation or whiteboard I can make sure it is exactly the right shape and is straight not set at an angle using the outline on the screen by selecting the document or whiteboard menu item.
Making sure the image is straight for OCR
That is really important if you are taking photos of text that you want to have read aloud later. If they appear out of focus or at an odd angle you will not be able to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR), to have the image converted to text so you can use a text to speech or screen reader application later on. Once you have taken your photo you choose which application you want to send it to and if this is Microsoft Word it will extract the text. The other options are your photos on the phone, OneNote, OneDrive, PowerPoint and Outlook or your phone mail if you want to send it as an email attachment. The app will also save it as a PDF.
Ready for exporting
The best thing I like about Office Lens is how it is linked to OneNote because I can collect all the images, notes and presentations, even photos of handwritten notes straight into my Notes folder and then I can search for them at any time, as I really have trouble remembering what I have heard in lectures etc and this process acts as a back up .