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.”
If you want to learn about digital accessibility in a fun way try the Accessibility Maze Game developed by The Chang School, Ryerson University in Ontario, Canada. It takes a bit of working out and you may not get to all the levels but have a go!
Helen Wilson has very kindly shared her link to SCULPT for Accessibility. Usually we receive strategies that relate to student’s work, but in this case, this is a set of resources that aim “to build awareness for the six basics to remember when creating accessible documents aimed at the wider workforce in a local authority or teachers creating learning resources.”
If you are supporting students or want to learn more about the way Microsoft Windows 10 provides built in assistive technologies to support visual impairments Craig Mill and CALL Scotland have a blog on the subject and Craig has made a YouTube playlist. All the videos have captions and the transcripts are readily available.
The videos are short bite-sized guides and comprise of the following topics:
Part 1: Customising the desktop using some simple adjustments in Windows 10.
Part 2: Magnifying information in apps – some useful hints and tips on zooming in and out of browsers and other apps.
Part 3: Customising Mouse Tools and Pointer – how to make changes to the Mouse Pointer using Windows ‘legacy’ tools.
Part 4: Using keyboard shortcut keys to increase the font size in Microsoft Word – improving speed and workflow.
Part 5 (a): Using Immersive Reading tools in Microsoft Word to customise the font / text and listen to it spoken aloud.
Part 5 (b): Using Learning Tools in Microsoft Edge Browser to customise font/text, layout and hear it read aloud.
Part 6: Introduction to Microsoft Ease of Access Tools Display Settings – how to ‘Make text size bigger’, ‘Make everything bigger’ and how to adjust the mouse pointer size and colour.
Part 7: Using Windows Magnifier – how to use Windows Magnifier in combination with other Ease of Access Display Settings such as ‘Make everything bigger’ etc.
Part 8: Colour filters – maximising computer accessibility for learners who experience colour blindness.
Part 9: High Contrast Filter – how to customise the colours of elements such as menu bars, backgrounds, buttons etc, in Windows.
Part 10 (a): Microsoft Narrator – an introduction to using screen reading with Windows Narrator.
Part 10 (b): Using Windows Narrator to navigate the desktop and Microsoft Word.
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.
The free overTHERE iPhone app has been called a ‘game changer’ by Stuart Ball as it allows places to be located via their signs by holding the phone in a horizontal manner. You can then simply turn around on the spot and listen as businesses/shops are brought to your attention. It also tells you how far away they are from where you are standing. According to the app developer it is an “accessibility app that helps blind individuals explore and interact with the surrounding environment by using virtual audible signs.”
“When the phone is held vertically you can use the screen or VoiceOver to review the list of signs around you. By selecting a sign from the list you can access details about a location such as its address, phone number, or web site.”