accessible technology questions

response to questions about accessible technology:

I do a fair bit of accessible technology experimentation, have used the voice recognition, smartnav, eyegaze/mytobii, and mouthstick as well as switch based scanning and infrared. my main input device is speech recognition using a Python scripting environment (NatLink) to make things more productive.
The blog is below and has some descriptions of my experiences with the mouth stick.

I like the mobile home button (accessibility option), I do a lot of web browsing and reading, I also use it to make some music using a looping software application with the real-time input of the mouthstick.
It is a little bit slower using the accessibility home button to select gestures (but is still possible and fairly efficient after getting used to it).
It is also sometimes difficult meeting the full range of the screen.

In-car command-centre

So, my solution which almost allows full use of the iPhone without any physical contact is as follows:
switch input from Manfrotto clamp attached to my wheelchair (which allows me to press switch with my head)
connected to Komodolabs iPhone interface box (which is paired with the iPhone over Bluetooth).
This allows scanning through visible fields on the iPhone with a press of the switch with my head. This can be used to perform swiping actions to unlock the phone, answer calls and dial etc
The switch mechanism does not allow use of the keyboard when searching for contacts (a bug in the software) and typing text is obviously slow with a single switch scan.
Happyfingers (PC> iPhone communication app) allows me to type text messages, search for contacts and make phone calls on my iPhone via my PC (with voice recognition) efficiently.
The restrictions with these actions are that they need to be confirmed on the phone, which I can now do with the switch input.

There are still a couple of problems to overcome, happy fingers relies on web access for both the PC and the iPhone concerned (to relay push notifications to the iPhone among other reasons), this is frustrating in the many 3G blackspots around where I live.
The second problem is that the happy fingers needs to be paired with the phone before voice-over is enabled (although this is not so much problem if you are aware of the solution).

Stanmore visit

Spending lots of time with our friend Russell, great weekend at his celebrating Raj completing his Ph.D. Using the iPad with the mousestick is very enabling because it can be used in a social environment (where background noise makes voice recognition tedious) and offers a more pleasant web browsing experience (great screen resolution, smooth scrolling and selecting links favours a point-and-click input). Russell and I have been playing with “Scape”, an iPad application created by Brian Eno which converts a graphical landscape created with different elements (shapes) and backgrounds into ambient music. Then we progressed onto “iMashines” app, a music production application which enables you to sequence samples on multiple tracks in a loop. Great to make music again!
Visited Stanmore spinal injuries centre for the first time last week to help with some mentoring and talk to Andrew at “Aspire” about accessible technology and smart phone switch inputs in particular. The ones I tried were from a company called “Komodolabs”, they allow icons and other visible fields on an iPhone or android-based phone to be selected using a single switch. The fields are highlighted and are scanned through when the switch is pressed on the iPhone whereas with the android phone, there is a row of navigational buttons along the bottom of the screen used to direct the focus of the highlighted fields. I found the system on the iPhone to be the most intuitive, now to find a way to mount the phone on my chair.
It’s nice to feel that I’m helping with the charity work and mentoring, I have gained confidence and belief in my own understanding of spinal-cord injury and approach to problems that occur as a result.

Accessible Phones

Phone accessibility.
I have been looking for ways to access basic functionality of a smart phone independently. I have been looking at both android and iOS (iPhone) devices after previously using Nokia phone tools and mymobiler/PocketPC software on Windows mobile devices.
For android I tried various screencast software, the majority of which would not allow full control of the phone for one reason or another. I also tried different VNC software (akin to Remote Desktop software, allowing the android phone screen to be shared with and controlled by a remote PC running a dedicated application or web browser). Androidscreencast was very promising but I could not work out to redirect mouse as well as keyboard. DroidVNC allowed full mouse control but I could not redirect keyboard input. I tried using these in combination with each other but they did not seem to like cooperating with each other and, starting the androidscreencast seem to result in the VNC server dying. Later on I then found Airdroid, a fantastic application that allows control of an android phone “desktop” through a web browser. Although fantastic with regard contacts, messaging and files I could not make a phone call.
On the iPhone, the first thing to note is that significant restrictions are in place due to apples stringent security policies and software lockdown. To get a VNC server running on the phone, the phone would need to be jail broken. Jailbreak is possible with iOS 5.1.1 but not with iOS 6 or the iPhone 5 (yet). Other possibilities include applications like myPhoneDesktop or iPhone PC suite or (my current favourite option) happy fingers. These applications are all paid, and offer differing functionalities with regard to messaging and making calls but require the user to confirm the action on the handset. Presumably these restrictions are made with the security of the phone owner in mind to restrict the possible actions of malicious software, nonetheless they are frustrating for someone who cannot perform these manual confirmations on the device. Hopefully a switch input converter e.g. Perrero will solve the problem of manually confirming “send” or “call” actions without actually having to touch the device.

Spurs and gigs

fortunate to see Tottenham against Liverpool last week, great to see the likes of Suarez and Sandro do battle. Alabama3 were great to watch at the O2 Academy in Oxford playing their mix of electro/country/blues with spoken word, baritone and soprano singers. Netsky live again at the O2 Academy in Oxford were fantastic with a distinctly young and energised crowd bouncing along to the drum and bass beats. Photos on Flickr…