Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, December 05, 2016

December 2016 APH News

APH News
 is your monthly link to the latest information on the products, services, field tests, and training opportunities from the American Printing House for the Blind. 
A Few of This Month’s Headlines:

  • Annual Meeting 2016 Photo Memory Photo Album
  • New Products: TADPOLE Interactive Images
  • Field Tests and Surveys, including Interactive U.S. Map
  • On the Road at New York State School for the Blind
  • Treasure from the Migel: Hall of Fame Living Legends Video
  • Social Media Spotlight: Throwback Thursday from the APH Museum
  • Quick Tips Corner: Some Favorite Videos
  • APH Travel Calendar and more…
http://www.aph.org/news

Friday, December 02, 2016

iDentifi: Object Recognition for Visually Impaired


Apps used to recognize objects and/or read text for people who are blind and visually impaired have increased in number. We have discussed TapTapSee recently, an others exist as well.

This post details iDentifi, a new free app that attempts to describe objects and read text for people who are blind and visually impaired.

What is iDentifi?


Anmol Tuckrel, a high school student from Toronto, Canada, began work on the app about a year ago. According to a TechCrunch article, Tuckrel was fascinated by the possibilities of machine learning and computer vision. The app uses Google Vision, CloudSight and Google Translate, all trusted resources that can distinguish objects easily. These facts indicate that iDentifi uses artificial intelligence to identify objects whereas apps like TapTapSee use crowdsourcing.

Using the App


Before attempting to use the app, please note that you must be connected to the internet to use it. The app’s layout is quite easy to comprehend. Its initial screen contains four buttons, one in each corner of the screen--“Settings” in the top left, “Instructions” in the top right, “Select photo” in the bottom left and “Take photo” in the bottom right. Of course, if you flick left and right, you will locate the same buttons in the same order. Knowing their location, however, allows you to find the button you want without extra flicks or swipes.

Each button and the area surrounding it is brightly colored with a different color included for each button or area of the screen. As a result, people with low vision can distinguish the buttons easily, and individuals who use both VoiceOver and their remaining vision benefit since the app’s functionality is excellent in both cases.

Settings


If you press the “Settings” button, you first choose the language for all interactions with the app from the list of over 25 languages. Next is the mode button where you choose from “Images low accuracy”, “Images high accuracy”, or text. The low accuracy mode provides a general description of the picture you take and returns the quickest response. The high accuracy mode gives you a more detailed description of the image and requires more time for receiving a response. In text mode, the app tries to read the text from the image you’ve taken.

The final setting is speaking rate—how fast you want the app to speak to you when it reads its results; the settings are very slow, slow, normal, fast, and very fast.

Instructions


The instructions describe some of the app’s functionality and tell you the location of important buttons on the app. The instructions do not stay on the screen, but if you need to hear them again, double tap the instructions button a second time.

Select Photo


Selecting a photo sends that photo to the app; iDentifi then tries to determine what is in the photo. You must allow iDentifi to access your photos and also the camera. Once you hit the select photo button, you see the standard camera interface that you would use to send a photo to Facebook, include one in a message, etc.

Take Photo


When you double tap this button, you see a screen that mimics the standard iPhone camera screen with buttons for flash, viewfinder, camera mode, camera chooser, take picture, and cancel. If you are satisfied with the camera settings, double tap the “Take picture” button, located just above the iPhone’s home button. You will hear a sound as the phone takes the picture. You then can select “Retake” or “Use photo”, found on the bottom left and bottom right of the screen respectively. If you have usable vision and believe that your picture is not satisfactory or if you just want to use a different picture, select the retake button and start the process over.

If you tap on use photo, you hear the app say, “Loading”. At this point, the picture runs through the app for identification purposes. You can retake a picture as many times as you like, but you must hit the use photo button for the app to begin the identification process. All photos you take using this app are not saved. The identifications given by the app are not able to be reread and do not remain on the screen, but you can try the three-finger quadruple tap gesture to put the response on the clipboard and add it to a message, email, etc.

Limitations


Currently iDentifi is available on the iOS platform only; the developer plans to create an Android version in the future. Because the results of the picture recognitions are not shown on the screen, individuals who are deafblind and anyone using a braille display may have problems accessing the results. The app will read text and does a good job doing so. It will not replace an OCR app like KNFB Reader, though, especially if you store files for later reading. If you don’t need to store the file or go back and read it multiple times, iDentifi will work well.

The developer hopes to increase the available languages to close to 100 and wants the app to work in video mode. He appears to be responsive and open to suggestions so send them and help improve the app.

Finally, the only other limitation, as is the case with all camera apps, is the ability of each person to take a suitable picture. Fortunately, you do not have to have the camera perfectly centered to take a usable picture.

Conclusion


The iDentifi app is an excellent choice for anyone who is blind and visually impaired. It identifies objects quite well and reads text reasonably well also. Remember to turn the mode to text if you want the app to read text; otherwise, it will simply tell you there is text without reading it. The results with the mode set to high accuracy are very good; its descriptions of objects and their colors are quite helpful. You may find that this app also doubles as a color identifier, at least for basic colors. Would you like to see the app in action? Watch this short video and view another one included in the TechCrunch article written about the app. For more information about iDentifi, visit the website at http://getidentifi.com/#home-section. The site discusses the numerous awards and the press coverage the app has received and tells you how to get support or make comments about the app. Get the app at the following link or search for iDentifi on the app store; remember that the d is the only capitalized letter.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: Tactile Picture of a Turkey



To celebrate Thanksgiving and the subsequent holidays, this week, our throwback object comes from our excellent collection of nineteenth century tactile prints by Martin Kunz (1847-1923).  Kunz was a pioneer creator of mass-produced tactile graphics, operating out of the print shop at the Blind Institute in Illzach, Germany.  He also published influential tactile science illustrations and maps that were used in schools for the blind across Europe and the United States.  His pictures were embossed in wooden molds and—as this one is--reinforced with varnish and plaster.  The second picture shows the Illzach printing operation with the heavy iron press and molds stored on racks.   Our glorious turkey— meleagris gallopavo—is joined on the print by fellow ground birds grouse, partridge, and guinea hen.   There are print captions in French, Italian, German, and English.  The braille captions are in German Braille.
  
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Friday, November 18, 2016

Solving Those Frustrating CAPTCHAs

 


The Problem


Creating an account on many websites, something that should be simple for anyone to do, often is burdensome for someone with blindness and visual impairment because the final step often includes the solving of a CAPTCHA. Having sighted assistance may not be a viable option, and even when it is, someone who is blind should be able to complete this task without it. In this post, we will define the term “CAPTCHA”, describe why one is used, and offer some solutions that individuals who are blind and visually impaired may use to solve them independently.

What is a CAPTCHA?


If you’ve spent any time online, you’ve encountered a CAPTCHA. The official CAPTCHA Site explains the tool. It is used to tell humans and bots apart. A CAPTCHA is a program that generates a test which humans can pass and current computer programs cannot. The term CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Touring Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart. It was coined in 2000 by four individuals from Carnegie Mellon University.

The reason for implementing a CAPTCHA makes sense; no one wants spam, viruses or worms in their inboxes or on their sites. No one who runs a blog wants to spend time filtering through spam comments. Having demonstrated the usefulness of a CAPTCHA, we are left still with the problem that the CAPTCHA has brought with it, namely that most CAPTCHAs are inaccessible, and some of those that are accessible are not usable because their speech is incomprehensible or their images are so unrecognizable that someone with blindness or a visual impairment cannot solve them.

Available Solutions


Accessible CAPTCHAs


As noted above, there are some fully accessible CAPTCHAs. A site like Text CAPTCHA offers simple text CAPTCHAs for people who run websites or blogs to use on them. These CAPTCHAs consist of a question posed to you such as a simple math problem, for example. According to the official CAPTCHA site mentioned previously, there is a greater likelihood of bots finding the answer to such a simple CAPTCHA, especially if it is used on several sites. This option, while it provides an accessible CAPTCHA, seems not to be used very often and may not be as secure as some other, less accessible, options.

reCAPTCHA


The reCAPTCHA site from Google claims to offer CAPTCHAs that are easy for people to solve and hard for bots to decode. Here is where the problems with reCAPTCHA begin.

Inconsistent reCAPTCHAs


reCAPTCHA, as advertised, offers an accessible CAPTCHA which consists of spoken numbers. The demo CAPTCHA on the site is relatively easy to use. If every CAPTCHA were like this one, the problem for people who are blind and visually impaired would be greatly minimized.

Allow me to include a couple of personal experiences to demonstrate the problem with reCAPTCHA. A site I visited recently had a reCAPTCHA heading on it. You checked a box that said, “I’m not a robot.”

After a delay of nearly a minute, a CAPTCHA appeared along with an option for an audio CAPTCHA. Having selected the audio CAPTCHA, rather than letters or numbers, I received a seemingly continuous series of difficult questions. For instance, I was asked to select from the list all of the “Belgian ails.” I had to check all the correct answers using check boxes that corresponded with each answer. Later I was told to select the “Creepiest movies.” The questions never got easier.

To make matters worse, some of the labels corresponding to the check boxes read inconsistently with my screen reader. Needless to say, I was unable to complete the task I sought to complete.

reCAPTCHA claims to be simple to use; however, in this particular case, it was anything but easy. In another instance on another site with a reCAPTCHA, I received an audio message that said something about the computer transmitting signals of some sort. I was told to try again later. Perhaps the system thought my computer was a bot? Regardless of the reason, I decided to consider other options for dealing with CAPTCHAS.

CAPTCHA Be Gone


CAPTCHA Be Gone, developed by Accessible Apps, is a browser extension for Internet Explorer and Firefox. The developers hope to make it available for other browsers in the future. CAPTCHA Be Gone, when it is integrated with the browser, solves a CAPTCHA with one simple keystroke and places the answer on the computer clipboard automatically. Simply paste the solved CAPTCHA into the edit box on the site and hit the button to move forward, and the CAPTCHA is solved, usually in under 15 seconds.

You can pay for CAPTCHA Be Gone monthly or annually--$3.50 per month ($3 monthly during the initial rollout of CAPTCHA Be Gone) and $33 annually. Since CAPTCHA Be Gone is a browser extension and not software, it is downloaded somewhat differently.

To order or get more information, visit the CAPTCHA Be Gone website. You can do several things on the site, namely, listen to a demo of CAPTCHA Be Gone in action, sign up for a newsletter that tells you when something changes, find CAPTCHA Be Gone’s Twitter page, or sign up for the service. You must sign up by creating an account and follow the directions in the email you receive. Don’t worry—the site doesn’t make you solve a CAPTCHA to sign up!

If you want to know more about CAPTCHA Be Gone’s developers, visit the Accessible Apps website. There you can find out how to follow them on Twitter and read about their growing list of accessible software titles including Hope, QRead, QCast, QFeed, Chicken Nugget, and QSeek.

WebVisum


WebVisum is a free  extension/add-on exclusively for the Firefox browser that, among other things, solves many CAPTCHAs. We were reluctant to include it because it has been available then not available then available and now seems to be unavailable again. According to the site that describes it, WebVisum works with the current version of Firefox; however, it is unclear if the extension was updated recently. The site states that you must use the latest version of Firefox; WebVisum will not work with older versions of the browser.

Keep the following things in mind. On the page listed above, you can download the add-on; however, you cannot use it until you create an account, and you cannot create an account without an invitation from someone who already uses WebVisum. Fortunately, if you fill out the form on that page and describe who you are and why you need the add-on, you should receive an invitation rather quickly. Go to the actual WebVisum homepage. On that page, choose “Register”. Enter your information, and wait for the registration code to arrive in your email. Once you receive it, follow the directions in the email.
While researching WebVisum, we discovered another problem. The extension is not "signed", another way of saying that it is considered experimental and appears not to be approved officially by Mozilla, the makers of Firefox. This matters because all add-ons that are not signed/approved, starting with Firefox 43, are disabled by default and cannot be downloaded. Firefox's help site states that one can go into Firefox and change this setting and allow unsigned add-ons to work, but it requires a high level of technical knowledge to even attempt to do this. To complicate things further, I was unable to get to the stated location and even attempt to make the change. In summary, WebVisum seems like an excellent tool; it is worth getting an invitation and waiting to see if it will again be available to use; however, it is unlikely that you will be able to use it right away. Getting WebVisum signed should be easy to do; however, it appears that its developers have chosen not to remedy the problem at this time. You may wish to contact the WebVisum team using the link on the site. The site does state that it may take a long time to get a response. The best hope, then, may be for many people to contact them, indicating to the developers that people want to use WebVisum.

Conclusion


While you may encounter a site that uses a text CAPTCHA, such sites are few and far between. Expect to run into mostly inaccessible or only partially accessible CAPTCHAs. While the two resources outlined in this post have their limitations, they may solve the problem for most people who are blind and visually impaired. While other add-ons exists that claim to solve CAPTCHAs, CAPTCHA Be Gone and WebVisum were created specifically to assist people who are blind and visually impaired. We look forward to hearing about your experiences with these browser extensions.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: Morrison "Perfection" Wire Stitching Machine


I apologize for the quality of the photograph of our object this week, but the stitcher is on exhibit in our basement and the lighting there is poor.  I hope the story makes up for the bad image.    A wire stitching machine was used in the APH bindery to staple the spines of braille magazines, sheet music, and pamphlets.  The machine feeds wire from a spool, cuts it, forms a staple, drives it, and folds over the points.  An operator used foot pedals to control the action.  Similar machines are still in use at APH every day although we also use an automatic stitcher/folder line too.  We acquired our first wire stitcher around 1902 and purchased our first "Perfection" model in 1910, but we bought this one used.  The Illinois Braille and Sightsaving School, now the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, was a major producer of braille music scores before it closed its print shop in the summer of 1963.  Most of the machinery in the shop was bought by APH and brought to Louisville later that year.  This machine still has the state of Illinois inventory tag.

Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

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