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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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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Accessible iPod for the Blind

We're hearing more and more about iPods and how easy it is to download audiobooks, music, and podcasts from the internet. Most portible MP3 players are difficult for the blind to use because of on-screen menus. The iPod Shuffle is the best unit for the blind so far.

The size of its buttons are a bit smaller than those on full-sized iPods, but the blind will appreciate its simplicity: there's neither a screen to worry about reading or properly navigating. There's no complicated settings to change. Its only controls are "back," "forward," "play/pause," and the volume controls.

The iPod shuffle, of course, can handle all iTunes-imported audiobooks, as well as those purchased from either the iTunes Music Store or Since these audiobooks can range anywhere from 45MB to 250MB in filesize, we'd definitely recommend the 1GB or 2GB models. Even at this capacity, you may find yourself frequently "refilling" the unit with new content.

New, smaller iPod Shuffle gets the power of speech

Half the size of the last generation but with twice the capacity, the latest Shuffle boasts a novel way of letting you know what track you're listening to: It talks.

This Shuffle is billed as the "world's smallest music player," and indeed, it looks tiny, just 1.8 by 0.7 by 0.3 inches, or (as Apple helpfully notes) a little smaller than an AA battery.

Gone is the circular navigation pad from the last-generation Shuffle; instead, you get a new in-line remote on the earphone cord, which includes volume up/down buttons, plus a center control that lets you pause and skip tracks. Not bad, but here's the only problem: Third-party earphones won't work all that well with the new Shuffle, or at least not until someone makes a pair with a compatible in-line remote.

Also new: VoiceOver, an intriguing attempt to replace the Shuffle's missing LCD display with a computerized voice that tells you the track name and artist of the song you're listening to. Just press and hold the center key of the Shuffle's in-line remote to hear VoiceOver speak.

The new Shuffle also gets playlist support, thanks to VoiceOver. Here's how it works: Keep holding the center key and VoiceOver will tell you what playlist you're listening to, followed by a list of all available playlists; click again when you hear the playlist you want to select.

The iPod Shuffle is available from a variety of places. You may want to check with some local electronics stores in your area for pricing and availability.Click this link to learn more about the iPod Shuffle that talks from the Apple website.

Brian Hartgen has started a new email list called Blind iPod. The purpose of this list is for the helpful discussion of all aspects of using iPods or similar products by visually impaired people, including the software installed onto a computer in order to transfer music or spoken word material onto the device. Although the original intention (and indeed the emphasis) is to discuss the use of iPod products, it is quite acceptable to write about other (what most of us call) portable media devices, inaccurately dubbed as MP3 players by the mass market. Finally, he will allow the discussion of accessing stores for the legal download of music and spoken word material within the context of hopefully transferring the purchased audio content to a portable media device. The transfer of Podcasts to a portable media device can also fall into the scope of the list, but not material contained therein.

To subscribe to this list, please send a blank message to with the word subscribe in the subject line. I hope everyone benefits from this list.

Click this link to purchase an iPod Shuffle from Apple.

Using iTunes 8 with a screen reader such as JAWS for Windows, VoiceOver on Mac OS X, or GW Micro's Window-Eyes 7 on Windows XP and Windows Vista, blind and visually impaired people can browse, search, buy, download and play content from iTunes U and many areas of the iTunes Store. In addition, the iPod nano (4th generation) features spoken menus, so it can be used to navigate and play tracks downloaded from the iTunes Store and iTunes U just by listening.

iTunes is one of the most popular programs used by computer users today. And that's especially true for those who love to listen to music. iTunes helps to store and manage all of your music files in addition to different types of media, including videos and podcasts. Podcasts are radio shows downloaded on the Internet. Not only does iTunes make it easy to access all of your music on your computer, but it's also the program you can use to transfer those files onto one of the iPods we've mentioned above.

Once you have iTunes downloaded, the Library tab is the first category you'll see (on the left hand side menu for those that have some vision). The Music tab is where all your songs are sorted, which you can organize based on Name, Time (length of song), Artist, Album, Genre, My Rating, Play Count and Last Played. There's also a search bar located in the top right hand corner (or a quick tab from the main list if using a screen reader) which makes it easier to locate a particular file you may be looking for. My Rating allows you to select the number of stars you wish to give a certain song. You can select anywhere between one and five stars, with five being the highest.

To listen to a song, simply double click on the song selection and it will start playing. Screen reader users will highlight the song and press space to play and tab to navigate the box in the upper portion of the window, which allows you to manage the playback features. For those with some vision, the triangle represents playing the song, while the quotation marks stand for pausing the song. The two forward and two reverse arrows are used for skipping between songs and the volume bar is located right next to that. The search finder is located on the opposite side and in the middle, you can see the time progression of the song as it plays. All buttons are labeled and speak correctly with a screen reader.

The next three tabs in the main list belong to Movies, TV Shows and Podcasts. The next tab, Radio, can connect you to different radio stations, which are organized by their streams. You can click through them to see all of the various selections and choose what you like the most.

The next category is Store, which contains the iTunes Store tab. That enables you to purchase iTunes off the Internet. The third category on the menu is Playlists. The first tab, Party Shuffle, automatically creates a random selection of songs from your music library. The shuffle arrangement is handy if you're indecisive about what you want to listen to at any given time.

The next six tabs that appear on your iTunes menu are the playlists that come with the program itself: 90s Music, Music Videos, My Top Rated, Recently Added, Recently Played and Top 25 Most Played. The first selects songs that fit under the specified genre. My Top Rated lists any songs you have given a high rating. Music Videos includes any videos you have uploaded. Recently Added songs and Recently Played songs are updated frequently and the Top 25 Most Played lists the current 25 songs that have the highest play count numbers.

Using the Accessible iPod (ACCIPOD) is a book written by Anna Dresner that further discusses the iPod and iTunes software. Click this link to purchase the book from National Braille Press.

1 comment:

Chela said...

How accessible is the IPOD Nano that just recently came up, is going to be for JAWS users, whether they use 10 when released, or as of now, version 9, and how accessible is version 8 of Itunes version 8 to those users as well?

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