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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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

List of Accessible Cell Phones

By Robert Kingett

Since many blind people don’t know how many accessible cell phones are out there I decided to help my fellow blind community and make a list that will help the blind pick the best cell phone out of all the major carriers that offer an accessible cell phone solution! I will even talk about the cheap small cell phone carriers. Keep in mind that Metro PCS, cricket, and jitterbug do not offer any accessible cell phone solutions.

I'm also going to keep the non tech savvy in mind. This should be fun!

 And so we go! Here's my weird accessible cell phone list!

 Verizon network:

 We all know that Verizon's plans are so steep and so wallet snatching that even my credit card said “to hell with their expensive plans!” but for those who can actually afford everything, meaning text, talk, and web, monthly, then thank god! This is the most accessible cell carrier out there, and will forever be in my book.

 So who gets the top pick in the most accessible cell phone?

 For the tech geeks… the iPhone 4 with data plans. (Very expensive though.)

 For the non tech geeks:

$130 online, $250 nearby.
(ATGuys sells this phone)

The Samsung Haven offers the most accessible features, some of which are:

       Talking Caller ID

       Reads out all levels of menu including sub menus

       Reads out incoming text messages as well as reading the letters or digits when sending a text message

       Reads out all information on the contact list

       Reads battery strength, signal strength, time, date and when charging your battery is complete

       Dedicated voice command key

       Name dial

       Reads out missed called information

       Adjustable font size and easy high contrast menus and keys.

       It has a cute interface, sort of like my hair.

There are other cell phones that offer full menu readout and text message readouts on Verizon, and these might be cheaper despite that god awful plan, but trying to find it on the site is hell on earth. Thankfully, you have me here!

LG enV3

Samsung Alias 2

Samsung Flipshot

Samsung Haven

TALKS for Verizon wireless!
Now personally I'm a huge fan of TALKS. TALKS is the best mobile phone screen reader out there…. That's expensive as hell and is way more expensive then the stupid phones listed above.  TALKS for Verizon Wireless, powered by Nuance, converts the displayed text on your wireless device into highly intelligible speech. The TALKS software has audio feedback for writing and reading text messages, emails and notes. Blind and low-vision users can take advantage of most features, including contact directories, caller ID announcement and hearing letters entered into a password field. Users can also control speech volume and rate of speech. 

 TALKS for Verizon Wireless is currently only compatible with the HTC Ozone and Motorola Q9C; only the HTC Ozone can be ordered on The device will arrive with the software already loaded and ready to use out of the box.

 Note: If you currently have a HTC Ozone (without TALKS) and would like to purchase TALKS for Verizon Wireless software, there's a charge of $99.99 that will be added to your account.  To add the software directly, call *611 from your device for further instructions.

Sprint accessible cell phones:

Unfortunately there's only one truly accessible cell phone right out of the box. The bad thing is that it has a non sliding keyboard that's out and open all the time. This can be a bit of an annoyance to those non techs savvy. Below will be info on the only accessible cell phone straight out of the box.

 LG Lotus - this phone, operating on Sprint’s CDMA network, offers several features that make the phone appealing to many blind and visually-impaired users:

Voice Guide- when the Voice Guide feature is turned on, the phone is capable of converting much of the Menu and sub-menus from text-to-speech (i.e., “Talking Menu”) and allowing the user to change settings Text Message Readout- when the Voice Guide feature is activated, this phone will read text messages.

Alpha and Numeric Key Echo- the phone will repeat back to the user either an alpha or numeric key. This allows a blind/visually-impaired user to enter Contact information and respond to text messages. For example, press the “H” key and phone voices “H” or press “8” key and phone says “Eight.”

The phone also provides “Talking Caller ID” and Missed Alerts

Voice dialing including Digit Dial and Name Dial w/ natural command such as “Call Mom’s Mobile”

Phone Status including Time, Date, Battery Level, Service Coverage and Signal Strength

Adjustable Text Size (Small, Medium, Large) unfortunately there's no high contrast options, and the menu items will not increase, sadly.

Motorola iDEN and PowerSource Phones:

Sprint recommends the Motorola i580 and i880 for customers who prefer the Nextel iDEN network. These phones have high-quality speech output for a variety of phone functions including Phone Status, Call History and Caller ID. These phones also have TTS for limited portions of the phone Menu. The phones also include Key Echo, Name Dial, and adjustable text and digit size. There is something that you won’t get with this one however, it can't read text messages.

Sprint PowerSource Phones- For customers with vision loss who enjoy the Walkie-Talkie feature in iDEN phones and the voice and data of CDMA phones, Sprint recommends the ic502, ic602 and ic902 phones. These phones incorporate portions of the TTS software found in the Motorola i580 and i880. You will get only basic menu readout with these types of phones.

AT&T list of accessible cell phones:

 Unfortunately, AT&T has no accessible cell phones right out of the box except for the I Phone, which is quite expensive, ranging from a whopping $354 to $576. I won’t ever buy one, and their plans are awful to boot! However, all their nokia cell phones work with the talks screen reader, but what if you hate talks? They have a few cell phones that work with mobile speak. See below.

 Software solutions:

Mobile Speak
Price. Mobile Speak and Mobile Magnifier software is billed to a credit card. Mobile Speak $89.00  Mobile Magnifier $89.00

AT&T supported devices:

Current supported devices nclude:

       Nokia Surge™ (6790)

       Nokia E71x

       HP iPAQ Glisten

       Samsung Jack

About both products.

Mobile Speak
 A powerful full-fledged screen reader with an easy-to-learn command structure, intuitive speech feedback in several languages, and Braille support that can be used with or without speech. Unlike other screen readers for mobile phones, Mobile Speak automatically detects information that the blind user should know, just as a sighted user would easily find highlighted items or key areas of the screen at a glance. Supported applications and functions include:

       Speed dial, call lists and contacts

       Text messaging

       Calendar, tasks, notes, and calculator

       Internet browser

       Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

       Voice Recorder, Media Player, voice speed dial and voice command

       Phone/device settings, profiles, alarms, and ringtones

Mobile Speak is offered with a choice of 3 different Text to Speak (TTS) speech engines (Spanish and English speech engines available):

       Fonix - includes 9 voices

       Acapela - choice of voices

       Loquendo - choice of voices

Mobile Magnifier
Mobile Magnifier is a flexible, full-screen magnification application that supports low and high resolution screens and can be used with or without speech feedback. Magnification software is compatible with a wide range of mobile devices. Unique features include:

       Magnification levels from 1.25x to 16x

       Font-smoothing for easier readability

       Three different layouts: full-screen, split and distributed view

       Different color schemes, including inverted color

       Automatic panning and cursor-tracking

       Automatic zoom function that detects areas of interest on the screen

T-Mobile accessible cell phones:

 These phones are only accessible by the mobile speak software. Below will be the list of phones that support the software.


 HTC HD2, (touch screen)

HTC Touch Pro 2, QWERTY keyboard, Touch screen

HTC Dash 3G,

HTC Shadow,

Nokia E73 Mode. Five-way navigation key. QWERTY keyboard

Boost mobile:

And now we get into the highlight! Boost mobile has NO complete accessible cell phones. The closest one is the SANYO mirror. Here's the things it won’t read.

1.      The web.

2.      Text messages. (Incoming or typing.)

For the geeks.

For the geeks who can master a touch screen, then the Motorola i1 - Android - Nextel/Boost Mobile is right for you and with a few applications! This phone isn't cheap though. It's $300 online, $400 nearby

Virgin mobile.

The most accessible cell phones for this carrier are…

The geeks…

The LG optima’s for $149.99. (Android two.2 touch screen.)

 The best non geek phone that's sort accessible, actually it's only a short stint, is the LG rumor 2. The things that this phone does not have in terms of accessibility are:

1.      Text message readout.

2.      font change

3.      contrast change

4.      Volume of speech change.

It does have a voice guide, but it only does basic menus, and it's quite hard to hear. If you want to buy a virgin mobile phone, but hate android, this is the most accessible, and it isn't even all that accessible.

Straight talk wireless:

The straight talk wireless phone experience is a great one! They have many accessible phones that will work with the talks and mobile speak screen readers. They have many android phones to choose from, and if you already have an IPhone they can put that unlocked IPhone onto their cell network. It’s better to buy the phones straight from the venders though, and, at the time of this writing, straight talk does not have an IPhone for sale. It’s impossible to list all the cell phones that they have because this company is geographically specific. All the cell phones that are android will be accessible, because they run the android software of 2.6. This is the most accessible phones for the android market who cannot afford all the higher rates. Straight talk offers a $45 a month unlimited plan, a $60 unlimited everything national and international, and also other plans. If you do not want to have an android phone, then your best bet would be to check and see if the nokia 6790 is in your area. This phone will work with talks and mobile speak, and it has its own built in accessibility options.

Robert Kingett
Robert's Twitter
Robert's Facebook page

Monday, July 30, 2012

No-C-Notes: Alternative Method of Reading Music

No-C-Notes Bridges the gap between Visually Impaired Musicians and Printed Music Notation. No-C-Notes is an easy and cost effective way of using sheet music notation. Used by the singer, songwriter, teacher or instrumentalist who wants their sheet music spoken, not written. There is no need to learn clefs, staffs, ledger lines, note heads and flags and other visual sheet music notation as this method reads the actual tone and timing without having to know its placement on paper. Whether used for voice, keyboards, guitar, strings or woodwinds, it gives musicians a common verbal language of reading their sheet music to one another.
No-C-Notes audio music description can replace printed, Braille or Big-Note sheet music. Musicians listen to their sheet music being read verbally in the same manner as you would use an audio book. Readings can be saved any audio method such as MP3, CD or audio cassette.
Currently available is lead sheet music in audio MP3 format, along with a how-to CD included audio descriptions of 166 chords. Other services include transcribing music score and instruction books into an audio book complete with midi recording of music along with reading of all tones, timing, phrases, chords and lyrics along with any fingerings, accidentals and text. Seminars available across the U.S. for music teachers and educational institutions. Contact Christina and check out the website for offerings.

No-C-Notes Music
Christina Cotruvo
4210 Quebec Ave
Duluth, MN 55804

Friday, July 27, 2012

UPDATED! Fleksy: Changing the Way We Type

 August 10th Update (from Syntellia news release seen on AppleVis):
  • Fleksy is now free to try. The free version will not allow you to copy or use the text, but will give everyone the ability to try out Fleksy before purchasing the full version. If you have already purchased the full version previously, you will automatically be upgraded to the full version.
  • You no longer have to switch VoiceOver off to type. Please note, you have to first tap once anywhere on the screen before typing, in order to activate the keyboard. This is the way Direct Touch works.
  • When you launch Fleksy, it is now already in typing mode. You can use the keyboard area to type. To bring up the Fleksy menu, press and hold at the top of the screen, above the keyboard area.
  • We have re-ordered the app menus based on popular feedback.
  • You can now remove words from the dictionary. You remove words the same way you add them: type them in manual entry mode, and then, after swiping right, swipe up to remove from the dictionary.
  • The previous version of Fleksy prevented you from adding certain words in the dictionary – this has now been fixed.
  • There is now an easy way to add apostrophes to nouns. After writing a word, swipe right for period and you will find the (apostrophe s) shortcut in the suggestions.
  • We have reorganized how Fleksy formats emails. The word “Fleksy” is not added to the subject line any more. We have also included an option for using the first line of your text as the subject of outgoing e-mails. We know that a lot of participants of this forum had asked for this feature.
  • Fleksy now supports the Screen Curtain feature when enabled.
  • Fleksy now speaks in the same language locale as your iPhone if you use the UK or Australian English voice.
  • Your user dictionary is now stored in iCloud on enabled devices. This means it will automatically be updated across your devices and stay in sync.
  • The instructions are now stored within Fleksy, so you can access them when you are offline or outside a network cover area.
  • There is now a “spell words” setting. This spells the last word entered after you have typed it.
  • We have updated the Twitter button to point to our new Twitter handle: @fleksy.
  • We have added the underscore to the list of symbols.
  • And, finally, Fleksy now notifies you it is ready when loading is completed.

  • According to the Fleksy website, Fleksy is a "state of the art text input system for touch-screen devices." Fleksy has the potential to be groundbreaking technology for people who are blind or visually impaired who wish to use touch-screen technology such as iPhones, iPads, and iPods. Gone are the days of having to scroll through one letter at a time or have to use a Bluetooth keyboard to write a text or email on your phone. The makers of Fleksy claim that, with practice, you will be typing as fast, if not faster, than your sighted peers can.

    This app by Syntellia uses innovative technology that allows you to tap letters without worrying about accuracy. The app uses the standard QWERTY keyboard setup, but you only have to tap near the letter you're trying to find. The app recognizes what word you are trying to type, and it will correct any mistakes you make. The typing area is 114% larger than the default iPhone keyboard, which means more space for typing.

    You must turn VoiceOver off to begin using the app, but that only takes just a second. On the iPad, the keyboard is in the center of the screen with a lot of blank space around it. I imagine that it would be even easier to use on a phone because there would be no empty space around the keyboard. To begin, just tap where you think the keys are. After you finish a word, the app will read what it thinks you wrote. If it is incorrect, swipe down or up for more options. To insert a space, swipe right.

    You can swipe right to insert punctuation, and up or down for different types of punctuation marks. Some proper names do not register. My fiancé tried to write "Nathan loves Marissa" and it appeared "Nathan loves Barbara." To avoid getting your significant other angry, tap and hold the letters you want to write one at a time, which will disable the autocorrect function for the time being. To export your text, triple-click the home button to bring up menu options. Fleksy can send text as a tweet, a SMS message, or an email message.

    Fleksy operates in tandem with VoiceOver. It is available on iPhones that use iOS 5.0 or later. It is available on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. The app is 2.0 MB. Currently, it only supports US English, but the developers are planning to integrate other languages in the near future.

    The Good

    This app (at least on the iPad) seems to work very well. It does require a little practice, but my fiancé watched as I typed and saw how crazy the words looked at first, but Fleksy caught everything and almost always picked the right word. It certainly increases typing speed for many, although some have said that they cannot get the hang of it and spend more time erasing than typing. It is fully accessible and very user-friendly.

    The Bad

    The app is $15, which is considerably less than many assistive devices that blind people have to buy, but it is pricey for an iOS app. On the other hand, there is some disagreement by reviewers on whether the app is worth that much money.

    The biggest problem with Fleksy is that it is not integrated into the native iOS. If it could be integrated, then you would be able to use it with any app with no problems. Currently, Fleksy's scope is a bit limited, but they seem like they want to branch out to make Fleksy work with other apps in the near future. The integration problem is not their fault, but Apple's.

    All in all…

    It is a very good, useful app. It needs a little work to make it usable with more apps and available in more languages, and it is a bit expensive. However, it has great potential to make typing on touchscreens much easier and faster for people who are blind and visually impaired.

    July 26th Update: According to the AppleVis discussion board, the new version of Fleksy updated:
    - Loading time reduced by 50%.
    -Improved word recognition engine.
    - Manual capitalization is now possible - swipe up after you type a letter in manual entry mode.
    - Improved stability - we have fixed most frequently reported crashes and bugs.
    - Import and export custom dictionary functions.
    - New way to enter symbols - press and hold the keyboard, then move your finger to the top of the keyboard for different groups of symbols. Swipe down in each group to get more symbols in the group.
    - Same gesture inputs new line if you move your finger to the bottom right of the screen, or brings up the number keyboard at the bottom left of the screen.
    - Improved swipe recognition engine.

    See Also:

    YouTube tutorial video
    AppleVis reviews

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Introduction: Marissa Slaughter's Personal Story

    Always Moving Forward

    I got my first pair of bifocal glasses when I was six months old, and surprisingly, according to my parents, I actually kept them on most of the time. When I grew older, my dad called me Speedy Gonzales because I liked to run. A lot. And I ran into things. A lot. Those collisions only momentarily slowed me down, though. They never stopped me from constantly moving forward.

    Middle school and high school were difficult for me, as for many other students in inclusive classrooms growing up. When I was little, I ran forward simply because my parents and other family members told me to slow down. As a teenager, I moved forward towards college because I was desperate for something better than what I was experiencing. Instead of running into walls and acquiring more than my fair share of bruises, I focused almost entirely on academics. When I was accepted to Bridgewater College, a small, liberal arts college in Virginia, I knew that I was moving forward into a new era of my life.

    Throughout college, I kept moving forward, but I did not have a clear idea towards what I was heading. I majored in history because I loved (and still love) history. Even as a teenager, though, I was vocal about issues concerning people with disabilities, especially people who were blind or visually impaired.

    Because I did not know you could get a degree in something related to blindness or disability, I entered the University of South Carolina’s graduate program in museum studies in 2009. I figured that my love for history would translate into a love of museums. I quickly discovered that, although I loved history, I did not have a love for museum work as a career. For a moment, I was stopped. I had no idea which way I was going. I had no purpose. My whole life up to that point was spent moving toward some goal. I suddenly found myself unsure of what my goals should be.

    Thanks to a little luck and a whole lot of encouragement, a set of events was put into motion that led me to where I am today. In July 2010, I was accepted into the University of Toledo’s Master of Liberal Studies program with a concentration in disability studies. In October, my fiancé and I moved to Louisville. The next summer, I began working in the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind as an intern. Recently, I became the new Social Media Coordinator for APH. It is amazing to me that I am now working for the same company that sent me large print textbooks, a CCTV, and various other tools that assisted me growing up.

    You would be mistaken if you think I’m going to say “I have arrived!” and I can stop moving forward. I hope never to stop moving forward in one way or the other. I want to learn a great deal more so that I can pass that knowledge along to you, the reader, to help you live the best, most independent life you can.

    Marissa Slaughter, Social Media Coordinator, APH

    Monday, July 23, 2012

    APH Refreshabraille 18 and iPod in Action!

    This YouTube video shows a fabulous story of a student using the Refreshabraille 18 and an iPod! We believe this to be a concrete example of APH's mission to provide products that contribute to independence.

    Treasures from the APH Libraries - July 2012

    The APH Barr Library supports research initiatives at APH, while the Migel Library is the largest collection of nonmedical information related to blindness in the world. Although the collections do not circulate, arrangements can be made to use the materials on-site. In addition, an ongoing digitization effort means APH will continue to make materials available through the online catalog at

    Two of the many "Treasures from the APH Libraries" are described below.

    From the Migel Library: Memory of Blind People: Studies in Touch, Movement, and Audition—V. K. Kool. New Delhi, India: Ministry of Social Welfare, c1981.

    Memory of Blind People is a work that was intended to discuss how the repeated performance of tasks could depend on the memory of a visual reference of the action. But one of the most interesting things about this monograph is the personal connection to the report that the item provides as both a document and an artifact. The preface contains a very personal narrative that details everything down to the staffing problems of the project. The author describes each of the people who worked on the project, concluding that a team of dedicated and sincere workers is more important than monetary or material assistance. Dr. Kool then describes a nostalgia that he feels for the days when he and a few "comrades" worked for three days just to complete the manuscript. And therein lies the connection.

    The manuscript itself consists of 1,069 pages—each hand-numbered with a stamp, and typed on a water-marked piece of typing paper. Sections of the work are actually on paper of differing size, brand, and shade, which gives a feel for the piecing together of years worth of work. The table of contents' pagination has been hand written, possibly at the work’s completion. And the author’s information is provided by a business card that has been glued onto the title page. The binding of the book is sewn, and brings the 11cm.-thick transcript together nicely. The artifact really gives a good representation of the time, work, and the people who collaborated to bring its publication together.

    From the Barr Library: Blind Vision: the Neuroscience of Visual Impairment—Zaira Cattaneo and Tomaso Vecchi. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, c2011.

    Blind Vision is a solid overview of the vision related aspects and discoveries of recent "brain research." The expansive bibliographies show a wide ranging research base, as do the discussions of various research results, but the writing is quite approachable, considering the complexity of the subject. The examination of sensory perception and its contribution to mental representation across sight, blindness, and low vision is very thorough and thoughtfully presented.

    Readers will be given some new insights regarding the nature of reality and the experience of life for different minds. The authors also note that age at the onset of blindness affects the adaptation of the brain to the lack of visual stimuli and compare typical sensory abilities across several onset cohorts. The plasticity discussion that logically follows discusses structural changes in the brain and reassignment of portions of the brain devoted to certain tasks. The entire work offers much thought provoking material in relation to education, rehabilitation, or assistive technology, and invites long philosophical discussions. This is an excellent introduction to the subject for a person who is curious about this area of research, but not sure of where to start.

    Contact Library staff:, 800-223-1839, ext. 705

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    The Unexpected Child

    By Donna J. Jodhan

    Yes, that's me!  The unexpected child.  I was born eight hours after my twin brother Jeffrey.  Mom did not even know that she was having twins until Jeffrey was born and then the midwife gave her and dad the news.  From thereon in, almost everything in my life became unexpected.

    First, I was born with a vision impairment; very unexpected indeed.  Then I somehow managed to surpass all academic expectations; quite unexpected.  Then at university I somehow managed to keep my unexpected record in tact.  I was one of the first blind people to graduate with a bachelor's degree in Commerce from Concordia University in Montreal Canada.  My unexpected record grew to include being one of the first blind people to graduate with an MBA from McGill University of Montreal in Canada, and one of the first blind people in the world to graduate with certifications in Microsoft Systems Engineering, and Novelle network administration. 

    I do my best to preserve my unexpected record; by motivating others to become as unexpected as me.  I motivate them to do the unexpected; surpass expectations.  I motivate them to think about things that are unexpected; things that leave others gasping for air.  That is, doing things that take them outside their comfort zone, things that make others sit up and take note, things that help to create positive attitudes and reactions.  It's all in the name of being the unexpected child.

    I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:

    Donna Jodhan! Advocating Accessibility for All:
    Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
    Blogs on various issues and answers to consumer concerns:

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    The Accommodation Syndrome

    By Donna J. Jodhan

    I used to be more accepting whenever a company or organization told me that one of their policies included accommodation or the accommodation of the needs of disabled persons.  All well and good but for blind persons, this word is fast becoming a very unpleasant one.  You may be asking why and here are my reasons for what they are worth. 

    I do not believe that any company or organization should be using this word because it gives the impression that they are going out of their way to accommodate our needs and demands.  No company or organization should have to feel or be put upon to accommodate any consumer or user.  It should be an automatic reflex or normal process and it should be taken in the same light as providing the same types of services and products to the mainstream world. 

    I am often embarrassed whenever I hear this word used in the above context or whenever I am told that this is what companies and organizations are saying.  It sure singles us out and in a normal world it is one of the last things that blind persons need; to be singled out.  Yes, we do indeed have special needs but I don’t really hear this word being used whenever companies and organizations decide to provide their product information and services in multi languages. 

    Come to think of it:  Is it not the same thing or concept?  If a company in an English-speaking country needs to attract the attention or provide multi language service, is it not the same thing?  Are they not accommodating the consumer whose first language is not English?

    Just my two cents for today.

    I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
    Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
    Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
    Weekly features on how to increase your success with your business ventures:

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