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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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

VisAssist Apps Developed by Drexel University Students

VisAssist Apps Developed by Drexel University Students

 A group of senior honors computer science students at Drexel University in Philadelphia has created a suite of applications called VisAssist that will help people who are visually impaired use social media platforms on their smartphones. These seven students, with assistance from faculty members, interviewed students and teachers at the Overbrook School for the Blind to see what problems they faced in accessing social media sites via their smartphones.

Many students complained that other technologies were either too bulky and noticeable or inadequate. Teachers stated that a lot of work in accessible technology has been focused on academics, while there still needed to be a lot of work done to improve students' access to fun, everyday activities. The Overbrook students were the first to test the apps. They are now available free in the Google Play store for Android devices. The design group is working on a VisAssist suite of apps for iOS as well.

There are several apps in the VisAssist suite for Android, including The Contrastinator. This appropriately-named app helps users see paper materials better. It takes a picture, using your smartphone's camera, and then fixes the image so that the text is enlarged and in higher color contrast.

The Facebook Navigator is another VisAssist app. Either blind or visually impaired users could use it. The keyboard displays one key at a time, which you scroll right or left to navigate through. You can slide the screen right, left, up, or down to get different menus, such as News Feed, Friends, or Messages. The News Feed reads aloud stories one at a time. Visually, they appear in large print, white letters on a black background. To move from one story to the next, you simply scroll to the right. It seems relatively easy to use and definitely improves the Facebook mobile interface, which has accessibility issues even for people with some vision.
Click here to view the VisAssist website.


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