<![CDATA[Each Wednesday, and we are one day early for this week, we will be bringing you an article of interest as it pertains to the topic of accessibility and we hope you can use it to become more familiar with this particular area. This has become a rapidly growing and very important area and why? Because the number of consumers in this market is growing and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. Governments, corporations, and individuals are paying more attention. Please read on. The Sterling Creations team Follow us on Twitter @accessibleworld. +++++++++++++++ Contributed by Dan Thompson New free GPS Autour (French for "Around", pronounced "oh tour") is an eyes-free mobile system designed to give blind users a better sense of their surroundings. Although other systems (e.g., Humanware's Trekker http://www.humanware.com/en- usa/products/blindness/talking_gps/ and standard GPS tools) emphasize navigation from one specific location to another, typically accomplished by explicit turn-by-turn instructions, our goal is to use ambient audio to reveal the kind of information that visual cues such as neon signs provide to sighted users. Once users notice a point of interest, additional details are available on demand. When you start Autour for the first time, you'll be guided through an interactive tutorial that demonstrates a few of the app's modes of operation. These include Radar, which announces places as the radar sweeps past them in a circle around the user, and Beam, which acts like a flashlight, announcing places in the direction the user is facing. Other modes, and the settings menu, are described in detail in the instructions . Autour can be used hand-held, or largely hands-free, by leaving the phone in a pouch around the user's neck, as desired. To ensure correct behaiour, it's important to specify the "carry mode" in the app's setting menu so that Autour knows which way the phone is being held. The Autour user experience is tightly tied to spatialized audio, preferably using bone-conducting or open air headphones so as not to interfere with the natural sounds of the environment. Names of places appear to come from locations surrounding the user, thereby giving a sense of directionality and distance. This allows for parsimony of representation and less intrusive sound cues. Imagine the difference between a mechanical voice stating, "Restaurant, 50 meters, 60 degrees to your left" vs. a very short "Restaurant" spatialized in the correct direction. A short video is available for viewing here: http://autour.mcgill.ca/en/ Autour app helps visually impaired individuals learn what's around them We invite you to download the app at the next link and try it out https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/autour/id887476373? mt=8&l=en Below are instructions for the app and the third and final section covers technical information. *II. Instructions Autour is a cartographical application for the blind that has been developed at the Shared Reality Laboratory of McGill University. It can run on the iPhone 4S and other more recent iPhones, but it does not run on the iPad or the iPod Touch. Autour has several modes : the tilt of the device allows you to choose between two of the modes, a horizontal one and a vertical one. By default, the vertical mode is Radar sweep mode, and the horizontal mode is the Beam mode. On top of this, you have the following modes : Shockwave, Browse, Tutorial, Menu, and a mode that just waits for GPS lock. In any horizontal and vertical mode, you can tap the screen twice quickly to hear the address where you are, the status of sensors, and also a summary of places around you. While that is spoken, you may interrupt by tapping the screen once or by tilting the device. Radar Mode This is one of the two kinds of Sweep Modes. Point the device up with the screen facing toward you, then touch the screen. This will start an automatic sweep. You will hear a ticking sound indicating the progress of the scan around you clockwise, along with the names of the places around you. There are 48 ticks per turn, equally spaced around you, but not equally spaced in time, because saying the name of a place slows the sweep down. To pause a sweep, touch the screen again. Slide a finger from right to left to hear a detailed version of the last place you have heard, telling you its distance and direction. Slide again to hear the previous place in the history, or from left to right to hear the following place in the history. If you go past the oldest spoken place in the history or past the most recent, a tone will play instead. To stop hearing about a place, touch the screen. While the Sweep mode is doing nothing, you can continue the sweep by touching the screen. Beam Mode Tip the phone so the screen is facing up. You can activate and deactivate the beam in the same manner as in Sweep modes, and you can go through history in the same manner as in Sweep modes too. When the beam is activated, the history is erased then the places that are approximately in the direction of the device are enumerated in order of increasing distance. If you turn the device sufficiently in a clockwise or counterclockwise way, the history will be erased again, the new direction of the device will be chosen as the reference, and the places will be enumerated in that approximate direction instead. Standby Mode When GPS does not work well, Autour chooses this mode instead of any other horizontal and vertical mode, until the GPS works again. The only thing allowed in that mode is the double-tap. Menus To enter the Menu mode, slide a finger upwards, then do as if you were in the Settings app, except that to exit, use the Back button, not the Home button. Instructions about settings are found directly in the Settings menu or its sub-menus, in the same way as in the Settings app. There, you will find additional instructions appearing below each control to which they refer. The About menu contains various texts, such as this manual, as well as the possibility of retrying the interactive tutorial. Unlike the first time, the tutorial can now be interrupted by pressing the main button then going back into Autour. The Other menu contains means of accessing applications Transit App, Google Maps, Apple Plans, as well as of going see our webpage and writing us email. Shockwave Mode In the Settings, go to the Sweep mode selector, and select Shockwave. Then leave the menus and tip the phone as you would in Radar mode. The Shockwave mode is identical to the Radar mode, except for the following aspects. Instead of sorting by direction, this mode sorts by distance, therefore the sweep is done as a circle that starts where you are and grows until the maximum distance specified in the settings, and at that moment, a new sweep starts in the same manner. Browse Mode In Settings, go to Horizontal mode and select Browse. Then leave the menus and tip the phone as you would in Beam mode. To play the the place closest to you, swipe a finger to the right. Swiping to the right again will get you to the next place in the list ordered by distance. Swiping to the left will get you to the previous place in the list. A tone will play whenever you try to go past the end of the list or before the beginning. Other notes Please note that the place information from the phone GPS and compass can be unreliable. Do not rely on Autour for navigation or safety; it does not replace a cane or guide dog. If the GPS signal is poor, Autour will stop announcing places and play a quiet wobble noise periodically while waiting for a better location fix. If the compass accuracy degrades, places will be spoken with north, south, east or west directions rather than a position such as front right. To recalibrate the compass, move the phone in front of you in a figure eight pattern, with the screen pointed up toward the sky. Autour works poorly in areas where the sky is blocked by tall buildings, which causes the GPS to provide poor location information. This is difficult to fix, but you can try holding the phone so it has the best possible view of the sky. If your area has good Foursquare™ data, we strongly recommend setting Autour to use their information, as it is often much more relevant than that from Google Places. This is primarily because it can be better ranked by checkins and reviews, meaning you are more likely to hear about locations that other people like. That said, Google Places is more comprehensive. Note that the information from the Google Places or Foursquare™ databases can contain errors. If you want them corrected, contact the responsible company by the appropriate means. Autour does not work in a moving vehicle, and will simply stop playing locations. This is partly because of server response time - our current server cannot return results fast enough to keep up. But it is also because the modes of Autour are not designed in function of a fast-moving user. If you would like to see a version of Autour that supports car and bus use, please contact us so we can gauge the interest in this feature. Finally, keep in mind that Autour is a research project and is not a commercially supported application. You can email us at email@example.com Finally, keep in mind that Autour is a research project and is not a commercially supported application. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, suggestions, and bugs. You may also ask to participate in our research. Note that we are a research team at McGill University, and are eager to hear about problems you encounter and suggestions for new features, as well as stories about how Autour helped you. The instructions page is here: http://autour.mcgill.ca/en/instructions.html *III. Techical Information Autour currently runs on iPhone 4s or later; the Android version is presently being prepared. The app uses the smartphone's built-in compass, accelerometer, gyroscope and GPS hardware to determine the user's location and orientation. Nearby places are retrieved automatically via the Autour server. The appropriate sound scene is then rendered using the libpd library to run PureData (Pd) patches. The Autour server acts as an intermediary for real- time requests to Google Places™ and Foursquare™ to locate companies, public buildings, monuments, etc. The Autour app can then render these places in different ways, e.g., by relative direction ("front right") or by cardinal direction ("northeast"). Category names (e.g., "bar," "fast food", etc.), are spatialized to sound like they are coming from the actual location of the POI, giving a direct cue as to its direction and distance. The server contains a copy of bus stops from 38 public transport companies of major urban centres across Canada ; it also contains certain portions of OpenStreetMap for all of Canada, as used to find the nearest point on the closest street, to name intersections, and obtain the contours of parks and certain large buildings such as hospitals. OpenStreetMap data is copyrighted by its owners, who provide it under a free license (ODbL). There is a Video demonstration at this link. http://autour.mcgill.ca/en/ If using a screenreading software and visiting the above link, press the letter b once. A play button is highlighted. Press the spacebar to start the video. User testing We have worked with both French and English organizations for the blind in Montreal, including the Institut Nazareth & Louis Braille (INLB) and the Montreal Association for the Blind (MAB) to test Autour with a number of blind participants. These user tests have taken the form of informal walkabouts while soliciting feedback, more formal tests with specific tasks to complete using Autour while on the streets of Montreal, and also longer- term deployments where blind individuals were loaned iPhone devices to use in their daily routines. Feedback has been generally positive for the system as a whole, but has also pointed out numerous usability and other issues that have been factored into the design. A paper (link below) summarizing the results across several of these tests was presented at the 2013 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI). Source: Ron & Danvers And the Autour - McGill University in Canada. I am unclear if the app works in the U.s. I certainly hope it eventually does if if not yet available.]]>
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- Artificial or attitude? I am still trying to figure this one out and I have to admit that I may never be able to do so. This so-called artificial/attitude barrier has been around much longer than I and this is what it is. Too often, whenever someone with a disability is accompanied by either a friend or family member, they are asked if the accompanying person is a care giver. Recently, I was asked this same question when my friend accompanied me to a lab to have some tests done. The lab technician could not seem to stop herself in asking this question and she was very surprised when both my friend and I said in unison that we were friends. Why should she have been surprised? Was it that she along with so many others around us really do not expect us to have friends who accompany us to appointments? Or is it that they think we need care givers to escort us? Or is it simply that they just do not know what to ask? I do my best to be patient but sometimes I become frustrated and simply tell them that I do not need a care giver. Or I may just turn the question back to them and ask why do they think that my escort is my care giver? 99% of the time there is no response. One of my favourite memories is the day when my mom accompanied me to a pre op appointment and the medical assistant asked if mom was my nurse! On this occasion I could not help but burst into peals of laughter. My mom was speechless! After taking a-hold of myself I gently told the medical assistant that she was my mom; not my nurse. And very recently my friend and I accompanied my mom to the dentist and lo and behold! They thought my friend was a care giver and asked me for her phone number. When I told the staff that she was not our care giver but our friend they were shocked but at least had the manners to apologize. Just my two cents for today. Image: Five blue accessibility logos, hearing impaired, sign language, wheelchair, restroom with wheelchair and guide dog. To learn more about me as a sight loss coach visit www.donnajodhan.com
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