90% of Restaurants are breaking the law. Are you one of them?

By Muzz Lakhani

At the time of writing this, I am invited to 5 dinner/drinking events in the next week. This can only mean one of two things: either I’ve become extremely popular, now that I’m older; or the more likely explanation – The holiday season is well and truly upon us. I presume a lot of the readers will also be attending at least 1 social event in the holiday season – be it for an evening curry with the family, a company organised Christmas do, a night out in town with the boys and/or the girls, etc.

The Christmas spirit is taking over and rightfully so – this is the season for joy, happiness, family, turkey, eggnog, parties, celebrations, more eggnog and so on. So I ask you – do you really want to be spending Christmas paying fines and being publicised in your community for being a generally horrible person or an unfriendly business? NO?

Then get your house in order. Disability is not just confined to ramps and toilets. There are over 285 Million people with sight loss across the world. Making your restaurant accessible to them is the not only the polite and courteous thing to do; it is also good for business and a legal obligation. Our research has shown that over 90% of Public Houses, Restaurants and Bars do not offer their menu cards in Braille format. This is classified as discrimination as per The Equality Act 2010.

Don’t get caught out this Christmas. Do the right thing. Spread joy and happiness.

Season’s greetings from Fram3, and please enjoy responsibly.

Happy Holidays from Fram3.

Happy Holidays from Fram3.

Spotlight Search for Quick Navigation Access

Search iPhone option on top and the keyboard at the bottom

Smart search for quick access to your apps on iOS

A constant complaint that has been raised by many users of iOS with VoiceOver is the lack of efficient and quick access to their favourite apps and content on their iPod, iPhones and iPads. Scrolling through pages of apps, searching through every particular app for content, and scrolling through messages and emails to get to a particular piece of content, simply by trial and error, is an extremely tedious and boring way to operate a device that can be used more efficiently with the aid of a feature called ‘spotlight search’.

To access spotlight search, simply press the home button on the first page of iOS, or scroll using three fingers, swiping from left to right on the first page.

A keyboard appears with a search field that can give dynamic answers on the fly. Just type the first few letters of the app you are looking for and results appear in order of relevance. The desired app should be within the first few results. Content can also be searched within mail, music, contacts, messages and any other app that has stored or used information on your device.

search options for youtube, the last two options being search the web and search wikipedia

The very last two options in spotlight are as follows :
Search Wikipedia
Search the web

This allows one to quickly search Wikipedia for definitions and a brief article on a desired topic without having to use Siri in noisy environments, or having to access safari for navigating to Wikipedia.

The option to search the web can also allow one to quickly search Google for a particular word or phrase. Using this option will automatically open safari, displaying the results of the typed word or phrase.

By default, Google is the preferred search engine used in iOS, a trend likely to change upon the arrival of iOS 7 as recently announced by Apple at the WWDC on June 10th, 2013. One always has the option to change the default engine to bing or yahoo by navigating to Settings>Safari>Search Engine.

Settings Page: i cloud, Mail, contacts, calendars, notes, reminders, phone, messages, FaceTime, apple maps and safari

Safari settings: General, Search Engine, AutoFill, Open Links,

General: Search Engine, auto fill, open links

If this option is exercised, spotlight will display results from bing or yahoo using search the web option.

To use the different engine as a one off, type into spotlight bing: or yahoo: followed by your search field, for example Bing: fram3.co.uk. One can also use this option you search with in other sites e.g. Fram3.co.uk:Assistive Technology.

bing: fram3.co.uk:, Search web, Search wikipedia

Contents within other apps are displayed in a particular order as defined by spotlight preferences. To change the order of content displayed from other apps, so to settings>general>spotlight settings and reorder the apps.

settings, general, sounds, brightness & wallpapers, privacy, iCloud, mail, contacts, calendars, notes, reminders, phone, messages, FaceTime

general, vpn, itunes wi-fi sync, spotlight search, auto lock, passcode lock, restriction, date & time, keyboard, international, accessibility

spotlight search, contacts, applications, music, podcasts, videos, audiobooks, notes, events, mail, voice memos, reminders

I hope that this will change the way that you access content and save you lots of time in trying to access content quickly and efficiently.

Tethering using VoiceOver: How to create a small WiFi Network using an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch

Wi-Fi-with-iPad

Tired of being stuck without a broadband connection when your broadband provider is taking their sweet time to install or activate your connection? Need to access your PC with Jaws/NVDA/ZoomText to do that important last minute assignment or work related task when your home network is down and sighted help is not around? Fed up of paying for those insanely expensive broadband charges for all your access tech enabled devices in hotels? Or you must only do that task on your laptop but have no internet on the bus or train, and these are times when a tablet just cannot cut the mustard? Well there is a way for you to share your 3G connection with another device: it is called “tethering” and you need not be a tech geek to use this service, nor is there a need to have a sighted person around. Anyone who owns an iOS device can do it, even with VoiceOver, and you need not own that tiny little USB dongle either – that was so last millennium!

So in a nutshell tethering means creating a small hotspot that would act like a wi-fi connection point.  Imagine if you have an i-Phone with a 3G signal, but you’re on the bus and want to use your netbook, which currently does not have any wi-fi connectivity.  The same scenario would apply to an iPad or an iPod Touch that you have managed to put on a Broadband network but can’t be bothered to go through the pain of setting up another device on a network.  So many scenarios are imaginable and this process will apply to any device running iOS.

1. On your device, go to settings;

2. Click Personal Hotspot;

3. Turn the Personal Hotspot switch to on.

4. Underneath you should see a message “other users can look for your shared network using Wi-fi and Bluetooth under the name:
<the name of your device e.g. John’s i-Pad or Mrs Smith’s i-Phone 4S>”

5. A default wi-fi password is displayed and spoken by voiceover. If you were to click on the    password button you would be allowed to change it to something of your own choice. Bizarrely,    protects field where you would enter your new password, contains asterisk (*). Be warned that even a new password entered will be spoken by voiceover once you have confirmed the change, so make sure that your password is not easily available to unauthorized persons.

6. On your computer, under the list of available networks, look out for the network called:
<your device name>

7. Enter the password described above and wait for the connection to be established.

8. Your machine is now ready to go online courtesy of your carriers data service.

9. You can also achieve this method using Bluetooth provided you keep your devices in close proximity to each other. This actually provides a much faster connection, but can only be used by one device at a time compared to the wi-fi network that can support multiple devices over a slightly larger distance.

10. The fastest connection is achieved if you were to physically connect the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch via the cable to your laptop, desktop or netbook, so that your device acts like a dongle.

This provides the fastest connection and if your laptop has sufficient juice or if you are near to a power supply, your machine will even charge your iOS device.  The only downside to this method is the requirement for a cable whereby it can only connect to one device at a time.

It is important to note that tethering to a pre-paid sim or a post-paid contract with only a limited data allowance going over your data limit can cause your sim to run out of credit or you can wince up with a hefty bill for going over your data limits.  Therefore make sure that in order to use this facility you always have deals giving you plenty of data to spare.  Surprisingly some networks still carry WAP only contracts and you must make sure that your allowed data gives you 3G access.

The quality of the signal you would receive by creating a wi-fi hotspot is dependent on the strength of your network.  The fastest I have achieved in my test was a signal from an i-pad 4th generation that allowed simultaneous connection of an iPhone 4S, an iPhone 5, a 13 inch Mac Pro running 10.8.3, an Ultrabook running Windows 8 Pro whilst simultaneously streaming video from Sky.  Remember that at present we do not have sufficient infrastructure in this country where tethering can replace the existence of wi-fi Broadband in homes and offices.  This method is only a last resort emergency backup that would allow you to get a task completed in times of necessity of crises.

With the expected expansion of 4G across the UK in the foreseeable future, this method would prove incredibly useful for similar types of situations as described above.  Moral of the story: if you need regular data on the go, make sure tariff includes plenty of data to spare, so that you can stay productive and independent when your home Broadband is down, when a hotel’s charges for Broadband usage are unacceptably expensive, or when that mean friend would not lend you his/her wi-fi password when you visit them.

I hope this method will make your life easier.  Please feel free to post any questions or comments and we will be delighted to offer you as much assistance as possible.

Using the voiceover with iPad

ipad with accessibility feature

Here is an article on using the voiceover with the ipad that we have written. This will surely be one that helps you getting more comfortable in using your ipad like any other laptop. The keyboard used for this article review is, ‘Logitech ultra thin keyboard cover’.

The VoiceOver within the iPad is more comprehensive than in the iPhone and is a halfway house between what’s possible on an iPhone or on a Mac. VoiceOver is essentially the same no matter what keyboard layout you use, and if you don’t have a keyboard, you can still use the touch screen gestures to control the iPad. The CTRL and Option keys towards the bottom left corner are collectively referred to as the VoiceOver or VO keys, therefore if I was to say CTRL + Option, I can just say VO for short and many references use this conversation as it also helps to understand similarities between Jaws and VoiceOver. Here’s a list of what works on the iPad:

VO + i equals Item chooser (select from the list of items displayed on the page)

VO + a equals Say all (read from present position to the end)

VO + s equals Toggle speech on or off

VO + f equals Find items with a given text

VO + g equals Find next item with the given text

VO + Shift + g equals Find previous item with the given text

VO + h equals Activate the Home button

VO + k equals Start keyboard help (VoiceOver training or practice mode)

VO + b equals Read from beginning of the page

VO + m equals Go to the status bar on the top

VO + Shift + m equals Touch and hold on the current element

VO + Shift + s equals Toggle screen curtain on or off

VO + / equals Set custom label for an item

VO + – equals Toggle the current action on or off, for example pause video playback

Up arrow + down arrow equals Select the default action for a particular item

Left arrow + right arrow equals Toggle quick navigation on or off

Up arrow + left arrow equals Select previous rotor setting

Up arrow + right arrow equals Select next rotor setting

VO + Spacebar equals Select the given item (single / double tap)

Here’s a few iPad shortcuts:

CMD + a equals Select all

CMD + z equals Undo

CMD + Shift + z equals Redo

CMD + x equals Cut

CMD + c equals Copy

CMD + v equals Paste

Some other gestures you might want to consider with VoiceOver:

Two finger flick up equals Read from beginning

Two finger flick down equals Say all

Four finger flick left equals Go to the next app

Four finger flick right equals Go to the previous app

Four finger flick up equals Go to app switcher

Three finger flick up equals Scroll down one page

Three finger flick down equals Scroll up one page

Three finger flick left equals Scroll right one page

Three finger flick right equals Scroll left one page

Three finger double tap equals toggle VO speech

Three finger triple tap equals toggle screen curtain

Five finger pinch close equals Close the current window (action similar to rolling a paper into a ball)

You may also like to note that for entering special characters such as certain mathematical symbols or other Latin or Germanic characters, you can press the Option key together with any other key.

Here are some specific keyboard shortcuts for my keyboard (they all require the Function FN key:

FN + 1 equals Bring up search field

FN + 3 equals Hide keyboard/Eject external device

FN + 4 equals Move to previous item

FN + 5 equals Move to next item

FN + 6 equals Cut

FN + 7 equals Copy

FN + 8 equals Paste

FN + 9 equals Play/Pause

FN + 0 equals Mute

FN + – equals Volume down

FN + = equals Volume up

FN + Backspace equals Lock screen

We know that this is an overwhelming list and don’t worry if you can’t remember all of it.  At any point and on any screen, it is possible to activate training mode by pressing VO + k and try out your desired key combination or touch gesture.  To escape training mode, just press ESC.

If you want any more information on the VoiceOver screen reader there are plenty of articles on the Apple website as well as on Applevis.

*alt key = option key

We have described the full keyboard for iPad with retina display! Try practicing the keys & gestures by using VO+k! By the way remember to turn quick navigation on for performing some tasks – left & right arrow keys together.

Comparison – Mac or PC? DSA advice and buying guide

Published originally by Muzz Lakhani on applevis.com on 13 Sep, 2012

Mac vs PC image

Mac vs PC

I’ve seen a lot of posts regarding what to do when starting Higher Education, what decision to make when talking to a technology adviser and how to best manage your allowance money. Do you buy a Mac or PC? Screen Readers, magnifiers, productivity, OCR and other accessories must all be on your mind. As a postgraduate student, who is registered blind and has used a made-to-order triple boot Mac to pursue a degree in Computer Science, and research in human computer interaction, I have used most of the screen reading technology on Mac, Windows and Linux, and own a wealth of gadgets. Here as my first contribution to Applevis, I wish to provide you with some matter of fact guidelines that might help you in making the right choices when talking to your assessors.

Firstly, remember that you are the one with your sight condition, and you know best what works for you – not anyone else no matter how much of an expert they are. Therefore, you must always plan the day of your assessment, because it will define how the entire time of your university will be managed. Secondly, your expert assessor may not be aware of the best, most cost effective solutions on offer: their knowledge may be slightly out of date, they may forget to ask you a particularly important question you may think is vital to address, they may have another conflict of interest in their role, and they may not have future proofed their final assessment – moral of the story: do your research and ask yourself all the questions you need to explain how you might deal with the absolute worst case scenario and make sure you find out what is available to address it.

So is it a Mac or a PC? Firstly, address this question objectively and avoid opinions of people who are commonly referred to as “fanboys” or equivalent. Also remember the following, no matter what you may decide at the end: Microsoft has only a limited accessibility implementation out of the box. Apple’s accessibility has improved, but by no means perfect. Third party developers and website owners do not always pay attention to accessibility so remember that you will always come across unusable programs and apps no matter what! One accessibility solution does not address all accessibility needs and each technology always interacts in different ways to a given piece of content, so remember to build choice in your worst case scenario.

So then, back to the subject, there is no such thing as a perfect computer. The best computer: one that best works for your needs! Here are the questions you need to ask yourself when deciding what to get: What are you going to study? What is your level of sight? What is your experience with assistive technology? How much time and effort you are willing to commit to learning new access technology in addition to keeping on top of your course? (please do remember to have a life! – it is vital if you want to have a good cv, better employment prospects, a social life and even some avenues for stress release and rest). How much IT support is available to your chosen platform and assistive technology within your university? Will your choice reduce the level of human assistance, administration costs, restoration of system if it crashes, security around the university, portability (specially if you have mobility issues or require working in a lot of locations)? How much money is in your kitty? What other tasks you need to accomplish when not in work mode? (social networks, blogs, recreational reading, communication, paperwork and administration and even all the thing your mates like doing.)

Although the following is not entirely true, this is how conventionally things have evolved so make up your own mind: Are you a gamer? Do you make, use or engage in a lot of flash content? Do you have a lot of videos in old AVI, WMV or divx format? Do you use a Blackberry or Android device? Are you still using that old Nokia phone with Talks or Zooms installed? If your answer is yes, then you need a PC.

Are you into making or editing music? Do you edit and shoot films? Are you interested in photography and photo editing?Do you own an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch? If your answer to the above questions is yes, then you are suited to a Mac.

If you want to fiddle with your machine’s hardware a lot, get a PC. If you want to do old school software development, get a Mac. If you want to have a lean, mean, sleek operating system not bloated with unnecessary software or drivers you may never use, thereby improving your system’s speed: it’s a PC. If you want things to just work out of the box for almost all basic tasks from the word go: get a Mac. Productivity (word, excel, powerpoint, pdf): PC is better. Web browsing and creative work flow?: much better on a Mac. Managing and making a website that is cheap and easy to maintain?: PC. Want a stylish, modern standards compliant website? Mac. Want to choose from a range of developers, programs, cost prices, from almost all across the web? PC. Want a one stop shop for all your apps (nearly all your apps anyway!) : Mac. Working a lot with a mouse or keyboard? PC Want a touch screen or trackpad? Mac. Working with other people who may not be techy or comfortable with different technologies? PC. Working alone, or with designers? Mac. Want cheaper costs up front? PC. Want longer lasting hardware with significantly reduced after care costs? Mac. Want an unlimited online resource to almost any program written on earth from a worldwide community? PC. Want excellent personal assistance in a shop setting? Mac.

At this point, I will remind you of the following facts: The above are only conventional guidelines, not hard coded facts. You can these days do almost anything on any system, and Windows 8 will probably narrow that gap even further. Also remember that you will always come across programs, apps, web content or other content which is by its very nature not accessible to anyone with sight problems, so you have been warned! Also you will probably find that third party developers do not always provide accessibility in their work, but if you come across this, please report it back to the developer: they have to make their products available to disabled people by law and it only makes business sense for them to make products more people would be likely to buy. Finally, before you do commit or give into pressure from anyone, make sure that the core applications vital for you to successfully complete your degree are accessible on your chosen platform, and that you can obtain support for it at your institution if things do go wrong: talk to your admissions tutor for advice before your assessment, even as far as asking them questions about accessibility of computer based resources. Try out some of them at home, at your nearest Apple store or through a charity like the RNIB or Sight & Sounds UK, or your job centre or school, or ask your careers advisor for assistance with this. If you know that they work sufficiently well on a range of platforms with different access technologies, or you can troubleshoot them in case something goes wrong, you are better informed.

If most of your content remains inaccessible, you may need to address the issue of curriculum delivery, human support, your choice of institution or even the choice of course itself before anything else.

Always choose the platform where most of your content will remain accessible. Assuming that you find that your major apps are accessible on Windows and Mac both, this is how assistive technology then breaks down: Windows has a lot of third party apps designed for blind and partially sighted people due to a lack of in built accessibility in all Windows versions. The Windows platform has been around for commercial use since the early 90s and still dominates more than 90% of the world’s computers.Third party vendors have stepped in to fill the void for disabled people, and even after Windows 8 is released, this trend is going to continue as announced on Microsoft’s Windows 8 blog. All of this development does come at a significantly hefty cost which most people would not be able to afford without subsidised assistance from public money or an employer. Windows also has a range of assistive technology products, from a range of vendors, suited to so many needs, at so many cost brackets. The popular Jaws, is planning to move up to v14 after Windows 8 is released. There is also the free and excellent open source NVDA. You also have a choice of Window Eyes (which has been recommended for iTunes users on Windows by Apple themselves), System Access, Lightning, and the online screen readers Thunder and SATOGO. You also have some magnifiers like the excellent ZoomText, the popular Big Shot, Lunar, Hal, Magic, Supernova and so many more. A lot of these products are designed for a specific level of sight, ranging from partial sight to total blindness, so take your pick, and if you are not satisfied with your choice, just choose another one – problem resolved.

Accessibility on a Mac has hugely improved, getting better, but still a bit short. VoiceOver and Zoom are built into the OS, start up from the word go and have a logical, yet different way of interacting with the system. You can set up your machine, reinstall the Operating system and even troubleshoot most problems under the hood using Universal access. What you can do together with VoiceOver and Zoom running simultaneously hugely depends on your system configuration, level of zoom used and the app you are using, so you may be limited with your assistive technology solution. If you don’t like VoiceOver or Zoom…tough! Although I have used the alternative to VoiceOver: the Natural Speak for Mac with varying degree of success for different things. You can also tweak the Linux solution of Emacspeak, but you do need some programming skills to make it work on your version of the Mac.

Many Windows technologies do support Braille displays upon installation. On a Mac, you do not need to install anything for braille displays to work. They work straight away.

Similarly for wireless noise cancelling headsets, Windows requires installation of drivers specific to your system. Mac generally connects straight away with most headsets without much effort.

Windows assistive tech is well evolved due to a longer presence, and you can generally get support online or from your vendor. There are also a lot of training providers who can train you up on this technology.

Mac’s VoiceOver is well documented with a good help system built in, but not even Apple staff is fully aware of its full functionality and it is difficult to obtain personal support for it at the time of writing.

Windows is better on Word, Excel and Powerpoint when using with your assistive technology. Adobe Acrobat is also better on Windows as you can get document’s content (headings, lists, etc) explained to you with a screen reader. Mac’s VoiceOver does not work with Office for Mac 2011. The other option iWork, consisting of Pages, Numbers and Keynote, is reasonably accessible, but not intuitive to use. Documentation on using iWork with VoiceOver is extremely rare and I am yet to find a good thorough resource on it.

Although Mail on Mac is a good competitor to Outlook on Windows, Preview and Acrobat do not yield formatting of a PDF document and there seems to be no good alternative available to get this information to a blind user, thereby making it difficult to use PDF quickly and efficiently in large documents on a Mac. Notepad and Wordpad are good text editors on Windows. Textedit on a Mac is hugely more advanced, allowing you to compose anything from formatted Word documents to C, Java and even make file source code.

Visual Studio on Windows is not very accessible, nor is Matlab – both of which can cost a lot and are industry standard for most development. Xcode on Mac is free, Matlab is so much better now, and both are more accessible using VoiceOver.

Open Source software: Open Office is so much more accessible on a Mac than Windows. It is free and a worthy alternative to the commercial Office and iWork.

OCR: Windows has a large range of products like Abbyfine, Omnipage, OpenBook and my favourite: Kurzweil 1000. There are some good alternatives on a Mac too: Abbyfine for Mac works with VoiceOver. There is also the versatile and cross compatible Hemrick Vue Scan, the Iris Pro Scan and these days, you can even get scanners with their own OCR software, but don’t let your life depend on them.

iTunes by nature is better on a Mac but Windows support has hugely improved.

On Windows, Internet Explorer 8 and 9 are accessible with screen readers and magnifiers. Mozilla Firefox is also very accessible and has a huge range of web development tools available for free. Chrome on Windows is not terribly accessible, and not so intuitive to use with several screen readers. On a Mac, Safari is excellent for web browsing (it is the best thing on a Mac). Google Chrome is also accessible since it was designed using a Mac anyway. Firefox is not accessible straight away without the use of Firevox, but at the time of writing, Mozilla are working towards fixing this.

For Windows, the desktop, start button, system tray and menus in applications are not intuitive, and menus vary significantly across apps, but Windows 8 is planning to remedy this.

The finder on a Mac is a cleaner interface, and the Doc is a good way to quickly get to your favourite apps efficiently from anywhere anytime.

The menus on each app on a Mac have a more consistent feel to them. Just forgot to mention that in Safari, you can even navigate to a word or phrase beginning with a particular letter, not just quick key navigation like in Windows, although this option is also available on a Mac.

If you use a screen reader, you can only use a keyboard. On a Mac, you will fall in love with the trackpad or magic mouse when using VoiceOver, as it does make it easier to navigate through stuff if you do not want to stay glued to your machine. If you have already used an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, the trackpad gestures will feel similar to what you have been used to on iOS, and much more customisation is possible if you like.

You can write scripts for your screen reader to enhance the functionality of otherwise inaccessible programs on Windows. The new Java update on Windows also has Java access bridge built in, making it easier to interact with even more applications. You can also write applescript code to enhance VoiceOver, but I am yet to see scripts that would be as commonly available as they are for programs like Jaws.

Flash videos like on Youtube still pose navigation challenges on Windows. On a Mac, a free plugin for Safari, Click 2 Plugin, provides keyboard access via an HTML 5 interface to video controls on many sites such as Youtube, Vimea, TED and many others, and html 5 also improves the battery life.

Oracle is better for database management on Windows. Oracle on a Mac is just a nightmare to install, but alternatives do exist. Microsoft Access 2010 is definitely more accessible than Bento using VoiceOver and documentation is scarce and patchy. MySQL on Windows – definitely more accessible than Filemaker Pro on a Mac. Adobe CS still unfortunately remains largely inaccessible everywhere.

In terms of hardware, Apple hardware is substantially better, more durable and has a better resale value than its PC counterparts in most cases.

On Mac, if you want to use Windows, you can just create a partition for it using Bootcamp Assistant, which does most of the work for you. It provides the drivers, partitions your disk, installs your operating system and therefore you can run Windows natively on a Mac without much hassle. You can also use your favourite assistive technology on a Windows bootcamp partition. Presently I have Jaws, Zoomtext, NVDA, Kurzweil 1000 and Java access bridge installed and it was almost like using a PC with a Mac keyboard when installing this lot.

If you do use Bootcamp, your keyboard layout by default will be the best work around on a mac keyboard. You can either remap it in Windows, or use an external keyboard if that is more convenient.

Alternatively, if you do not want to waste all that disk space, and are not worried by performance speed, you can always use a tool like VMWare Fusion to install Windows on a Virtual machine, which you can always backup and restore if your Mac ever dies.

If you want to have the option of either using Windows apps natively on a Mac, the ability to copy-paste stuff between your partitions, yet retain the ability to use Windows that is not limited by processor or RAM, for resource intensive applications, you can even create a virtual machine out of your Bootcamp partition.

A nice feature, familiar to iPad users: Dictate, has arrived on Mac OS 10.8 and it makes it easier to get through large document composition quickly without having to type everything off. In Windows, this feature is still missing.

By the way, you can also put Mac OS on a Windows PC either as a virtual machine or via partitioning your drive, but you must have a licensed copy of Mac OS and the end result of Mac on a PC is often buggy and slow, riddled with errors and lacking suitable performance, especially with VoiceOver and Zoom.

Whilst on the subject of partitioning, if you do decide to use Bootcamp, you are required to provide a genuine copy of Windows to your machine, and the installation of Windows is not particularly an accessible experience on any machine, so you must have some sighted help if required, and you need an external mouse to perform some of the initial installation steps. You also need to install the required Apple drivers so that your keyboard, trackpad, graphics, audio, camera, CD Drive (if you have one), network card all work. Try doing this before installing anything else on your Windows partition. Although this process is well documented, personal support is not provided byApple or Microsoft in case anything does ever go wrong. You may also find some assistive technology vendors not so forthcoming if you explain to them that you are running bootcamp Windows on a Mac, but this trend is slowly changing as Macs are becoming more widespread. Let me also talk about restore and backup.

If you use Windows, you can backup data, but if you want to make sure that all your programs and your setup are available to restore to their original settings before your machine required a clean install of the operating system in case of disaster, you need to include a system image in your backup. Creating system images is time consuming, preferably needs to be on a separate drive from your data, and would require sighted assistance to use for restoration. You cannot create two system images that can easily allow you to take your machine onto an earlier date. Windows system images are difficult and unreliable to use, although Windows 8 will allow cloud backups and easier to restore to an earlier point in time if necessary. Upgrade from Windows XP to Vista or 7 can generally wipe out settings of your system and may even damage some files and data.

On a Mac, the best feature is called TimeMachine. It does indexed backups, so you can restore your machine to an earlier point in time very easily. You can also use it to recover everything on a Mac, including your VoiceOver and Zoom preferences, your layout and your passwords. Upgrade of the Operating System is quick, less costly, doesn’t generally destroy the data or apps. You can even use VoiceOver in recovery to troubleshoot your Mac OS installation, and the operating system can be redownnloaded from the internet when you need to format the whole thing. Download via internet recovery is also compatible with VoiceOver and zoom, so no need to worry if your system has crashed.

Most Windows users are advised to have malware protection, antivirus software and other protective measures installed and regularly updated. Windows disks also require the occasional defragmentation to improve performance and gain back disk space. Macs are generally malware free, and even more protected following the Flashback virus, and there are free antivirus available such as Sophas. Mac disks are generally not in need of defragmentation, although you can use something like iDefrag or DriveGenius for Mac if you are really pedantic.

Windows has a Command Prompt, Powershell and other utilities like Cygwin or MSYS you can use to install loads of cool free development libraries, but they are not the most accessible tools in the world and do require some learning. On a Mac, you have Terminal, which is like Unix. It is so much more accessible, although slightly buggy with VoiceOver yet still workable.

Repositories like Fink, Macports or Homebru can allow developers to download a lot of amazing free development tools that will work with Xcode. That being said, if you want to build for Windows, Office, Windows Phone, Server technologies used by Microsoft, you need a PC. If you want to develop apps for iOS, author books for iBooks, sell your stuff on iTunes, you need a Mac- no question.

As a person with sight loss, you may have support staff and you may sometime have to do group work too. Most Windows access technology is workable with a keyboard, but if someone else is working on your machine with you, they can use the mouse without turning off your speech enabled access tech. On a Mac, if you are using a trackpad with VoiceOver or Zoom, you may need to turn it off if you need someone else to interact on your machine. Long story short: account for how much privacy you want and how much can you trust other people using your machine containing your data and personal information.

Finally, you may be working with support staff who may have only used a computer for sending emails, using a social network, a bit of browsing or Youtube and a bit of photo upload and music streaming on iTunes. These are the people who may be intimidated with your assistive technology setup, and may find it hard to work within your reference frame. If you have such support staff, your problems may be compounded on a Mac, and even more when using Windows via Bootcamp. If you get a training budget allocated to learn new assistive technology, it will only be for you, not your support staff. However, if you do get a Mac, you must ask (or get it yourself) for an allowance of £79 at the time of writing to acquire Apple One-to-One. This gives you unlimited sessions at any Apple store for a year. This way, you can probably get more assistance and support on VoiceOver, and staff can also research stuff on your behalf if necessary. In my case, my Apple store were even happy to provide a couple of sessions to two of my staff so that they are more familiar with the Mac and able to fix issues where VoiceOver would not function appropriately.

Apart from some really specific commands, the keyboard shortcuts are generally similar in both, for example CTRL+P on Windows = CMD+p on a Mac to print a document.

In spite of so much similarities, your chosen institution may have varying support for IT platforms. Most universities use Windows and do not officially support Mac or Apple products. Others have Mac support that is more widespread. Yet there are some who support both, but such support is apportioned to different IT teams, dealing with different faculties or departments, or colleges, depending on the nature of the courses and environments, so you must check this with the university, and remember that whatever they say, you will always find people who have the hardware of their choice, so it is your decision how much on the edge you want to live, and if you would have the confidence to obtain support from unconventional sources if really required. If you ever wind up having an assessment at the institution itself, you will generally get an idea of what is on offer simply by what the assessor suggests or hints. However, do listen to them, and do consider their expert advise and ask lots of questions before making the decision. Remember that just by throwing money at a problem, it does not necessarily disappear.

So if you want to decide, Mac or PC, or even Linux, choose “personal convenience and greatest accessibility for your needs”!!!

I hope that this guide will help you in making a better decision about your DSA and how to best use it. Please feel free to post questions or requests for more specific tutorials and I will do my best to help where possible. Good luck with your future prospects!!

How to Configure Matlab to Work with Jaws Screen Reader

Published originally by Muzz Lakhani on mathworks.co.uk (Matlab Central) on 24 Sep, 2012

The problem of accessibility within Matlab with Jaws arises due to the presence of Java within Matlab, which does not come pre-enabled with the accessibility fix known as Java Access Bridge (jabswitch). Oracle has, as of Java v1.7.0_06 and above, started to ship the Access Bridge pre-bundled with the installation of Java. At the time of writing, the latest version of the Access Bridge stands at 2.0.3 – and the purpose of the Access Bridge is to allow Java based applications to provide testing and use of otherwise inaccessible GUI components of programmes.

This method of enabling accessibility with Jaws has been tested using Matlab R2012a 64 bit with Jaws 12 (64 bit) on Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64 bit) on a machine having the following hardware specifications:
an Intel Core2-Dual i7 2.7GHz processor with 8GB RAM, having Oracle JDK 1.7.0_07 64 bit and the Java access Bridge stands at 2.0.3 and is enabled system wide. The hardware is a 13 inch Macbook Pro early 2011 which has been upgraded to Mac OS 10.8.1 .

The installation of Oracle JDK 1.7.0_07, even with jabswitch v2.0.3 enabled does not resolve the issues of accessibility of Matlab with Jaws because Matlab uses its own in-built version of Java, which still stands at 1.6.0_17, and the Java has not yet been updated to 1.7.0 even after the release of Matlab R2012b. Therefore, in order to allow the functionality of jabswitch on Matlab, a version of the appropriate Access Bridge manually needs to be installed corresponding to the version of Java on Matlab.

This work describes in detail the procedure for optimising the accessibility of Matlab’s menu bars and command window with Jaws. This method has been tested for backward compatibility with R2011a 32bit using Jaws 11 64 bit on Windows XP Professional 64 bit, where JDK 1.7.0_01 was made to work with a manual system wide installation of jabswitch 2.0.2 and this method will probably also work with earlier versions of Matlab and Jaws together, regardless of computer architecture. This document is intended to fill the gap in the lack of accessibility notes in the installation and testing of Matlab, which at the time of writing, has official instructions only up to a Jaws version 7, released long before the advent of Windows 7. Official documentation at this time does not delve into the version of Matlab used to test this architecture, nor is there any information on the accessibility of 64 bit
versions of Matlab products.

Summary of Steps to make Matlab accessible with Jaws
This section lists the steps required to allow users and developers alike to test Matlab installation with Jaws the
1. Check the architecture of the Operating System
2. Install Jaws
3. Install Oracle JDK 1.7.0_06 or higher
4. Enable Java Access Bridge on a system wide basis
5. Install Matlab
6. Set Path of relevant libraries necessary to link to Jaws
7. Manually install the appropriate Java Access Bridge to work with Matlab Java
8. Set the behaviour of Jaws navigation and reading keys to work with the Matlab Command Window

Please note: Steps 2-5 can be performed in any order of preference. This flexibility not only allows users of Jaws to work with Matlab, but also allows developers of Java and Matlab based applications to test their products for compliance with the necessary accessibility requirements. The following sections describe in details all the above steps, in an attempt to provide a walk through the process.

Check the Architecture of the Operating System
Generally this information is available at the point of installation of Windows. It can be obtained not only from the initial product documentation, but also from the command prompt. To obtain the architecture, type the following into the Command Prompt:

>comparch –

Output:
I386: 32 bit
I686 / x64: 64 bit

This information is vital as it is the most important factor in the precedence chain to determine the version of Java, Jaws and Matlab that will effectively work together for best accessibility results. The chain of precedence, in order of most important factor first, is as follows:
a. Windows Architecture (64 | 32 bit)
b. Jaws (64 | 32 bit)
c. JDK SE7 U6+ (64 |32 bit)
d. Java Access Bridge (64 | 32 bit)
e. Matlab architecture (or more precisely, the Matlab JVM architecture) (64 | 32 bit)
From the above, it is evident to see that if at any point during the chain, a lower bit version is used, all the proceeding factors cannot be a higher bit architecture. For example, if the Jaws used is a 32 bit version, then JDK, jabswitch and Matlab must all be 32 bit if this solution is to work. At any point along this chain however, it is possible to move to a lower bit version, but all subsequent factors must then be lower bit architectures as well.

Install Jaws
A demo version, allowing 40 minutes of access at a time (before the machine would require a restart for it to function again) can be downloaded free of charge from the Freedom Scientific Website: http://www.freedomscientific.com where a full version can also be purchased. For best performance, it is always recommended that the latest version of Jaws be used for application interaction and development testing. Please also note that although Jaws 11 is available in a 64 bit version, it will only work best with a 32 bit Matlab architecture. In order to test the full capability of Matlab 64 bit, a 64 bit version of Jaws 12 or higher is required. If Jaws licensing is setup on a network, ensure that the system PATH variable points to the location of the Jaws network.

It is possible to have multiple versions of Jaws simultaneously installed on a single computer. However, only one instance of Jaws can run at any given time.

Install Oracle JDK 1.7.0_06 or higher
Oracle has officially stopped maintaining JDK SE 6 and encourages users to upgrade their Java to SE7 Update 6 or higher for best performance, improved stability and some important security fixes. This is also the recommendation if the system only has a public Java Runtime Environment (jre7). Java SE 7 is interchangeably referred to as 1.7.0 and in order to install and run Matlab, JDK is not a pre-requisite, although having a JDK does allow much better functionality as well as appropriate tools for Java development. Instructions for installing the JRE are listed on the Oracle Java Pagehttp://java.sun.com along with those for installing the JDK. The page also provides links to the latest Java downloads.

Although the installation procedure is similar, this work concentrates mainly on the use of JDK. After downloading the installer package, just run the setup and follow the on-screen instructions. When the installer finishes, set the PATH to Java for convenience by following these steps:
1. Either enter within the Search field within the Start Menu the words “environment variables” or locate it through Control Panel, depending on the version of Windows
2. Locate the “Edit System Environment Variables” button
3. Add the following to the end of the PATH variable (if the existing line does not have a semicolon (;) add one and then type the PATH to the Java Installation). For most users, this normally looks like:

C:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.7.0_07\bin;

If the Java is installed in a different location, locate the bin folder within the Java JDK directory. System privileges must allow for this step to be carried out
4. Restart the system
5. To test the setup of Java, enter the following command in the Command Prompt:

>java –version
Although multiple instances of Java are allowed on a machine, it is always best to install the version corresponding to the Computer’s architecture
6. If any custom scripts have been installed on Jaws, just recompile the default.jss file within Jaws (do not amend anything) and save the result
7. Restart Jaws (if installed and running)

Installation of Java prior to Matlab installation improves the setup and initialisation of Matlab and also provides better accessibility to the Matlab online documentation.

Enabling the Java Access Bridge on a System Wide basis
Java SE 7U6 and above come bundled with the Java Access Bridge, allowing users to enable it for all GUI applications without having to perform a complicated set of copy-pasting of files to locations buried deep within the Java hierarchy. To enable Java Access Bridge:
1. press WIN+u to launch the Ease of Access Centre
2. Navigate to “Use the Computer Without A Display”
3. Check the box “Enable Java Access Bridge”
4. Click OK
5. Restart for good measure
Alternatively, to enable Java Access Bridge from the Command Line, open the Command Prompt, navigate to the folder corresponding to the Java PATH variable and type the following:

>jabswitch –enable

The output should inform that the jabswitch has been enabled. To enable Java Access Bridge for all users, repeat the above steps for each user.

If multiple instances of Java are installed on a system, the above steps for enabling the jabswitch via the Command prompt must be repeated for each instance of the JDK. If using Jaws, Freedom Scientific discourages using multiple instances of the Java Access Bridge simultaneously. For optimal performance and speed, it is recommended that If using a 64 bit instance of the JDK, users should also install the jre7 32 bit version to allow better access to the Matlab online documentation and help on a range of browsers.

Installing Matlab
Install the relevant version of Matlab either from the installation media or from the Mathworks website http://www.mathworks.com and restart the system. Launch the application after launching Jaws. Once the Matlab Command Window has launched, try navigating to the menu bar by pressing ALT+F. Navigate left and right to explore the menus, and notice that Jaws does not announce anything at this point. This is because of the presence of Matlab’s own JRE, which is a separate entity from the system Java and differs in version. To make the Matlab Java work with the accessibility features, the relevant Java Access Bridge needs to be installed.

On the Matlab Command Window, type the following commands and record the outputs for later use:

>matlabroot

>version –java

These commands list the installation of the Matlab structure, and also the version of JRE used by the installed Matlab on the system.

Typical values of the above commands may look something as follows (exact dvalues depend on the system installation and version of Matlab):

>matlabroot

Ans= C:\Program Files\Matlab\R2012a

>version –java

Ans=
Java 1.6.0_17-b04 with Sun Microsystems Inc. Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM mixed mode

These will be required in the following sections. Notice the 64 bit indication of Java from the above output, indicating that the installed Matlab, and its JRE are indeed 64 bit, and will therefore require a 64 bit Java Access Bridge and will work best with a Jaws that is also 64 bit, as explained in the precedence chain above. For 32 bit versions of Matlab, a 32 bit Java Access Bridge needs to be installed as expected.

It is important to note that:
1. Installing a 64 bit version of the Java Access Bridge on a 32 bit Matlab Java will not work with Jaws, and might hinder the program’s performance.
2. Installing a 32 bit Java Access bridge on a 64 bit version of Matlab will only allow partially improved accessibility, and there is no guarantee of this.
At this point, it is important to be reminded that enabling the Java Access Bridge v2.0.3 with JDK SE 7 system wide would certainly improve Matlab’s download and installation performance, and also allow Jaws to add Matlab related scripts in the default.jss file. In addition, it will also improve the accessibility of other Java based programs, improve the performance of Jaws and also provide means to test and future proof any Java based applications developed using Matlab for use with other third party utilities.

Set Path of relevant libraries necessary to link to Jaws
If Matlab and Jaws are installed simultaneously, there are certain libraries that allow Matlab to link to the built in functionality of Jaws. To set the launch of these libraries, simply include the following line to the end of the PATH system environment variable (Do not forget to include the ; at the end of this – it is imperative in this case):

For a 64 bit Matlab:
Matlabroot\bin\win64;

For a 32 bit Matlab:
Matlabroot\bin\sys32;

The matlabroot is the value obtained above. Note that the co-existence of Matlab and Jaws does not impair performance, and disabling or quitting Jaws will still allow the user to use Matlab effectively following a relaunch of Matlab. Additionally, in order to develop accessible applications using Matlab and it’s compiler, set the following PATH variable:
For a 64 bit system:
Matlabroot\runtime\win64\

For a 32 bit system:
Matlabroot\runtime\sys32\

For reasons not fully understood, enabling both the above as PATH variables, the overall improvement of Matlab’s start up window is improved. However, there is still no Java Access Bridge on the Matlab JRE. The following section describes this installation procedure, which for earlier versions of the Java SE can also be used for the system wide installation of the Java Access Bridge.

Manually install the appropriate Java Access Bridge to work with Matlab Java
Download the relevant version of the Java Access Bridge from the Oracle Java Archives Download Page: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javasebusiness/downloads/java-archive-downloads-java-client-419417.html and follow the instructions relevant for the specific version of the Matlab JRE. The reason for the choice of the Java Access Bridge downloads is the different versions of the JVM releases, and the corresponding Java Access Bridge releases at the time of the Java SE availability. Both the Java SE and the corresponding Access Bridge have been subsequently updated for stability and improvement of the Oracle suite of products, even though Matlab may not pace itself with these latest releases and stability updates. The table below lists the most recent version of the Java Access Bridge corresponding to the version of the JRE as used by Mathworks products. Note that even though a
slightly lower version of the Java Access Bridge may be used, performance, speed and stability are best preserved when the latest recommended release of the Java Access Bridge are installed and enabled.
Matlab JRE version Java Access Bridge latest stable version
1.6.0_<update> 2.0.2
1.5.0_<update> 2.0.1
1.4.0_<update> 1.2
1.3.0_<update> 1.0.4
Table 1: Versions of the jabswitch corresponding to the Matlab JRE. Note that the JRE is dependent on the version of Matlab on the system

As explained above, the command “version –java” can yield information about the JRE used by Matlab for a given installation.

It is also important to note that some older versions of Jaws may not correctly function for the versions of Matlab and jabswitch beyond their scope. Consult the Freedom Scientific pages if in doubt. It must also be noted that the system wide installation of the Java Access Bridge links to any application dependent on earlier versions of the jabswitch, and therefore there is no need to amend the special properties files under the name “accessibility.properties” as described in the official Mathworks documentation. The system wide implementation of version 2.0.3 already takes care of this step and the file that is pre-bundled with this name is sufficient to rely on the dependence of backward compatibility.

To manually install the version relevant to the Matlab JRE, follow these steps:
1. Download the relevant version of the Java Access Bridge from the Oracle website
2. Unpack the installation, and copy the listed files into the locations described in Table 2. For 32 bit versions of the JRE, download and install the 32 bit version of the jabswitch and for 64 bit versions of the JRE, install the 64 bit versions of the Java Access Bridge. If a 64 bit version of the jabswitch is not available, download the latest prior release.
3. For a 64 bit installation, follow these steps as outlined in the Bug Report#739518

FileName Destination
WindowsAccessBridge-64.dll matlabroot\bin\win64
JavaAccessBridge-64.dll matlabroot\sys\java\jre\win64\jre\bin
JAWTAccessBridge-64.dll matlabroot\sys\java\jre\win64\jre\bin
accessibility.properties matlabroot\sys\java\jre\win64\jre\lib
access-bridge-64.jar matlabroot\sys\java\jre\win64\jre\lib\ext
jaccess.jar matlabroot\sys\java\jre\win64\jre\lib\ext
Table 2: The installation instructions for jabswitch

4. Following the above steps, restart Matlab.
5. Press ALT+F to hear the output of Jaws. Explore the menus with the arrow keys. If the menu is audible, the installation has been successful and Matlab is now ready to be used with Jaws. For 32 bit versions, substitute win64 in the above with sys32 /win32 instead, and copy the 32 bit file versions instead

Set the behaviour of Jaws navigation and reading keys to work with the Matlab Command Window
The final step required to make Matlab accessible with Jaws is to decouple Matlab keyboard commands which cause conflict with Jaws’s reading keystrokes. Furthermore, for users of Jaws, it is important to allow keyboard access to easily navigate around the command window to obtain the output of the entered command, i.e. to allow Jaws to read the output on the command window. The up and down arrow keys in this work are being designated for navigation across the command window. Further, the CTRL+up and CTRL+down combinations, used for the previous and next command in the history buffer are in direct conflict with the Jaws read line instructions, and in this work, the above commands for Matlab are being altered to CTRL+SHIFT+up and CTRL+SHIFT+down combinations. These can be chosen as per the user’s preference, and can be restored to defaults at any time.

To enable navigation of the Matlab command window using the arrow keys, and to allow the new combinations to recall commands from the history buffer, copy the following text into a text editor and save it as CustomWindowsSet.xml

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?>
<CustomKeySet derivedfrom=”Windows” modifieddefault=”false”>
<Context id=”Global”>
<Action id=”previous-history-item”>
<Stroke code=”VK_UP” ctrl=”on” shift=”on”/>
<Stroke code=”VK_KP_UP” ctrl=”on” shift=”on”/>
</Action>
<Action id=”next-history-item”>
<Stroke code=”VK_DOWN” ctrl=”on” shift=”on”/>
<Stroke code=”VK_KP_DOWN” ctrl=”on” shift=”on”/>
</Action>
</Context>
<Context id=”CommandWindow”>
<Action id=”caret-up”/>
<Action id=”caret-down”/>
</Context>
</CustomKeySet>

Move this file to the following location:

C:\Users\<your username>\AppData\Roaming\MathWorks\MATLAB\R2012a

Then in this location, locate the file “matlab.prf” to edit the system preferences which will now take advantage of the properties defined in CustomWindowsSet.xml – the contents of the file depends on the user’s preferences and may vary from person to person. Open matlab.prf in a text editor and add the following two lines at the end of the file:

CustomKeyBindingSets=SCustomWindowsSet.xml
CurrentKeyBindingSet=SCustomWindowsSet.xml

Save this file in the same location and do not amend the name. Relaunch Matlab. Now type in a few commands, examine the output. If Jaws allows arrow key navigation and the alternative recall of commands in the history window, the exercise has succeeded.

Please note that the preferences can easily be removed and the system can be restored to defaults at any time. Simply label the above mentioned folder with a different name and relaunch Matlab. The initialisation will appear slightly longer, but during this exercise, Matlab will recreate the preferences to the default set. The old preferences folder can now be deleted or archived.

Remarks
1. Please note that jabswitch will not function if the JRE version is below 1.3.0
2. The above settings may not work with NVDA or other screen readers. Consult the vendor for instructions
3. This method may not assist with content which is by nature visually inaccessible
4. Do not try to re-implement the version of the JVM through the MATLAB_JAVA system variable. Although this method may update the version of the JVM for use with Matlab, it may affect the performance of jabswitch through conflicts, even if version 2.0.3 is installed system wide. It also impacts some of the in-built Matlab tools
5. Mac and Linux users please note that the built in version of Java on these operating systems do not make use of the Java Access Bridge. In fact, to test the accessibility of Matlab on a Mac, test it with VoiceOver and Zoom. On Linux, test it with orca, speak up or EmacSpeak
6. There is no implementation of the jabswitch within the OpenJDK, not even in the latest version, so do not use it to improve or test the accessibility of Matlab’s JRE
7. The list of keyboard conflicts is not exhaustive and may need to be revisited from time to time with updates to Matlab and Jaws

Conclusion
This has been an attempt to fill in the gap left due to updates of the official Mathworks documentation not maintaining pace with the advent of Windows 7, higher versions of the Java SE, improvements in Jaws as well as the many versions of Matlab that have been released since the last official testing for accessibility has been carried out. It has attempted to provide a step-by-step walk through for allowing Matlab 32 and 64 bit versions to be set up and used by Jaws. It also presents the user to use Matlab without the use of the “diary” or “nojava” flags, thereby allowing equal access to all possible functionality within an academic or industrial testing and development scenarios.

This solution remains the best possible work around for Matlab with respect to accessibility until Mathworks sufficiently updates its Java to 1.7.0_06 or higher. Note that although all possible effort has been taken here to maintain accuracy, the author shall in no way be deemed liable or responsible for any loss or damage, including financialor physical loss from the use of advise presented here in.

Acknowledgements
Special thanks are due to the Mathworks Technical Support Team for assistance in implementation of this solution and without their effort, this work may have not been possible.

References
1. Freedom Scientific Home Page: http://www.freedomscientific.com
2. Java Archives Download Page:http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javasebusiness/downloads/java-archive-downloads-java-client-419417.html
3. Matlab Bug Report: http://www.mathworks.co.uk/support/bugreports/739518