I recognize this is a bit selfish, but I am not above offering a few suggestions for Father’s Day, on June 19, 2016 (no doubt this is already on your calendar). You are probably already fretting about what to get me anyway, and searching the internet for appropriate items. So I thought I could make it easier for you and the rest of the family, by highlighting a few things I’ve had my eyes on…besides, of course that stunning Ducati motorcycle!
The whole family will fall in love with Alexa, the text-to-speech voice within the Amazon Echo. Check out my article, Say “Hello” to Alexa. It explains how user-friendly this gadget is, both for those of us with less than perfect vision and who are still struggling with the double tapping and flicking gestures on the tablets.
The Echo looks like a black cylinder about 9 inces tall with a power cord attached. It has several speakers and microphones inside. Once the Echo is set up, using a computer or tablet, we can ask Alexa for the latest news, NPR podcasts, radio broadcasts, music from Pandora, narrated books from Audible, the latest weather, recipes, setting timers…and the list goes on and on.
The Echo costs $179.99 which is a bit more than the polka dotted tie you gave me last year (which, by the way, received a number of compliments at work), but there are a couple versions of it that cost less—the Amazon Tap and Echo Dot.
The Amazon Tap is $129.99 and seems to be a shorter version of the Echo, without the microphones. Instead of saying “Alexa” from across the room to bring this device to attention, you tap the button on top of it. It’s the same smart, easy-to-use device with a bit less convenience.
The Echo Dot is $89.99 and looks like a small hockey puck. It is the Echo without the speakers and microphones—who needs that anyway? Alexa is still inside! The Echo Dot requires an external Bluetooth speaker to connect to, and like the Amazon Tap, you press a button to get Alexa’s attention.
Alexa would be a great addition in any of these devices!
Kindle Fire Tablet
No, this isn’t just my wish list of Amazon products! The Kindle Fire tablet starts at $49.99, and the latest update to the operating system, Fire OS 5, added additional accessibility features—improvements to the screen reader, a high contrast setting, support for some braille displays, and, of course, the screen magnifier which was also available prior to the upgrade. To learn about these accessiblity features, be sure to read using your Kindle.
Granted the 7-inch display on this basic model is small, and some of the other specs, like 8 gigs of memory put it on the low end of tablet performance, however, it is a WiFi tablet with decent off-the-shelf accessibility features for 50 bucks!
Of course, Son, if you and the rest of the family wanted to chip in together to get the 10-inch, HD version of the Kindle Fire with double the memory (16 GB), I’d be OK with that too (no pressure)!
Apple iPod Touch
The iPod Touch is a great way to get into Apple’s world of accessibility for $199 for the base, 16 GB model. The iPod Touch has all the features of the iPhone except that you can’t make a cellular phone call. Of course, when connected to WiFi, calls can be made with the Facetime app or other apps like Skype.
For newcomers to the Apple World,the Siri app (think personal digital assistant) may be used with voice commands to perform some basic functions. A family member or someone more knowledgeable can assist with the initial set up. Siri can then be used for texting, emails, recording events in the calendar, setting timers, dictating and reading memos, by using a voice command, like, “Send an email.”
All the Apple phones and tablets—iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini and iPod Touch, contain a robust array of accessibility features off-the-shelf: text-to-speech with VoiceOver; Zoom screen magnification; braille device support; large fonts and high contrast color; and so much more.
Apple also often has Certified Refurbished items available on their website that include a one year warranty. As of the time of this post, an Apple Certified Refurbished iPod Touch was $149, which is an inexpensive intro into the world of Apple Accessibility.
iHabilitation Feel ‘n See
Let’s just say, hypothetically Son, that you decide to go for the iPod Touch. Consider getting the refurbished model and using the money you might have spent, for the latest iHabilitation Feel ‘n See book of tactile screenshot templates for the latest version of the operating system that powers the Apple i-devices, like the iPod Touch.
Tom Dekker, the founder of iHabilitation, is a rehabilitation therapist from Canada who developed a book of tactile screen shots of various basic iOS apps, to make learning that much easier. The Feel ‘n See books range from $25-$30, and are available in large print or braille. In addition to the books, the iHabilitation website has some great, detailed, instructional videos to accompany the books. (The videos are great tutorials even without the books.)
Tom gave a presentation recently on Accessible World Tek Talk podcast and the audio of the iHabilitation Tek Talk presentation explains the development process and how the screen shots work for training.(see link in resource section)
iOS Access For All
I know you’ve been busy, Son, so a suggestion for a last minute, easy-to-grab gift may be helpful. Shelly Brisbin’s electronic book, iOS Access For All couldn’t be easier to order. Because it’s an Ebook, you can even download it the morning of Father’s Day, from the website or the iBooks Store, forward the link to me by email, and I could be reading it with my coffee that very morning! Did I mention, it is only $20?
This is the most comprehensive book available on Apple’s iOS operating system’s accessibility features. It is hundreds of pages, and walks readers through each of the accessibility features, setting them up for optimal use, using accessibility with various apps, and provides plenty of tips and practical suggestions. See below for a review of this book.
Just imagine, if I were completely new to the iPod of iPhone, what a great package the Feel ‘n See screenshots and iOS Access For All would be, for about $50!
Talk to the Wilson
How smart is a smartphone that is so complicated I can’t create a simple shopping list, reminder, or copy someone’s phone number without learning a bazillion gestures? Maybe this Father’s Day, Son, you can save the smart gadgets for someone else and get me simplicity!
The Wilson digital recorder has three buttons you can feel on the cover, 12 hours of digital audio recording time, and comes with a set of ear buds and a USB cable, for $39.95. Press a button to record an audio message. Press another button to play back the message—now that really is intuitive! If I decide to get a little high tech with the Wilson, I can just connect it to the computer with the USB cable and transfer a few audio files for storage.
You know how much I love reading, Son! You may not realize that I’m actually reading more now that I’ve lost a little vision! Bookshare is an incredible resource of downloadable, accessible, electronic print books that I can read using a web browser, an app like Go Read for an Android or Voice Dream Reader on either iOS or Android. The annual subscription to Bookshare is $50, for non-students, no cost for any type of student—even adult ed! You’ll have to plan ahead just a bit on this one Son, because to get the subscription, you’ll need to have the eye doctor or vision rehabilitation therapist forward verification of a print disability to Bookshare.
A subscription to Bookshare enables users to download up to 100 books per month at no additional cost, in an electronic text format called DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System), that is easy to enlarge into large print, read using the text-to-speech voices on tablets, smart phones and computers, or even send to an electronic braille display.
Talking Book Player
You know Son, next to that Ducati, there’s nothing I’d enjoy more for Father’s Day than a good book or one of my favorite magazines, like Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, or Reader’s Digest. As the timeless cliché goes, “The best things in life are free,” this gift is as well! The National Library Service (NLS) offers a program to anyone with a disability affecting her/his access to print, called NLS Talking Books. There is no cost to sign up, and patrons will receive an easy-to-use electronic player to play the digital electronic cartridges the audio books and magazines are stored on. Patrons can have the cartridges mailed to their homes, and return postage for the cartridges is included, so there is never a charge for the service! Download a NLS Talking Book application or call 888-657-7323.
You don’t have to be a techie or use the computer to use this program—you get the cartridges in the mail, put them in the player, push a few buttons to play the books, and enjoy. But, patrons can also download books from the Library of Congress BARD (Braille Reading Audio Download) as a patron, and play them on tablets, smart phones, computers, etc. This means, Son, you don’t need to abandon any plans you might have had to get me an iPod Touch for Father’s Day, I can just get the BARD Mobile app that plays the NLS Talking Books on it, and enjoy both the subscription to Talking Books, and a new iPod, all bundled together! Check out my blog post on Five Great Reading Apps. Also, take a moment to read the newest peer advisor series on summertime reading.
Son, I’m looking forward to having you and the rest of the family over for Father’s Day, and I hope you find this list helpful and it makes it easier for you all to find the prefect gift for Father’s Day.
Help with Your Devices
Bill Holton’s review of the first edition of iOS Access For All. Subsequent editions have just gotten better and better.