Have You Ever Wondered How Text-To-Speech Voices Are Made?

The Verge has a cool video about how text-to-speech videos are produced. Given that so many assistive technologies rely on text-to-speech voices it is interesting to learn how they have been improved over the years to sound more realistic. One of the most well known applications of text-to-speech is Apple's Siri. The video features Nuance the makers of Dragon.

Timely Time Teller App Keeps You Timely

The Timely Time Teller app is a simple app for iOS that gives you repeating alerts at set intervals. When alerts are turned on Timely verbally tells you the time at set intervals. For example, Timely could alert you of the time every 15 minutes. I found this helpful when rushing to get ready for school in the morning, with Timely giving me updates on the time I don't have to worry loosing track of time. When the app says, "seven o'clock" I know I have to be eating breakfast if I don't want to be late. Similarly, I found the app very helpful when bike riding instead of stopping and taking my iPhone out of my pocket Timely tells me the time every 15 minutes. When the iPhone is on silent Timely will vibrate at set times. Unfortunately the vibrate feature isn't very useful because you can distinguish a Timely alert from a text message or email notification. It would be more helpful if the vibration was different from other notifications. In all Timely is extremely simple, but can be a helpful tool. It could be especially beneficial for people with executive function difficulties.

Click read more below to view screenshots of Timely in action. Click here to view in the App Store.

Apple Announces October 22th Event Likely to Foucs on new iPads and More

Today Apple sent invitations to members of the media for an October 22th event. The event comes just weeks after the release of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. Rumors have suggested that the event will focus on an updated full sized iPad and an updated iPad mini. The full size iPad will likely feature a new design with smaller side bezels similar to the iPad mini's design. It is also possible that the new iPad models will include some of the new features found on Apple's latest iPhone possibly even the Touch ID finger print sensor. Of course all of this remains speculative until Apple officially confirms the details. If you are in the market for a new iPad it is difinitely recommended to wait and see what Apple will announce next Tuesday.

Amazon Improves Accessibility Features of Kindle Fire Tablets

Amazon's newly announced Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HDX include built in accessibility features. Historically, Amazon has been slow to make their Kindle products accessible. With the new accessible Kindle Fire and accessible Kindle app for iOS Amazon maybe turning a new page. That being said, Amazon still doesn't want to make their Kindle eReaders accessible and has requested an exemption from the FCC.

The new Android based Kindle Fire tablets includes accessibility features for the blind, low vision, hearing impaired, and mobility impairments. For the blind and visually impaired the Kindle Fire includes a screen reader that can describe what is taking place on screen. There is also Explore by Touch which allows users to use gestures to navigate items one-by-one. For low vision users the new Kindle Fire tablets include a screen magnifier which is activated by a triple tap on the screen. There are also large font size and high contrast options to benefit low vision users. For users with mobility challenges the Kindle Fire can be controlled with a Bluetooth keyboard. For dyslexic users the Kindle Fire includes Immersion Reading which synchronizes the text and audio version of a book. With Immersion Reading the text is highlighted as a professional reader speaks. It is important to note that to use Immersion Reading you must own both the Audible audio version and the Kindle ebook version which can be costly. While it is very exciting to see Amazon improving their accessibility features other tablets such as the iPad include more robust accessibility features.

The Kindle Fires also include a "Mayday" button that allows you to connect with technical support at anytime. The support person can then help walk you through using different functions of your tablet. This "Mayday" button could be useful especially for new tablet users.

The Kindle Fire is available in 7 and 8.9 inch form factors both sizes are available in HD or more powerful HDX variety. The cost ranges from $139 to $229 depending on the size and features. Click here to purchase from Amazon. Click read more below to view a video about Immersion Reading.

New in iOS 7: System Wide Large Type

Apple’s new mobile operating system is out for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. iOS 7 includes many useful features for all users regardless of ability. One feature that can benefit people with visual impairments is system wide large font. With this feature enabled a user can select a larger font size for use in all compatible apps; the only caveat being that app developers must build in support for this feature. Once widely implemented by app developers this feature will make it easy to have the perfect text size in all your apps. Instead of selecting a preferred font size in each app users will be able to choose a font size once for all their compatible apps.

To enable larger type go to settings > general > accessibility > larger type.

Large text in NYTimes App

Macally iKeyLT Keyboard: Full Sized Wired Keyboard for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

The Macally iKeyLT is a full sized wired keyboard for iOS devices with the lightning connector. The iKeyLT version is designed for devices with the lightning connector while the iKey30 is designed for devices with the 30-pin connector. The keyboard has a solid and responsive feel. It has a standard layout and also includes a number of buttons specifically for iOS devices. For people who struggle to type on their iOS device the iKeyLT offers a solution. Unlike many other keyboard accessories, iKeyLT is a wired keyboard that plugs directly into the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. In most situations Bluetooth keyboards are more convenient, but it some situations a wired keyboard does have advantages. With the wired keyboard there is no need for extra batteries, because the power is drawn from the iOS device itself. Also, in some testing environments wireless devices are not allowed. One downside is that because the keyboard plugs directly into the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch it is not possible to charge the iPad and type at the same time. This would only become an issue if the iPad was low on battery. The iKeyLT also comes with a external stand so you can position your  device for easy viewing while typing. Unfortunately the small stand does not attach or connect to the keyboard in anyway so it is easy to misplace.

The iKeyLT costs $60 and can be purchased directly from Macally. Click read more below to view more images of the iKeyLT.

New in iOS 7: Redeem iTunes Gift Cards with the Camera

Apple’s new mobile operating system for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch includes the ability to redeem iTunes gift cards with the camera instead of manually typing long codes. To redeem a gift card with the camera go to the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store and hit redeem at the bottom of the featured page. Then choose to redeem the gift card with the camera. You can use either the front facing or rear facing camera. To redeem the gift card just point the camera at the back of the gift card and the code is automatically redeemed. This new feature makes it possible for the blind and visually impaired to redeem gift cards without sighted assistance. Also, iOS 7 eliminates the need for sighted users to type in long and complicated codes. iOS 7 is available now for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.