Apple Watch Accessibility: Possibilities, Challenges, and Unknowns

When the Apple Watch launches next month it will mark the launch of Apple's first new product category since the iPad. The iPad was a game changer in terms of accessibility, bringing numerous features designed for people with disabilities at launch. How will the Apple Watch compare and what are some of the challenges and possibilities for the Apple Watch related to accessibility? A lot of questions remain unanswered, but the wait will soon be over.

Apple Watch is rumored to include built-in software accessibility features when launched, however these reports have not been confirmed by Apple. It would make sense and align with Apple's patterns if they included features such as VoiceOver and Zoom in the Apple Watch. While the inclusion of these features seem likely, how these features are implemented will be key for people with disabilities.

The Apple Watch could prove beneficial to people with various disabilities. Apple has already demonstrated the navigation capabilities of the Watch which include providing distinctive taps when a wearer needs to turn left or right while walking. This feature could aid blind and visually impaired users when navigating unfamiliar areas. Additionally, the device could help remind users to complete daily tasks like taking medication. The watch, which can be used for Apple Pay purchases and other forms of authentication could benefit users with physical disabilities who cannot handle a credit card for example.

Just like with the iPad, app developers will likely be key in coming up with unique assistive apps. The initial developer tools have some limitations that could hold back developers, but hopefully useful assistive apps will still be made available.

With all the potential benefits there are some challenges that stem from the device's small screen and buttons. First, the "digital crown," which is a small dial on the side of the Apple Watch, could pose challenges to users with physical disabilities and dexterity challenges. The "digital crown" which is used for scrolling and zooming may be difficult if not impossible for some people to operate. It will be interesting to see if Apple will devise a software solution to this potential challenge. Similarly, the small screen with small icons may prove difficult to press for some users.

Apple's new "force touch" gesture could also prove challenging for users with physical disabilities to preform. A "force touch" is a harder press on the touch screen display that invokes distinct actions from a lighter tap. From Apple's demonstrations, this gesture seems vital to the operation of the watch so hopefully a software solution will be available for users who are unable to preform this gesture.

Hopefully the Apple Watch will follow in the iPad's foot steps and be a game changer in terms of accessibility. If you are thinking of purchasing the Apple Watch, but have doubts about your ability to interact with the device due to a disability I would strongly recommend heading to an Apple Store in April to try one out.

The Current Hot HD Mp4 Players

The HD mp4 player supports a lot of video formats and the display effect is much better than the RM products. If you are planning to buy some video players, it's a wise choice to buy the HD mp4 player.

Newman A18HD+

This 5.0 inch mp4 player applies the LTPS screen which can offer you the fantastic visual effect. The 720P HD output video playback enables you to fully enjoy your digital life. The device supports the RM, RMVB, AVI, FLV, MP3, WMA and FLAC.

In addition, the A18HD+ supports the TTS e-book. Also, some built-in classic games are supported.

This is an 8 GB mp4 player with fashionable design and the UI design is also very beautiful. It's the first OPPO 720P HD player. There's very few key press as it's of the full touch design. The S39 applies the latest video decoding scheme which supports the true H.264 coding and 720 HD. The 720P HD video can be played directly.

As it comes with the excellent screen and good touch operation, you also feel nice about the displaying of pictures and e-book. As it features with the smart oral directions and large quantity of words, it's very suitable both for students and office worker.
Taiden C430T

It's a high definition 720P mp4 player. It applies the Toppoly LTPS screen and T7200 HD decoding chin. It can play the 768P/1080I RMVB video and supports the popular formats including the H.264, DivX, XviD, MKV, VOB, MP4, WMV, AVI and FLV.

Furthermore, it can be connected to the TV with the component cable. So you can share the video with your friends and family. It comes with all the functions like E-book, album and TF card.


The mp4 player comes with the 4.3 inch screen, supports the RMVB video playback and be compatible with RM/RMVB video coding of the RealVideo8/9/10. It's fully compatible with the MP4/MOV/PMP/FLV/AVI/VOB/MPG/DAT.

It features with the HDMI HD video output which can output the 1280*720 video files and the OTG which can read the video files in the hard drive easily. It supports the data interchange of the U-disk, MP3/MP4, PDA, mobile phone, digital camera and digital camcorder.

More features are added to the VX585HD like the FM radio, picture browsing and E-book.


The firmware of the HD8800 has been updated and the player is more perfect. The player applies the 4.3 inch 800*480 definition screen and supports the 1080P HD playback. The video formats including the RMVB, RM, FLV, AVI, DAT, VOB, MKV, WMV, TS, TP, MP4 and PMP. And the FM radio, TV-OUT, E-book and other functions are all available for the mp4 player. The updated player supports the PDF browsing function, E-book and various games.

In conclusion, generally speaking, the higher the price is, the better the quality is. There may be some shortages of the products of low price while the price of the hi-end products is unacceptable. Make a wise choice according to your needs. Try to find both good and cheap the product for you.

Voice Dream Writer: Word Processing Plus a Whole Lot More

Voice Dream has become a well-known name in the assistive technology community because of Voice Dream Reader: a text-to-speech reader available for iOS devices. Now the developer has released a new app called Voice Dream Writer which aims to support writers with special needs. Voice Dream Writer has features that can benefit people with a wide range of needs including people with dyslexia and people who are blind or visually impaired. People without disabilities can also benefit from the app. For example, english language learners could benefit from spoken feedback and other features offered by Voice Dream Writer. 

The text-to-speech feedback is designed to help writers find mistakes in their writing. The style of text-to-speech reading can even be changed to help writers focus either on spelling and grammar, or on content and organization. The app also offers easy access to an outline view that can help with organizing a document. Other features allow users to look up words phonetically or look up words by its meaning. 

The text-to-speech feedback can be accessed as users type so they can verify that a word or sentence was entered as they intended. This helps writers identify words or phrases that looked correct, but upon hearing them read aloud sound incorrect. The app will also read back text that has been dictated to help users insure that their voice was transcribed correctly.

When it is time to review a document, Voice Dream Writer includes some very thoughtful features for editing. The app includes two customizable proof reading modes that use text-to-speech to help with the editing process. The first is designed to help writers edit the content of their document. In this mode words are read back using text-to-speech sound natural and smooth: as they would when reading a book with Voice Dream Reader. This allows writers to focus on the content and organization of their document. 

The second mode reads text back in a somewhat choppy manner which allows users to focus their document at the micro level. This mode is ideal for editing spelling a grammar because the lack of flow with the text-to-speech voice makes it easier to focus on each word rather than the overall content of the text.

Each proofreading mode is customizable with options to announce misspelled words, spell homophones, and speak punctuation and capitalization.

Similar to Voice Dream Reader, Voice Dream Writer includes the ability to change the visual style of the app. Font size, character and line spacing, margins, text color, and background color can all be changed. Additionally, users can change the text to speech voice and speaking rate to match their preferences. Text-to-speech voices purchased in Voice Dream Reader are available in the Writer without an additional purchase. The pronunciation dictionary also syncs between the Writer and the Reader if both are installed on the same device.

Text files can be imported from iCloud Drive or supported third party services such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Unfortunately, users can only import text files and not Microsoft Word files. Documents can be exported as HTML, RTF, Microsoft Word, or Apple Pages format.

Click read more below to continue to read the review of Voice Dream Writer. Some of the most innovative and helpful features will be described below.

Some of Voice Dream Writers most helpful features can be found in the right sidebar menu. First is a dictionary which can read back the definitions of a word (This feature is currently not available in Voice Dream Reader without using VoiceOver). The second tool allows users to enter a word spelled phonetically to find the correctly spelled option.  For example, if I typed "receat," it   might suggest the word "receipt," as an option. Unlike some other apps, these suggestions are not made based on the context of the surrounding text. Users can tap on each suggestion to hear the word spoken aloud. This feature is extremely helpful for poor spellers, especially when they are in a situation where using dictation would be inappropriate or unavailable. 

The last feature on the right sidebar is the option to look up a word by meaning. For example, if I was writing about organizations which donate money to charities, but could not think of the word "philanthropic" I could search "donate money" and "philanthropic" would be one of the suggestions. This can help reduce instances of a word being at the tip of your tong, but you can quite think of the word.

In the left sidebar menu is an outline view. Users can select to view an outline of their document by heading, paragraph, or sentence. Users can then simply rearrange paragraphs or headings by dragging and dropping. This is helpful for the planning stages of writing as users can plan different paragraphs and fill in the content after they are finished planning.

All formatting in Voice Dream Writer is done using markdown. This means that all editing is done in plain text, but symbols inserted before or after words cause the words to be formatted when the file is exported. For example, adding a # or * before a word will cause that word to be formatted as a heading or as italic font when exported. This system has some positives and some negatives over conventional formatting that is found in Microsoft Word and Apple's Pages. 

For blind users this system can be helpful because the special characters such as # and * will be spoken allowing them to quickly recognize when a portion of text is bold or italics. In other word processors italics and bold text may be read normally making it more difficult for blind users to determine how the document is formatted. However, for sighted users this system may be unfamiliar and therefore more difficult. It would be nice if Voice Dream Writer had both the option of using markdown and for editing in rich text and allowed the users to decide which option worked best for their needs.

Finally, Voice Dream Writer includes a new innovation which improves the text selection and cursor movement process for VoiceOver users. These tasks are normally difficult for VoiceOver users. VoiceOver is a built in screen reader available on iOS devices that allows blind and visually impaired users to use gestures in order to use their device. When VoiceOver is enabled, Voice Dream Writer automatically adds three buttons to the bottom left of the screen. The first button controls the cursor and accepts a combination of multi-figure taps and swipes to move the cursor forward and backwards through the document. The second button adjusts how much the cursor moves with each swipe of the first button. This button allows the cursor to move letter-by-letter, word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence or paragraph-by-paragraph. The third button allows users to easily select text and then copy or cut that text. This system of selecting text and moving the cursor with VoiceOver is much faster than the method used in other apps and is a major benefit of Voice Dream Writer for VoiceOver users.

Voice Dream Writer is available for all iOS devices running iOS 8 and higher. While iPhone support is certainly convenient when writing a quick email, the iPad's large screen seems best suited for longer writing. Users who want to use the app for writing long pieces will probably wish to use a Bluetooth keyboard for faster typing. People using Bluetooth keyboards will also enjoy the ability to use keyboard shortcuts with the app. More keyboard shortcuts will be added in future versions as well. For example, in the future users with Bluetooth keyboards will be able to enter a key combination to quickly find all misspelled words.

In all Voice Dream Writer has many superb features that can help writers with a wide variety of needs. Hopefully rich text editing and the ability to import Word documents will be added in a future version. Voice Dream Writer seems like it would also make a great Mac app and hopefully someday people will be able to use these features on their Macs. Even without rich text editing and Mac support, Voice Dream Writer seems amazingly polished and well thought through for a version 1.0 app. To purchase Voice Dream Writer for $10 on the App Store click here. The app will be on sale for $8 until Sunday, February 1, 2015.

If you’re still unsure about the apps features watch the video below in which Winston Chen, the developer of Voice Dream Reader and Voice Dream Writer, walks viewers through his latest app.

Keeble Keyboard for iPad: Flexible Text Input for Users with Special Needs

Keeble is a virtual keyboard for iPad made by AssistiveWare. The app is only available in English for iPads running iOS 8 and above. As a result of new features available in iOS 8 the Keeble keyboard can be used in almost every app on the iPad including mail, Safari, and messages. Keeble gives users a number of customization options to make text input easier for users with special needs such as motor challenges, dyslexia, and other disabilities.

One option available is the ability to change the appearance of the keyboard. Users can change the color of the keyboard which could be helpful for users with visual impairments. The higher contrast colors can be more easily seen compared to the white and gray colors of the default iOS keyboard. The layout can be change from a QWERTY layout to an ABC layout if desired.

Keeble also includes word predication to speed up typing; especially for Switch Control users. The word predication features is slightly more advanced than iOS 8's built-in word prediction. Keeble allows users to change the number of predictions offered above the three offered by the default iOS 8 keyboard.

Keeble also allows users to change how the keys respond to taps and presses. This is especially useful for users with motor challenges that may cause accidental taps or presses on unwanted keys. Hold duration can be set to change how long a key must be held before that character is entered. With this option enabled, quick accidental taps will not be registered. Additionally, the backspace repeat can be customized to avoid accidentally deleting text. A "select on release" option is also available which will enter text on release of a key instead when the key is pressed.

The last customization option allows users to turn on spoken feedback of the text they type. Feedback can be given letter by letter, word by word, and/or sentence by sentence. This feature allows people with dyslexia or poor spellers to confirm that what they words they think entered are the words that they hear being spoken back to them using text-to-speech. While this feature is useful it can only be enabled and disabled via the apps settings. If there was an option to turn on and off auditory feedback directly, it would be much easier to access the feature when needed and disable the feature when not needed. Users can totally turn off the iPad's speakers but this will also mute all other audio output. There is space on the bottom right of the number and symbol entry keyboard where quick access to this setting could be added.

The Keeble app costs $15 on the App Store. To download the app click here. Click read more below to view screenshots of the Keeble keyboard.

Apple's New App Return Policy in Europe is a Big Deal for VoiceOver Users

Recently, Apple implemented a new 14 day no questions asked return policy in many European Union (EU) nations according to 9to5mac. The new policy allows customers to receive a full refund on App Store purchases within 14 days of receipt.

While this new policy is an important safeguard for all consumers, it is a major development for App Store customers who rely on accessibility features, such as VoiceOver, in order to use their devices. VoiceOver is a built in screen reader that allows blind and visually impaired users to use iOS devices and Macs.

While browsing the App Store, it is extremely difficult for VoiceOver users to determine if the app they are interested in purchasing is accessible. This often leaves the customer playing a guessing game with their money. For example, without the return policy a VoiceOver user who wanted to purchase a $20 app would need to hope that the app was accessible with VoiceOver otherwise their $20 purchase would be useless. Even if the app is inaccessible and unusable refunds are typically not granted.

The new policy allows VoiceOver users to download apps that may or may not be accessible without the risk of wasting money on an app that is totally useless for them. If the user downloads an app that is not accessible, they can simply return the app within two weeks and receive a full refund. In effect, this allows for a two week trial period for apps which will allow users to see if the app fits their needs. For VoiceOver users within the EU this will take the guesswork out of purchasing apps.

Unfortunately, the new return policy is only available in certain EU countries and is not applicable to customers in other countries. Hopefully, Apple will extend the policy to all customers regardless of which country they are in. Until that time, users in other countries will have to hope that the apps they are downloading are accessible.