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How to use the iPad as an Assistive Technology device

Recently our accessibility team was approached by the Queensland-Government-funded Community Care Smart AT Collaborative with a request to present some webinars on assistive technology use with Apple devices.

Check out the Community Care Smart AT Collaborative’s portal which is designed as a place for training, information-sharing and collaboration on smart assistive technology and is open for anyone interested to register and use.

Please find below the two webinars presented so far.

The iPad: A Powerful Smart Assistive Technology

 

The iPad: How this Device can Assist Individuals with Vision Impairment

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What can Siri do?

Can Siri answer the phone for me?

This is a question that many people ask.  Unfortunately Siri cannot answer incoming calls.  Maybe in future idevice releases or future iOS upgrades it will be possible.  For the meantime, one workaround is to let the call go to voicemail, then ask Siri to play the message to you or return the missed call.3

More things Siri can do for you

Siri can:

  • Read your notifications
  • Tell you where family member or friends are, provided you all have “Find Friends” turned on. This raises privacy and security concerns so think carefully about whether you turn it on.  If you want to you’ll find it under Privacy – Location Services.

There is a huge list of Siri commands at this website.  The article was written before the release of iOS 10 so some information is no longer applicable but the list of commands is still worth reading.

Using Siri with Apple apps

In Calendar, you can ask Siri to schedule or reschedule meetings or events, give you details of already scheduled events.

In Reminders, you can ask Siri to remind you to go to the supermarket, call my spouse at 8pm, text Mum when I get home.

In Notes, you can ask Siri to create and find notes.

In Clock, you can ask Siri what the time and/or date is where you are or somewhere else, to set or turn off an alarm (one off or repeating), set a timer.

In Maps, you can ask Siri for directions.3134331944_f86a0ace8d_z

Using Siri with the internet

  • Ask Siri for restaurant reviews, nearby hardware stores, petrol stations or hospitals and then get directions.
  • Ask Siri maths and conversion questions or how to say something in another language.

New app connections in iOS 10

Some third-party apps can now be controlled by Siri.  Some of the popular ones are WhatsApp, Pinterest and LinkedIn.  The list will increase over time.

Don’t like Siri? Try Alex

While Siri does her best to sound natural, sometimes her speech does still sound computer-generated (which of course it is).  Alex is a more natural sounding and powerful voice which, for those who use Siri as their voice, can be very empowering.  Install Alex under Settings – Accessibility – Voices.  Note that you will need quite a  bit of storage available.

Photo credit: Peat Bakke via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/mistermoss/3134331944

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Using your iPhone or iPad hands free

Can the iPhone/iPad operate completely hands free?

The short answer is almost.  The long answer follows over the next few blog posts.  iphone6-ios9-ask-siri

There are two ways to operate an iOS device without using hands.  One is with a switch control.  The other way is using Siri as a personal assistant which is what this article is about.  If you are blind or have low vision, have physical impairment or just do lots of things at once, Siri is about to become your new bestie.

What is Siri

So first of all, what is Siri?  Siri is a feature built into iOS devices (and now Mac as well) which is voice operated and which can perform tasks such as:

  • search the internet and read results out loud,
  • make a phone call,
  • send or receive messages,
  • respond to questions about news, weather, and what’s nearby.siri1

Enabling Siri

  • Activate Siri by going to Settings  – Siri. Turn Siri on with the toggle switch.
  • Turn on Access on Lock Screen and Allow “Hey Siri”. Turning on “Hey Siri” allows you to use voice commands only, as long as you have an iPhone 6 or newer or are connected to power with an older phone. When you turn on “Hey Siri”, you will be prompted to speak some phrases so that Siri can learn to recognise your voice.
  • On this settings screen you can also choose which language and accent Siri will use.
  • It’s a good idea to select “Always” under the Voice Feedback setting because this means Siri will always be improving her ability to recognise your voice.
  • Under the My Info setting, select yourself in your contacts list.

Using Siri

When you want to use Siri, press and hold the home button until you hear a chime or say “Hey Siri” and wait for the chime.  Then give your command or question.

Customising Siri

You can teach Siri about how people are related to you if you want to.  If you tell Siri that Mary Smith is your mother, Siri will find Mary in your contacts list and remember the connection.  Then you can say, “Text Mum”.  Even without telling Siri about any relationships you can ask her something like, “Hey Siri…what’s Joe Brown’s email address?” or “Call Joe Brown on his mobile”.

How Siri helps you communicate

You can ask Siri to:

  • redial the last number
  • return that missed call
  • FaceTime Fred
  • Text Tracey
  • Send a message to George
  • Reply to a message
  • Read a message
  • Check my voicemail
  • Play my voicemail
  • Email Jill about the weekend
  • Reply to emails by saying “Reply….”
  • Read my notifications

Next post

More in the next post about using Siri with other apps.

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Accessibility features in Apple devices

Apple features accessibility in all devices
Apple features accessibility in all devices

Apple designs products like iPads and iPhones with assistive features that allow people with disabilities to access the functions of Apple devices to increase their capabilities. These innovative technologies are built in iOS devices to make them powerful. Apple provides a set of tutorials explaining how to use the accessibility features. Assistive technology ensures accessibility of iOS devices to the aged, disabled and even blind. Apple accessibility features include:

Siri

vision_siriThis is Apple’s intelligent virtual assistant. It helps you do with your daily schedule. All you have to do to get its help is ask. It can send messages, leaves voicemails, turn VoiceOver on and off and schedule meetings. It can access all the other apps in an Apple device. All you have to do is give a directive which is something like “Remind me of my meeting on Sunday 10 am”.

Voiceover

This is a screen reader that helps you navigate on your iPhone or iPad screen even if you cannot see.

Speak Screen

Having a hard time reading texts on your screen? You can use speak screen to read your books or emails. You send a command to Siri to turn on Speak Screen for you and have all your documents read to you. It has features such as highlighting, adjusting speaking rate and changing voice dialect.

FaceTime

FaceTime video calls lets you catch every gesture and facial expression. It enables you to communicate in many ways. FaceTime is very useful to people who cannot speak. It is a high quality video with a fast frame rate. All Apple devices are equipped with FaceTime.

Hearing Aids for iPhone and iPad

Apple has collaborated with manufacturers who have designed hearing aids. They are efficient with a very high quality audio experience to help you have a wonderful iPhone or iPad experience.

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How to Get the Most Out Of Your Battery

One of the biggest concerns for people buying new phones and laptops is the device’s battery life. New devices are batterysporting longer and longer battery life. Apple even claims that their 13-inch Macbook Air can last for up to 12 hours! You need to be able to rely on your device when you’re on the go, so here are a few tips to make the most out of your battery life.

1. Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

If you don’t need them at the time, try turning off your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are usually set to be looking for potential networks or connections, so by stopping them from doing that, you’re limiting a whole lot of background activity. They both also use a lot of energy while connected. So if you’re not browsing the web or using your bluetooth mouse, for example, try switching them off to see some extended usage time

2. Turn off Location Tracking

The same thing goes for GPS and Location Services. These are constantly tracking your location in case an app requires it. Making sure these are switched off should see a big drop in background activity and battery drain.

3. Lower Screen Brightness or Keyboard Backlight

This one’s probably pretty obvious. The brighter your screen and keyboard light need to shine, the more power they’re going to use. It may be hard to drop the brightness sometimes, especially if you’re outside. However this is one of the biggest power consumers your device has. So drop the brightness as low as you can, and you should see a much longer battery life. Also be sure to switch off any auto brightness settings, as these will keep trying to make your screen brighter, even though you’re trying to save battery

4. Enable Battery Saver Mode

Look for your devices battery saver mode, most devices have one. This may seem like a bit of a no brainer, but can sometimes be overlooked. Battery saver modes are absolutely essentially if you’re taking your device off charge for a long period of time. You may see a slight decrease in the performance of your machine, but the extended battery life will almost surely make it worth while.

5. Look for Battery Draining Applications

Most phones or laptops give you a way to check what’s using the bulk of your device’s power. Accessing ‘Battery’ from your iPhone settings for example, will tell you exactly what is draining your battery. It can show you as a percentage, what has used the most power in the last 24 hours or the last week. By analysing these lists, you can try to cut down on certain applications or programs in order to give you the most out of your charge.

6. Look for Background Battery Drainers

These same lists will also often show you how much of that power drain was while on screen, and how much was in the background. This is also important to make note of when trying to cut down on app usage. You may have to restrict apps from using your location while outside the app, sending push notifications or whether it can use your cellular connection. Background battery drain is usually the most overlooked when trying to save battery life, so make sure you look into it.

7. Service Battery

Finally, if you’re still noticing low battery life after all these steps, there could be an issue with your battery. If you take your device to an Authorised Service Provider, they are able to run the necessary tests to find out if there really is something wrong with your battery. If there is an issue, you can then take the necessary steps to have your battery serviced and get it back up and running.

Running out of charge while out and about can cause any number of issues like being out of contact with family or missing out on catching a rare Pokemon. You need to be sure that when you need it, your phone or laptop is going to be there for you. So by following these steps, your faithful mobile companion should be with you the whole entire day.