Ease of Access (Narrator in Windows 10)

If you use assistive technologies, you may still have a chance to upgrade your computer to free Windows 10. I am not sure how long this free Windows 10 for assistive technology users will be available, and also it will depend on the minimum system requirements for Windows 10. In addition, you want to be aware that you may require some adjustments after the upgrade. In my case, after installing Windows 10, I needed to make changes on the display driver to get the brightness control working by installing the Microsoft basic adaptor instead of the original driver installed on my laptop.

Here is the link: Windows 10 free upgrade for customers who use assistive technologies.

As far as assistive technology features on Windows 10, those who are familiar with Ease of Access Center in the previous Windows, you may immediately notice a slightly different screen (see the picture below) when you access the Ease of Access by using the shortcut keys (Windows key on your keyboard and U) or from the Windows setting link.

Ease of Access in Windows 10 when you access by shortcut keys (or from Windows settings link) – screenshot


Of course, you can still get to the Ease of Access Center screen that you are already familiar in Windows 7 or 8 through the Control panel (Right click Windows icon on the task bar/Control panel/Ease of Access/Ease of Access Center).

Ease of Access Center Windows 7, 8, and 10 – screenshot

Ease Of Access Center Windows 7, 8 & 10

For this blog, I only focused in the Narrator features in Windows 10.  There are a few ways to open the Narrator in Windows 10.  You can access Narrator from the Ease of Access center, but one of the easiest ways to start, press Windows key (on your keyboard) and Enter. To stop, press Caps key and  Esc.

I think the Narrator in Windows 10 is easier to use and read texts on-screen than the previous Windows 7 or 8. Narrator in Windows 10 offers a better narrator voice and provides faster text to speech speeds. Some other features I liked are: when you start entering a search word in a search box, you may get suggestions based on what you are searching, and with Narrator you will hear a verbal hint with an audio indication when these suggestions are available. Scan feature is also nice for persons with low vision. You can access the Scan mode by pressing Caps and Space keys. For example, you can find each header in the browser with H key to find the next header and shift + H to find the previous header in the browser. Scan mode will turn off by pressing Caps and space key again.

Narrator Keyboarding Updates from MSFT Enable

To find out additional shortcut keys, press Caps + F1 (Note: A laptop user may require to use a function key (Fn) when you press F1)  The partial screenshot of the shortcut keys is below. and more details about Narrator keyboard command and touch gestures can be found at this link shortcut keys info.

Screenshot of shortcut keys

We certainly hope that Microsoft will provide more documentation and video based user references for caregivers and educators to assist persons with special accommodations.


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Smartglasses for the visually impaired

A few years ago when a smart eyeglass product called Google Glass, a wearable computer with a head-mounted display, was introduced, many users liked the features such as taking clear high definition pictures and videos with their free hand, sending messages, getting directions and much more. However, persons who are legally blind or visually impaired have found great difficulty in using these glasses. It is a real challenge for researchers and developers to create a device that can provide an experience of sight for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Microsoft Cognitive Services has been developing Intelligence Application Program Interface (API) which runs on a wearable Pivothead smartglass. The smartglass product is not available to the public yet. One of Microsofts’ engineers is legally blind and working on this project (The video link is below).  The smartglass will analyze and translate the image in front of the person and speak when the user swipes the touch panel on the glass to take a photo. It is exciting when the device translates not only the image to speech but also describes what the person is doing, what they are wearing, their gender, age, and especially what emotions they are expressing at that moment.

Microsoft Cognitive Services: Introducing the Seeing AI project

Another wearable glasses for the visually impaired are OrCam (http://www.orcam.com/). The company will soon launch OrCam MyMe, a wearable personal assistant. The price may be quite expensive for general consumer.

OrCam: See for yourself


Posted in AT_Apps, Elderly, Sensors, Transition, Wearable Computing, Wearable devices | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Voice typing using Google Docs

Voice recognition can help people with their writing. Google Docs offers Built-in Voice typing and Google Chrome is available on various systems (Windows, Mac, Chromebook). There is no voice training required like other speech recognition software. This allows you to talk directly to your computer without even needing a microphone headset.  Of course it is recommended that you use it without too much background noise and speak directly to your computer’s built in microphone.  You can also use voice commands (i.e. Insert header) to edit documents.

If you have not used Google Docs, it is recommended to install Chrome browser (download link: https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/desktop/index.html) and follow the next steps to access Google Docs.

How to use Voice-Typing in Chrome

Sign in Google Docs from Chrome https://www.google.com/docs/about/  and login to your e-mail account.

Or you are already logged in your e-mail account from Chrome browser.
You will find the Google Docs link by navigating from the upper right corner.


Select a new document or any document you already have.

Click Tools and select Voice Typing
Google Docs Voice Typing

Then click speak icon.
Google Docs Voice Typing Speak icon

Speak button

Click the button, “Allow”.
Allow Google to Access a microphone

Microphone configurations

If you would rather use an external microphone, you will probably need to configure your microphone on your computer. You can access the microphone configuration settings either from the Accessibility feature menu or Control Panel.

How to set up your microphone from Accessibility Feature.

Press Windows key  windows-key    +  U.
Select the computer without a mouse or keyboard.
Accessibility-Use a computer without a mouse.

Then select “Use Speech Recognition.”
Accessibility Speak into a microphone

Select your microphone and go through “Microphone setup wizard”.
Microphone settings

Adjust a microphone

Another way to set up a microphone from the Control Panel

Go to the Control Panel on your computer, and elect Manage audio devices under the Sound.Manage audio sound

Select Recording tab, highlight your microphone, and click the Configure button.
Recording configurations

Then select “Set up microphone” and  the type of your microphone, and follow through the same way as the previous example.
Microphone settings

Adjust a microphone

A few disadvantages of using Google Docs, you will need to use it online by logging in from your e-mail account. It is not an accessible tool for those who cannot afford to have an Internet service at home or have intermittent service (i.e. a weak signal area). Once you log out of your e-mail account, you will not be able to use Google Docs and will get the message shown below.

Sign out error when you are not in Google account.

Of course, this online tool (Google Docs) offers various advantages for persons who are always online (i.e. Cloud/ Social Media users) or need to access documents from multiple locations where wireless service is available. It is an economical tool for persons who struggle in writing.  Many of today’s students can formulate their thoughts by using their voice and then submit their homework using these innovative digital learning methods.

Here is a link of how to use the Voice Typing features in Google Docs (link: https://support.google.com/docs/answer/4492226?hl=en)

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3D printing for disabled

Since I posted a blog about 3D printing in 2014, technology using 3D printing has continued to benefit disabled persons in increasing their independence and daily activities. One of the benefits of 3D printing for people with disabilities is that the tools or parts can be quickly produced and customized for individual needs. Some designers find that it is less expensive than purchasing assistive technology devices.

Don Fredette, an adaptive equipment specialist, uses a 3D printer to make items such as customized wheelchair joysticks, control knobs, and cup holders at the Boston Home, a residence for Care of adults with advanced neurological diseases. In addition, he has also made the following 3D printed items.

  • Cradles for voice-controlled television remotes
  • Chin switches for calling aids
  • Holders for communication devices like phones and tablets
  • Cell phones

Another example of 3D printer beneficiary is Christopher Hills of Australia. This nineteen-year-old owns his business called Switched-On Video Editing. He uses Final Cut Pro software and edits films with customized 3D printed switches that he controls by moving his head.

In addition, 3D printing is helping to create more advanced products. Scientists, engineers, and physicians have been developing and building 3D-printable prosthetics and the next generation of bionic limbs that can be fully customized.

Open Bionics made a custom fit a 3D printed robotic arm with hand for Daniel, who was born without a right arm.  They scanned his arm using a 3D sensor, created a 3D mesh of it, and printed a custom-fitted socket and robotic hand. The robotic prosthetics arm gave Daniel the ability to write, pick up things, and shake hands – abilities to do these tasks which most of us take for granted.

3D Printed Prosthetic Costs Way Less Than Alternatives – BTF
(published 2015)

The MIT Media Lab’s Bio mechatronics group led by Hugh Herr has been developing wearable robotic systems that serve to augment and enhance human physical capability. Hugh Herr himself lost both legs to frostbite when he was younger. Here is a YouTube video where Hugh Herr talks about the next generation of bionic limbs, and robotic prosthetics.

New Bionics Let Us Run, Climb and Dance | Hugh Herr | TED Talks
(published 2014)

Today scientists are proving the feasibility of ‘printing’ replacement tissues (February 15, 2016 ScienceDaily), and high-tech companies have teamed up to test a 3D bio-printer to print cardio and vascular structures in zero gravity (June, 2016). 3D printers are helping all of us grasp tomorrow’s technology today.

B-Roll: First Heart Structure 3D Printed in Zero Gravity With Adult Human Stem Cells (published 2016)

Posted in 3-D technology, Assistive Technology, AT_Device, Robots, Sensors, Wearable Computing, Wearable devices | Tagged , | Leave a comment


The Readability extension offers an easier way to read online by reducing cluttered web page ads. It also allows you to save and read it later. While it does not offer a read-out loud feature, the simplified web page allows readers to concentrate on reading without distractions. It can be installed on mobile devices or computers. If you do not own any mobile devices, you can test the Readability in the Chrome browser on your computer.  If you have not used it before and want to test the program, here is some additional information.

Features (Taken from the official Readability website):

  • “Read Now” to disable surrounding webpage noise and clutter
  • “Read Later” to save content to your personal reading list
  • “Send to Kindle” to send any web page to your Kindle for a comfortable reading format
  • “Tagging” helps you keep your reading list organized
  • Automatically sync your reading list to your Kindle every day with Kindle digests
  • Printing
  • Sharing through email, Facebook, and Twitter
  • Configurable content appearance: font color and size

If you would like to test it within the Chrome browser on your computer,  go to https://www.readability.com/. Then select the Apps and Add-ons, the Readability for Chrome, and press the Install Now button.

Readability Options

Close your browser and restart it again. The Readability extension appears in your chrome browser.

Readability Extension within Chrome

Here is an example web page with and without using the Readability extension in the Chrome web page.

Without using the Readability plug-in:Web page without Readability extension

With the Readability Extension plug-in:Web page with Readability Extension

Note: You can simply use Back the button in the browser to go back to the original web page. If you decide not wish to see it, you can right-click the Readability extension icon and select either remove or hide from the menu.


If you would like to try it on your mobile device, go back to the Apps and Add-ons link and install the app on your mobile device.

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A security monitoring system without monthly fees

You may be considering about a Home automation system with many features or you may just want to have an alarm or notification system for certain situations.  For example, you may be looking for a system that can send you an alert (i.e. text message) by using a door sensor or a camera to monitor an older adult or a child at home.  However, you may not want any lease commitment and pay a monthly service fee.  Then you might consider using a Do-it-yourself security system.

There are many monitory systems (i.e. security camera) on the market. Most companies charge a monthly or yearly service fee, but some equipment can be bought up front and require no fee or aftermarket contract if you install and configure the notification system by yourself. The consumers’ reviews vary depending upon their experiences. So instead of selecting one because a new product is on the market or it is reasonably priced compared to other products, it is recommended that you research other users’ experiences and compare the features before you purchase a system. Security Resources for Home & Online (www.asecurelife.com) provides you with the product pros and cons information. Amazon (www.amazon.com), where many manufactures sell their products, post users’ experiences. These are helpful resources because you get the product information as well as users’ experiences and opinions after using the product for a while.

One should consider the following: The quality of any security cameras depends upon the light, the reflections of the windows, the resolution of the cameras, the availability of both night and day vision, video and audio availability, and how you can angle the camera or how wide of an area you can capture. Some users have experienced not being able to capture because of the limitations of the camera angle, a poor quality image, or poor audio. False alarms are something you want to be aware of. Some users are getting too many false alarms because of their house pets or not getting any alarm because of their wireless network unavailability. One user noted that the delay of the notification resulted in not being able to act upon immediately. If you need to store the information, you can store the information in your local drive (i.e. SD card/computer drive, etc.) or in the cloud with fee after a 30-day trial on some systems. A few users stated that the customer/technical service is important because you may experience problems during the installations or configurations. Other challenges are the product may only work with the apps or software from the manufacture which may not be compatible with other apps for iOS/Android. In fact, Apple stopped posting some products under their Home Automation kit list. A few reported problems and concerns about network security issues.

The following links include a few no-fee security system reviews, but most companies charge for additional features such as saving the video streaming in the cloud.

The following are a few security systems with no fees or fees on additional features (i.e. recording).

A few Surveillance Cameras

Comparison – What is a non-monitored security system?

Comparison – Get the security systems without monthly fees

A guide on your old, smartphone’s camera for monitoring purpose:

How to turn your old phone to a security camera

If you are planning to expand the home automation (i.e. door/window sensors, lights, and temperature controls), it is recommended that you check with the total cost as well as the compatibility such as you can pair with the existing system. Some products may already have the additional built-in features you need.

Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, AT_Device, Elderly, Home Automation, Sensors, Smart Home | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Object Identifier apps

If you are looking for an object identifier app for someone with low vision, blind, or simply teaching someone what each object is, you may want to use and compare the following object identifier apps. Surprisingly I have found that most of the following apps work well, although sometimes objects were identified as wrong or some apps fail to identify it.

Object identifier apps recognize objects, colors, and text by using visual mobile search technology after taking pictures of the object on the smartphones (iPhone/Android) and tell you what it is.  Some apps can share identification via text, email, or social media and are accessible with VoiceOver. If you have an older smartphone, you may not be able to download and install some apps. However, Taptapsee app can be installed on an older device such as iPhone with 3G OS.  Object identifier apps have been updated in the last few years. For example, CamFind app now works with not only smartphones, but also with the Google glass wearable device. Here are a few URL links to start your search.

Free to low cost object identifier apps


Information: http://www.aipoly.com/index.html
App store:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aipoly-vision/id1069166437?ls=1&mt=8

Aipoly app supports iOS 5S or newer as of February, 2016. The company noted they are working on an Android version that works on older phones.

Aipoly Vision App (Youtube)

TapTapSee, CamFind, and Talking Goggles Object Identification Apps for the iPhone
Information: https://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw140704

TapTapsee: http://www.taptapseeapp.com/
Works on previous IOS devices such as 3G and iPod Touch, and iPad

TaptapSee app screenshot

App store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/taptapsee-blind-visually-impaired/id567635020?mt=8
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.msearcher.taptapsee.android

CamFind: http://camfindapp.com/

CamFind app screenshot

App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/camfind-search-your-camera/id595857716
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.msearcher.camfind

Just Look, Ask, and Discover | NewsWatch Review
CamFind apps works also with Google glass wearable device (Newswatch TV 2015).


Talking Goggles: http://sparklingapps.com/goggles/

Talking goggles app screenshot

App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/in/app/talking-goggles-camera-speech/id602999586?mt=8
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sparkling.goggles

Additional object recognition apps (approx. $10): VizWiz,  LookTel, and Digit-Eye

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Sesame touch-free smartphone

You might have heard about the Sesame touch-free phone in 2014.  The Sesame Phone is powered by both Voice-Control and Computer-Vision technologies. The technology was made for people who have limited or no use of their hands so that they can operate a cellphone with head movements. Persons with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI), multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy (CP), and arthritis can benefit from a touch-free phone.


Sesame touch-free phone was designed by co-founders Giora Livne, a quadriplegic veteran and electrical engineer, and computer vision expert Ben Dov.  They have won various awards: Verizon Powerful Answers (2014), Nominet Trust 100 (2014), and the Michael Bloomberg’s Genesis Generation Challenge awards (2015).

In Israel, the company is offering its devices for free to disabled according to the recent news in December 2015.  So I have started looking for if any companies are offering the sesame phone in US.

The Sesame phone is a specially configured Nexus 5 smartphone, and the phone can be purchased online. It sells for about $700 (US) plus shipping through the Indiegogo online site. They’re offering a full money-back guarantee, including shipping both ways, if you are unhappy with your device. However, it does not seem there are any US-based stores you can walk into.  I tried to contact via e-mail through both the Sesame enable and Indegogo websites to find out their current updates. Unfortunately I have not received any replies from them at this time for this blog.  Instead I have only received a request for donation; if I get any updates, I will post additional information.

In the meantime, here is the Sesame enable website:

Sesame touch-free smartphone videos

How the sesame touch-free smartphone works

Additional information from Sesame Enable (2/1/2016):

Sesame Enable informed that it is available over SIM Card only ( i.e.Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile is not an option yet, and AT&T is plausible). You need consult your carrier by a bring your own phone plan. For now, Sesame Phone is available exclusively on an Lg/Google phone Nexus 5.

Contact information in US:

Robert Felgar




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Senior Services – Nursing Homes

Technology is rapidly changing, but the evaluations of ‘Services’ are important areas for the successful delivery model. Take for example, nursing homes or long-term care environments in the Baltimore area were reported for negligence by a local news channel. This is actually quite common as many nursing homes in US were cited for repeated violations of health, safety, and quality care. However, they are still permitted to operate and take in new residents at their facilities (Coalition for Quality Care). Often many facilities fail to create individual care plans for residents or do not permit residents to participate in their own planning.

One article reported 1.5 million nursing facilities in US, and there is a need for interventions that are tied to standardized measurement and quality improvement programs. For example, one of their research studies was conducted among 164 residents at three not-for-profit nursing homes in Pittsburgh, PA area.  The items are organized into 12 domains: comfort, security, food enjoyment, privacy, meaningful activities, religious practices, relationships, functional competence, dignity, individuality, autonomy, and spiritual well-being.

The findings from the research suggest that effective interventions need to be personalized to the individual resident. Facility-wide improvements should not be neglected. However, the best improvements are ones that assist staff to recognize and act on individual residents’ preferences.

A chart referenced by the QOL study.

A chart referenced by the QOL study.

Note: The QOL (Quality of life) care plan related to security focuses on relationships with staff. Each category description: click here.

What about overseas? An article in the New Ergonomics Perspective reported that the available resources for taking care of elderly at home are gradually diminishing in Taiwan. As a result, it presents a considerable change to meet the needs of Taiwan’s ageing society and review the quality of services at nursing homes. In the article, the researchers addressed the importance of identifying resident’s feeling and preferences into the service design specifications.

Nagamachi, a Japanese professor, founded the Kansei Engineering (KE) method that translates customer’s feeling into a design specification and minimizes the subjective interpretation of emotion.

A study using the Kansei Engineering method and Kano model was conducted among 42 elderly from four nursing homes from November 2013 and March 2014. The researchers interviewed each resident for about 30-50 minutes. They residents expected the employees’ dependability and competency. However, the result shows that the three service attributes with the highest requirements are: 1) medical instrument & physical facilities are visually appealing; 2) feel safe and feel at home; 3) quick medical treatment response when patient needs it. On the other hand, the residents do not expect their activities are well scheduled.

The study conducted in US showed their residents’ desire toward security is high. In this case, the security focuses on their relationship with the staff and how well their needs and daily personal cares are provided for. On the other hand, the study conducted in Taiwan concluded that the needs of appealing medical instruments & pristine physical facilities ranked highest among the residents. Depending on the locations and the facilities the residents’ priorities can vary based upon their preferences and needs in their environments. However, both studies state that the elderly should be involved in their daily life planning and how the nursing homes can help them to achieve their desires. Evaluating the service quality of nursing homes or long-term facilities should be done periodically. Technology helps the independence of persons with disabilities or elderly, but its careful monitoring individual’s needs toward the desired outcomes is essential.


Improving Quality of life in Nursing Homes

New Ergonomics Perspectives

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AutoMath Photo app for Android

AutoMath Photo app for Android has been downloadable from Google Play for over a year so you might have already tried the app by now. Unfortunately, it still cannot always recognize your handwritten equations, as AutoMath answers math questions by taking a photo of equations.

AutoMath app screenshot

AutoMath screenshots (from left to right: Photo, Edit equation, and Graph modes)

The features include:

Step by step answers
No internet required
Can solve simple to advanced math questions
250+ Mathematical Functions

AutoMath Photo Calculator Currently supports:

Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Fractions, Division, Inequalities, Powers, Polynomials, Linear Equations, Square Roots, Trigonometry, Algebra, Simplification, and Basic Algorithms

Not supported: Any other math problems such as calculus, systems of equations, complex math, graphing, table of values, and any functions not specifically mentioned.

However, Pocket Math Tutor is available if you sign up with fee: 24/7 Answers & Steps to all your math problems (including math word problems). It says your first question is free though.

It looks like how you take the picture of the printed equation matters the accuracy. For example, while testing, I have found out that if there is an extra line above of the equation, it takes as a fraction and ended up 0 divided by the equation. If you can take a picture by eliminating white spaces and focusing to the equation itself, Automath returns an accurate answer. The Edit mode option, which allows you to modify the equation or enter the equation instead of taking a picture, is helpful.

Automath provides step-by-step guidance to get the answer so you can understand how to solve the problem or graph it. The app may help you to recheck your work or learn to solve problems on the supported Math functions. Just be aware that a step-by-step solution may not be available depending upon the equation. Some users stated that taking a picture of each equation or understanding how to use the app is not easy.

Example Video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYladg1nCYM

Graphing Example : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpIA7JhDZ_Q

Quick Mode Example : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtGmWHB3FZQ

You can download the app from this link: AutoMath

You may also want to compare another app called PhotoMath.

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