Category Archives: Technology

Gadgets, apps, assistive technologies, accessibility

Petition: Apple, Improve the Accessibility in Garage Band for MacOS

Apple’s striving to include accessibility in mainstream products and make them usable by all customers regardless of talents, sensory or physical restrictions is unparalleled in the industry. This is why Garage Band on the Mac is a very popular tool among blind musicians to create and publish their work.

However, myself and other blind users of Apple’s screenreader ‘VoiceOver’ face one big issue in Garage Band; and this issue has been reported by numerous people on numerous occasions: Automations are not accessible.

What does this mean? I, as a blind musician, am unable to fade-in / fade-out individual tracks, regions or define the fade-duration of the entire project. By implication, as these curves cannot be defined by VoiceOver users, other rising EQ effects and the likes are also inaccessible to us.

Garage Band has these basic features which one can expect from an audio workstation, and they are available to sighted users.
This is solely an issue with Garage Band & VoiceOver.
Thanks for sharing and for your support! If we wake up Apple’s accessibility engineers, you may hear more great music by great blind musicians in the near future! 🙂

You can follow this link to sign and share this petition.

I have also put together a short video clip on my Youtube channel to go with the petition.

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Ireland, Ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

I would like to encourage all readers to sign this petition to motivate the Irish government to finally step up their game and ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities (CRPD).

The matter is personally relevant to me and my wife. I am blind, and my wife is in full-time employment. My blindness support is fully means-tested on my wife’s income. In a nutshell:

The more my wife works to support us, the less support funding I get; and
the more my wife works, the more often I cannot avail of her as a driver or assistant, and, as a result, the higher my costs of living are.

This is MY blindness, not hers.

This degrading, demotivating and unfair system is hardly suitable in a 21st-century social state. There are other EU countries which, unlike the Republic of Ireland, have already ratified the UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities, countries where the “blind pension” is not a pension but rather a non-means-tested and non-taxable support payment to compensate higher living costs which blind people evidently have.

The present legislation does not merely deny the existence of blindness-related costs of living but also interferes with the spouses’ fundamental rights under the constitution of the Republic of Ireland.

The right to earn a livelihood

“As a citizen, you have a right to work and to earn a living, whether you are male or female.
The State is under a duty to protect your right to work and earn a livelihood from unjust attack.”

The means test of the spouse’s income is a prime example for an unjust attack on the spouse’s fundamental right to earn a livelihood. The working spouse should be allowed to spend their hard-earned salary whichever way they wish. They should not be held responsible to shoulder costs which are the responsibility of the social state which they already support as tax payers. It has been highlighted that there are other payments, for example, from the Health Service – also means-tested – and tax reliefs.

    I can claim a VAT refund on assistive technology such as screenreader software or my laptop with built-in accessibility features, to which I say: Well, yes! Whilst funding is being made available to make houses wheelchair-accessible, and recurring blindness-related costs are ignored, a one-off VAT refund is the least we can expect.
    My wife enjoys an income tax relief of €600 per year. This might sound decadent, but it amounts to less than €12 per week, which does not even pay for one return taxi ride per week when my wife is at work and unable to give me a lift.

Update:

I furnished ministers Leo Varadkar (Department for Social Protection) and Finian McGrath (Minister of State for Disability Issues) with my thoughts on the present legislation. Here is my follow-up post with some very telling statements.

#HowTo Download #Ringtones for iOS & #Android from Tuunes

I recently made some self-produced ringtones available for iPhone and Android SmartPhones via Tuunes.co/Artists/MaBo

The process was very easy using SnipSell.com as aggregator, and their tech support has been very quick and helpful to answer my questions. I am not advertising SnipSell for any reason other than the comfortable process of submitting my ringtones.

I have been told a few times that people were unable to preview my ringtones; this is why I would like to clarify this process here.

Combining #SkillsBuilding and #WorkLifeBalance with an Album Release

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I released my first EP recently and am accordingly happy and proud. It has been an interesting, exciting journey and a major element in my self-development and a perfect outlet to readjust my focus for other projects which are in the process of completion. Hashtag #PhD. A perfect opportunity!

The EP is called Friend Of The Family; it is available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and other streaming and download services. You can listen to a short promo preview clip on Youtube, and if and when this has sparked your interest, you can find all streaming and download links, song lyrics and the opportunity to grab a free Friend Of The Family ringtone by clicking here.

Besides my musical development, this production has also been an invaluable experience to develop and put to practice a number of skills which come in handy in working environments, too.

Read here for more…

Accessible WorkOut – Easy and at Home – with runtastic

It was with great interest that I read the MIT Technology Review of assistive technology to help the blind get moving. I, too, have not yet found a running group to join or a tandem cycling partner; and the closest gym is in an area that is not easily accessible to me.

Thankfully, the Austrian fitness platform Runtastic.com has a number of apps in the App Store which are accessible to VoiceOver users and thus enable me to stay fit independently at home. Now that we are approaching the season when being active outside is not the most appealing idea for any of us, these apps come in handy for everybody.

Read on for a review and how I use these apps…

#WorkAround to move apps from HomeScreen bottom row in #iOS8 with #VoiceOver

With iOS8 came a VoiceOver bug which prevents users to move apps from the bottom row of the HomeScreen. I have all my apps on one HomeScreen on my iPhone 5s: four apps which I use very frequently are in the top row, all the others are in folders beneath; the bottom row is empty. Whenever I download a new app, this ends up on page 2 of the HomeScreen. Apps moved from there to page 1 used to end up in the empty bottom row from where I was not able to move them. Until I stumbled upon a WorkAround.