Big Font App Highlights the Versatility of Android.

Despite Android Nougat’s new display feature that allows users to increase display size, so that everything appears larger, in my experience, its five screen resolution levels aren’t quite enough.  Of course, there is Android’s magnifier feature, which allows users to magnify the screen so much that they only see part of the screen at a time but the challenge is – you only see part of the screen at a time!
But have no fear!  Android’s versatility shines through yet again with the Big Font app, which rather than magnifying the entire screen only magnifies the font.  While Android has four font sizes to choose from (seven if you’re on a Samsung), Big Font takes it a step further, allowing users to increase (or even decrease) font sizes up to 1000% of the original size!  Not only that, but users can even store preferred font sizes for easy switching in the event that their preferred font isn’t practical in certain apps.
One challenge with Android’s built in font size options is not all apps support the larger fonts.  However, with Big Font, the font size is overridden while Big Font is running, so even apps such as Facebook & Twitter have increased font size.  Since posting my original video review of the app, improvements have been made so that users are no longer required to re-start their device in order to switch font sizes, so if the larger font causes overlapping text in the occasional app or causes text to run off screen in another app, no problem!  Simply tap on the Big Font panel in Android’s notification settings to adjust the font size & you’re all set!  Personally, I have two or three font sizes I switch between depending on what app I’m using but only have to occasionally switch my preferred font size.
What’s so great about this app is it comes with both a free version & a more feature-filled paid version, but the free version should be more than sufficient for many users.  There does come a point where the larger font sizes are just too big for even the largest screen phablets out there, even for legally blind users, so I recommend trying out the free version first to see if its largest font size (250%) or smaller is sufficient.  Personally, I have two or three font sizes I switch between while using Big Font but usually stick with 142%.  Although it’s not quite as large as I’d like, I find it results in less overlapping text while still being big enough to increase ease of use for text-heavy apps such as Facebook & Twitter.  One downside to the free version is the adds, which now pop-up on the entire screen, whereas in earlier versions of the app, they were much less intrusive, but you can easily close the ads by tapping the “X” on the upper right hand corner of your screen, and so far, I’ve noticed they only tend to come up when you’re directly in the app to change the font.  What’s your preferred font size in Big Font, and for those who did decide to upgrade to the paid version, was it worth the upgrade?
Big Font can be downloaded for free using the Google Play Store app, or you can click here to sign into Google Play on your browser to initiate the download, which will then automatically send the app to all your Android devices.

 

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How to Change Your Ambutech Slimline Cane Tip

So you’ve had your Ambutech Slimline cane for a while now and perhaps you’re wondering how to change its tip.  While different to how you’d change a regular Ambutech cane tip, the process is very simple, once you know how it’s done.  To see my video on how easy it is, click the video below.

 

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Low Vision Video Games: JumpinSauceRS

Being a techie and geek at heart, I of course grew up playing video games. Having some functional vision, I grew up with the classics such as Atari, Nintendo and super Nintendo. However, as games gained in an increasing level of realism over the years, I found myself having more & more difficulty trying to play, as I would visually get lost, and not in a good way!  Instead of immersion, I just felt confusion and frustration! For instance, I used to play a game called Tomb Raider but would get killed every time by the tiger coming out of the dark that I just never could see! Another game I played, Unreal, was great until I permanently got stuck in a lake, unable to see the details well enough to locate the underwater cave I needed to escape!

Little did I know, There is a whole other world of video games out there specifically created for the low vision community! What’s better, some of these games are playable by both low vision and sighted gamers, so everybody can join in the fun!  Others are specifically for low vision and blind users and use 3D spacial audio only, thus are coined audio games. I will explore these at a future date.  Additionally, some games, though not specifically intended for those with low vision, are still compatible with voiceover on iOS devices and therefore still playable by the low vision community.

The first game I took a look at back in June, 2016, is by a UK company called Audazzle.  What I love about this game is how it was created. It’s creator, Selwyn Lloyd, has several children, one of whom is totally blind. In an effort to find ways to help his daughter feel more included, he came up with JumpinSauceRS, an arcade style space shooter game, playable by both blind, low vision and fully sighted a like.  What’s better, the game is available for both iOS & Android & was pretty much identical when I tried it out in June.  To see the game in action, click the link below for my video review.  Meanwhile, what games would you like me to cover in future? Be sure to drop a comment below or over on my YouTube channel!

 

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Smart TV Accessibility

CBM LogoYour smart TV may be even smarter than you realize! Shortly after upgrading to a smart TV about a year ago, I stumbled upon a number of accessibility features built right into my new TV! The great thing is you do not require an extra device such as an Apple TV or Google Chrome cast in order to use them. While the features are nowhere near as polished as those found in AppleTV, they do make the TV a bit easier to use.  In this week’s low vision assistive tech video, I demonstrate a few of the accessibility features that came with my Samsung TV.  For those of you with other brands of smart TV’s, I’d love to know if your TV has similar features!  I had no idea Samsung built accessibility into their TV’s, so perhaps there are other “blind mice” out there squinting at their TV unnecessarily.

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How to Make Your Mac Speak Text Selectively

CBM LogoIf you’re like me, constantly using voice over can sometimes drive you crazy! So, if you only need to use voiceover occasionally, or if you’re like me and alternate between voiceover and magnification, you will want to check out this weeks video, where I show you the built in text to speech option.  It’s a great way to have your Mac speak text selectively without having to hear every single item on the screen. Of course, not all visually impaired people will want to use this option. For instance, if you’re completely reliant on voiceover, or other text to speech software  such as Jaws for Windows, this obviously won’t be practical for you. However, if you are able to use a combination of magnification and voiceover, it’s a great alternative.  I particularly like it for reading long selections of text or text that’s difficult to see due to excessive graphics or a poorly contrasting background.  It’s also much easier to use than voiceover because you don’t have to rely on it for navigation and therefore there are minimal keyboard shortcut commands to memorize.  Best of all, it’s built right into your Mac!  No third party software required! :)  To my fellow “blind mice” Mac users, I’m curious to know, when it comes to voiceover versus text to speech on your Mac desktop or laptop, which do you prefer and why?

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Does Virtual Reality Work with Low Vision?

CBM LogoLately, there’s been a lot of excitement in the tech world about virtual reality.  As someone who’s legally blind with no depth perception, I have often wondered how well a VR headset would work for someone like me, especially since 3D movies leave a lot to be desired!  For one, the 3D effect is lost on me with only one eye having any slightly useful vision, the 3D glasses dramatically reduce contrast for me to the point everything is even more difficult to see, and if I don’t wear the 3D glasses, everything looks blurry!  Needless to say, I was more than a little skeptical as to whether or not a VR headset would even remotely work for me!  So, when given the chance to try a friend’s Samsung Gear VR, I jumped at the chance to check it out!  To my surprise, the experience was better than expected & could be quite promising given a few improvements.  To watch my first time experiencing a VR headset, check out this weeks tech video below!  In time & with some modifications, I think the future of virtual reality could actually be quite exciting for some of us with low vision.  For example, I am a huge concert-goer – so much so, I quite often travel crazy distances to see my favourite band.  However, even from the front row what I see from six or so feet away, someone with 20/20 would see from 100 feet away.  How awesome would it be if they could design a virtual reality headset that would allow those of us with visual impairments to experience concerts & other shows with much more detail?  I’m sure that kind of advancement is a long way off, but I’m sure they’ll get there eventually!  After all, holograms are now a reality, whereas 30 years ago, they were pure science fiction!  It’s just a matter of time, IMHO!

For those who are more interested in the assistive tech side of my videos, I’ll be returning next week with an assistive tech tip video for you, so stay tuned!  🙂  Meanwhile, for those of you who have experienced VR for yourself, how well did it work with your particular visual impairment?  How do you think virtual reality could help those of us with low vision in the future?

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Why Review Everyday Tech as Someone with Low Vision?

CBM LogoIf you’ve been tuning into my YouTube channel for awhile, you’ve probably noticed I don’t exclusively focus on accessible tech.  I do this because we are not in a bubble & not everything is custom made for the visually impaired community, and then there is the fact that a lot of what is made specifically for us is often overpriced due to us being a smaller segments of the market. Over the past few months, I have reviewed everyday tech products such as the JBL Charge 2 portable bluetooth speaker, where I talk about how tactile its buttons are, and more recently I reviewed the Audio-Technica ATR 2100 USB/XLR microphone, pointing out how its flat USB could be mistaken for USB type C.

As someone who’s often determined to figure things out for myself, admittedly I sometimes take much longer than anyone should have to to figure things out due to my low vision, but nothing beats the satisfaction of being able to do things myself that some might assume I wasn’t capable of simply because I am legally blind.  Heck, sometimes I’m not even sure, myself, I can do it, but I still like to try! ?  Take for example, this week I was so proud of myself because I managed to replace and install the RAM on my 6.5 year old iMac all by myself! This is something I have never attempted to do before, and it took me 12 times longer than its supposed to take a regular sighted person, but the point is I did it and I did it without any sighted assistance!  My hope Is, by featuring everyday tech from time to time, as well as sharing my own trials & tribulations with said tech, I can help others use everyday tech products despite the challenge of low vision, and in the very least help you decide if a product is right for you.

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The biggest challenge I had with replacing the RAM was those darn microscopic screws older iMacs come with!  I had the right screwdriver, a Phillips #2, which I purchased specifically for this endeavour, but good lord, was it a challenge being able to feel if I had it in the correct place!  I nearly gave up half a dozen times but persevered & eventually they came loose!  The second challenge was knowing whether or not I had the RAM in far enough!  In fact, initially I didn’t, and to my dismay was greeted by the dreaded “beeeeeeeep” every time I turn my computer back on!  Eventually I got brave & pushed just a little bit harder – ok, a LOT harder, you really do have to push them hard, but having never done this before, I was scared I’d damage them!  Fortunately, they finally clicked into place & all was well!  So, now I not only have the satisfaction of having done it myself, I’ve bought myself back a ton of time, since video editing will no longer take half a day!  This week’s video only took a third of the time it normally does for me to complete, thanks to the increased RAM!  It was so strange not being stuck in front of the computer for hours editing!  I almost didn’t know what to do with myself, LOL!

What is the first product that comes to mind that you have personally used that took you longer to get the hang of because of your visual impairment?

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A Simple Yet Highly Customizable SMS Replacement for Android

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Font too small? Colours don’t work well with your visual impairment? If you’re looking for a replacement SMS app for your Android device, this one is definitely worth considering, and best of all, it’s free!  In this weeks Everyday Tech video, I take a look at Textra, a simple & highly customizable SMS alternative.  Not only does it offer high contrast font in many sizes, you can also customize the look of the text bubbles, as well as several aspects of the app itself!

One important thing to note is this app is NOT 100% accessible with TalkBack due to unlabelled buttons, so if you’re completely reliant on TalkBack, I’d suggest sticking with your phone’s default SMS app. Thanks to Waqas for pointing out my omission on this in the final cut of my video.  I actually did have it in the original unedited version but accidentally deleted that bit during editing!  Oops!  Also, just an FYI, a few days after filming this review, I noticed an ad had since appeared, however, it’s tucked away inside a text message at the top of the list, which isn’t too bad.  I quite easily ignore & skip it.  To get rid of the ad, you can purchase the pro version, but like I said, for the price of free, it’s easy to ignore it.  I like the fact they’ve tucked it away inside a message, rather than splashing it across the screen, yet they make it quite clear it’s an ad, so if you don’t want to click on it, you don’t have to.

What’s your favourite SMS app?  What SMS app should I review next?  Be sure to leave a comment below!

 

 

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First Ever Circle of the Blind Mice Subscriber Appreciation Contest Winners!

CBM LogoAs promised, this week’s vlog announces the five winners of the first ever Circle of the Blind Mice subscriber appreciation contest, sponsored by the folks over at Visor, who were kind enough to donate five promo codes, so that five lucky subscribers over at the Circle of the Blind Mice YouTube channel could download the app for free on their iOS device!  Over the next few days, I’ll be contacting the winners via their YouTube inbox!  First, I will send a message to confirm I can reach you.  If I haven’t heard back from you by the end of day on Tuesday, May 10th, I will draw from the five alternate winners on Wednesday, May 11th, so be sure to check your inbox!  Please note, I haven’t sent out the messages yet.  I’ll do that in the next 24 hours.  Once we’ve made contact, then I will send you the promo code. To redeem the code, simply log into the iTunes Store, click Redeem, enter the code & the app will start downloading immediately!  Easy-Peasy!  🙂

Thank you again to everyone who’s subscribe, shared & commented on my videos over the past month!  When I started the contest two weeks ago, I had just reached 74 subscribers, and now I am six away from reaching my first 100 subscribers!   I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, that may not sound like a lot, but it means a lot to me!  After losing my job of nearly two decades last year with employment opportunities not exactly growing on trees in my region at the moment, doing these videos for you all gives me a purpose & a reason to get up in the morning…errr…afternoon (I’m usually up all night doing these videos!!!). 🙂  Hopefully amongst all my babbling, you’ve been able to learn something new somewhere along the way. 🙂  I know I have!

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Acrobat Ultra HD Mini LCD 13″ Magnifier – Powerful, Portable & It’s Got a Remote!

This week’s tech video is all about one of the most powerful electronic magnifiers I came across back in February, 2016, at the second annual CCB-Aroga Tech Fair, which took place at the CNIB!  Not only does it have extremely powerful ultra HD magnification, it also comes with a remote control & is portable!  So, if you’re a student or someone who needs more than just your average magnification while keeping both hands free as you work, this might be something worth considering!  Be sure to check with your local blind & low vision organization, as they likely have a program in place to help offset the cost.  In many cases, you can end up paying a fraction of the retail cost.

 

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