Archive for the ‘Accessibility’ category


August 27th, 2013

When I do my library orientation or teach a technology lesson, I sometimes want to record what I’m doing so that an absent student can follow along. Check out Screencast-O-Matic. It lets you record 15 minutes of footage, add your voice, and download the video as a file to your computer – for free. The trade-off is that it puts a watermark in the corner of your video. Normally screen capture tools put a watermark in the center of the video, which sometimes can confuse the person that you’re trying to help. Screencast-O-Matic seems to be a pretty viable solution. It does require you to run a Java applet – something that makes me nervous – but I haven’t seen anything too questionable. The fact that I can start recording straight from the homepage without requiring a login is a bonus.

Wheelchair-accessible playgrounds

July 20th, 2012

Something so simple and yet I can’t believe I’ve never seen this before.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

December 2nd, 2011

Selznick’s Wonderstruck is in the same style as his Hugo Cabret. The massive illustrations contribute significantly to the narrative, although Wonderstruck switches it up a bit. For most of the novel, the text follows Ben, a young orphan in 1977 as he tries to find his father. The pictures, though, are of a young girl in 1927 running away from home. The two plotlines mirror each other in engaging ways and, since one is in text and the other pictures, Selznick can jump back and forth between time periods without too much trouble.

The book explores Deaf culture (lower case “d” is the condition, upper case is the culture) in two different eras. One thing I never really thought about before was that, during the silent movie era, both hearing and nonhearing audiences could enjoy the movie just the same. Once theaters added “talkies”, a whole people group was left out.

Side note: did you know that some movies offer captioning? Check out to search for captioned movie showings in your area.

The book moves quickly, although it feels like there is more text in Wonderstruck than Hugo. I also missed the photos from movies that Hugo had. We do get to meet Lillian Mayhew, an actress from the 1920s that went through personal scandals in Hollywood. We also learn about some of the inner workings of museums around New York.

It’s one to check out. I finished it within a 24-hour period. I really enjoyed seeing a Star Wars poster in the background of one of the drawings, since the book takes place the summer of 1977. One thing you’ll have to look for when you read it: all of the references to E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Mac VoiceOver as an audio file

September 2nd, 2010

Sometimes you need a computer voice reading text. GarageBand does great when you supply the voice, but what if it’s a big chunk of text that you want as an AIFF and don’t have time to record?

In Terminal (found in Utilities) type in:
say "Hello"

You can change the voice. The names of the voices can be found in the VoiceOver utility (like “Bruce” or “Cellos”). Use the -v option in Terminal to choose the voice:

say -v "Bruce" "Hello"

To have it output as an audio file, add -o and then the file name (with the .aiff extension). It will save the file in your home folder (in Finder, it’s the folder that has your name with the house icon).

say -v "Bruce" "Hello" -o hello.aiff

Instead of just simple “Hello”, you can have the voice read from a text file by using the -f option:

say -v "Bruce" -o article.aiff -f article.txt

If the text file is in your home folder, you can leave it as is. If it’s in a different folder, you need to specify the location. ~/Desktop tells Terminal the file is on the desktop, ~/Documents lets it know it’s in the Documents folder. You can also use that same syntax for where to output the audio file.

say -v "Bruce" -o ~/Music/article.aiff -f ~/Documents/article.txt

Here’s the audio file I just created using the text from this article:
(I saved it in GarageBand as an .m4a to play well with browsers.)

Now to figure out how to write a program to run Terminal. I know it’s possible; I’m just not cool enough yet.

There’s so much great accessibility stuff out there. Click here to see what more VoiceOver can do.

Have you seen a Braille monitor? Very cool stuff:
braille monitor