G3 iMac in a manual wheelchair over an old OS X default desktop image.

Weekend Roundup for 3 August 2014

Here are some of the best articles, links, and new products that I have spotted online in the past week or so which have some relevance to Apple products and disabled or chronically ill users …

OS X Links

How to set up OS X’s VoiceOver portable preferences using Dropbox or any cloud drive you like, so they will automatically synchronise between machines.

Screenshot of OS X Notepad and services menu showing many entries from WordService.
Screenshot of OS X Notepad and services menu showing many entries from WordService.

OS X WordService from DEVONtechnologies can help you save keystrokes when writing/editing text. It’s now available free from the Mac App Store.

Some AppleScripts for OS X VoiceOver from Bryan Smart – ideal for use as Keyboard Commander keys.

Mac’s Mail.app Explained – A tutorial for VoiceOver users who are new to Mac OS X Mail.

iOS Links

iOS Braille keyboard app Braillist 2.0 now supports dot 5 contractions and features many other UI improvements.

How to Install and Use the High Quality Text-to-speech Voices in iOS 7.

Timeful is a new and free smart calendar and reminder app that reinvents how you organize your time. It looks very visually oriented, and potentially useful for those with some memory or organisational issues.

iMore’s excellent accessibility section has a bunch of new articles this week, including:

Before Leaving iOS app is free today – looks like a useful memory aid.

IK Multimedia’s iKlip Xpand is marketed as a versatile microphone stand support for iPad-using musicians, but this secure mount looks like it would bolt to most things and might be useful for assistive-technology type mounting too. At US$50 it’s a lot cheaper than most disability equipment.

Other Things

iOS 8 real time voice-to-text feature looks incredible.

No-one Knows The Words A Child Cannot Say – wise words from Dana Nieder about AAC.

Apple Leads in Accessibility, But Can Third-Party Developers Follow?

Home Automation

SmartThings Original “Know Your Home” Kits are available for 20% off! SmartThings say they have older style packaging and will automatically upgrade their own firmware on first use, but they are otherwise identical to new products.

Crowdfunding Campaigns

Jibo: The world’s first family robot is friendly, helpful and intelligent. From social robotics pioneer Dr. Cynthia Breazeal. This looks like it could have a large number of accessibility possibilities in future – I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Monolyth: Control your AC unit with a smartphone. This isn’t for whole-house air conditioning (which could use your Nest thermostat), but rather for room units that cool a smaller area.

Sync, a smartband for your whole family tracks steps, calories, and REM sleep, notifies you if loved ones wander too far and stores emergency health information.

Modbook have also launched a Kickstarter campaign for their Modbook Pro X Mac tablet. These are genuine Mac Pro laptops which are converted with touch screens into high powered touch screen tablets that run OS X. Because they run OS X they have different capabilities than the iPad tablets and for some niche accessibility requirements they may be more useful.

SBrick – SmartBrick Bluetooth LEGO controller replaces the infra-red Lego Technic remote with your iPhone. The SmartBrick is a Bluetooth LE receiver that forms a direct swap for the IR one, enabling you to control your hi-tech LEGO projects with your iPhone. I don’t know how accessible their iOS application will be to start with, but if there’s an application it certainly has the potential to be made accessible so that even severely disabled kids can control lego robotic creations.

Here on ATMac

New articles for this week:

What can Siri do for me?

Maya finds her voice – about a little girl’s progress towards communication using her iPad and iPad Mini with the Speak For Yourself app.

Also popular this week were our duo my Mac won’t stop talking and my iPhone/iPad won’t stop talking – for users who have accidentally turned on VoiceOver and don’t know what it is. I always think of these as my “Accidental Assistive Technology” articles and they get a surprising number of hits!

Lastly, I have added a bunch of links to the Apple/Assistive Technology Links Directory, including a lot of AAC bloggers and a new podcast.

Did you see anything else online that I missed? Leave a comment or drop me a line!

– Ricky

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