Blind/vision impaired TV, DVD, Cinema & the Arts news

Highlights 2013: Accessibility improvements in navigation apps

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In 2013, there have been some significant developments for accessibility in navigation apps. Navigation apps allow people to use their mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets as tools to help them get around. Most devices come with a built-in GPS and this year major technology companies updated their existing GPS apps with improved features for people with disability. As part of Media Access Australia’s Highlights series, we look back at some of the ways navigation apps have been improved for people with disabilities throughout 2013.

Google Maps

Google improved its GPS app with the introduction of voice-guided directions. Voice-guided directions enable people who are blind or vision impaired to follow walking directions through audible cues for each turn (rather than visual or text cues). Voice-guided directions are also available for driving and walking. While voice-guided directions have been a part of the Google Maps app since last year, it has continued to improve this year with its compatibility with new features and with the text-to-speech software of certain devices.


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Highlights of 2013 – a Christmas card from Western Australia

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Western Australia, with its strong community groups and thriving accessibility scene, contributes a huge amount to Australia’s progress towards access. Here, Media Access Australia’s Western Australia manager Dr Scott Hollier provides an update on the key accessibility events that have taken place over 2013.

In March the largest web accessibility-specific event ever held in Western Australia took place with with the Perth Web Accessibility BarCamp. Run as a more casual ‘unconference’ with approximately 100 people in attendance, there were great presentations across all areas of accessibility, including a humorous debate on whether web accessibility is being taken seriously. The event was very well organised with Gary Barber at the helm and it demonstrated just how much work is being done across all local sectors.

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New audio description business flourishes in South Australia

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Over the last four years a team of dedicated arts access workers in South Australia have worked towards establishing Access2Arts, a disability arts organisation that includes a professional audio description service to bring the arts to life for people who are blind or vision impaired. Access2Arts is soon to complete its first year of operation with a number of successful projects under its belt.

Formed in 2009 as Arts SA’s Disability and Arts Transition Team (DATT), initial purchase of audio description receivers and broadcasters allowed DATT to branch out and offer audio description to venues and arts companies not traditionally part of the fixed venue service, then offered by the Royal Society for the Blind.


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Highlights of 2013: Talking TVs released in Australia

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Over the past few years, the increasing availability of text-to-speech technology in PCs, tablets, smartphones and other electronic devices has made them much more accessible for blind and vision impaired consumers. In April this year, the technology reached the Australian television market with the release of several models in Panasonic’s Viera smart TV range which have a text-to-speech function called Voice Guidance.

Voice Guidance was originally developed by Panasonic’s UK division, in conjunction with the Royal National Institute of the Blind, and the first TVs with it went on sale there in 2012. When activated by the user, it reads out onscreen text including channel names and program information. Prior to the release of these models, the only TV receivers available in Australia with a text-to-speech function were two set top boxes manufactured by Hills and Bush.


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