Human speech averages 150 words/minute, but human thoughts run more like 400 words per minute. Steve Rousseau decided to try "podfasting" (listening to podcasts at faster-than-normal speed) at progressively higher speeds to see whether he could consume more of the internet-mattress-subsidized high-quality audio bubble as he could before that bubble burst. Read the rest
Wanda Diaz Merced is an astronomer at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Office for Astronomy Outreach in Mitaka, Japan. Diaz Merced is blind and uses a technique to transform data from astronomical surveys into sounds for analysis. Over at Nature, Elizabeth Gibney interviewed Merced about how "converting astronomical data into sound could bring discoveries that conventional techniques miss." From Nature:
How did you begin your work with sonification?Read the rest
Sonification has been around for a long time. In 1933, for example, US physicist Karl Jansky reported detecting the first radio waves from space, as an audible hiss in his antenna. But at some point, visualization came to dominate the way we interpret astrophysical data. When I was an intern at NASA in 2005, my mentor, Robert Candey, wanted me to create a prototype data analysis tool that would familiarize blind people with space-physics data. So we developed software that could map astronomical data into sound — its pitch, rhythm and volume. Then, in my 2013 PhD dissertation at the University of Glasgow, UK, I proved that it is useful....
Can you describe a real-world example?
There are many. Sonification can help us to study the habitability of an exoplanet, by understanding how much high-energy cosmic and solar rays interact with its magnetic field or atmosphere. Such interactions cause fluctuations of electromagnetic emission from that star system that vary in a way that relates to frequency . BBut because astronomers usually separate out different frequency components into many graphs, this is easy to miss.
I'm not a fan of Twitter's new design: in addition to all the other complaints people have, I hate the fact that if you load a tab with your mentions in it, there's no easy way to refresh it to see new mentions; I also hate the fact that when you click on a tweet to see its context, hitting escape no longer brings you back to the feed (instead, you have to target a tiny on-screen back-arrow that my old eyes have a hard time making out). Read the rest
Jack Berberette's Dots RPG project creates free, CC-licensed shapefiles for RPG dice with Braille faces (you can order readymades from Shapeways); they're part of a larger project to produce accessible RPG materials of all kinds for people with visual disabilities. (via the-a-r-t-i-s-t) Read the rest
Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act bans bypassing "access controls" for copyrighted works -- that is, breaking DRM. Read the rest
Science fiction author, librettist, singer and historian Ada Palmer (previously), science and piracy historian Adrian Johns, and I have teamed up to create a seminar series at the University of Chicago called Censorship and Information Control During Information Revolutions, which compares and contrasts the censorship regimes and moral panics that flourished after the invention of the printing press with modern, computerized efforts to control and suppress information. Read the rest
Before the W3C green-lit its DRM for web-video, we at EFF made a plea to allow bypassing the DRM to add accessibility features like shifting colors to accommodate color-blind people; the leadership dismissed the idea as a mere nice-to-have that companies could be relied on to fix themselves. Read the rest
Microsoft's new accessible game controller has a retro vibe, enormous buttons, and a range of attachments tailored to specific disabilities.
The new Xbox Adaptive Controller, which will be available later this year, can be connected to external buttons, switches, joysticks and mounts, giving gamers with a wide range of physical disabilities the ability to customize their setups. The most flexible adaptive controller made by a major gaming company, the device can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games and supports Xbox Wireless Controller features such as button remapping.
Reminds me of the original arcade Street Fighter "punchable" buttons (see the photo from Ars Technica, below). There's a certain irony here, because (in their primitive 80s form) they were unreliable and made the game too difficult, leading arcade operators to replace them with normal buttons. Because the punch-plates were pressure sensitive, though, the game required six normal buttons to play properly, kicking off the myriads-of-buttons era in which games became markedly less accessible.
Fidget spinners are wonderful. Read the rest
Last June, Portugal enacted Law No. 36/2017 which bans putting DRM on public domain media or government works, and allows the public to break DRM that interferes with their rights in copyright, including private copying, accessibility adaptation, archiving, reporting and commentary and more. Read the rest
At the Disability Rights Legal Center fundraiser gala this past weekend in Los Angeles, Apple was presented with DRLC's Business and Technology Award for their accessibility work, and 'Infinite Flow - A Wheelchair Dance Company' was featured as a cause auction recipient for an Apple Watch Series 3, which was designed with a number of accessibility-expanding features. Of particular note are its wheelchair-specific features, VoiceOver for the blind, and the Taptic Engine (haptic feedback for navigation and notification).
What's the connection between Apple Watch and wheelchair dance?
Activity on the Apple Watch is optimized for wheelchair users. taking into account different pushing techniques for varying speeds and terrain, Apple Watch tracks daily activity, encourages healthy routines through wheelchair-specific workouts, and prompts users to move with Time to Roll notifications.
(...) With sensors configured to address different surface types, inclines, and transition moments, such as moving from a wheelchair to a seat at a desk, the Apple Watch Series 3 is designed with accessibility in mind and ideal for the variety of dancers in Hamamoto's inclusive classes and performances.
Infinite Flow was founded in 2015 by Marisa Hamamoto, a professional ballroom dancer who became temporarily paralyzed, then later regained the full use of her body.
Her group is America's first professional wheelchair ballroom dance company, and works to encourage others to dance inclusively, with and without physical limitations.
Pornhub is the world's largest pornography site and they're now the world's most accessible, with a new, extensive suite of accessibility features for users with visual disabilities: alternative descriptive text for videos, a high-contrast mode for navigation, and custom color-gamut shifting for colorblind people. Read the rest
The Calgary airport authority has apologised for a botched marketing campaign in which it sold Lexus on the idea of designating some of its parking places as "Lexus only" and then, unbeknownst to the car company, used disabled parking spots for the purpose (presumably, they were luxuriously spacious). Read the rest