1996 – 2011

It occurred to me the other day that I should perhaps reflect upon my fifteen years of Internet familiarity and use. And then, this morning thanks to a Tweet by Sarah Horrigan, I came across this:
http://mashable.com/2011/09/09/internet-yesterday-today/

Spookily, the dates coincide with my own Internet usage.

I’d heard about the Internet for a couple of years but when, in August 1996, I travelled to Australia with workmate Stephen, I experienced it for the first time. Pat and Joe in Berowra (north of Sydney), Stephen’s close relatives, had an Internet connection and I tried and better tried to get a grip of what it was I was looking at. Yahoo! seemed to be Joe’s favourite site and because he ‘searched’ with it AND emailed with it, I was marginally confused about what it actually did.

All rights belong to https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/1d/Altavista-logo.pngDetermined to find out, I used to spend every spare moment I had at work, on one of only two Internet-enabled machines available to Dewsbury College staff. Much of the rest of 1996 was spent looking at Yahoo! and other sites like Alta Vista and Excite.

I also enrolled on an html writing course and although I would never say I could code a full web-site, I learned enough to get by (as I still do).

My time on the college Internet-enabled machines was noticed and I eventually became involved with in-house staff development. I spread my burgeoning Internet skills amongst staff and over those early years, to evening classes, often populated by what we now call silver surfers.  So what else has happened over those fifteen years?

Well, an awful lot.

The college started to use email as a main means of communication (that took some explaining/training); the college (thanks to Becta funding and JANET) began to buy more computers that could be linked to the Internet; more and more sites then began to be blocked by the college, the Internet doubled in size each year (at least); other technologies thrived alongside the Internet (Flash etc.); Microsoft began to create usable tools like Word ’97 and PowerPoint; YouTube came along and blew us all away; MySpace and then Facebook came along; Twitter won the battle of micro-blogs (at the expense of my favourite Jaiku) and – eventually, colleagues began to ‘get’ the technology revolution.

It’s hard to imagine what the next fifteen years will bring.

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iPhone 3GS Accessibility

iPhones have a unique screen reading capability.

This can be very useful for those who are blind or visually impaired. I was very impressed when I first saw this demonstrated at the Apple offices in London. As soon as I’d got my own iPhone to play with – I checked it out. Apparently, all of this works with the latest version of  the iTouch too (but not the 8gig version)

Basically there is a VoiceOver function and a Zoom function.

These can be accessed by clicking on Settings >> General >> (scroll down now) >> Accessibility.  See the image flow below to check your progress.

Screen shots of setting up accessibility functions on iPhoneThe VoiceOver and Zoom functions cannot be used at the same time.

Things to remember when using VoiceOver:

  • To navigate the phone whilst VoiceOver is active, you have to change the way you ‘touch’ the screen. To activate an App or an instruction, you have to first of all tap the required function and then double-tap to open or activate it.
  • To scroll up and down or to flick right or left you have to use three fingers on the screen.
  • When the phone has closed down (i.e. there is no active screen) it is reactivated by touching the home button. The VoiceOver function defaults to read out the time (always present on the opening screen), so you know immediately where you are. One tap at the bottom of the screen tells you what to do next – double-tap to unlock – and the phone opens at whatever screen you were last on and tells you which that was.

Try going to Safari and opening a web page (try a BBC news page). As you tap through the news reports the voice over function will read back the text.

The Rotor

By rotating two fingers (your finger and thumb) on the screen as if you were turning an actual dial, you can change the way VoiceOver navigates the text.

“For example, a flick up or down might move through text word by word. But when you choose the “character” setting, each time you flick up or down VoiceOver will move through the text character by character — perfect when you’re proofreading or editing text.”
From http://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision.html downloaded 04/01/10

and

Entering text

Writing text can be a real trial. You have to ‘tap’ each letter to select it and then ‘double-tap’ to use it. This can be hard work with the small on-screen keyboard for sighted users, so it could be very difficult for those without sight. As a sighted user, I got into it fairly quickly but it’s a very slow process and quite frustrating. It would be interesting to hear what others think?

Zoom

Although most pages can have their size increased by using Apple’s unique ‘pinch and spread’ function – not all respond to this. The Zoom function is therefore quite useful for some sight impaired users as it works on all screens.

Once the function is turned on, you just double-tap with three fingers to activate the toggle. Drag three fingers around the screen to move the magnified image. It is suggested that another double-tap will allow the user to increase or decrease the size of magnification – but I’ve been unable to do that (doh). (Added later — To increase and decrease the level of magnification, you must do a three-finger double tap, keeping your fingers on the screen after the second tap. While keeping your three fingers on the screen, move up to increase magnification and move down to decrease magnification. Lift your fingers off the screen when the desired magnification level is reached. From http://www.nillabyte.com/blog.php?b=2 – below)

See also:
http://www.nillabyte.com/blog.php?b=280
(Report on iPhone Accessibility function use)

http://maccessibility.net/iphone/apps/
A list of Apps that work with VoiceOver

For much more help – visit: http://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision.html

Zoom

Although most pages can have their size increased by using Apple’s unique ‘pinch and spread’ function – not all respond to this. The Zoom function is therefore quite useful for some sight impaired users as it works on all screens.

Once the function is turned on, you just double-tap with three fingers to activate the toggle. Drag three fingers around the screen to move the magnified image. It is suggested that another double-tap will allow the user to increase or decrease the size of magnification – but I’ve been unable to do that (doh).