Why had I never come across the WCAG Theme Song before!? Proves that accessibility can be fun — so humanising!
I myself as a blind person, for example, could really do with a pair of eyes that are always looking where I’m looking and, at the same time, applying some significant smarts to what’s in front of me. OK, so Google Glass only has one eye – but one eye’s better than none believe me!
Apple announced the feature-set of the upcoming iOS release yesterday, and I’m always interested to see the new accessibility features. And like with everything else Apple do, they’re not standing still in this area at all:
iOS 6 comes with even more features to make it easier for people with vision, hearing, learning, and mobility disabilities to get the most from their iOS devices. Guided Access helps students with disabilities such as autism remain on task and focused on content. It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen. VoiceOver, the revolutionary screen reader for blind and low-vision users, is now integrated with Maps, AssistiveTouch, and Zoom. And Apple is working with top manufacturers to introduce Made for iPhone hearing aids that will deliver a power-efficient, high-quality digital audio experience.
It’s easy to be cynical when Apple make a song and dance about how empowering their technology and software can be, like in this video aired at WWDC yesterday — but the fact is, this kind of thoughtful and inclusive application of technology does improve people’s lives.
A lovely little article from the Verge about the videos created by a young boy who has cerebral palsy:
This is Christopher Hills. He’s an Apple fan. He also has cerebral palsy, and as you’ll see in the first video below, he can’t control his muscles easily. The incredible thing about Christopher, though, is despite that, he edited these three videos himself. Not unlike Stephen Hawking, he uses a single button to manipulate his computer, which he presses with his head, connected to a device called a Discover Switch.
As well as being very inspiring and life-affirming, these videos also highlight the fact that with the appropriate assistive technology and software which is accessible, wonderful things can be created by people who are severely disabled. Remember, this is a kid who uses a single switch to work with a video editing application: technology proving to be truly empowering.
Interesting report on The Verge today about Adobe’s proposed roadmap for the Flash Player runtime:
Future bug fixes and developments will be prioritized around two key areas: gaming and the deployment of so-called premium video. Relying on its nearly universal distribution, Adobe hopes to see Flash maintain its position as a leader in browser-based games (something that Google is actively challenging with its Chrome Native Client development kit), and will seek to support its developers with a formalized game dev program and a set of unspecified game services.
I can’t quite see how this is going to play out well for Adobe in long-term, considering that so much browser gaming is likely to be played on mobile/tablet devices — which is the one space where Flash can’t reach.
On the video side of things, Adobe pledges closer collaboration with hardware partners and the delivery of its content streaming and content protection technology to more platforms in native formats.
In short, this means Adobe are forging closer links with Intel and online streaming services like Netflix, Lovefilm etc. Problem with that is that Intel are at serious risk of losing massive market share to ARM-like technologies and the TV ecosystem (whatever that’s going to look like in the next few years), and again: ARM and TV are the two places where Flash doesn’t fit well.
Nobody knows if Flash will even be supported on Windows 8 — if that doesn’t happen, then surely Flash will be pretty much dead in the water.
Nomensa have released the source code of their accessible media player to the public:
With a highly accessible interface, Nomensa’s media player can be used by people with disabilities, even when they don’t use a mouse. The simple design also makes it easy for everyone to access multimedia content on the web.
Nomensa’s media player brings together the best of new and trusted technologies. The option to switch between HTML5 and Flash mean the player can be used across all platforms, including Apple’s iDevice range.
Nomensa believe that technology is a tool that everyone has the right to share and use. Nomensa’s humanised media player encapsulates this philosophy, making it possible for everyone to access multimedia technology. It really is humanising technology at its best.
Good move! It’s a pretty powerful and useful bit of kit, which you can find on github:
Seriously.js is a real-time, node-based video compositor for the web. Inspired by professional software such as After Effects and Nuke, Seriously.js renders high-quality video effects, but allows them to be dynamic and interactive.
In another move towards improving accessibility for users of it’s technology, Apple are rolling out support for Voiceover with the latest 4.1 Apple TV software update. Macworld reports:
The other major feature added with the Apple TV 4.1 software is support for VoiceOver, or spoken menus. This feature can be enabled from the Accessibility submenu of the General menu under Settings. After enabling VoiceOver, the user can set the speed of the voice, from default (pretty fast) to very fast (John Moschitta territory) to slow (normal).
VoiceOver not only reads the name of the menu item you’re on, but it does a good job of reading metadata, including episode descriptions of TV shows. It definitely enables someone with vision problems to navigate through the Apple TV menu system.
I think it’s great that Apple are taking the time to include this kind of thing in their consumer products. Accessibility in most home entertainment systems is pretty lacking, and is something which desperately needs to improve. I personally hat having to negotiate text-heavy PVR menus and iPlayer services through the TV, and have been craving a more responsive way of navigating my media life for years.
Interesting that Boxee (the other potentially big player in the TV media box gadget arena, reviewed in detail by Jon Hicks), lacks any kind of accessible features. I find it interesting that accessibility is taken so seriously in the online space, but we don’t tend to think of it as being important in the world of entertainment. I think that’s going to change as more and more of our entertainment moves online, and interactivity becomes an increasingly important part of engaging with our media: excluded elements of society are going to become more prominent and vocal.
I love my Flip camera – it’s portable, instant-on nature makes it ideal for throwing into my pocket whenever I might have something to film in a hurry.
Because it records in an MPEG 4 format though, it doesn’t provide the easiest files for editing. The software provided with the camera is OK for most things (and it’s great to be able to upload directly to YouTube et al), but when it comes to editing which involves anything more complex than just stringing a bunch of clips together, I need to fall back on something more powerful.
Final Cut Pro is my primary weapon of choice when it comes to video, but it doesn’t natively handle MPEG 4 files very well – and nor should it: MPEG 4 is a hefty codec intended for distribution.
So I’ve had to come up with a little workflow to convert that lovely Flip footage into something which will play nicely with Final Cut Pro. MPEG Streamclip to the rescue!
I love MPEG Streamclip – it’s my swiss army knife for doing any kind of video file wrangling. It’ll handle pretty much any file conversion job you can throw at it, and always comes to the rescue when I need to format A isn’t playing nicely with format B.
So, to get that Flip footage working with FCP, it’s just a case of firing up MPEG Streamclip and opening the a source Flip file (once you’be got them saved to a folder on your hard drive). Then just follow these simple steps:
- Go to the “File” menu and choose “Export to Quicktime…”
- In the “Compression” drop-down choose “Apple DVCPRO HD 720p60″
- Select “Make Movie”, choose a location for your output file, and that’s it.
It couldn’t be simpler!
Why the DVCPRO HD 720p60 codec? Well, the native Flip video format is 720p HD, with a frame rate of 30fps – this is the best fit for conversion. DVCPRO will give you excellent quality video without losing too much in the conversion.
Now, to edit this footage in Final Cut, all you need to do is create a sequence using the “DVCPRO HD 720p30 preset, and you’re away.
An interesting, but inevitable move from Adobe who have released their own HTML5 video player:
HTML5 has received a tremendous amount of buzz, much of it driven by the potential for plugin-free video. However, the limited browser support for the HTML5 <video> tag has forced web designers to scramble for a solution that would work across platforms as well as browsers. To help customers overcome these challenges, Adobe has released an easy-to-use, totally CSS-customizable solution that shifts gracefully from the HTML5 <video> tag to the Flash Player when the tag is not supported. The shift takes place regardless of the screen—from phone to monitor to TV.
Shame that they’ve seen fit to only release it through the horrible Adobe Widget Browser – distributing something which is built on open-source code using such a proprietary technology is a perfect example of how Adobe just don’t get open standards.
Interesting also to see that this is a technology which is based on existing open-source project called Kaltura. Some might say it’s a good thing that Adobe are embracing open-source in this space. I’d say it’s a sign of Adobe failing to innovate, and a desperate bid to play catch-up with an industry which is leaving them behind.