Update to BBC iPlayer TV 7.3.5

Details of the 10 Jan 2015 7.3.5 update to BBC iPlayer TV

The BBC iPlayer TV application broke in December: programmes would no longer start playing. I’ve now fixed this. The problem is that a Microsoft security update for Internet Explorer 11 stops my program talking to the web page to start the programme. People with Internet Explorer 10 were unaffected. People with Internet Explorer 11 would have to start programmes themselves. This is now fixed, and programmes should always start themselves correctly.

However, the security update prevents the skip and pause functions working: if you have Internet Explorer 11, you’ll find that these controls all disable after the programme loads and starts, and do not work with key presses. Sorry about that!

Technical notes on the problem.

One Switch Mouse

Today we can make available a program for people with significant physical impairments, such as muscular dystrophy. One Switch Mouse was developed by Claro Software in 2010 and has generously been made available by them for free download from the WebbIE site.

Most of the WebbIE software has been based around screenreader users – typically visually-impaired or blind people. However, there are switch users of the WebbIE programs, and a few of the programs have been specially customised to work with switch access: using a dedicated single-clicking device instead of a mouse or keyboard, like a joystick or customised button.

Switch users typically have very limited movement. Progressive muscle wasting conditions like Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) can leave people only able to make very limited, very weak movements – perhaps only a head move, or finger, or toe, or mouth puff.

However, many of these conditions leave the user’s cognitive functions intact – you’re as smart and aware as ever, you just can’t move, or talk, or write. This is incredibly frustrating, of course.

One Switch Mouse tries to help. The mouse is controlled by using one switch, and timing how long you hold it down to control direction of movement and mouse clicking. You can move the mouse around the screen and left-click, right-click, double-clicking, and even hold down and select. In conjunction with an on-screen keyboard for typing you therefore have complete control of a standard Windows computer – and all using one switch. It even works on the Windows login screen and the secure desktop!

One Switch Mouse is free: if you or someone you know or support might benefit, do please download it and try it out.

Guidelines for building accessible video games

Gamers with a disability often lack support in popular video games. If you’re a gamer designer you may not be able to address every potential user, but if you know how to make things easier or more playable then you may be able to implement features in a way that expands the number of people who can use your game.

A great set of guidelines has now been brought together here: Game Accessibility Guidelines. For reference, here are the basic guidelines – they are covered in detail on the site.

Provide details of accessibility features on packaging and/or website
Offer a choice of difficulty level
Ensure that all settings are saved/remembered
Motor (Control / mobility)
Allow controls to be remapped / reconfigured
Ensure that all areas of the user interface can be accessed using the same input method as the gameplay
Include an option to adjust the sensitivity of controls
Ensure controls are as simple as possible, or provide a simpler alternative
Cognitive (Thought / memory / processing information)
Allow the game to be started without the need to navigate through multiple levels of menus
Use an easily readable default font size
Use simple clear language
Use simple clear text formatting
Include tutorials
Ensure no essential information is conveyed by a colour alone, reinforce with a symbol or offer a choice of alternative colours
If the game uses field of view (3D engine only), set an appropriate default for expected viewing environment (eg. 60 degrees for TV, 90 degrees for monitor)
Use an easily readable default font size
Use simple clear text formatting
Provide high contrast between text and background
Provide separate volume controls or mutes for effects, speech and background / music
Ensure no essential information is conveyed by audio alone, reinforce with text / visuals
If any subtitles / captions are used, use an easily readable default font size, simple clear text formatting and provide high contrast between text and background
Ensure that speech input is not required, and included only as a supplementary / alternative input method

Windows 7 UI structure and shortcut keys for screenreader and switch users

Many people using assistive technology have to learn ways of doing things quite different from the “see, move mouse, click” paradigm most users can employ. For (blind) screenreader users it’s vital to know shortcut keys, and for both screenreader and (physically-impaired) switch users a good knowledge of the structure of common Windows user interface artifacts, like Explorer or the Start menu, is enormously important for getting the most out of their system.

Microsoft has provided “A Guide to Transitioning to Windows 7”, a Word document that provides a detailed examination of the Windows operating system user interface for people not using a screen and/or mouse. For example, it describes how to interact with the Ribbon interface used in Office 2007 and 2010 and now in applications like Paint.

It will be of use to high-level screenreader and switch users and user interface and AT developers who want to know how things (are supposed to) work for AT users.

Voice Finger enhancement to Windows Speech Recognition

Voice Finger is a free program that extends Windows speech recognition. The author reports that he uses speech recognition to save keyboard using, being a person with repetitive strain injury (RSI).

The program has a number of shortcuts for key use, like “up thirty” for “move the cursor key up thirty times.” But more interestingly is an alternative for mouse clicking.

Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking – the main speech recognition product – and Microsoft Speech Recognition (Vista and Windows 7) both have a grid mechanism, where you trigger the splitting of the screen into nine numbered sections, then select a section which is split into nine numbers sections, then select another and so on until you are where you want to click. This process of “drilling down” is simple but cumbersome. Windows Speech Recognition gives you another mechanism where you can have every interactable element (text area, button, link and so on) suddenly don a number so you can select it quickly.

Voice Finger gives you another option: it lets you overlay the whole screen with a very fine grid, 44 by 44 cells, labelled from “00” in the top left corner to “;;” in the bottom right. You just say the label, e.g. “az”, and the mouse is moved and clicks there. So you can jump quickly to an arbitrary point on the screen.

If you’re already a Dragon user, you’re probably best with what you know. If you’re a user of Windows Speech Recognition but have good eyesight (that grid is pretty fine) and want some quicker ways to do things then this is worth checking out.

As always, the number one tip for using speech recognition is get a good quality USB microphone. Don’t expect anything usable from your standard microphone jack!

Finally, if you’re not familiar with speech recognition, here are some great videos at AbilityNet on speech recognition.