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On the web: filming blind, iPhone access, deaf music

Emma Emma | 17:34 UK time, Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A day in the life:

There are many videos on the web presenting themselves as an insight into the life of a person with a visible impairment. Some of these can be schmaltzy and many could be considered on the pitying side. When we were sent this film about Jeff, a Canadian blind working dad, who was asked to go through a normal day with a camera attached to his head, we were pleasantly surprised.

The film includes footage of Jeff as he navigates train stations and busy road crossings on his commute to work. As Jeff walks along, he describes how he orientates himself using "sound shadows" and familiar every day noises . He also takes the opportunity to explain that it is him who decides when it is safe to cross the road, not his guide dog.

Music to deaf ears:

Pop singer Lady Gaga

Pop sensation Lady GaGa has said that after seeing deaf young people signing along to her songs on YouTube, she intends to learn ASL, American Sign Language, in order to communicate better with her hard of hearing fans. And that wasn't the only treat in store for deaf music enthusiasts this week.

Finnish Deaf Rapper Signmark played his first UK gig in London last weekend, and US hard of hearing performer Sean Forbes' video single Let's mambo, featuring Oscar-winning deaf actress Marlee Matlin, has just been released.

Sean Forbes spoke at length to me earlier in the year on how he, as a deaf child, became a music enthusiast, met Eminem and began gigging to audiences of thousands.

Two iPhone apps, VizWiz and Can I Eat It, have been launched this week, aimed specifically at blind people. Both make use of the phone's camera and Voiceover screen-reading software, to audibly identify visually presented information.

VizWiz requires the user to take a picture of an object with their phone as best they can. They then record, in their own voice, a question about the picture. A list of different answering options then appears. A user's Twitter followers, internet databases and real people known as web workers can be called upon to view the picture and respond. A reply will usually appear within a matter of seconds.

Can I Eat it scans the barcodes on food packaging and reads their contents aloud. The application also includes an option to quickly establish whether your food intolerances might mean that the scanned product is out of bounds.

Then on Monday, Apple announced updates to many of their products and services, including lots of new accessibility features, even some which weren't particularly aimed at disabled people.

When journalist with no hands, Paul Carter, found out that the volume button will be used for taking photos in future updates to Apple devices, he tweeted,
"Yes! No more using my nose to take pictures".


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