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OPLIN 4cast #355: The BARD goes mobile

Posted in 4cast

BARDA couple of weeks ago, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) released the BARD mobile app for iOS devices, with an Android version coming soon. BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) has been available on desktop computers for some time, but this mobile app, which has been in development for several years, was highly anticipated by the blind community. Why? Because mobile devices, particularly smartphones, have become an important part of life for the visually impaired, due to the many accessibility tools they can provide.

  • Visually impaired turn to smartphones to see their world (New York Times/Nick Bilton)  “Smartphones and tablets, with their flat glass touch screens and nary a texture anywhere, may not seem like the best technological innovation for people who cannot see. But advocates for the blind say the devices could be the biggest assistive aid to come along since Braille was invented in the 1820s.”
  • What is VoiceOver (MacForTheBlind)  “Apples innovative gesture-based technology gives the user complete control over their iDevice, and access to a variety of applications (note that all third party apps are not necessarily compatible with VoiceOver). The user receives speech feedback via VoiceOver, and can even connect to several different types of refreshable Braille displays as well.”
  • A collection of accessible apps for your Android device (AFB AccessWorld/J.J. Meddaugh)  “Google Goggles is one of the simplest apps for object recognition. I use it to recognize packages of food and currency among other things. It also includes some simple text recognition, handy for getting the name or number off of a business card. Plus, your previous searches are saved, so you can go back later and review previous results.”
  • NLS Bard for iOS! A long awaited app (National Federation of the Blind/Amy Mason)  “The NLS app is pretty great. I finally can carry one device with almost all my books on it, and I love that. The app itself is responsive and works quite well, the Braille navigation has been handled cleverly, and with the ability to side load other Braille books, it’s a pretty powerful tool.”

Eligibility fact:
To use BARD, a person must be eligible to receive library services from the NLS, which most often means their visual acuity with correcting lenses must be 20/200 or less in their best eye.