Fall Agora 2021 ONLINE: Learn about the news in the field of assistive technology and other activities for the visually impaired

On Thursday, 25 November 2021 starting at 10.00 AM CET, we will live stream the plenary session of the fall Agora 2021 ONLINE – an unique educational event focused on the topic of ICT utilization by visually impaired users.

Interested participants come to Agora to learn about the news in the field of assistive technologies, to exchange their experiences or to try out their skills in working with ICT using a screen reader or magnifier in practice.

Basic information about the plenary session

Event organizer: Teiresias – Center for supporting students with specific needs
Venue: agora.muni.cz, YouTube, Facebook, the Pélion portal, the Poslepu blog, online communication tools
Date: Thursday, November 25 2021, from 10.00 AM to 12.00 PM (noon) CET

Plenary session online

The plenary session will take place on Thursday, November 25 2021 from 10.00 AM to 12.00 PM (noon) CET. Its programme is as follows:

  • Event start, introduction speeches
  • Dave Evans: Unveiling the Vale – lessons learned from making the graphicsless videogame together with the blind
  • Kristýna Savaryová, Filip Hrdlička: BlindShell Classic 2
  • Roman Martinovič: Corvus forward, by leaps and bounds
  • Petr Bláha: b.note – New autonomous Braille display on the Czech market
  • Daniel Jungmann: Orbit Writer – practical Braille keyboard for mobile devices
  • Barbora Bertlová: The ELSA center at CUT Prague introduces ATELION
  • Monika Teichmanová, Hana Malinová, Teresa Bilanová, Zuzana Hlisnikovská: The level of awareness of the visually impaired about government measures during the Covid-19 pandemic

You will be able to watch the live stream in Czech at the Teiresias Center’s Facebook page, and the simultaneous interpretation into English at the Teiresias Center’s YouTube channel.

Contribution summaries

Dave Evans: Unveiling the Vale – lessons learned from making the graphicless videogame together with the blind

The Vale: Shadow of the Crown, the fully blind-accessible story-driven action adventure game without visuals and with RPG elements by the independent studio Falling Squirrel, launched worldwide on August 19 on the PC as well as Xbox, the gaming console from Microsoft.

Although the game may be challenging and possibly not interesting to play for many visually impaired in the Czech Republic and Slovakia because of its heavy focus on the story and its availability only in English, it has still raised quite a bit of interest nevertheless, partly because it was extensively covered with text articles as well as a complete video walk-through on the 4Sense Gaming blog and YouTube channel about games that are accessible to the visually impaired.

Dave Evans, the CEO, game director, designer and the author of the story, will share his experiences and the lessons the team has learned while making the game, including some of the most common tropes about the blind in gaming, the most difficult implementation and design challenges that had to be overcome along the way, as well as the insights gained from working close together with accessibility consultants from the blind and visually impaired community.

Kristýna Savaryová, Filip Hrdlička: BlindShell Classic 2

The new generation of the BlindShell Classic phone offers unique hardware, tactile buttons, voice control and a very high-quality, loud speaker. All of this makes the BlindShell Classic 2 mobile phone a great choice for the blind and visually impaired.

Newly including the WhatsApp Messenger, BlindShell app catalogue, which offers many optional apps, a web browser and assistive tools such as a screen reader and NFC object labeling. Full of both entertainment and life-simplifying features, but still very simple and intuitive. That’s BlindShell Classic 2.

Roman Martinovič: Corvus forward, by leaps and bounds

The application set to make smartphones with the Android operating system accessible to the blind and visually impaired, which is being developed by a team of creators from the Slovak Liptov region under the name Corvus, certainly doesn’t need to be introduced to Agora participants anymore. Corvus has already been mentioned several times at this conference. Today, we are coming back to present the innovations it has undergone recently.

  • Improved controls thanks to the Slovak and Czech voice assistant and the possibility of text writing and editing using the sophisticated Braille keyboard, in the Corvus environment as well as with the Corvus screen reader, which works in multiple modes and languages (again including Slovak and Czech).
  • Excellent optical text recognition enabling fast reading (performed by applying OCR to the image taken by the camera and thus making it possible to quickly read text on the objects around us), document scanning (the ability to scan a specific sheet of paper containing text) while also offering the possibility to run OCR on image files or graphical PDF’s, and history of previously recognized texts.
  • Easily find and listen to podcasts with the built-in Apple Podcasts service.
  • Added apps like Timetables or an Internet Radio player, and Corvus now also includes a smart coach that will teach you how to use your smartphone with this app set.
  • The music player has also undergone significant improvements though, as well as having gained the much requested advanced features (such as equalizer, pitch and speed settings, advanced automatic bookmarks etc.), a new document viewer, which can now also view PDF, RTF, DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, (X)HTM(L) and EPUB files, and new time management features and much more have also been added…

Corvus is, of course, ready for use with Android 12, and it still works on a large number of smartphones of various brands, but it also makes tablets and smartwatches accessible. In our team, we follow the principle that every blind person is different, and so every blind person should have the right to choose their device according to their individual preferences, just like a sighted person does. Apparently because of this approach of ours to integration, Corvus received significant support from Google, being one of the 13 supported projects out of the 800 that have applied. We’ll tell you all about this + some behind-the-scenes gossip and future plans, and we also promise a huge Corvus birthday-Christmas party at the end, in our contribution to the fall Agora 2021.

Petr Bláha: b.note – New autonomous Braille display on the Czech market

The Braille displays made by the French company Eurobraille have had a long tradition on the Czech market in the form of the Esys model, which has gained considerable popularity among the ranks of blind Braille users. Among its most prominent highlights are especially the low price tag, high durability and autonomous features that make it possible to use Esys even separately, without the need to connect it to a computer or mobile device.

The new b.note Braille display boosts this concept to a whole new level.

Among other things, it offers an advanced file manager, the ability to read text documents in a range of different formats, and plenty of other both practical and useful features. Great changes have also been made on the hardware level, and the operating system used allows for future expansion of the b.note’s functionality.

Daniel Jungmann: Orbit Writer – practical Braille keyboard for mobile devices

Bits of information about this new device from the American company Orbit Research have been circulating on the Internet for several years. What the Orbit Writer is like in practice, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and who could benefit the most from the new device will be briefly summarized in this presentation by Daniel Jungmann from the GALOP company. Other innovations related to braille note-taking will also be briefly mentioned – the Orbit Reader 20 and Orbit Reader 40 note takers, along with a new version of the Focus 40 Blue braille note-taking capatilibies.

Barbora Bertlová: The ELSA center at CTU Prague introduces ATELION

ATELION, or the Assistive Technology atelier, is a new department of the ELSA CTU (Czech Technical University) center to support students with specific needs. It continues a nearly 30-year-long tradition started in 1992, when the first department with a similar focus was established at CTU – later known as the TEREZA center. What makes this department truly "new"? First of all, its the significant expansion of the target group, but also, for example, the emphasis on supporting tactile graphics and Braille in a modern and attractive way.

Monika Teichmanová, Hana Malinová, Teresa Bilanová, Zuzana Hlisnikovská: The level of awareness of the visually impaired about government measures during the Covid-19 pandemic

Presentation of the results of the research on the accessibility of information about government measures to the visually impaired carried out by students of Masaryk University.

The partners of Agora

Agora would not be possible without the partners who support it financially or otherwise. We are very pleased that our cooperation with both of Agora’s key partners continues even to this year: the Deloittecompany which remains Agora’s main partner, and the Czech Radio Foundation, which supported Agora with a grant from the Firefly (Světluška) endowment fund. Thank you for your trust and long-term partnership.

In conclusion

The plenary session will again be complemented by other online activities – under the banner of Agora and Pélion, we are continuously preparing tutorials, online workshops and discussion meetings for you (also in cooperation with other partners). Information about these is gradually being published on the Agora website, Poslepu.cz blog, the Pélion portal and our social media.

We will be glad if you participate in the online Agora activities and let your friends or acquaintances who might benefit from participating know about Agora.

We are looking forward to seeing you.

Radek Pavlíček & Pepa Konečný

Zero Project 2022 ShortlistAbout Agora

Agora is a conference aimed at the topic of ICT utilization by visually impaired users. Since 2015, it’s been organized by the Teiresias Center at Masaryk University, with support from the Deloitte company, the Czech Radio Endowment Fund (the Světluška – Firefly – fund), and other partners.

Despite its relatively young age, Agora has already built up an excellent reputation among visually impaired users of ICT. The recent in-person runs have regularly had over 150 participants, virtual ones had thousands of views, and the number keeps increasing. Agora is the perfect place where its participants can learn, in an accessible environment, about how ICT can aid them in overcoming the barriers in their studies or career as well as in the everyday life.

About the Teiresias Center

The event is organized by the Teiresias Center, officially called The Center for Supporting Students with Specific Needs, which has been established by the Masaryk University in Brno in 2000. Its goal is to ensure for the study fields accredited at the university to be as accessible as possible even to blind and visually impaired students, students who are deaf or hard of hearing, who have a motor impairment or other disabilities.

The center is the guarantor of the life-long education programme for the blind, which aims to make it possible for the general public with a visual impairment to increase their knowledge in the individual subjects of the university’s accredited fields of study in a blind-accessible way, regardless of their age or social status.

More information at www.teiresias.muni.cz/en.

Radek Pavlíček

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