Accessibility Apps for Library Users

Accessibility in apps has become more and more prevalent in tech development. Large developers, such as Microsoft, have received feedback from users underlining the needs that communities with disabilities have seen as necessary in order to successfully use mobile devices, computer programs, applications, and gaming.

Thankfully, this communication has resulted in a higher industry standard when it comes to creating products that everyone can use regardless of ability.

This is reflected at the Seattle Public Library as many of our online resources have sections devoted to accessibility on their websites or FAQs:

In addition, there are many small developers releasing and improving upon apps for mobile devices that are directly created to make life more convenient and stress-free for disabled communities using these devices.

In LEAP (Library Equal Access Program), we promote and use many of these apps daily to better serve the populations that come to us with needs. It’s our hope that we can see these applications used more widely at the Seattle Public Library in our day to day interactions with disabled patrons.

Here are a few that merit the most attention and all apps are free unless otherwise noted:

1. Seeing AI (IOS) – Described as a “Swiss army knife app” by one user, Seeing AI allows blind and low vision individuals to use their phone or tablet camera to interact with the world. Seeing AI acts as an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tool, reading documents (both printed and handwritten), labels on products, and currency. It also can be used to describe scenes around you, artwork and color, and people’s facial expressions.

Unfortunately, Seeing AI is only available on IOS devices. A similar app available for Android users is Lookout; or Sullivan+ available on IOS and Android devices.

2. weZoom (Android) – A digital magnifier, weZoom has the same capabilities as the CCTV magnifiers at the library, with the added benefit of being able to use it wherever you go. weZoom magnifies text up to 8x with your phone camera, and can be used in conjunction with your phone flashlight. Color filter modes are included; black-white, white-black, black-yellow, blue-white, and blue-yellow.

3. Ava (IOS and Android) – Ava is a live captioning transcription app that can be used in almost any setting. While Ava does have a paid platform for businesses and organizations, it is free for occasional users. The free version supports up to 40 minute sessions of group or individual transcription for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.

4. Google Maps (IOS and Android) – This may be a surprising addition. We looked at many different apps designed specifically for people with physical disabilities. Many of these apps; such as WheelMate, WheelMap, iAccess Life, and fuelService; while useful, do not have the all-encompassing features provided by Google Maps. Nor do they have the popular visibility of an app pre-loaded on many devices. With the relatively new “Accessible Places” setting, introduced in May 2020, users have the ability to look up accessible locations and leave reviews on a large platform. While it is unfortunate that this setting has to be turned on in order to provide accessibility information, when it is turned on, it shows accessibility information as well as reviews for most businesses, transit stops, restrooms, parks, and pretty much any other place of interest worldwide.

5. Voice: OCR Document Reader (IOS) – This app comes highly recommended by a LEAP patron. Voice: OCR is an optical character recognition (OCR) app that allows users to point their phone camera at text or handwriting and say “Capture”, Voice: OCR will take a picture of the text. Once the picture is taken, you can say “Read” and the app will convert the text, while it is converting the text a tune plays and will stop once the text is converted and begin reading the text for you. You are also able to download documents or PDFs to the app in order to have Voice: OCR convert that text as well. It is free for the first 20 scans per month; if a person chooses, they can pay a subscription fee of $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year.

This short list definitely does not exhaust the amount of apps designed for and used by people with disabilities. In my research, I downloaded many more that are free and useful. Included here are those I felt were most useful for our patrons at the Seattle Public Library.

If you have any questions or need help you can contact LEAP via email or call 206-615-1380 (V/TTY).

~posted by Seth T.

The Negro Motorist Green Book Exhibition: March 19 – June 12, 2022

The Negro Motorist Green Book exhibition opens this Saturday, March 19, at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. This immersive, multimedia exhibit was curated by Candacy Taylor, former Harvard fellow and celebrated Green Book scholar, for the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service. The Green Book was published between 1936 and 1966 and became the bible of Black travel during the Jim Crow era, a time when racial segregation was legally enforced in the South, and discrimination was rife in the North and West as well.

This was also the age when the automobile became increasingly important in American life as a symbol of freedom and recreation. But for Black motorists, the experience of the open road was far less free than for whites. Travel for Black people was difficult, undignified, and dangerous. Black travelers were denied service at hotels and motels, at restaurants, at gas stations, and struggled to find places to simply use the restroom, or worse, faced intimidation and violence in “sundown towns.”

Close-up of the cover of the 1939 Green Book. Courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collections.

The Green Book was created by Victor Hugo Green, a Harlem postal worker and entrepreneur, to help Black travelers and vacationers find businesses that would welcome them. According to one memoirist, “You literally didn’t dare leave home without it.”

In many places where there were no hotels or restaurants serving Black customers, Black entrepreneurs, many of them women, ran tourist homes by renting out rooms in their private residences and serving homemade meals. The Green Book demonstrates the creative response the Black business community had to the problems of segregation, discrimination, and violence in travel, and provides important documentary evidence of Black businesses and neighborhoods. Continue reading “The Negro Motorist Green Book Exhibition: March 19 – June 12, 2022”

50+ Free Things You Can Do Through The Seattle Public Library

The interior of the Central LibraryWant to learn a language, improve your job skills, find free one-on-one tutoring, download new songs, learn web design, or find a read-aloud for your child?

You can do all of these things and much more through The Seattle Public Library. A dozen or so of the activities in this list do not even require a Library card.

Happy exploring, escaping and learning! And yes, this is just a sampling. Find many more programs, services, and, of course, our collections, at and at our 27 locations. (Note: We will regularly update this list, so check back. Add your favorite thing that we missed in the comments!) Continue reading “50+ Free Things You Can Do Through The Seattle Public Library”

Tenth Annual Seattle Asian American Film Festival

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival (SAAFF). The festival, which shares Asian American independent films with Pacific Northwest audiences, takes place March 3 through March 13.

All 102 films in the SAAFF’s 2022 program (including 13 feature-length films, 12 shorts programs, and 2 free programs) are available for virtual screenings. SAAFF is also offering 5 in-person screenings, including 4 drive-in screening events.

The 2022 SAAFF programming also includes films that commemorate the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and the 110th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. Check out the film guide to learn about all the films included in this year’s lineup. Information about tickets, scheduling, FAQs, and more can be found here.

Librarians at The Seattle Public Library have created lists of books, films, and online resources to enhance your experience of the festival:

~ posted by Richard V.

#BookBingoNW2021 Made You Laugh

Summer Book Bingo has officially launched, so let’s get reading! With so many great categories to work with, The Seattle Public Library staff would love to help you find your perfect match.

You are in no short supply of hilarious books for the Made You Laugh category. Safe bets include the various works of David Sedaris, the essays Sloane Crosley and even the scientific oddities Mary Roach explores, but here are some more newly released titles that may be of interest to you.

You’ll Never Believe What Happened To Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism, written by siblings Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar, does something few books can: it makes you laugh and think while bringing up cringe-worthy events. The genius of these sisters is that they talk about their experiences with racism through their anecdotes and conversational writing, differentiated with fonts. If a book can be both hilarious and horrifying, then this is it. You may know Amber Ruffin from her work on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Casey McQuiston’s hilarious romantic comedy One Last Stop picks right up where they left off in terms of pop-cultural references, crazy mix-ups, first loves and laugh-out-loud narration. We find August, a cynical twenty-three year old working at an all-night diner. August really isn’t impressed by much and she definitely isn’t a believer. Then she meets Jane on a subway and something is different; very different – like time-displaced different. What ensues will make you laugh and hopefully end up believing in the impossible. It is great follow up to their debut novel Red, White & Royal Blue.

For the audiophiles out there, finding a great narrator can be a challenge sometimes, but the Made You Laugh category gives you an opportunity to hear hilarious stories told in the author’s own voice. Ali Wong’s Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life is a perfect example of this. In a series of letters (chapters), Ali gives life advice to her daughters, candidly and honestly. If you are familiar with her stand up, this books is right up there, so beware the potty humor.

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby was a finalist for the 2021 Audies award for Humor. (Not familiar with the Audies? They are pretty much the Oscars but for audiobooks.) Samantha’s newest collection of short stories includes stories that are often very self-deprecating and often relatable. She tells it like it is, whether it is about her slowly aging or about settling down, while using brutally honest humor to tell her hilarious stories. She does not hold back, which is the best thing about her.

Finally, be sure to check out Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson. While this book describes her struggle with depression and anxiety (something already known to her fans), Jenny takes us on a journey through her experiences with heartbreaking and often devastatingly funny anecdotes, like the time she was attacked by bears or the reason why she can no longer go to the Post Office. She is not afraid to laugh at herself, and we are helpless not to laugh along.

If you haven’t yet, you can download your Bingo card and find some of our curated lists and related articles at our Book Bingo page, and find our Spanish-language Bingo card and lists here! Still looking for ideas? Don’t forget you can ask for a personalized reading list from Your Next 5 Books! Book bingo is presented in partnership with Seattle Arts & Lectures.