I am writing to express my frustration and deepp sadness regarding the measures recently adopted by station staff at Victoria Underground Station, concerning provision for assisting blind passengers to and from platforms during the afternoon rush hour. I personally experienced a 35 minute delay at Victoria in August. However my grievance was strengthened by an article published today on the BBC News website, entitled “Victoria Tube station: Staff told not to help blind people”.
The quoted leaked memo suggests that between 1530 and 1930 Monday-Friday, VIPs are advised to travel to nearby stations and avoid Victoria completely. In my view, this is contrary to disability and equality legislation and also indicates a blatant contradiction of TFL’s policy, as stated on the Tube section of the transport accessibility area of the TFL website.
I would be the first to acknowledge the difficulties in sustaining passenger services during the undertaking of vital maintenance work. Nevertheless, it is totally unacceptable for London Underground to pursue this policy of undeserved and unwarranted persecution. Indeed, it is the legal and moral responsibility of station staff to accommodate the needs of all lawabiding passengers wishing to utilise its services.
I am a blind person and therefore, directly benefit from the assistance provided by tireless and thoroughly committed members of London Underground staff. The assistance I have experienced is for the most part, exemplary and highly efficient. I strongly desire this to continue. These measures at Victoria are a phoenomenal backward step. At best they are incompetence, at worst they are effectively communicating that disabled people are second class citizens. It’s utterly deplorable seeing the promotion, encouragement and prosperity of such blatant prejudice, within the very governance of what is supposedly the most sophisticated transport infrastructure in the world. I urge this matter to be addressed swiftly, with immediate priority.
ZoomReader is an OCR app for the iPhone 4,. It is manufactured by Ai Squared, who also develop and support the ZoomText desktop magnification software for Windows platforms. I was encouraged to try out ZoomReader, in light of this reputation. I had not previously attempted OCR on my iPhone and so this is not a comparison between existing IOS OCR solutions. Rather than concentrate on my findings, I have focused on describing ZoomReader and its interface, in order that anyone may make an informed decision regarding its suitability for themselves.
- I tested ZoomReader three times with the same small business card.
- The third attempt yielded the best results, probably because I made more of an effort lining up the shot.
- Accuracy was approximately 85 percent. However I anticipate better when trialing with a larger printed page.
- ZoomReader is currently only compatible with iPhone 4 handsets. It will not run on iPhone 3GS devices.
- There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work with iPad 2 models, but this is not advertised and could be a planned future free upgrade.
There are three main screens which reflect the start, image scanning and OCR stages of operation. Here are summaries of each.
The Home screen
- Contains buttons for settings adjustment, camera configuration, image capture and photo library browsal.
- It is possible to select an existing picture from the iPhone’s photo library to use for recognition. The iPhone’s photo library is also where any saved page images are stored.
The Photo screen
- Contains Save and OCR buttons.
- It is not necessary to save an image before performing OCR on it.
The Text screen
- Contains recognised text, Read, Stop and Share buttons.
- All buttons are self explanatory except the share button. This allows you to copy text to the iPhone’s clipboard, email it or save the original image.
- You would save text output by first copying it to the clipboard and then pasting it elsewhere e.g. a new Note in the Notes app.
- Settings include highlight colour (yellow by default) and reading voice.
- One American male voice is included with the app.
- Two American female voices together with alternatives for foreign languages are available for £1.99 each.
- The included voice, RealSpeak Tom, is also the default voice on Kindle.
- It’s worth pointing out that you can also use the iPhone’s VoiceOver screen reader to read the displayed text.
ZoomReader is clearly designed for efficient text reading on-the-move. It is certainly not meant to be a replacement for the KNFB Reader Symbian software, given the absence of any sophisticated E-text library capabilities. I don’t know how its OCR accuracy compares to other apps in its class, but it is very straightforward and could potentially be quite effective in emergencies.