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Technology Newsletter

Welcome to the 50th edition of the NCBI Labs Technology Newsletter.

We would like to dedicate this newsletter to our former colleague and good friend Paul Traynor who sadly passed away 3 years ago today. Paul worked with NCBI as our chief technical support officer for almost 20 years. He is greatly missed by everyone who knew him.
This week in our newsletter we outline how to add Alternative Text (Alt text) to images in documents to make them accessible for a screen reader user.
We find out how you can stop WhatsApp from downloading and saving photos and videos automatically on an Android and iPhone.
We go through how to adjust the Verbosity settings in VoiceOver on an iPhone to control how much detail VoiceOver will read back.
Also this week, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Technology Newsletter we are giving away an Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker.
Finally, we share details about several new Virtual Training Courses set to commence soon on JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver and Touch Typing.

Don’t forget that NCBI Labs technology podcasts are available on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify Podcasts, as well as the NCBI YouTube Channel. If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home you can simply say “Alexa” or “Hey Google”, “Play NCBI Labs Podcasts” to listen back to previous recordings.

Win an Amazon Echo

To celebrate the release of the 50th Edition of the Technology Newsletter, this week we are giving away an Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation. Simply fill in our Competition Entry Form to be in with a chance of winning. Entries will be accepted until Thursday 22nd April.

Technology Quick Tips of The Week

Windows Shortcut

Adding Alternative Text to an Image 
You can create Alt text for images in your documents (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) as follows:
  1. Place focus on the image you want to add Alt text to and then press Shift + F10 (or the Applications Key). You can also right-click on the image.
  2. Arrow down the context menu to Edit Alt text, then press enter.
  3. In the Alt Text pane, type 1-2 sentences in the text box to describe the image and its context to someone who cannot see it.
Tip: It is best to keep Alt text accurate, concise, and generally no longer than 1 or 2 sentences. If longer descriptions are needed you can put them in the prose around the image or use a hyperlink to open a new document with more descriptive text.

How to Stop WhatsApp auto downloading Photos, Videos, and other Media onto your Phone
WhatsApp is a very popular messaging app and is great for sharing all kinds of content but if you are not careful it can take up a lot of memory on your phone or tablet. Today we will cover both WhatsApp on android and iPhone as they are very similar.

On iPhone
1. Open WhatsApp and go to the Settings menu on the bottom right and double tap on it.
2. Swipe right until you hear storage and data and double tap.
3. Swipe right until you get to the heading media auto download, you will hear photos, video, audio, and documents.
4. If you double tap on any of these, you can choose the never option.
Now only the files you choose to download manually will appear on your phone.
On the iPhone you also get an option to turn off photos and videos showing up in your camera roll. To do this open WhatsApp. Then double tap on the Settings tab on the bottom right of the screen. Swipe right until you get to chat, then swipe right until you hear save to camera roll and double tap to toggle it to off.
Note this option is also available on Android but it is labelled slightly differently. On Android, it is labelled show newly downloaded media in my gallery, and this can be toggled on or off.
On Android
1. Open WhatsApp.
2. Tap the settings icon on the top right corner of the screen, next to the search icon, to open the settings drop down menu.
3. Select the last item on the drop-down menu, ‘settings’, and tap to open.
4. The 5th item on the next page is ‘Storage and Data’. Tap this to open it.
5. On the bottom half of the screen there will now be three options for the media auto-download settings. The options are under the headings ‘When using mobile data’, ‘When connected on Wi-Fi’ and ‘When roaming.’
6. Tap on any one of these to edit the settings for that case. After selecting a particular case, untick the box next to each option on the pop-up menu to select whether that media will be automatically downloaded. The options are Photos, Audio, Videos or Documents.
Example: If the box next to Photos is ticked, all photos sent to you via WhatsApp will be automatically downloaded and stored on your phone.
Note: files that are sent to you via WhatsApp and not automatically downloaded can still be viewed in WhatsApp and downloaded by tapping on them in the chat or conversation.  

VoiceOver Gesture

Changing Verbosity Settings
Depending on what kind of VoiceOver user you are, you may want less or more information read back to you. In some cases, it’s just annoying to get information about tables, columns and rows announced when reading emails and newsletters. If you like to read Wikipedia articles these tend to have a lot of embedded links which can hinder the reading experience. Embedded links can also be toggled on or off in the verbosity settings.
You can choose options to have VoiceOver speak hints, punctuation, uppercase letters, embedded links, and more. VoiceOver can even confirm rotor actions. Today we will concentrate on how to toggle on and off row and column numbers.
  • First go to Settings and then Accessibility and then swipe right to VoiceOver and then swipe right to verbosity and double tap to open.
  • You can also ask Siri to open VoiceOver settings and then swipe right over to verbosity settings and double tap.
  • Now swipe right with one finger until you hear row and column numbers, on, if you double tap here you can toggle this setting to off.
Going forward column and rows will not be announced by VoiceOver and it will improve your reading experience in some cases.

Virtual Training Courses
NCBI Labs IT trainer Miriam Kelly will soon be delivering several Virtual Training Courses. Please find details of these courses below. If you would like to join please email
JAWS with Outlook and Gmail Course: 14th April 11:00am – 1:00pm x 2 Wednesdays (Full)
NVDA Shopping on-line Course:
28th April 11:00am – 1:00pm x 1 Wednesday (Full)
JAWS Shopping on-line Course:
11th May 2:30pm – 4:30pm x 1 Tuesday
Touch Typing Beginners Course:
12th May 11:00am – 1:00pm x 6 Wednesdays
Beginners iPad Course with VoiceOver:
17th May 11:00am – 1:00pm x 3 Mondays
JAWS Internet and Outlook Course:
25th May 2:00pm – 4:00pm x 2 Tuesdays
NVDA Shopping on-line Course:
8th June 2:00pm – 4:00pm x 1 Tuesday
JAWS with Outlook and Gmail Course:
14th June 11:00am – 1:00pm x 2 Mondays

NCBI Labs Technology Live Events 

We are running Technology Live events during the COVID 19 crisis on topics that will support you.

All events are recorded and made available as podcasts and on YouTube for you to listen to or watch back afterwards.

To listen back to previous Live Events please select the button below.
NCBI Live Events YouTube Playlist

Live Event 41 

On Tuesday 20th April we will be holding our 41st Live Event at 2:30pm.
This week our conversation turns to accessible app development and the research that is involved in coming up with new concepts for assistive technology. To find out more we will be joined by Susan McKeever, Senior Lecturer from Technological University Dublin. Susan will also be telling us about a new navigational app for people with sight loss that is currently being designed by her research team at TU Dublin.

Please follow the link below to join the Live Event.
Live Event 41

Technology Support Line 

We offer a dedicated support line and email address for technical support related to assistive and mainstream technology. 

The service is free for people with sight loss and their families. We also offer technical advice on assistive technology to schools and employers. 

The Technology Support Helpdesk is operated between 09:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday. 

Contact NCBI Labs nationwide: 1850 92 30 60 or 01 5312975. 

Email NCBI Labs

Subscribe to NCBI Labs Podcasts  

NCBI Labs Live Events are hosted on Apple Podcasts and Spotify as well as other popular Podcasts Directories.

Please subscribe to the following and give us a listen on your favourite device.

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts

Support NCBI  

Your continued support for NCBI’s work to help people with sight loss is hugely appreciated. Please click the link below for more information on how you can help. 

Support NCBI

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