Check out Jeff Bishop’s The Desert Skies web site and follow his Podcast as he and his family enjoy their Disneyland vacation. We wish we were there!
By the end of this year, Microsoft says it will begin public beta testing of a new consumer based anti spyware, antivirus and firewall product known as OneCare. Check out this PC World article for additional details. The question is, will Microsoft care about us by insuring the accessibility of OneCare?
There has been an absolute lack of media coverage of yesterday’s rally at the Department of Education in Washington D.C. to stop the downsizing of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. This begs the question, do we count? Of course, sadly, the answer seems to be a resounding “no”. Has anyone located any media coverage? If so, please comment.
Screencasting is a way to quickly and easily distribute short video presentations. Jon Udell, a blogger and columnist at the IT publication InfoWorld, advocates the widespread use of screencasting as a means of providing effective training materials in the form of brief combined audio and video presentations. As the focus of screencasting appears to be on the video aspects of the technology, the concern is that the blind will be left out of the process entirely. Imagine what could happen if an employer provides the bulk of its training in the form of inaccessible screencasts and the employer doesn’t want to take the time or expend the resources necessary to make it available to a blind employee in an accessible format. This is an old story we hear over and over. When will the big players in the mainstream technology industry learn to understand that it is vital to insure reasonable accessibility to as many potential users as possible so as to avoid denying equal participation to everyone? This is new technology. There is no time like the present to insure that accessibility measures are built into its design now. Anyone have any thoughts? What has been your experience with screencasting technology and the accessibility of the resulting presentations?
It appears that Microsoft is entering the field of RSS aggregator web sites with its Start.com incubation experiment. RSS aggregators allow Internet users to collect and quickly stay current with blogs, Podcasts and all other web sites that provide their information in the form of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. In this arena, Microsoft will be competing with such currently established web based RSS aggregation sites as BlogLines for an increasing usage share of those learning to take maximum advantage of all that RSS has to offer. If successful, it can be safely assumed that the service provided by the Start.com experiment would be integrated into those already provided by Microsoft’s free and premium MSN portfolio of web based offerings. Microsoft’s approach to providing equal accessibility to Start.com is unique. Rather than providing a separate accessibility site or potentially limiting the visual appeal of the primary site, Microsoft has chosen to add a clearly defined link at the bottom of the page that enables the user to turn on and off “accessibility mode” on the fly. Preliminary test show that, once activated, “accessibility mode” does enable a blind person to use the site effectively.
Please feel free to comment on this unique approach. Let’s make sure to provide feedback to Microsoft on the effectiveness of this “accessibility mode” scheme as it will probably start popping up on other Microsoft web sites in the near future. Have you seen it implemented elsewhere on the Internet? How is it working for you?
I have just read another message on one of the blind community e-mail lists concerning the initiation of yet another open source screen reader for Windows. That makes two projects purporting to be working on the same goal: the creation of a free, user friendly open source screen reader for Windows. While I fully realize that two doesn’t amount to a “proliferation” of such projects per se, I am concerned nonetheless. Resources are extremely limited, especially in the blind community. I’m not sure the “market” will handle two open source screen readers. One project will receive much more attention than the other, while the constant reinventions of the wheel, so to speak, will result in much needless duplication of efforts. Let’s consider combining both existing open source Windows screen reader projects into one and encourage others with similar ideas to join the existing efforts. Anyone have thoughts on this?
This afternoon, I wrote the following letter to Speakeasy’s management team praising them for providing high quality Internet service and excellent customer support. I also asked them to address some minor potential accessibility issues. Please feel free to share your thoughts on this approach.
May 11, 2005
Dear Mr. Apgar, Mr. Chatterley, Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Duncan, Ms. Hutchinson and Mr. Hausske,
I am a blind information technology professional, accessibility advocate and publisher of the Blind Access Journal found at
The purpose of my writing to all of you on the Speakeasy management team is to thank you for the high quality Internet service and customer support provided
by Speakeasy and to encourage you to continue the great work by keeping the needs of all your customers in mind.
My Tech+ OneLink DSL service was installed approximately three weeks ago now, and I haven’t looked back for one second since that time! My Internet service
has been flawless! It has been necessary for me to contact your customer support team either by telephone or online a few times only to obtain answers
to some noncritical technical questions and to ask for an electronic copy of the manual for the Broadxent 8012-V DSL modem provided with the service.
In each and every case, I have received prompt, professional service. My questions were answered intelligently every time.
Recently, I became aware that Speakeasy is in the process of redesigning its online invoices, procedures for delivering these invoices and, perhaps, other
aspects of its web site. I was informed that, for privacy and security reasons, full text copies of invoices would no longer be provided via e-mail.
Instead, a link to the online copy of the invoice would be supplied for access upon valid log on to the Speakeasy account. A link to the redesigned web
based invoice was provided. For the most part, the invoice is reasonably accessible and easy to comprehend. I did note a couple of places where missing
alt text tags and confusing formatting made reading this statement a bit of a challenge for those of us who depend on screen reading software in order
to access our computers. This morning, I decided to create ticket number 843444 concerning this issue. I am asking that full text e-mail copies of invoices
in the old format continue to be made available for blind and visually impaired customers and/or that the minor accessibility issues with the web based
invoices be resolved before final implementation of the new procedures. My ticket was politely answered by Jeffrey Cornish. He thanked me for my feedback,
indicated that the needs of the blind and visually impaired had not previously been on their minds until I brought them to his attention, that it would
be escalated to his lead and that he would make my ticket close automatically pending my reply. I have asked Mr. Cornish to keep the ticket open until
confirmation had been obtained that the accessibility challenges would be resolved.
Blind professionals such as myself absolutely depend on the Internet to participate in critical educational, employment and even home management and leisure
activities. I use the Internet to conduct such wide ranging activities as access my bank account, shop for groceries, perform my on call duties as a technical
support engineer and advocate for greater accessibility for the blind through such vehicles as the Blind Access Journal. Dedicated, reliable Internet
service with top notch customer support is absolutely essential, and Speakeasy meets all my needs in this area! Please keep up the great work! I would
be delighted to discuss the specific potential accessibility challenges at hand, or even to talk about how I may be of assistance to Speakeasy far beyond
my skills and abilities as an accessibility advocate. I appreciate your taking the time to read this letter. I look forward to hearing from one of you