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Google’s Censorship of Blind Bloggers: First Confirmed Case!

November 13, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Steve Bauer, host of the Smooth Jazz U.S.A. show on ACB Radio Interactive tells us about his experience as a blind person dealing with word verification while setting up a blog at Blogger, only to have it classified as spam and thus locked out of posting new articles to his own blog! We now have our first confirmed case of Google’s censorship of blind bloggers!

Friday evening (11/11/05) I started to try and set up my first blog on Everything went pretty well until the visual verification came up. Fortunately, my wife was able to assist me in getting past that obsticle. I proceeded on to set things up. My wife helped select the colors and fonts and things seemed to be moving smoothly. Well, that’s what they appeared to do.

Somehow, I got my first post to appear. Feeling somewhat confident, I
tried post number 2. Boom, bang, bash!!! To be assured that my post was from a human, another visual verification popped up. This time, my wife was not available.

Later, when she came in, I tried again, the visual verification came
up. She typed it in for me and the second post went up. As you can tell, this is not something that will work. My wife is not always around, nor does she have interest in holding my hand and doing this everytime I want to post an article.

Another very strange thing is in the Profile setup, there is a place
where you can put the url to your photo. I did this, selected save,
but when I would go back to Profile Configuration, the url to my photo was gone.

Blogspot seems to be quite easy to navigate and set up, but not for a blind person. The visual verification is resulting in me looking for another service to host my blog.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Squeeze on the Juice Receiver

November 12, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Here is a creative twist on iPodder’s new name. This poem is a collaboration by Karen, Tina and Darrell.

Get your Juice Receiver today,

You can squeeze it in many ways.

Access is easy & fast,

Your juice receiver will last.

You can download information at anytime,

It is much sweeter than a lime!

It meets various needs at many speeds,

Can listen to music, news, podcasts & look at your RSS feeds.

It is versitile,

& will make you smile!

Downloading is easy & does not take long,

The sooner you install,

You can play your favorite podcasts featuring Podsafe songs,

And have a ball.

MP3’s are the latest craze,

The Juice receiver is not a fad or phase.

It won’t lose its zing over night,

It’s an accessibility delight!

So, Take this time now,

If you do not know how.

Go to Jeff,

and you will be all set.

He has a direct link to the Site,

With the instructions & updates that are condensed just right.

Unlike most things, this is free,

But it’s a great little program, you will soon agree!

So, what are you waiting for,

You do not have to go to the store.

You do not have to leave your house,

And the blind don’t need a mouse.

This juicer is one of a kind,

Not hard to find.

No need to fridgerate,

So come on, hurry,

and check out DSC with Adam Curry.

Do not wait!

The Juice Receiver is not a drink,

With your podcasts it will Sync,

Giving you hours of audio that will inspire and make you think.

Get your creative juices to flow,

while listening to the newest podcast show!

So get the podcasting fever,

Download the Juice Receiver!

Categories: Uncategorized

Topic Mashup: Tucson Trip, Music Crackdown, Inaccessibility, Expo Prep, Dial-A-Ride and More

November 9, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


Apologies for the brief shownotes. Much more was actually covered, so listen!

Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code #275 on the Licensed Music Crackdown

From the not at all surprised department: the big boys at RIAA and similar licensing organizations are trying to crash the party and suck out all the fun… We won’t let ’em; Podsafe music to the rescue!

Portable Media Expo and Podcasting Conference

This conference is being held in Ontario, California on Friday, November 11 and Saturday, November 12. I’ll be there!

Natalie Brown

Listen to her song entitled Confused at the end of this episode of the podcast.

Download and Listen

Categories: Uncategorized

The Day After the Big Outage

November 8, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Blind Access Journal was completely unavailable for approximately thirty hours from Sunday afternoon through Monday evening due to a total outage of UltraHost, the web hosting provider on which we rely. I received the following note from Jeff, the owner of UltraHost, on Monday in response to my status request on resolution of the ongoing outage.

From: Jeff – The Ultra Guy

To: Darrell Shandrow

Subject: Re: Status of outage?

Hello Darrell, you wrote:

We’re just writing to ask for an update on the UltraHost outage that began yesterday afternoon. Thanks.

The server hosting your site was compromised. I had to reload the operating system, reconfigure the server and restore all user accounts from backups.
It has taken me all day, but all user accounts have now been restored.
I apologize for the downtime and any inconvenience it has caused. Fortunately, this is an unusual situation.


UltraHost.US Customer Care

This morning, following last night’s resolution of the outage, I sent him this note:

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the response and the ultimate resolution to the issues. I am, quite honestly, concerned with both the length of the outage and the lack of proactive
communication concerning the cause of the problems and status of resolution. Frankly, the timing of this long outage couldn’t have been worse as I am
preparing for the Portable Media Expo and Podcasting Conference next weekend. I was beginning to wonder if I would need to switch to another host very
quickly or face the potential of going to a conference to promote accessibility while having and, the two domains that
make up the blog and podcast, hard down during the event and for awhile afterwards. At the same time, I am impressed at the completeness of restoration.
I expected to have to do a lot more work in order to bring everything back to a state of relative normalcy, but, in fact, almost none was required.
Could you please give us some details as to what steps have been taken to help insure the security breach is not repeated?


It has become apparent to me that it is virtually impossible for a one man shop to meet my web hosting needs with the reliability I must have in order to effectively spread the message of accessibility evangelism around the world. Sadly, I must say, I am open to all recommendations for good web hosting companies that provide a similar level of functionality as UltraHost along with lots of bandwidth and file storage space for the blog and podcast. Thank you all for any feedback you are able to give.

Categories: Uncategorized

Update: May Tear Down Its New "No Blind People Allowed" Sign in the Very Near Future

November 6, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Jeff Bishop of The Desert Skies has been working with Amazon this morning. It seems the accessibility issue may be a side effect of a problem the company considers to be serious, thus a team of developers has already begun work on a prompt resolution.

Hello Everyone,

This has now been given very high priority status at Amazon and a team is on it.

I have an Amazon update. OK, I just spoke with and got a ticket submitted to their development team. We did quite a bit of diagnosing on this issue and I will report when I hear more. The developer will call me or contact me via email sometime next week once he hears more on the problem/resolution. You are taken to a gift central web site it seems, and this is a new piece of functionality rolled out this weekend by Amazon.


A reliable source tells us that the launch of the new Gift Central functionality may have been premature and that this issue was certainly not intended. Amazon representatives reported to our source that they will resolve the problem and appreciated our bringing the matter to their prompt attention. Stay tuned for late breaking news on this situation as it continues to develop.

Categories: Uncategorized Puts Up a "No Blind People Allowed" Sign for the Holidays

November 6, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We just received and verified some extremely disturbing news on the inaccessibility front. It seems has given the blind a rather unwelcome present for the Holiday Season in the form of yet another of the ever increasing “No Blind People Allowed” signs. Blind users of the JAWS screen reader developed by Freedom Scientific, the most widely used screen reader in the world, are apparently no longer allowed to perform essential shopping tasks such as reviewing product information on the web site. Though Amazon does offer a separate accessibility site, it provides a level of functionality that is far, far inferior to that found on their home page.

The letter below, provided by a highly competent user of the JAWS screen reader, serves to illustrate the difficulties. It is absolutely critical that everyone who is blind or cares about what happens to the blind write Amazon concerning this matter, asking and insisting that they work with the blind community to correct the situation promptly. Make no mistake, this issue and others like it are not simply “frustrations” but are serious, often intractible challenges to our ability to participate in society. Inaccessibility in an online store is tantamount to walking into a brick-and-mortar store and being told to get lost because you are of the wrong ethnicity. The currently imposed state of affairs represents an example of yet another “No Blind People Allowed” sign we must challenge at every possible opportunity.

Hi folks

From the looks of things here,, one of my favorite sites on the net, no longer works with JAWS 7.0. You click on a link to take you to the information page for a specific product, but instead you are taken to a page to buy a gift certificate. From what I’m told, they made some kind of visual change to the site using javascript. It looks more visually pleasing, but JAWS doesn’t display the page properly. so you press enter on a link thinking you’ll land on one thing but you land on another. So I’m going to call the customer service line on Monday because even i, a pretty compident JAWS user, couldn’t find the contact us link. Well, i found the link but not the right page. Really frustrating. If anyone else has had a similar problem, or if you give the site a try and experience the same problem, I’d like to know. This way i’ll have as much information as possible when I make my call.

Categories: Uncategorized

Massachusetts’ Move to Open Source Office Software: Are there major accessibility implications?

November 6, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Last month, The information technology department at the state of Massachusetts announced it would soon initiate a move to the use of open source Office applications and the associated Open Document Format as the standard of choice for conducting state business. Disability related organizations, including the National Federation of the Blind, have gone on record in opposition to this move due to the lack of accessibility features found in applications like Open Office and Star Office as compared to the reasonable levels of accessibility currently found in Microsoft Office when used with screen readers like JAWS and Window-Eyes. Read The Middle Click: An Open Letter to the Disabled of Massachusetts, review the comment I submitted in response and let me know your thoughts.

Thank you for the well thought out open letter. As a blind person, I have lost numerous employment opportunities due to inaccessible technology. I fear this loss of opportunity and its associated consequences will only get a lot worse before they ever start to get any better. Inaccessibility is all about the consequences. In a downsized future, the very lives of the blind and others with disabilities may be at stake. I absolutely love open source software, using a number of such applications on a daily basis. All the same, I don’t much care these days whether the software involved is commercial or open source, so long as it is reasonably accessible and ongoing development is underway to improve its accessibility as the software evolves. Microsoft Office is mostly accessible right now. Years of testing and ongoing development have been put into this accessibility. It works with the JAWS and Window-Eyes screen readers I must use in order to learn, do my job, take care of my personal finances and accomplish all of my computing tasks right now, not at some point in the future. The analogy of the disabled to an abused wife is, sadly, not at all accurate. Though it is extremely difficult for a wife to leave her abusive husband, it can, ultimately, be done if she has the fortitude. In contrast, fortitude or not, we can’t simply walk away from our disabilities. We can and must, however, do all we can to reduce the artificially imposed accessibility barriers, what I like to call the “No Blind People Allowed” signs, that serve to hold us down and out of participation in society on terms of equality with our sighted peers. Though I love the concept and implementation of the open source community, I must, sadly, throw in my lot with Microsoft on this one for the sake of the ability of my blind brothers and sisters in Massachusetts to obtain and retain their rightful status as gainfully employed human beings.

Categories: Uncategorized