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Freedom Scientific Needs to Focus on Innovation and JAWS Stability Rather Than Litigation!

May 27, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
I am sitting here doing some day job work on this Memorial Day weekend.  I agreed to do this in exchange for yesterday and two days off later in the week.  Despite this arrangement, I am now quite angry!  The anger is, of course, not at all related to my agreement to work today, but, rather, it is being provoked by some rather unstable behavior on the part of JAWS, the screen reader upon which I still rely most of the time while performing the duties of my job.
About half an hour ago now, JAWS suddenly stopped talking for no apparent reason while opening a work related web site!  It just went totally silent!  From time to time, this also happens to Karen in various applications, and I hear about similar JAWS instability from many others in the blind community.  Nowadays, when this happens, I run another screen reader like Nonvisual Desktop Access, System Access or Window-Eyes.  This time, NVDA informed me that there was an “application error” with JAWS.  Pressing enter on the OK button resulted in an error with FSBraille.  Hmm, interesting, as at this time I do not have a Braille display connected or selected for use in JAWS at all.  Even worse, I am unable to restart JAWS.  The same error appears every single time!  I would need to reboot my system in order to get JAWS back!  Since I am currently recording Kim’s show on ACB Radio Interactive so that Karen may listen to it later, rebooting is currently unacceptable.  Instead, it is Window-Eyes to the rescue!  Fortunately, I don’t need to spend a great deal of time in the knowledge base application today, so this will work fine.  I just thank God I have four different screen readers on my computer!
There is a point to all of this…  While JAWS remains the overall leader in screen reading for the blind, other technologies are quickly catching up with Freedom Scientific and several are now surpassing JAWS in stability.  Though Nonvisual Desktop Access, Serotek System Access and Window-Eyes still lack scripting and much of the flexibility offered by JAWS, they do all have one significant advantage; they virtually never stop talking! 
I hope Freedom Scientific’s competitors are reading this post and the sentiments of many others in the blind community.  Give us expanded configurability and scripting support!  If I can configure System Access or Window-Eyes to do all the things JAWS currently allows, then I can use them on the job to replace JAWS, and, at least for me, JAWS will no longer stand for Job Access With Speech!  It is my opinion as an advanced assistive technology and computer user that JAWS is a defective product in need of significant overhaul to improve its stability!  There you have it, my friends.  I wonder how much trouble I’m going to find for myself by making this post.  As always, please, feel free to comment to your heart’s content.
Categories: Uncategorized

Silent threat

May 27, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The Columbian, WA, USA
Friday, May 25, 2007

Silent threat

By BRETT OPPEGAARD, staff writer

Caption: Nick Wilks, a student at Washington State School for the Blind, has
nearly been hit twice in recent months at this intersection of East Reserve
Street and East McLoughlin Boulevard. He has to make the crossing to reach
his classes at Hudson's Bay High School. (TROY WAYRYNEN/The Columbian)

Caption: Nick Wilks, student body president at the state's school for the
blind, says hybrid cars traveling at low speeds can be nearly undetectable
to blind pedestrians. (TROY WAYRYNEN/The Columbian)

Each weekday morning, Nick Wilks crosses just one street. That's how the
17-year-old gets from his dorm room at Washington State School for the Blind
to classes at Hudson's Bay High School.

The intersection of East Reserve Street and East McLoughlin Boulevard is
quiet most of the time. But about 10:35 a.m., when Wilks is on his way back,
it's an obstacle course. Parking lots at nearby Clark College are filling.
Young drivers on lunch break from Hudson's Bay are often whipping through
that intersection from all directions. Wilks has almost been hit by cars
there twice this school year.

What's saved him? Hearing the uncomfortably close chugs of combustion

Yet what if cars were silent? That sounds like a futuristic dream, a
pleasing idea to those irritated by contemporary noise pollution. But it's a
frightening prospect to those, such as Wilks, who rely on sounds to survive.

Hybrid vehicles not only are emitting less toxins in the air and consuming
fuel more efficiently, but they are reducing ambient clatter. A Toyota Prius
running on its electric motor, which it typically does at low speeds, is
virtually silent.

The National Federation of the Blind has been voicing concerns about the
unintended side effect of that silence since shortly after Toyota introduced
the Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid, in 2000. The group says these
quiet cars are a hazard not only to blind people but also to anyone who
needs sounds for safety, including children, the elderly and bicyclists.

"If cars don't make noise, blind people can't safely navigate streets. ?
This really is a problem," said John Paré, the National Federation of the
Blind's director of public relations.

A blind woman in California recently reported having her foot run over by a
Prius. She commented that she didn't even know the car was there before it
hit her. Several other blind people have described minor injuries or near
misses to the National Federation of the Blind, though the organization
hasn't kept detailed records of the complaints. The group forecasts even
worse accidents ahead, as the cars become more prevalent, unless automakers
develop some sort of noisemaker for these vehicles.

Hybrids have become a growing trend in American cars. There now are about
400,000 of them on U.S. roads, according to market researchers R.L. Polk &
Co. New registrations doubled from 2004 to 2005, the most recent data

No pedestrian death has been linked to these cars. But, National Federation
of the Blind representatives note, there is no tracking mechanism, either.

Representatives for the two most prominent producers of hybrid cars, Toyota
and Honda, say they are aware of the sound concerns and are considering

Aerospace materials engineer David Evans, who tested hybrid and electric
vehicles at Stanford University in the 1970s, has been lecturing on this
topic, including speaking to the National Federation of the Blind. He says
early developers of the technology quickly learned that pedestrians couldn't
hear the cars and his group used whistles to solve the problem.

But carmakers are hesitant to add noise to the environment, and to incur
that expense, said Denise Morrissey, a spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Sales

"The (industry) trend is toward quiet powertrains in all sorts of vehicles,"
she said. "That trend has raised the need for other drivers and pedestrians
to increase caution and to be more aware of the surroundings."

Honda spokesman Sage Marie says this topic is a broad manufacturer's
concern, not something that each company should be pursuing individually. He
says the solution invariably will come through a collaboration among
government regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, concerned groups such as the National Federation of the
Blind, and the industry's trade associations, including the Association of
International Automobile Manufacturers.

Michael Cammisa, director of safety for that auto trade group, did not
return multiple telephone calls requesting an interview for this story.

Stein of the National Federation of the Blind and others already have begun
lobbying the Society of Automotive Engineers to develop protocols for
minimum sound levels for vehicles sold in the U.S.

Stein said her group is proactively navigating the bureaucracy before
someone gets killed or seriously injured in an accident that could have been

In the meantime, blind pedestrians feel vulnerable.

Wilks, the Washington State School for the Blind's student body president,
said sound signals are particularly important to alert pedestrians to cars
making right turns across walkways.

Wilks was in the crosswalk between his schools a few months ago when two
cars, both turning right, pinned him in the middle. In another incident, in
January, he was about to step into the crosswalk when a driver decided to
speed up and make a right turn directly in front of him.

"That was really scary," he said. "I was just a couple of feet from the

Both times, he said, the sounds of the combustion engines helped him to
avoid injury.

The National Federation of the Blind has become concerned enough about this
perceived threat that it conducted an experiment this year at its annual
conference. About 30 blind or visually impaired members waited at an
intersection in front of the group's headquarters in Baltimore and were
asked to signal when they could hear a car approach. A Prius went by
undetected. They repeated the experiment in a quiet alley. The Prius that
time could be heard, but only at about 15 feet away.

Stein said, "I was aware, in the abstract, that we were going to have
electric cars that are very quiet, and something would have to be done to
make those pedestrian-friendly. Then, all of sudden these things were out on
the road, and nothing had been done."

Stein said the National Federation of the Blind supports hybrid cars and
their benefits. But the group also wants to ensure they are safe for

The organization is pitching for a device that makes the usual engine noise:
"We want something that's not going to be irritating to people. We're hoping
for a low-tech, inexpensive solution that can be an automatic add-on."

The Washington State School for the Blind, meanwhile, has a dilemma. As a
state agency, its staff reports directly to an office in Olympia. That means
four or five road trips a week from the Vancouver school, plus the 300 to
600 miles a week that teachers drive to serve students throughout the state.
The staff makes those trips in a fleet of four hybrid vehicles.

Principal Craig Meador acknowledges the irony. "I kind of look at it this
way: The technology is here, whether we like it or not," he said. "The issue
isn't so much that we are doing a good job with our gas mileage as, are we
supporting something that can be a danger and sometimes lethal to the blind
community? That concerns us."

He added, "We're probably going to see more of these kinds of things on the
market. We need to teach (blind students) to operate safely around these
cars, rather than to bury our head in the sand." For a video clip of
Washington State School for the Blind student Nick Wilks making his trek to
Hudson's Bay High School, see


The debate

Should quiet hybrid cars have noisemakers added to them, as a way to alert
nearby pedestrians?

– On one side:
If that sound will save lives, then why not find an inoffensive tone for
these cars to emit?

– On another side:
Our lives are polluted enough with noise. Encourage people to cross streets
more carefully and drivers to slow near crosswalks.

– Get involved:
The National Federation of the Blind can be reached through .

Categories: Uncategorized

Wedding Planning and Decisions to make : 04.06.06 10:36 a.m

May 26, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Since our Wedding Anniversary is approaching, Karen found and posted one of her pre-wedding KDD’s (Karen’s Daily Dose) starting with a summary that we wrote to explain its contents. Enjoy.

Like many Couples, there are many decisions to make when planning a Wedding.
It is very stressful no matter whether its a very large one, with hundreds
of Guests or one, like ours, which was a very small and intimate one. We
only had 35 people there, our closest family and friends. There are many
things to consider. The Venue, the Menu, Wedding Gown, Floral, Photography
and much more. Not only this, but one has to make a guest list, send
invitations, find a band or DJ, get a marriage Certificate and so on. As
you can see, there is a great deal to plan such an event.
Furthermore, to complicate things, we had to organize our Wedding which was
on the East Coast from here in Arizona. Fortunately, my Family lives in New
England so, they were able to assist us in this process, especially my
Sister and Brother-in-law whom live in Boston. If it was not for them, it
would not have been as much fun.

While planning, we were stressed out and going crazy deciding on just a
location. We did not want to be Married in a Church. Neither Darrell nor
I are Religious, though, I am very spiritual. Needless-to-say, We did not
have the traditional Wedding.
Since, we live here on the West coast and not too far from San Diego, we
first decided to have both the Ceremony and Reception on the beach. Then,
decided against it. Both of us love the beach, but Darrell occasionally
threatens to completely forget about technology and the modern life and just
turn into a full-time beach bum. We did not want strangers to crash our
party. So, back to the drawing board we went. My sister whom lives in
Boston recommended the Odyssey, which is a boat that tours the Boston
Harbor. They help plan all kinds of Events from Graduations, Birthday's
Wedding's, whatever the Occasion. Their Staff are professionals whom have
the talent and expertise in
organizing Events and making them a success. They have Wedding Planners
who do everything and thus take some of the load
off in planning. Of course, The Bride and Groom need to be involved and
make the final decisions,since, after all, its their Wedding. The staff,just
provide suggestions and give their opinion as to what would work out best.

Despite this fact, we were still stressed out. Prior to Our Wedding, I new
very little about planning one. I am not a typical woman. I am not into
shopping, clothing shopping, do not like flowers and since I am totally
blind, was not into the Photography anymore. I am not one to read Bride's
Magazine and do all the " in " things to do.

Besides that, I do not feel the need to have a Huge Wedding party, a dozen
Bride's Maids, a flower Girl and so forth. Also, since I have two sisters ,
I did not want to choose who would be my Matron of Honor, could not do
that. If I chose one of them or a friend, somebody is likely to get hurt.
So, we did not have one or a Best Man. We did However, have a Ring
Bearer, which was little Dougie, my Golden Retriever Guide Dog. We tied the
pillow to his harness and attached the rings. 🙂 He also wore a bowtie to
match Darrell's Tux.

As you can see, there is so much to do when planning a Wedding. At one
point we almost decided to Elope, but did not. We had a beautiful Wedding.
Its hard to believe, it was almost a year ago. Our Anniversary will be June
3. If you want to listen to The Ceremony, you can. I will provide the link
for it as well as a link to Odyssey's web site so,if you or someone you
know would like to take a Cruise, they can consider using Odyssey for their

Unfortunately, I did not begin writing KDD's before March of 2006, after
most of the Wedding was planned so, I can not post anything. I was so
stressed that I did not even Journal for months, so have nothing to share.
I hope this is somewhat helpful when reading the below KDd. Take Care.

Wedding Ceremony Audio:
Tara's Wedding Toast:

I am happy to say,that, I feel pretty good today.
My spirits are high,
That,is not a lie.
Last night we had a good night.
I actually slept all the way through,
to morning light,
well, not quite. (:
Twice, I did wake,
Yet, a voice in my head,
said, "stay in bed,"
don't get up & play
You, want to be rested for a new day". (:
so, in bed, I stayed,
& there, I laid,
& quickly, I think, I drifted off too sleep. (:
, ,It will actually be a good day.
, have no headaches, or aches of any kind,
& my nerves are calm & I have a clear mind.
Of the challenges ahead,
& all the things I need to do,
before Darrell & I Wed. (:

Since, the Wedding,
is less then 2 months away,
I called our Wedding planner, today.
As you know, I usually listen to tunes,
on my commute,
on my portable tv/radio.
Yet, answers to questions, we had to know. (:
When, guests should board ,,
be at the dock,
at 6 o'clock.
What music to play,
the traditional Wedding March,
or something instead,
before we say or Vows,
& say, " I thee Wed"!(:
The Unity candle, we won't have,
It will be too windy, up on deck, you understand,
So as our symbol, we will use Sand. (:
Guess, there are various colors and textures, to choose,
Not sure, what kind,
For our Wedding Cruise. (:
This I am not familiar with at all,
its not something, they teach,
& you'd see on a beech (:
so, research I will do,
to figure, what, we would like it to be,
have it match with the sea ,
or favorite Colors of Darrel and me?
can't imagine, there would be much,
in color & in touch.
I am sure, whatever, we choose
Whatever, we do,
all, will enjoy the Wedding Cruise.(:

The menu, we need to consider
what, entree, all want for dinner.
&, for the Wedding cake,
What kind to make.
These, are all things,
we can not pitch,
If, our Wedding, will go,off without a hitch.
Hopefully, everything, will be a smashing success,
& nothing will be a mess
Hopefully, all, will have fun on the cruise,
eat, dance, & not too much into the booze.
A great time will be had by all,
Yet, don't expect too many " dose's or any calls,
When, Darrell & I,
are in San Diego on our Honeymoon,
no worries, we, will all connect, after, very soon. (:

well, enough I did to say,
besides, should get on my way.
Hope you all have a good day.

Categories: Uncategorized


May 26, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Please read this testimonial evidence from a blind person discussing the
negative impact caused by the "no blind people allowed" sign on a popular
social networking site. It is important for us all to realize that this
discrimination is quickly moving beyond the registration process and into
day-to-day use of some web based resources. We must insist that CAPTCHA be
made accessible by way of audio or other reasonable accomodations in all
cases where it is used.

My name is David Harvey from New Zealand. I just signed up with
www.facebook.comm and asked my flatmate to help me out with the visual
process during registration. All went well.

Four days later as I write this today, they've put VV on the features that
mean a lot to me – adding friends, posting messages, writing on
walls, etc. You can stop the VV if you verify your account. You do this by
enterying your cell phone number and a text message will be sent with
a code you must enter into the box.

This has made me angry since using social networking sites like Facebook as
a communication tool is that you don't have to give out your email address,
and I wish to be able to use those sites the same as everybody else. I
don't want to have to deactivate my account with them, since
I've made a lot of friends this year, most of whom live abroad and are
leaving at the end of June, and they prefer Facebook over Bebo or Myspace.

As a result of this increasing inaccessibility, David has written an e-mail to Facebook’s support team:

Yes I did contact them. I’ll let you and Jeff know my response once I receive it. Here’s the email I sent regarding this very serious and discriminating issue:



My name is David Harvey from New Zealand. I signed up for Facebook on 23rd of may NZ time. Since I’m blind my flatmate help me out with the visual verification at registration. Within the last six hours captcha has been implemented site-wide, which is preventing me from interacting with my friends, as well as adding new ones. I also discovered there’s an option to verify my account, but I don’t yet have a mobile phone to verify with and won’t have one for at least three months. I know blind and visually impaired people who work in the technology field. Some sites like PayPal, LiveJournal and Google have implemented audio captcha, which reads the text out using synthesized speech. This is a very serious issue not just for Facebook but for all sites who wish to use captcha.

Please let me know if you are interested in working with me to resolve this issue. I love your services and I’d hate to cancel because of a visual graphic which my screen-reader is unable to read get in the way
of using such a fine service.

Another quote on the Facebook login page says “Everyone can join”. Well that’s not the case. Did you know that companies can be find for misleading users?


David Harvey

Changing Instant Messaging Platforms at Work, Will the New One be Accessible?

May 25, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In an effort to move work related instant messaging traffic in house, my employer has decided to switch away from AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) to a solution that can be deployed on an internal server. The server will be based on the open source Jabber (XPP) protocols. As soon as I learned the protocol to be used, it felt like deja vu. I will explain the reason later.

After learning this news, I began a search for an accessible Jabber instant messaging client. Our local IT staff recommended a messenger client called GAIM, which has been renamed to Pidgin due to a trademark issue with America Online over the use of the term AIM. (Oh, no! There we go again!) After working with Pidgin for just a few minutes, I realized that it was going to be totally inaccessible for my needs. It appears to have been written using GTK+, which appears to be a UNIX GUI toolkit ported over to Windows. As a result, Pidgin might work extremely well with a Gnome screen reader like Orca. I also wonder how this might work on the Mac with VoiceOver. Our Linux, other *nix based and Mac user friends will, hopefully, set us straight.

Finally, I remembered the reason for my previous deja vu experience. While working as a network administrator for Amerion, I set up and utilized the Exodus Jabber instant messenger client back in 2001 to communicate with internal colleagues. Though changes have been made to the software since that time, my initial testing with Exodus shows it to be quite accessible after a couple of minor control reclassifications. Our IT staff has not yet implemented the new server, so I am not able to test this new client internally. If anyone would be interested in testing this client with me using public Jabber servers, please download and install your own copy of Exodus and send me e-mail so we can set a time to get together.

Categories: Uncategorized

Example of the Need for Flexible Remote Access Solutions for the Blind

May 24, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I would urge you all to read this brief example illustrating the proliferation of remote access solutions like GoToAssist in the consulting and technical support occupations. Blind people in these careers must be able to deliver the direct, immediate service facilitated by remote access solutions, which enable the technician to gain secure access to the customer’s computer. At this time, only Serotek’s Remote Incident Manager solution provides an equivalent level of accessibility for the blind. In most cases, use of this solution in leu of an existing service for sighted technicians, such as Citrix GoToAssist, should be considered a “reasonable accomodation” for the purposes of gaining or retaining employment.

Categories: Serotek

Excellent Comments Appreciated, Please Sign The Petition

May 24, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone,
First of all, please allow me to thank all of you for your excellent, supportive comments to this blog concerning Freedom Scientific’s current lawsuit against Serotek.  It is the support of those in the blind community that keeps Blind Access Journal and many other initiatives alive and inspired to continue. 
Second, please, everyone, do go over to and sign the Save Serotek Petition today.  Right now, as of 8:22 AM MST, we have a total of 282 signatures.  I am aware of at least a hundred names of supporters or potential supporters who do not currently appear on this list.  Please remember that all we are asking with this petition is that Freedom Scientific decide not to press on with the lawsuit.  The petition is not a statement against Freedom Scientific.  By signing this petition, you are only agreeing with the statement, not with any comments made by other signers.
If you have any questions concerning this petition initiative, please feel free to e-mail me at, send a MSN / Windows Live Message to or call me at 602-903-3820.
Best regards,
Darrell Shandrow – Accessibility Evangelist
Visit and ask Freedom Scientific to stop suing!
Information should be accessible to us without need of translation by another person.
Blind Access Journal blog and podcast:
Categories: Uncategorized

XM offers refund

May 24, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Barry Campbell from ACB Radio Interactive reports the following:

According to the website

XM Offers 87-Cent Refund For Outage – 5/23 – USA Today reports that DC-based
XM is offering a pro-rated refund for Monday/Tuesday's 24-hour satellite
radio outage. But, subscribers have to call XM's customer service number
(800-XM-RADIO) to request an 87-cent refund of the $13 monthly fee. The
problem with the XM3 satellite largely impacted reception of XM's network of
land-based repeaters, which provide service to urban areas…..

I find this curious because it will cost them more in phone charges then the
.87 per person. Think it would be easier to just prorate everyone's

Categories: Uncategorized

Revised JAWS Scripts Now Available for Skype 3.2

May 23, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Doug Lee has recently released a new revision of his JAWS scripts for Skype. Revision 416 now incorporates improved support for the latest version 3.2 of this important voice chat application. We thank Doug and his contributors for this fine script set that makes our lives much easier and our use of Skype much more enjoyable than it otherwise might be.

Categories: JAWS, Skype

Today’s KDD: Help,not hinder!

May 23, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Karen contributes the following heartfelt KDD (Karen’s Daily Dose) concerning the issues between Freedom Scientific and Serotek currently rocking the blindness access technology industry.

At 6;15, I arrived to work, in plenty of time,
Hope all is fine,
I am struggling to keep awake, that will be difficult to do,
And how are you?

Only a couple hours of sleep, last night, We did get,
Most of it, having to do with The Lawsuit and messages being passed on
the net,
Some saying things to be hurtful instead of addressing the issues at
Dragging one another through the mud, dirt and sand.
Some are shooting each other in the head, through Character
assassination , rather then provide support,
Who wants to see anyone in court,
Deal with Lawyers and go to trial,
Wish FS, this Lawsuit, you did not file.
The blind community is way too small,
United , we should stand,
Give our fellow blind a hand,
Don't Make assumptions and accuse,
Until we are walking in another's shoes,
This is human nature, and we all do this,, including me,
Though, does not make it right, don't you agree?.
There is room for all Companies, each has their place,
No one should act out of haste,
Each player has a purpose and much each brings to the table, to suit
all blind people's needs,
Don't pull the other through the weeds,
Knock down and trample,
Experiment and sample,
Their products, services and Technology content , that anyone provides
for all,
Don't get pleasure in seeing anyone take a fall,
Encouragement do bring,
Don't allow derogatory comments to be swung,
Or for another to be hung.
We all have " Freedom "of speech, and can express our minds,
Yet be kind,
As well as, here, in America, one is innocent until proven guilty,
Unlike in other Countries, , it's the other way,
That is why many stay,
As they say, This is the" Melting Pot", Home of the Brave and the land
of the free.
Not sure what else to say, and am sure, this will fall in deaf ears,
this message, will not be heard,
And surprised I wrote so much today, this was written in MS word.
Due to this issue,Some of us are losing sleep and feeling stressed,
Hang in there, do your best.
Its almost 8:30 ,
And Darrell has begun the laundry that is dirty,
It is in the wash, up early, he was too,
And nothing more new,

Except, I went to the Disability commission meeting last night,
Think it went more than alright,
I Was outspoken about the issues with Dial-a-ride making me late,
To work and I do not feel great,
I am feeling exhausted and the pain in my arm, it radiates and did
From my elbow, now to my shoulder,
And here, in Tempe, the Weather, has gotten colder,
We had a cool snap, not as hot, high,90 degrees,
And my allergies, are bad, Here, I do sneeze,
Yet, I will make it and get through the day,
And should get on my way,
Do think about what I had said, think with your head and your heart,
Act with both, don't toss darts,
In one's back, don't stick knives,
This effects lives,
just food for thought, serving you all a plate,
And do hope your day is great.

Categories: Uncategorized