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Request for Web Accessibility User Testing Participants at CSUN

March 3, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
If you’ll be attending CSUN, why not take an action that will result in improved accessibility and get paid all at the same time?
The Paciello Group (TPG) is working with a major company to ensure that a web-based e-mail tool is accessible for people with disabilities. We will be conducting usability testing of this tool at CSUN with people with vision disabilities who use Window-Eyes, JAWS, or ZoomText.

Where: Marriott Hotel, The Long Beach Room
When: Wednesday March 12 through Friday March 14

Sessions will take about one hour and participants will be paid $100. Your session will be scheduled around your CSUN activities.

We are looking for users experienced with the following devices:

– Blind users: Window-Eyes 6.1 or JAWS 9.0
– Low-vision users: ZoomText 9.0

You must also be familiar with Windows and with either Internet Explorer or Firefox, and should have solid experience with:

– The World Wide Web, including filling in forms and performing transactions (such as buying merchandise) on the web.
– Using e-mail on a regular basis.

People with these disabilities and skills can schedule a session by contacting Mary Utt:

– Email: maryutt (at)

(If Mary is not available, please leave a message. Your call will be returned shortly.)

Thank you very much. Your participation will help ensure an effective, accessible e-mail tool.

Categories: Uncategorized

Allison’s Notes on Jim fruchterman’s Main Menu Interview

March 3, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We profusely thank Allison from Benetech for her wonderfully written
summarization of Jim Fruchterman's Main Menu interview held on February 26,
2008 on ACB Radio Mainstream. Her message is below:

Hello Everyone,

I just finished listening to an interview of Jim fruchterman on ACB Radio.
I found it very informative. I realize that the audio format may not be
accessible to everyone, particularly deaf and blind individuals. I took
notes during the meeting, and would like to share them with others. I
believe I got down most of the important information. If you have questions
or comments, E-mail me at allisonh (at)

Jim fruchterman Interview.
ACB Radio
Tuesday, February 26, 2008.

* is a legal website where people can download accessible
digital books.
* Jim got the idea from his son using Napster in the 90s.
* Bookshare has several formats including Daisy, BRF (Braille), HTML, and
* 90% of books on Bookshare are donated by members.
* Bookshare books are text and not human narrated.
* VR Reader Soft does not yet work with Mac computers.
* Mac users can use Win or K1000 to use Daisy books. There are also hardware
* Bookshare memberships cost $75 for the first year and $50 for each year
after that.
* There are free memberships for students paid for by the department of
* Benetech is hoping to reach 100,000 students over time.
*Most textbooks will be available to all members except for NIMAC K-12
* NIMAC stands for National Instructional Material Accessibility Center. New
laws are requiring publishers to provide NIMAC quality books for all K-12
* Bookshare is beginning to add NIMAC books to the collection. These books
are only available to K-12 students.
* Jim said that he and several people advocated for other individuals, such
as blind parents, to have access to NIMAC books, but the publishers
* If one sends a book to Bookshare, we will scan it with a turn around of
approximately 3-4 weeks.
* Benetech is working on a partnership with a major book publisher that will
allow a user who is looking for a certain book to click a link on the site,
request the book, buy it, the publisher will scan it, and send to Bookshare
where it will be ran through OCR. Approximately 6-9 months in the works.
*Most of the books on Bookshare are "trade books."
* Bookshare has literature, best sellers, and nonfiction books.
* we have a growing collection of textbooks for both college and K-12
* Several thousand new textbooks will be made available over the next couple
of years.
* One can download newspapers and magazines from Bookshare. There are
currently 150 papers available.
* Bookshare is working on developing a collection of reference books.
* The Harper Collins books are available world-wide.
* WE are currently adding books from Harper Collins to the collection. We
have so many that we aren't able to get synopses uploaded with each one.
* Bookshare does not want to hold back on publishing books before a synopsis
can be written.
* Bookshare is working on a system in which a book's synopsis can be
automatically included with a book through one providing the book's ISBN.
This is not an option yet, but in the works.
* We are working on adding book synopses. If you would like to suggest a
synopsis for a book, E-mail it to Note that synopses
from Amazon and other websites are not permitted.
* Individuals can sign up to volunteer for Bookshare by submitting or
validating books. To learn more, visit our website or E-mail
* One does not need to be disabled in order to be a volunteer.
* Jim says that this year is a year of transition as we are adding new
books, new members, and new assistive technology.
* There are two Bookshare E-mail lists that interested individuals can join.
Visit the Bookshare website or to learn more.
* Jim encouraged everyone to sign up for Bookshare by visiting

This concludes my summary of the ACB Radio Jim fruchterman Interview. I
tried to record all the information, but it is possible that I have left
something out. If you have questions or comments, please contact me using
the info provided at the bottom of this message.


Allison Hilliker
Benetech (
E-mail allisonh (at)

The Benetech Initiative – Technology Serving Humanity – A Nonprofit

Categories: Uncategorized

Coming up on Main Menu for the week of March 5th – Window-Eyes Scripting and Cane Travel

March 2, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

This week on Main Menu, during the first hour we hear from Doug Geoffray and
Aaron Smith from GW Micro all about the exciting new upcoming Window-Eyes
version 7.0. This release offers many new features, most notably its new
scripting capabilities. Doug and Aaron come on to Main Menu and discuss
with all of you all of this new exciting technology. In addition, we will
have a very special announcement about some future presentations on Main
Menu for those that are interested in learning scripting. Come find out
more about this exciting new release and get your questions answered.

In the second hour we will not be live and will be presenting a review of
the Ultracane.

Here is how to participate in the show:

The number to call into the show is 866-400-5333.

You may email your questions to:
You may also interact with the show via MSN (Windows Live) Messenger. The
MSN Messenger ID to add is:

Would you like to interact with a group of Main Menu listeners about the
topics heard on Main Menu and Main Menu Live? You can do this by joining the
Main Menu Friends email list. The address to subscribe is:

Come join an already lively group of users.

Would you like to subscribe to podcast feeds for Main Menu and Main Menu
Live? The RSS feeds to add to your podcatching application are:

Main Menu –
Main Menu Live –

Main Menu can be heard on Tuesday evenings at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific,
and at 1 universal (GMT) on Wednesday mornings on the ACB Radio Main Stream

Follow this link to listen to the show:

Jeff Bishop and Darrell Shandrow
The Main Menu Production Team

Categories: Uncategorized

Concerted, Multidisciplinary, Organized and Systematic Approach to Accessibility Evangelism Needed

March 1, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I’ve been thinking long and hard about accessibility evangelism in general as of late. Although a few positive differences have been made along the way, the overall results of our efforts here at Blind Access Journal have represented significantly less than the proverbial drop in the bucket. Once in awhile, an online petition is initiated, a company voluntarily decides to make its products and services more accessible or an organization files a lawsuit in an attempt to compel a company to become more accessible based on existing, vaguely defined legislation. Despite continuous, ongoing technological innovation for the sighted, we blind and visually impaired people are being left further and further behind, both by a mainstream technology industry that largely ignores us and an assistive technology industry that can’t or simply won’t innovate to the level that is really needed in order for us to participate in society on anything approaching parity with our sighted peers. Unfortunately, a few dedicated souls in the online, connected blind community can’t reverse these disturbing trends alone. Successful accessibility evangelism that results in our being afforded the opportunity to fully participate in the information age is going to take a concerted, multidisciplinary, organized and systematic approach directed by an organization with a positive track record of acting in the best interests of the blind and visually impaired.

At the Blind Access Journal, I can count on the fingers of my two hands the number of people who have provided us with anything approaching a significant amount of assistance with any of the accessibility evangelism we have undertaken. As this continues to be the state of affairs, we at the Journal become discouraged, decreasing our inspiration to do our critical work. Any accessibility evangelism efforts must involve a consistently concerted effort on the part of at least tens or hundreds of members of the blind community and those who care about what happens to us. Until the amount of participation in accessibility evangelism increases by leaps and bounds over its current levels, no major steps forward can be taken. The following represent examples of steps one could take to further the cause of equal accessibility for the blind:

  • When you see an accessibility issue, send an e-mail to the company asking for its resolution in a reasonable way that permits our participation.
  • Promptly sign online petitions, write letters and take other steps requested of you by accessibility evangelists.
  • Send an e-mail to us or to others you believe to be effective accessibility evangelists asking what you can do to help further the cause of equal access.
  • If you are a blogger or podcaster, whether blind or sighted, discuss accessibility and ask your audience to take positive action.

The blind community is small, yet there are at least tens of thousands of us already connected to the Internet. If a company’s representatives hear from only one or two people asking for an accessibility accomodation, those requests are likely to go largely ignored in most cases; however, if they hear from even a couple of hundred people asking about the same issue, that’s bound to be sufficient to garner some serious attention. This is especially true if many such requests can get escalated up the company’s or organizations management chain of command. If these requests can be made by a large number of people in an organized, systematic manner, the impact could be even greater.

In order to be most effective, I have come to the conclusion that accessibility evangelism needs to be done in such a way as to coordinate the efforts of individuals in an organized, systematic manner. The employees and management of companies and organizations will become confused if many individuals make complex requests for wildly differing forms of accessibility accomodations. It is obvious that such confusion and complexity would turn anyone off to the possibility of working with us to meet our needs in a reasonable way that allows us to participate while minimizing the economic and time impact to their business operations. Both the individual and the organizational components of such evangelism are critical. The following are examples of steps that could be taken to make accessibility evangelism a more organized, systematic enterprise:

  • House an accessibility evangelism department or team within the umbrella of an organization that truly cares about what happens to blind and visually impaired people. Examples of such organizations might be the Accessibility Is a Right Foundation, The American Foundation for the Blind or Benetech.
  • Devise an accessibility help desk blind and visually impaired people may contact when access barriers are encountered, assign the access issue a case number and work the problem toward an acceptable resolution as would any other technical support help desk operation in the world.
  • Create a knowledge base featuring assistive technology and mainstream solutions to accessibility barriers.
  • Establish sound policies and procedures for handling accessibility advocacy projects from the initial request for help, through appropriate escalation steps to final disposition.
  • Using information from the help desk in accordance with policies and procedures, initiate private and public advocacy campaigns in both the blind community and the sighted world at large to encourage positive resolution to those barriers that seem particularly intractible.

Such a mammoth project clearly requires coordination and support by a team of core individuals who are able to direct and encourage the advocacy efforts of the entire blind community. This core group should represent a multidisciplinary cabal of men and women from a widely diverse field of interests and professions. Experts in communications, marketing, public relations and sales could make requests of companies and organizations to improve accessibility and relate positively with the entire blind community to encourage their proactive participation in the accessibility evangelism process. Computer programmers and other technology experts could devise solutions to access barriers and educate other programmers on all the cost effective ways to go about resolving the issues effectively. Journalists could objectively report on the current state of accessibility issues and write opinion pieces covering all the ways the barriers may be effectively reduced or eliminated. As a last resort, lawyers and political scientists could address accessibility issues from a legal and political point of view, attempting to achieve structured settlements, filing lawsuits and encouraging the passage of additional, relevant legislation as needed. It takes significant depth to properly address these critical issues in ways that can result in successful outcomes.

It is our human nature to take the path of least resistance. We are often finding excuses for doing nothing about the issues that impact us. We believe “someone else” will take care of the problem on our behalf. This is an incredibly destructive fallacy for our community. There are far too few someone elses available to do this critical work. A truly effective accessibility evangelism effort must be concerted, involving effort expended by a large number of members of the blind community as well as those in the sighted world who care about what happens to us. In order to achieve any lasting impact, accessibility evangelism ultimately must be housed within a recognized organization and be comprised of a team effort with a dedicated core group of multidisciplinary professionals who will utilize a solid set of policies and procedures to direct the efforts of a much larger group of volunteers and the entire blind community. If we really desire the accessibility we must have in order to participate in society on an equal footing with the sighted, it is time for us to get serious by combining individual and organizational resources into an accessibility evangelism project that can take the needs of the blind community and educate the rest of the world in ways that turn problems into effective solutions.