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Download Instructions for Microsoft Security Essentials

September 30, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Microsoft released its new free anti-malware Security Essentials product to Genuine Windows users Tuesday. The company’s Web developers forgot to make sure that the download process was intuitive for its blind customers. While browsing the Security Essentials Web site, people who rely on screen readers feel or hear a link containing the following text: “A38FFBF2-1122-48B4-AF60-E44F6DC28BD8/mssefullinstall-x86fre-en-us-vista-win7.” Microsoft representatives have been asked about this concern, and a response from the company’s public relations staff is anticipated in the near future.

Until Microsoft corrects the download process, an alternative exists for blind users to gain access to the software. Follow these steps to download Microsoft Security Essentials:

  1. Visit the Microsoft Security Essentials Web site.
  2. Select the “Locales and languages” link.
  3. Press the screen reader keystroke to redraw or refresh the interpretation of the screen’s contents. This command is Insert+Escape for JAWS and System Access, and Insert+Backslash for Window-Eyes. This step is critical in order to view the information that has changed on the dynamic Web page.
  4. Select the country in which you are located from the combo box.
  5. Select the link appropriate for the 32- or 64-bit operating system you are running. The download process begins.
Categories: accessibility, tips

Job Opportunity: Lighthouse Seeks Blind Executive Director

September 28, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Kirk Adams, President, The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc has asked us to carry the following job announcement to fill an executive director position.

“I am committed to having a blind person in the top leadership position at our Inland Northwest Lighthouse facility,” said Adams. “This is an exceptional opportunity for the right person, and I am willing to take all the time necessary to find the right fit. Either a person with the skills and experience to step right in, or someone who can develop with training and mentoring.”

Underscoring his desire to see a blind person holding a leadership role in the community served by the Lighthouse, Adams added: “We opened about fifteen months ago, making office products for the federal government. We currently have 35 blind employees, with a goal of 45 by year’s end. I believe this operation will support employment of 100 blind people five years from now.”

The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc

Inland Northwest Lighthouse

Job Announcement

Title: Executive Director

Department: Administration

Reports To: President, CEO

Location: Spokane, Washington

Hours: Full Time M-F, includes some Saturday work

Summary: The Executive Director is responsible for accomplishing the mission of The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. at Inland Northwest Lighthouse (INL). Provide leadership, with passion, to address issues facing persons who are blind, Deaf-Blind and blind with other disabilities. Educate and create awareness about the blindness field within the greater Spokane community. Provide successful leadership and management of the INL facility. Align INL initiatives with the strategic plan of the Lighthouse. Accountable to accomplish specific goals that support the INL business plan.

Responsibilities:

  • Leadership
    • Represent the Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. and the INL within the Inland Northwest community.
    • Participate with the INL Advisory Committee and CEO to develop a vision, mission, values, and INL strategic and business plans.
    • Identify, assess, and inform the Advisory Committee and CEO of internal and external issues that affect the organization.
    • Foster effective team work among the Advisory Committee, staff, and CEO.
  • Operational planning and management
    • Ensure the INL meets the expectations of its customers, employees, Advisory Committee, funders, CEO and all other stakeholders, including blindness consumer groups, NIB and its associated agencies.
    • Oversee the performance management system including creation and implementation of individual development plans for each INL employee.
    • Oversee accommodations, accessibility and use of assistive technology at organizational and individual employee levels.
    • Give input to Lighthouse HR staff in terms of developing and implementing policies and procedures that affect the INL.
    • Ensure that personnel, client, donor and volunteer files are securely stored and privacy/confidentiality is maintained.
    • Work with Board Support Team to prepare meeting agenda and supporting materials for the INL Advisory Committee.
  • Program planning and management
    • Ensure that the programs and services offered by the organization contribute to the organization’s mission and reflect the priorities of the Advisory Committee, CEO and blindness communities.
    • Work closely with Lighthouse government relations to partner with agencies and public officials to identify issues and improve mission-related legislation, services and supports.
    • Monitor the day-to-day delivery of the programs and services of the organization to maintain or improve quality.
  • Human resources planning and management
    • Work with HR Department, GMO, and GMA to determine staffing requirements for overall organizational management, program & service delivery. Work with GMO as requested to support workforce needs in manufacturing.
    • Oversee the implementation of the human resources policies, procedures and practices.
    • Establish a positive, healthy, safe and accessible work environment that promotes positive open communication in accordance with the Lighthouse human resources, safety & wellness program and applicable laws and regulations.
    • Recruit, interview and select staff that have the knowledge, skills and abilities to help further the organization’s mission.
    • Ensure that all staff receives orientation and training appropriate for their positions.
  • Financial planning and management
    • Work with CFO, GMO, and INL Production Manager to prepare a comprehensive budget. Monitor actual performance against the budget and recommend corrective actions to achieve budget as needed.
    • Work with the Advisory Committee and development staff to secure adequate funding to meet INL goals.
    • In conjunction with the Communications Department, coordinate and lead INL fundraising activities.
    • Work with Lighthouse CFO to ensure that accounting and recordkeeping policies and procedures are implemented.
  • Community relations/advocacy
    • Establish good working relationships and collaborative arrangements with community groups, funders, public officials and other organizations to help achieve goals including funding, donations, customer support, community responsibility and involvement in the blindness field.
    • Attend NFB, WCB and AFB meetings and events as appropriate. Participate and serve as a speaker as appropriate.
  • Risk management
    • Identify and evaluate organizational risks to: stakeholders including employees and persons receiving services; property, finances, goodwill, and image. Implement measures to control risks.

Requirements: (equivalent education/and or experience may substitute)

  • Education
    • Bachelor degree in business/management and non-profit leadership.
  • Knowledge
    • Knowledge of current community challenges and opportunities relating to the mission of the organization.
    • Knowledge of leadership and management principles as they relate to non-profit/ voluntary organizations.
    • Knowledge of sound business practices and principles.
    • Knowledge of government, political process, fundraising, community service and service provider organizations.
    • Knowledge of federal legislation applicable to voluntary sector organizations.
    • Knowledge of human resources management.
    • Knowledge of financial management.
    • Knowledge of project management.
    • Knowledge of disability issues, workplace accommodations and assistive technology strongly preferred.

Skills

  • Demonstrated blindness skills that support independent living such as orientation and mobility, cane travel, use of assistive technology such as JAWS or ZoomText. Braille, or guide dog/cane use are strongly preferred.
  • Leadership, collaboration and teambuilding skills necessary to work seamlessly with all stakeholders and employees.
  • Excellent presentation and communication skills are necessary.
  • Proficiency in the use of computers for Word processing, financial management, and e-mail.

Abilities and Attributes

  • Adaptability: Demonstrate a willingness to be flexible, versatile and/or tolerant in a changing work environment while maintaining effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Demonstrate Ethics: Understand ethical behavior and business practices, and ensure that own behavior and the behavior of others is consistent with these standards and aligns with the values of the organization.
  • Build Relationships: Establish and maintain positive working relationships with others, both internally and externally, to achieve the goals of the organization.
  • Communicate Effectively: Speak, listen and write in a clear, thorough and timely manner using appropriate and effective communication tools and techniques.
  • Creativity/Innovation: Develop new and unique ways to improve operations of the organization and to create new opportunities.
  • Focus on needs of those being served: Anticipate, understand, and respond to the needs of disabled employees and community members to meet or exceed their expectations within the organizational parameters.
  • Foster Teamwork: Work cooperatively and effectively with others to set goals, resolve problems, and make decisions that enhance organizational effectiveness.
  • Leadership: Positively influence others to achieve results that are in the best interest of the organization.
  • Make Decisions: Assess situations to determine the importance, urgency and risks, and make clear decisions which are timely and in the best interests of the organization.
  • Organize: Set priorities, develop a work schedule, monitor progress towards goals, and track details, data, information and activities.
  • Plan: Determine strategies to move the organization forward, set goals, create and implement action plans, and evaluate the process and results.
  • Solve Problems: Assess problem situations to identify causes, gather and process relevant information, generate possible solutions, and make recommendations and/or resolve the problem.
  • Think Strategically: Assesses options and actions based on trends and conditions in the environment, and the vision and values of the organization.

Experience

  • Five or more years of progressive management experience in a nonprofit sector preferred.
  • Experience in government and political processes; blindness consumer groups and issues.

Working Conditions

  • Work in an office environment within a manufacturing facility.
  • Work a standard work week, but additionally will often work evening, weekends, and overtime hours to accommodate activities such as attending advisory council meetings and public events.

Persons who are legally blind and meet the qualifications are urged to apply for this position.

Seattle Lighthouse will conduct a nation wide search to fill this position. We expect this extensive search to take six to twelve months.

Equal Opportunity Employer M/F

Please email cover letter and resume to jobs (at) seattlelh.org or mail them to:

The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.

Attn.: Don Helsel

2501 S. Plum Street

Seattle, Washington 98144

Telephone: (206) 436-2760

Fax: 206.436.2244

TTY: (206) 324-1388

Visit our Web site for more information about employment at the Lighthouse, and to download an application form.

Categories: Uncategorized

Friday’s State-wide Cox Outage Inconveniences Customers

September 27, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Some Cox Communications customers throughout Arizona woke up Friday morning to find themselves disconnected from their digital lives. Technical support calls were greeted by a recorded message that stated: “We are currently experiencing outages affecting high speed Internet and digital telephone state-wide. Our engineers are working to resolve this issue. There is no estimated time of repair.”

Tempe resident Lauren Peikoff, an Arizona State University journalism student, wanted to go online before leaving for class.

“I needed to check to see if I had any assignments posted,” said Peikoff. “I wanted to find out if there was anything else I needed to do. What if my instructor said class was canceled?”

She was also concerned about an assignment in her online class due Friday evening.

“I was thinking ahead. OK. I am going to have to go to the library to submit my homework,” Peikoff said.

She was relieved to discover she could complete the assignment at home after service was restored sometime between 1:30 and 2 p.m.

Tempe resident Corey Nava also experienced the outage.

“I was trying to check my e-mail at the time and I couldn’t even get to it. It was just a pain, really,” Nava said. “I was actually looking for a car online, too, so, it kind of put a damper on that.”

Cox representatives said the service interruption was caused by a software problem.

“It disrupted service to around 10 percent of our customers,” said Michael Dunne, Director of Media Relations, Cox Communications, Southern Arizona. “It wasn’t geographically located. It was kind of all over. Our techs immediately started working the issue.”

Cox Media Relations Director Andrea Katsenes prefers not to classify the incident as an outage. “The interruption was intermittent,” she said.

“We’ve been talking to our customers on a case-by-case basis,” Katsenes said, declining to provide details on any steps Cox might take to compensate customers.

Nava said he won’t ask Cox for any credit to his account. “I probably won’t even follow up on it. It was an inconvenience and it’s not the first time it happened.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Let’s Ask Twitter to Enable Us to Moderate Follow Requests

September 27, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Hard-working, honest Twitter users are getting sick and tired of all the bogus follow requests they receive on a daily basis as they post updates to Twitter. It seems there are automated computer programs, AKA bots, that search for interesting topics and try to follow everyone who tweets about them in hopes the favor will be reciprocated. Once the user follows the bogus Twitter account, their time line can be spammed with unwanted links to advertising and marketing from a strange company with an unknown reputation. What measures can we take now to protect ourselves and what can Twitter do to help?

Some people I know take a conservative, guarded approach to Twitter. These users protect their accounts. They may be followed only by request and their tweets may be viewed only by approved followers. Users in this camp restrict their followers to close friends and relatives, limiting their participation in all that Twitter has to offer. These users can’t be followed by others with a legitimate interest in the topics about which they tweet and are unable to meet new people. It would seem they lose out on most of the benefits of social media. While a portion of these users really do want a private Twitter experience, others feel the need to employ these measures as protection against spammers.

In contrast, other users wish to avail themselves of all the social media benefits Twitter offers, putting up with the junk in the process. They allow everyone to follow their public tweets and revel in the prospect of connecting and communicating with people they met online. The public profile of these users exposes them to phishing, spamming, social engineering and other forms of abuse. How can public users protect themselves while enjoying all of Twitter’s benefits?

There are currently a number of ways for public Twitter users to combat abuse, but all may require significant time and effort. How does one avoid unscrupulous users while ensuring they allow participation by those who have a legitimate interest in their tweets? While much of the abuse is perpetrated by bots, it seems the defense must be conducted manually, on a case-by-case basis as attacks are attempted.

Good protection seems to start at the point where a user makes a follow request. The requester is asking for permission to see your updates on their Twitter home page or in their Twitter application. Once the user follows you, he or she typically hopes you will return the favor in order to form a connection. When two Twitter users follow each other, a two-way relationship exists permitting the private exchange of direct messages and the public swapping of Twitter updates. The malicious user can abuse this new relationship by posting pushy marketing information to all their followers or by attempting to lure their followers to questionable Web sites that try to collect usernames, passwords and other personal data.

The key is to ensure you are only forming healthy relationships on Twitter by carefully evaluating each new follow request and keeping these guidelines in mind before approving anyone:

  • Check the Twitter username. If it contains several numbers after the name, this may represent a red flag. Proceed with caution. Bots can create accounts based on a name, adding numbers until an unused one has been found.
  • Look for nonsensical names or missing biographical information on the user’s Twitter home page. If you don’t like what you see, by all means ignore the follow request.
  • Consider taking a look at the Web site linked in the user’s profile. Exercise caution, though, as this link might point to a malicious page or an attempted social engineering attack. Do not trust the page’s content and avoid entering any personal data.
  • Review the updates the user has posted. You can quickly see the 20 most recent tweets on the user’s Twitter home page. Red flags include a large number of links without context, little or no conversation with other users and a lack of information you deem interesting.
  • If you believe the user is malicious, press the Block button. If you just find the user’s content uninteresting, simply ignore the follow request but do not block. Blocking can have a negative impact on a user’s reputation and may potentially limit their future ability to use Twitter.

We can ask Twitter to develop an easy solution that would allow us to strike a balance between the limitations inherent in a protected account and the anything-goes nature of a public account. The solution is moderated following. In a moderated following scenario, anyone making a follow request would be asked to explain why they should be granted that honor. The proposed feature would work like this:

  • A user wishes to follow someone on Twitter.
  • She visits the person’s Twitter home page and presses the Follow button.
  • She is asked to provide the reason she wishes to follow the other person.
  • Twitter notifies the recipient of the follow request, including the stated reason.
  • The recipient is given a chance to accept or reject the request.
  • If it is accepted, the requester receives appropriate notification. If denied, the requester receives nothing.

Let’s all think about how a moderated follow scenario might work and, if it’s something worth pursuing, ask Twitter to consider putting it in place as a new feature. All comments are appreciated as always.

Categories: feedback, opinion, Twitter

FeedBlitz Adds Audio CAPTCHA, Tears Down "No Blind People Allowed" Sign

September 25, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In a Sept. 24 post on the company’s news blog, the self-proclaimed “Email Marketing Service for Blogs, Social Media and RSS” announced it has added an audio CAPTCHA. This facility delivers an audio alternative to the distorted text sighted users are asked to enter during registration or subscription, permitting access for blind and visually impaired users to the same resources available to the sighted.

“FeedBlitz has added an audio version of the visual CAPTCHA (which has also been slightly updated) used on all FeedBlitz subscription forms,” according to the statement.

The new audio verification system can be heard on the company’s registration page. A clear voice is used to announce the letters and numbers to be entered. No background distortion is heard. Audio playback is delivered in the form of a standard MP3 file that can be opened and played according to the user’s needs and preferences.

FeedBurner, a Google property competing with FeedBlitz in the RSS space, continues to lack audio playback functionality, thus barring access to blind people.

Opportunity to Ask Google for More Blogger Accessibility

September 18, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Though Blogger already has a lot to offer blind and visually impaired audiences and content creators, there continue to be some nagging unresolved accessibility issues, including missing alt tags and unlabeled Flash controls. All blind and visually impaired readers, and those who care about us, are asked to take the Blogger user feedback survey and use the comment fields to ask Google to improve the accessibility of the service for blind and visually impaired people.

Categories: web accessibility

Should Focus be Placed on Concrete Accessibility Issues or on an Abstract Fight Against Blindness Stereotypes?

September 18, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Many in the blind community are enraged after discovering an article entitled How to Care for a Blind Person on a popular how-to Web site, but are the misconceptions and stereotypes found in such content the most important issues we should be addressing? Several blind people have spoken out on Twitter.

“We all have to set our priorities, we think that people need to know that blind people are not retarted invalids,” said Bat. “You can have access to every bit of tech, if people think you are an idiot how much luck do you think you will have?”

Bat continued: “Both (accessibility and perception) are equally important and must be addressed at the same time. Progress in one makes progress in the other easier.”

Ricky Enger said: “The concrete and the abstract are both important. But with concrete battles, seems you always have to start from the ground up. By addressing the underlying abstract concept, which is that we should truly be viewed as equals, the concrete issues take care of themselves. People then address accessibility issues because it makes sense, not because it’s been mandated. Example: we could advocate for access to Kindle all we want. But if people consciously or unconsciously believe that we are all low income and have caregivers, as portrayed in the eHow article, we’ll be perceived as an unimportant share of the market and not worth satisfying until failure to do so brings about legal action.”

“A great mentor of mine always taught me that perception was stronger than reality,” Ranger said. “Swinging at every pitch results in a lower batting average instead of waiting for the right pitch to hit.”

“I think the two are very different issues,” said Steve Sawczyn. “Why choose one or the other? Why not work on both fronts?”

Shannon C. said “Well, the stereotypes should be combatted before accessibility will become a greater issue.”

“No more jobs if the employers think we aren’t competent to hold them, no matter what the accessibility is,” said Buddy Brannan.

Chris Meredith said “I think the stereotypes should be fought concurrent with the concrete issues, because I think they feed on each other.”

“I think they (inaccessibility and stereotypes) are both important and need to be fought equally,” Amber W. said.

Let your voice be heard. Should we focus on combatting inaccessibility, battling stereotypes or both? We await your comments.

Tempe City Council Keeps Manager, Improves Disabled Parking Access

September 11, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The Tempe City Council voted in its Tuesday evening meeting to improve the accessibility of parking for people with disabilities and keep City Manager Charlie Meyer on the job.

Rosa Inchausti, Diversity Manager with the city of Tempe’s Diversity Department, said before the meeting that the city recognizes people with disabilities need access to the parking spot, the sidewalk and the building’s entrance.

She said the city has always complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but this new ordinance goes “a few notches” beyond the legal requirements.

“We’re just looking to make quality of life easier for people with disabilities,” Inchausti said.

Ed Mitchell, Tempe resident and member of the city’s Mayor’s Commission on Disability Concerns, said ahead of the Council vote that the ordinance makes it against the law to block accessible parking spaces, the isles around those spaces and the curb ramps leading to sidewalks.

“Armored cars would block accessible spaces because they’re closest to the door,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully, On Oct. 10, they’ll get cited if they do that.”

He said the time allowed to assist a person with a disability at alleys and loading curbs, which are typically restricted to delivery trucks, has been extended from five to 15 minutes.

Breaking the new law comes at a steep price.

“The fine is minimally $250 for any of the parking, curb ramps or access isles,” Mitchell said. “For forgery, (of the disabled parking placards) it’s $300.”

“What we want people to know is that we’re serious about having accessible parking areas for people and protecting them,” said Mitchell.

Council members approved the ordinance by a unanimous vote.

In other action, City Manager Charlie Meyer hung onto his job by a narrow margin as the Council voted on the continuance of his employment agreement.

“I don’t think Charlie recognizes in his actions the importance of diversity in Tempe. In my opinion, Charlie has not disciplined department heads who did not meet job expectations,” Councilmember Ben Arredondo said in the debate leading up to the vote. “Charlie does not communicate with the council very well. And, finally, Charlie does not value his Tempe employees.”

Councilmember Onnie Shekerjian said in support of Meyer: “Mr. Meyer came at a time when there was a lot of change about to take place and the economy took a huge dip. Because of his financial expertise and because of the quiet leadership he does show, we have been able to fare far better than other cities in terms of making sure that people are not laid off.”

“He has asked some city staff members to think outside the box and to question the way they do things. That makes some people a little uncomfortable at times,” Shekerjian said.

Shekerjian said: “I’ve found Mr. Meyer to be someone who rolls up his sleeves and gets involved and quietly does the heavy lifting. And, many times, those types of people who don’t go out and do a lot of politicking, we don’t see the good work they do.”

She does not buy arguments claiming any lack of diversity on Meyer’s part.

“I have never found that he has not supported diversity as a woman and a minority,” Shekerjian said. “He treats all of us with the same level of respect that we all should be afforded.”

Meyer’s job was saved by a four to three Council vote.

Categories: Tempe

WordPress Asked to Make Adding and Moving Widgets Accessible to the Blind Once Again

September 1, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

An accessibility advocate has asked WordPress to restore the ability for blind users to add and move widgets. Fellow blind and sighted WordPress users are urged to add their support to this effort.

Once upon a time, blind WordPress users enjoyed the ability to add and move widgets at will using the keyboard, but this accessibility vanished somewhere along the WordPress development cycle.

“I’m disappointed that WordPress has removed accessibility for widgets. Dragging widgets is the only way to add or rearrange them,” said Monica Willyard, a freelance writer and publisher of The Scanners Guild blog, in a post on Twitter. “They fixed it in version 2.5, and they seem to have broken it again.”

Willyard, like many other blind Internet users, is frustrated when keyboard navigation alternatives and other reasonable accessibility accommodations are not provided.

“At the moment, I’m having very angry and unprintable thoughts about the enventor of the mouse and the drag and drop process,” she said. “I have had four completely unrelated projects today where I can’t do what I need to do because the programmers relied on drag and drop.”