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A Tribute to Jonathan Mosen and The Wave

March 22, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I first learned about Jonathan Mosen in late 1996. At that time, he operated a web site called The Arena. Not only did this site contain lots of wonderful blind community resources, but there was also a neat section called “Voices from the Keyboard” where you could hear the voices of those who participated in the Internet portion of the blind community. I met Jonathan briefly while attending my last NFB convention in New Orleans in 1997. Jonathan went on to form an innovative Internet radio station called MBSFM, where he broadcasted the first significant, live blind community radio talk show called Blind Line. Sometime in 2000, Jonathan began his directorship of ACB Radio, continuing Blind Line and featuring such enlightening new programming as the Main Menu technology demonstration and information radio show. As he moved on to his current employment with HumanWare, he began The Wave, the fun, innovative and witty radio station to which we must now say “goodbye” and “so long” for the present time.

I woke up this morning to the sad news that, due to various technical problems including lack of available Internet bandwidth, The Wave is closing. The loss of The Wave is already being felt by us here at Blind Access Journal. I and many others are going to especially miss The fun, humorous and always interesting Mosen Explosion music, request and talk show, which Jonathan hosted on Friday afternoons here in the United States, noontime on Saturdays in New Zealand.

Jonathan, despite our disagreements over such important issues as the Bookshare accessibility model and the war in Iraq, you have been one of my favorite people since I learned of you in 1996! I have looked up to you as a model of success and as a real, sincere person. You inspire blind people all over the world! Please do come back to Internet broadcasting very soon; we miss you already! I can actually feel tears welling up in my eyes. Please come back soon, Jonathan; we need you!

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Ask Skype to Become More Accessible!

March 13, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Skype is a revolutionary new way to communicate on the Internet using your voice. Voice contact between Internet users is free of charge, while it is possible to place calls to regular telephones at extremely competitive discount rates. Skype is able to effectively work around most firewalls and other challenging network configurations that stop other voice over Internet solutions dead in their tracks.

Naturally, Skype is an excellent candidate for adoption as the voice communication solution of choice for the blind community. Sadly, despite numerous attempts to communicate with Skype concerning accessibility, each new release of the Skype software seems to be moving in the wrong direction, away from accessibility! Increasing awareness of accessibility is always the first step to positive change, and Skype is certainly no exception. Blind Access Journal is sending the following letter to Skype requesting that attention be paid to the accessibility of its software to all current and potential users, including those of us whom happen to be blind.

March 13, 2005

Dear Skype Management Team:

The Skype voice over Internet software represents a revolution in voice communications technology on the Internet. Its ability to provide high quality audio while working around firewalls and other challenging network configurations has the potential to reduce complexity and increase the usability of voice over Internet technologies for everyone, including Internet users whom happen to be blind or visually impaired. I am a blind information technology professional, accessibility advocate and publisher of the Blind Access Journal found at The purpose of this letter is to request that Skype show leadership by integrating accessibility into the design of its software so that all may participate in the voice over Internet revolution.

Creating and maintaining reasonable accessibility need not be difficult nor costly, especially for the talented programmers employed by your company. I would like to make the following recommendations to improve the accessibility of Skype:

  • Enable tab and shift+tab navigation among all program controls, fields and other elements.
  • Enable arrow key navigation and Windows keyboard support in all fields such as edit boxes, combo boxes and lists.
  • Enable the option of using a Windows standard focus or highlight bar to indicate selection in the contact list and other places in the program as appropriate.
  • Use standard Window classes for all controls or implement Microsoft Active Accessibility to provide this information to assistive technology.
  • Include text labels for all graphics in the program.

There are tens of thousands of current and potential Skype users in the blind community. Your software is a natural fit for blind people, who are always looking for affordable international voice communication technology. We are concerned that, with each new version of Skype, the program is actually becoming less and less accessible. There is a small group of blind programmers who are feverishly working to maintain a set of script files for the popular JAWS for Windows screen reading application. As each new Skype release changes the user interface, these scripts break, must be revised and distributed to all affected users. While Skype is less complex than other solutions for sighted users, this need to constantly update a set of scripts that can’t even provide access to all Skype features increases the complexity of Skype for blind users to a level that is simply unattainable by most. As we have observed the design of each new Skype release become less and less accessible, we are concerned that a point will soon be reached where the maintenance of the scripts will become impossible and we will be permanently locked out of the Skype revolution. It is also critical to serve the thousands of blind people not using the JAWS screen reader, for whom the scripts are unable to help.

I ask you to show your leadership on the Internet. Please work cooperatively and proactively with us to insure the ability of everyone to use the Skype software and all associated free and fee based services. I look forward to a response from someone on your management team in the very near future. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.


Darrell Shandrow

Blind Access Journal

I am now asking you to write and send a similar letter to Skype. I am hopeful that our requests for greater accessibility will receive attention if we all make our voices heard. Follow Skype’s report a problem with Skype link and contact Customer Service to submit your letter. It is highly encouraged that you submit at least a problem report, even if you have only used Skype’s free services. We are strongly urging you to submit both a problem report and customer service feedback if you have ever placed a call using the Skype Out service. This is an opportunity for us all to participate in an effort to gain greater accessibility to information technology. I expect everyone to rise to the occasion and squeak this wheel as loud as possible!

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New Comment Management and Trackback Functionality

March 11, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Blind Access Journal is a dynamic, constantly evolving blind community resource. We are experimenting with a blogging capability known as trackback. This new functionality enables aggregation and exchange of articles and associated comments among blogs. Trackback provides us with the potential to expand the influence of the journal throughout the Internet community and to track the progress of our efforts. Your feedback and patience are appreciated as we are bound to cut our teeth on this new system in the beginning.

You may be wondering what happened to all the old comments. They’re not gone. Simply click the link to the post time for each article to view all comments entered before the implementation of trackback. Please use the new “Comment” and “Trackback” links to submit all new responses.

We feel we have improved the overall quality and usefulness of Blind Access Journal by adding this new comment management and trackback functionality. As always, we welcome your feedback and will do our very best to resolve all reported issues these new features may cause.

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Food for Thought: Excruciatingly Annoying, Potentially Dangerous Double Standard!

March 10, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Here’s some food for thought. If a sighted person is clumsy or disorganized, it is typically accepted and just blown off as being no big deal. If a blind person exhibits the same behavior, it is immediately attributed to their blindness and considered to be further evidence of the supposed overall incompetence of the blind in general. Like it or not, we must, at all times, stay on our toes and work tirelessly to prove ourselves to be above this ridiculous double standard.

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Letter to GoDaddy Software Concerning the Accessibility of Visual Verification

March 9, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

March 9, 2005

Dear GoDaddy Management team,

I attempted to perform a Whois domain name search at
and was stopped dead in my tracks by your company’s visual verification process. I am a blind information technology professional with over ten years of
experience, an accessibility advocate and publisher of the Blind Access Journal found at

I am not able to physically see the characters in the image to type them into the edit field in order to pass a visual verification test. Though the purpose
of these tests is to insure that only a live human being is using the service, they’re really testing and admitting only sighted humans when no accessible
alternatives are provided. In your company’s case, a telephone number (480-505-8899) is provided as a means for gaining access to the Whois information
when the user is blind or visually impaired.
I called 480-505-8899 this morning. After working with your IVR, where no mention is made of the correct option to select for this accessibility situation,
I spoke with Max. He was unable to simply provide me with a verification code, but offered to verbally read the requested Whois information over the phone.
He was helpful but did not have the answers to most of my questions about the inaccessibility of your visual verification process and was unable to tell
me whether or not TDD service was available for the deaf-blind. I was transferred to Dirk, Max’s supervisor, who advised me to write to this e-mail address.

According to the current state of the art in visual verification technology, a commonly accepted way to provide an accessible alternative is to allow the
user to click a link that plays an audio version of the characters being displayed in the image. I am strongly requesting that GoDaddy implement this
audio alternative right away to enable reasonable, independent access to this information for most of the blind and visually impaired. Please do this
in very short order. Companies such as Microsoft, PayPal and SpamArrest already employ this accessibility measure. Please also continue to offer the
alternative of calling the telephone number for those who are unable to use the audio solution, such as those whom are deaf-blind. Of course, please insure
that TDD service is available at this telephone number, or offer another method of contact such as e-mail or instant messaging for these users.

GoDaddy is a leader on the Internet. Please show this leadership by providing real accessibility to your visual verification processes. Enable the audio
solution right away!

Blind Access Journal is covering the impact of inaccessible visual verification systems on the blind, exploring current and innovative new solutions to
the issues and advocating for implementation of accessibility to these systems by everyone who relies on them to protect the security of Internet resources.
A copy of this letter is being posted on the journal. We in the blind community hope to be able to place GoDaddy into the good guys camp as an example
of how to protect Internet users against spam and other abuse while allowing all human beings access to products and services regardless of disability.


Darrell Shandrow


Blind Access Journal:

After sending this letter to as recommended by Dirk on the phone this morning, I received a mail delivery failure notice. I hope this is, in fact, a real e-mail address and that GoDaddy is dealing with technical difficulties. On my lunch break, I will be attempting to determine how to effectively complete the delivery of this letter to Godaddy Software. Let’s keep fighting the good fight! Inaccessible visual verification schemes pose a clear and present danger to our continued ability to access the Internet!

Categories: Uncategorized

Ask Google to Unlock Visual Verification for the Blind

March 6, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Google is by far the most widely utilized accessible search engine on the Internet. The company went public last year and is quickly adding new, exciting products and services! As blind people, we must take steps right now to insure that Google remains on the right track with respect to the accessibility of its services to all Internet users, including those with disabilities.

If you are blind, Google’s current implementation of visual verification locks you out! Google uses visual verification to test for the presence of a human being before allowing the user to perform basic tasks such as creating a Google account or resetting the account’s password. Unfortunately, at the moment, no audio alternative to this visual verification scheme is provided. If you can’t physically see the picture, you can’t enter the characters displayed and, thus, you are barred from creating the account or resetting the password. I am dealing with this issue right now! I need to reset my Google account password, and the inaccessible visual verification system is locking me out. It is 7:50 in the morning. There is no sighted person available to complete this task on my behalf!

We must take the initiative with Google right now to insist that an accessible audio based alternative be implemented for the current visual verification scheme. Please follow this link to report the problem and ask Google to implement an accessible audio alternative to its visual verification scheme as soon as possible. There are thousands of blind Internet users, and tens of thousands of sighted family, friends and colleagues who care about us! Let’s flood Google with thousands of requests to solve this problem and see what we can accomplish through our collective accessibility advocacy efforts!

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The Ten Commandments and American Values

March 2, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Today the United States Supreme Court begins hearing a couple of cases concerning the display of the Ten Commandments on government property. At issue is the separation of church and state language in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Those opposing the displays contend that it violates this separation by showing support of particular religious beliefs on the part of the government. These opposition groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, believe that absolutely nothing of any possible religious significance should be portrayed by the government in any manner. Those supporting the displays contend that they aren’t really religious, that they represent a part of the bedrock upon which the United States of America was founded in 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Supporters of the Ten Commandments are absolutely right on this one! The Ten Commandments are shared between the three world religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. They represent the essentials of good, solid family values. They have also stood the test of time, remaining important pillars of proper social conduct for thousands of years!

I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “what does this have to do with advocating for accessibility?” The answer is, “plenty”. The Ten Commandments represent a part of the bedrock on which modern Western civilization and the United States of America have been founded and continue to exist today! Our very Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal”. Amendments to the Constitution, such as the 8th amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment, the 13th Amendment rejecting slavery and the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote, serve to reaffirm the conviction of the United States of America that human rights are an absolutely critical part of a democratic American society and that all must be empowered to participate. It is this ability to participate which we seek through greater access to information. The United States of America was founded as a Judeo-Christian nation! The separation between church and state provided in the First Amendment to our Constitution prevents the government from forcing us to worship Christianity, Judaism or any other religion. This necessary separation is a far cry from the elimination of religion and other symbols of American tradition being called for by organizations such as ACLU. Even if you are agnostic, atheist or otherwise don’t consider yourself a religious person, you can still support retaining the symbols of our heritage such as the display of the Ten Commandments! It is not about religion, but about our traditions and values as a nation! As always, all comments are welcome.

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