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Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Karen and I visited the Bishop family in Tucson again this Halloween weekend. A great time was had by all! Stay tuned for a possible episode of the podcast with some of the highlights from the trip.

As we live in an apartment complex, we will most likely not have any trick-or-treators. We haven’t had any in the past six years, so there is no reason to believe that pattern will change this time. Nevertheless, we will be watching a scarey movie or listening to a scarey podcast or two before going to bed a bit early tonight, as the 5:00 alarm rings just a tad too soon for us! Have a happy, accessible Halloween!

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AVG Anti-virus 7.1 released: Grisoft Considers Our Accessibility Needs!

October 27, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

This is all we in the blind community ask of the technology industry: do your very best to consider our needs of equal participation through accessibility in the development and implementation of your hardware and software products and services. Read Grisoft Announces AVG Anti-virus 7.1: with Improved support for screen reader programs to understand how some companies are deciding to do the right thing.

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Video iPod is Total Loss for the Blind

October 26, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


If you’re blind, you’ll want to stay far, far away from the Video iPod. It offers absolutely nothing but complete inaccessibility! Listen as I discuss my firsthand experience with the device at the office yesterday. I also chat about Larry and Rob’s recent podcast on the (in)accessibility of digital audio recorders and wrap up with an inspirational podsafe tune by Natalie Brown reminding us that we need to believe in ourselves and have faith in all that we do.

Blind Cool Tech

Career profiles of real blind people, reviews of assistive and mainstream technology, sound seeing tours and much more provided by Larry Skutchan and an informal team of blind correspondents from around the world!

Natalie Brown

This sweet, soulful vocalist/songwriter with a dynamic, multi-octave vocal range has been charming global audiences with songs that entertain, empower and provoke since late 2000.

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Proposed Logo May Equate Inaccessibility With Racial Segregation

October 26, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Let’s get some healthy discussion going about the pros and cons of relating the consequences of inaccessibility for the blind to those that caused harm to African-Americans through blatant practices of racial segregation in the 1960’s and earlier here in the United States. Should we evoke references to segregation in our advocacy for the accessibility we must have in order to avoid being locked out of society? Please review my ideas for the design of a Blind Access Journal logo and send me an e-mail telling me exactly what you think.

In the background, there is a picture of an authentic “No Blacks Allowed”
sign from the 1950’s. The word “Blacks” has been changed to “Blind”. There
is a slash drawn through this sign to indicate our struggle against that
state of affairs…
In the forground, a blind person is depicted with a cane and some accessible
electronic technology. At the bottom is written:
Blind Access Journal

We Have a Dream of a More Inclusive, Accessible Future – Please join us!

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Danger! New Security Measures May Lock the Blind Out of Participation in Online Banking!

October 23, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Think Google’s inaccessible word verification is bad? Check out some of these new online banking security measures! They hold the promise of insuring our inability to participate in the world of online banking, which has provided us so much more access to our financial lives over the past ten years. There is a real, clear and present danger that we could suffer such startling consequences as loss of access to our hard earned money! Read INTERNET BANKING / New security measures coming online to safeguard accounts from the San Francisco Chronicle and tell us what you think we as a community should be doing to insure this potential new “No Blind People Allowed” sign does not destroy our ability to earn, deposit, save, invest and spend money on terms of equality with our sighted peers.

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Fabulous Feedback as of 10/23/05

October 23, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


Thanks for all the excellent feedback. Please keep it coming by sending e-mail to editor at or by calling the comment line at 206-350-6925.


I am from Turkey.
I appreciate you good podcasts about life.
I found your podcasts for searching audio demo about talking atm.
We are 7 friends which group together as Engelsiz Erisim Grubu “Access Without Handicap”. Our philosophy is “our disability is not derived from our physical
handicap; unaccessible world is the real reason”.
In these days our subject is anouncement system in the busses. Unfortunately no anouncement system is available.
We need some imformation about buss anouncement system.
Could you help us how does anouncement system work in your country?
Best Wishes.

Jake from Illinois

I would like to comment on your podcast regarding JAWS 7.0, dated October 7. First off, I enjoyed the JAWS theme at the beginning and end of the podcast, and I played it for my roommate. He too thought it was very cool. Neither of us has seen the movie though, but I’ll bet that our upstairs neighbors have because they are big horror-movie fans. I obtained JAWS 7.0 a few weeks ago from FS’s website and overall I really like it. I don’t use Firefox so I can’t comment on that part, but based on your comments it sounds like I should stay away from Firefox until further notice. However, I think
JAWS performs extremely well with Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. One feature that I really like is the ability to navigate around within websites
just by the press of a single key, i.e., h for headings, t for tables, etc. It really does save time especially when one is trying to find a particular
item on a web page. I also like the “Wrapping to Top” and “Wrapping to Bottom” feature. One problem I am having though, is that a lot of times when I am on a website and click a link to go to another area of that website and then hit my backspace key, my cursor stays on that link rather than going back.
This problem has just recently started. I have tried hitting alt-left arrow but that doesn’t change anything. I am wondering if you or other JAWS users have noticed this as well. The funny thing is, it seems to occur only some of the time but not other times. I’ve also tried refreshing the screen with JAWS key and Escape, and refreshing the website with the F5 function key but nothing changes. I find this bug to be most annoying. I don’t like having
to close out of Internet Explorer, re-launch IE, and then go back to the website I was on when this happened. I agree with you about .pdf files. Every .pdf file I’ve tried with JAWS was rendered inaccessible. Several years ago I did try a .pdf file with an earlier version of JAWS I had, but the file only half-worked. I wish Freedom Scientific would do more to make these .pdf files accessible, since that is how more and more information is being handled
these days. I have heard about the version of Acrobat Reader that is supposedly self-voicing, but I tried that with no luck. Regarding the “Document Presentation
Mode,” I haven’t had much time to play around with this feature, but I did get a brief overview of this new feature. A while back I had emailed the office of a local nonprofit independent-living organization to ask for a copy of the contact information for everyone on their board. My email was replied to the next morning by the organization’s director of development. She had sent me the information I had requested, attached in Word format. When I got JAWS
7 and found out about “Document Presentation Mode,” I immediately went to that email and tried reading it. The attached document contains a large table.
I first had JAWS read me the document with Simple Layout, and then with Screen Layout. With Screen Layout I got a little bit more of the table. I don’t recall whether this was the result of me inadvertently doing something else to JAWS, or if that is just how Screen Layout works. I will definitely try to find out in the next few days though. I am unemployed and only use my computer for pleasure and to check email, but recently I have used it for online
research. I have also made several online purchases with JAWS. Another thing I really like is the HTML Challenge. I think this is especially good for those who are brand-new to JAWS, and those who no nothing about screen-reading software but are learning. All in all, I would say that JAWS is very stable on my system. There are two major developments which I would like to see not only with JAWS, but also with other PC screen readers. The first is support for Mac platforms. The second is support for safe mode. In other words, if one of us inadvertently puts our system into Safe Mode, what should we do if no sighted person is around to get us out. This has happened to me on a few different occasions, with a couple different computers. Thanks for another very
informative podcast.

Natalie Brown – Musician on the Podsafe Music Network

I was browsing the PodSafe Music Directory and came upon your Podcast. I think it is a wonderful idea.
It would also be great if you let sighted people know how we can make our web sites friendlier for non sighted users. I for one would love to know how to make my site more accessible.
I also have some music that you may like to use for your show in the
There are 2 places you can get my music from for broadcast:
PodSafe Music Network:
Association of Music Podcasters
You can find out more about me at these URL’s:
Official Web Site:
Official Biography:
MySpace Profile:
Album Covers, Announcement Text for DJ’s & Podcasters:
Subscribe to Mailing List:
Banners, Buttons, Videos, Music Codes, Avatars and more:
Thanks so much for reading this email and I hope you use my songs on your podcast in the future.
If you like the music, please feel free to let other Podcasters know about it.
All the best with your show!
Kind regards,

Wayne Merritt

I think you’re right on with your comments in show 52 about JFW.
The manufacturer’s, like FS, should be held to a standard since we do rely upon their products to help us do our work. And, when we can’t do our work because of a lack of ability in the said product, like JFW, then FS should get the blame and be asked why not?
I don’t know how many other people listen to or download your podcasts, but I do. Maybe not all of them, but many of them. I think that your experience in the tech field in general and with JFW in particular, gives you a certain insight into what might, or might not be, going on.
Keep it up,
Wayne Merritt
Check out my blog:

Scott Rutkowski of the Wormcast

Just wanted to comment on your fine podcast.
I really have enjoyed your podcast immensly and I too have difficulties
crossing streets. I was born blind and for some reason just can’t cross a street in a straight line and have to ask for assistance.
I also would agree with you regarding drivers who don’t watch what there doing and have almost been run over by them.
Actually one guy ran over my cane and bent it in half.
this is where having a guide dog is one of the coolest thing.
Unfortunately i’m not really an animal person but could adjust quite quickly if I did decide to apply for a guide dog.
Anyway, keep up the great work with the podcast and I really enjoy the
podcasts you do regarding your packmate jaws and your review type podcasts.
I enjoy the tech related ones but I listen to all your podcasts so again thanks for a great job and I hope we can chat sometime on skype if and when your available.

Angie the hapless geek

I’ve been watching your journal for just over a week now, and find both your written, and audio posts both informative, and enlightening. You have a concise way of expressing yourself, which frankly, is reassuring, and I especially like the fact that you display the downside to various methods of technology,
as well as their good qualities. That said, I have a few questions regarding your usage, and overall thoughts about the PacMate. There is potentially some funding coming to me, and I’d like to use it to its fullest potential. My dilemma is to either go with a Pacmate, or a BrailleNote mPower, and frankly,
I’m undecided as to which to go with. How is the PacMate in terms of reliability, dependability, and its overall housing? I’ve seen earlier versions of the brailleNote, and was immediately impressed with its overall construction, but haven’t ever had the pleasure of playing with a PacMate, wherein also,
my dilemma lies. (it also doesn’t help matters that I love new and exciting forms of technology, and want to play with all of them extensively) Any
assistance/suggestions/advice you’re able to give will be much appreciated.
Thanks for reading,


I just discovered your podcasts thanks to the top tech tidbits produced by Deane. I must say that I totally agree with your comments regarding the Pac-Mate.
I ended up switching from the brailleLite to the BraillNote for stability reasons. Now, I’m considering switching from the Pac-Mate to the BrailleNote MPower for the same reasons. Do you have any thoughts about the advantages or disadvantages of one unit over the other. I’ve been trying to find someone who could give a reasonable comparison. Any of your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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Tearing Down the "No Blind People Allowed" Signs

October 23, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In the beginning of any accessibility advocacy process, inaccessibility is usually a result of ignorance of our needs. Once the blind community has taken a concerted and reasonable effort to educate, and the inaccessibility continues without positive action, then the issue becomes something entirely different. In exactly the same way the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. successfully fought segregation of African-Americans in the 1950’s and 1960’s, I have every intention of insisting on the accessibility we must have in order to participate in society on terms of equality with our sighted peers. We the blind are at a turning point in the state of the widespread development and implementation of technology in all areas of life. The use of technology has become an absolute requirement for such critical life activities as education, employment and even leisure. The consequences for the blind are extreme and immediate, potentially resulting in our being completely locked out of almost all such life activities. Each day, the technology industry is creating and selling more and more hardware and software without making any consideration of the equal access needs of people with disabilities. It is critical that we understand that each unaddressed issue of inaccessibility amounts simply to the deployment of a “No Blind People Allowed” sign! We must take all necessary steps to insure that new “No Blind People Allowed” signs are not put in our paths as additional obstacles to our ability to participate and, just as critically, we must work tirelessly to tear down each existing sign that currently reminds us of all the ways in which the technology industry does not welcome us as the first class citizens and fully living and breathing human beings that we are, possessing all the same rights and obligations as our sighted counterparts.

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Responses to Google Visual Verification Coverage

October 22, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Google representatives have told us in the past that they did not prioritize the accessibility of their products and services due to an apparent lack of user feedback. Unfortunately, Google is receiving feedback, but has thus far decided to completely ignore our concerns, bullishly sticking to their ongoing policy of barring the blind and visually impaired from participation in many of their services. At this point, the only responses we in the blind community have received from Google have amounted to broken promises and words that have not resulted in any positive changes for the better. In contrast to Google’s lack of response, read the words of real blind people who have, indeed, provided Google with plenty of feedback concerning their accessibility issues.

Mika Pyyhkala

I have also contacted accounts-support at google several months ago, and like you, received a brief, polite, and ineffective response.
You may not want to overlook legal options. I don’t think the question of whether the internet is covered by the ADA has been fully answered by the courts.
The most famous case as you probably know involved Southwest Airlines, but from what I have heard, the court really did not decide in that case that the
ADA did not apply to internet sites. An attorney you may want to contact is Laney Finegold in northern California. I know she regularly speaks at CSUN
and other conferences. I like the 4 other ideas you mention in your podcast as well, and I would be pleased to help you wherever I can.
Finally it may be worth trying to see if either NFB or ACB could champion the issue, but I don’t know how much a priority this would be for them and how
aggressively they would go after it. Finally, another aspect of Google that is very inaccessible is Gmail, the basic html option does not allow you to configure many of the settings.
Google did recently hold focus groups in northern California with users who are blind, and I will talk to one person that went to one of these to see if these issues were discussed.

DC Night Out

Also I am part of The Association Of Blind Citizens

Mika also wrote a letter to Google on June 5 asking for accessibility.

Susan Gerhart

I’m communicating with some contacts within Google regarding your Oct. 19 podcast. I fully agree, as I’m partially sighted, but it usually takes me several tries to get the damned words in correctly, complicated by other form mistakes. Often I give up, as I recently did with a PayPal donation. There’s got to be a better way. My contact claims, yes, their usability engineers, some blind, are working hard on the problem. But Google obviously lacks an accessibility evangelist who
can speak outside the organization to people like you and others in the blind community. Putting aside the Eric Schmidt campaign, do you have an acceptable list of solutions, technical and/or social, to bypass the word verification method? Are there any good websites, examples, models that are acceptable? I’m not trying to take the pressure off Google, but just to learn. Why wouldn’t it work to have a spoken word, repeated, difficult for a computer speech recognizer but reasonable for a hearing-enabled human who probably has TTS. Personally,
I’m for beheading spammers, but that’s a more difficult and bloody solution. I think I’ll hear again next week from my Google contact when she returns to her office. I’m not trying to block you from contacting her but she’s not really the person you need to talk to, but I think she can get to those people. I’ll let you know.

Thanks, everyone, for your excellent feedback on this important issue. Please keep it coming. We all know that actions speak much louder than words. It is absolutely critical that we ultimately get resolution of this lock out from Google, and that we proceed to use that resolution as a springboard for further action on similar issues caused by other companies doing business on the Internet. The current accepted state of the art in the provision of accessibility for visual verification is to provide a link that plays an audio version of the displayed characters. Web sites such as Spam Arrest and Live Journal provide this form of accessibility to their visual verification. This solution is not perfect, as it still excludes the deaf-blind. We would consider the audio solution, along with a method of contacting a customer service representative for prompt action, as reasonable accomodations for insuring the accessibility of visual CAPTCHA implementations given the current state of technology, investigating more inclusive ways to protect everyone from fraud, spam and other abuse while making certain that technology products and services are accessible to everyone.

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Is Google Censoring Blind Blogger Users Through Inaccessible Word Verification?

October 19, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


Blogger Buzz Articles on Blocking Spam Through Word Verification

Ideas for effectively tackling Google’s intractible inaccessible word verification:

  1. Writing and mailing a certified letter to Eric Schmidt.
  2. Concerted effort to get the word to the blindness and mainstream media.
  3. Small delegation sent directly to Google HQ to speak with the management team.
  4. Organize a large, peaceful sit in demonstration at Google HQ consisting of tens or hundreds of blind people.

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