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Asking Leo Laporte for Help with Inaccessibility

November 27, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Dear Leo,

Thank you for allowing me to chat a bit about accessibility on TWiT #30 from the podcasting expo. I hope there may be future opportunities to work with you to get some serious play on accessibility issues as there are potentially disastrous consequences of inaccessible technology for those of us with disabilities, whom represent a market that must not be ignored.

I have recently registered with Visual verification without
accessibility kept me out, but someone at Digg assisted me in completing the registration in a couple of days. Unfortunately, the matter is not closed. Despite being logged into an account that already required visual verification, I am still not allowed to submit new stories to due to another visual verification test, also without appropriate considerations for accessibility. A couple of letters to the available contact e-mail addresses at have not yielded a response on this second, much worse accessibility issue in over a week. I would really appreciate it if you would please work with your friend Kevin Rose over at Digg to devise a way to allow the blind and visually impaired to fully participate in this service.

Again, thanks for the exposure of accessibility issues on TWiT and I hope to hear from you.

All the best,

Darrell Shandrow

Categories: Uncategorized

Juice Receiver Tutorial and Screen Reading Demonstration

November 25, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


Listen to this tutorial covering the download, installation and use of Juice Receiver with the JAWS screen reader. It should also serve as an introductory demonstration of the use of screen reading technology by the blind.

Get Juice Receiver from Jeff Bishop

Check out Jeff’s site for the quickest and easiest way to download Juice Receiver.

Juice, the cross-platform podcast receiver.

Learn more about Juice Receiver at the project’s SourceForge home page.

Blind Casting E-mail Discussion List

This list is for the open discussion of podcasting for blind and visually impaired users. Discussions can focus around listening and producing podcasts and all that generating podcasts is all about. We talk about the equipment required for doing ppodcasting and much much more.


The most expensive, widely used screen reader for the blind. JAWS (Job Access With Speech) was used as the screen access solution in the tutorial.


Solid, lower cost alternative screen reader to JAWS.

Download and Listen

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


Listen to Karen and I talk about the real meaning of Thanksgiving Day, discuss the recent passing away of Karen’s retired guide dog Chanel, review plans for our upcoming Christmas trip to New England, recommend a few reasonably accessible web sites to meet your online Christmas shopping needs and much more.

Announcements and Links:

The Desert Skies

Tune into ACB Radio Interactive and Listen to The Desert Skies with Jeff Bishop on Thanksgiving night between 7:00 and 10:00 MST and Friday night between 7:00 and 9:00 MST.


Listen to Allison cover technology from a slightly Apple perspective. Check out her promo at the end of the show.

Natalie Brown

Listen to Natalie sing Give Love on Christmas Day.

Watch Out for Sony Music CD’s

Despite the recent hault to production of CD’s containing the dangerous rootkit, many Sony CD’s featuring this threat remain on the market. I can imagine most novice computer users might not realize they have been rootkitted until it is too late. Watch out when buying music this Christmas season!

Christmas shopping links:

10 Traditions to Bring Your Family Closer

by Nicole Wallace

Once Upon a Family


What do you remember about your childhood? Was it the leather bound book set you received from Grandma or was it her apple pie that she cooked for every family event? We often miss the opportunity to do the things that matter most while we’re off spending time and money doing things that don’t matter. It’s not the expensive gifts or the big parties that we remember from our childhood — it is the family rituals that we did over and over again. These events are traditions that can help us instill strong family values and give us a sense of family identity. Traditions are also the building blocks for strong, caring, happy families. This holiday season why not try out a few new ones:

  1. Designate one night a week as family night. It doesn’t matter what you do together, just that you do it together. Play board games, go bowling, rent a movie and order pizza.
  2. Take pictures of Grandma making her famous apple pie. Save the picture and recipe in an album along with other family pictures and recipes.
  3. Ask everyone to write what he or she is thankful for on a beautiful colored paper leaf at Thanksgiving. Put the leaves in a basket and read them after dinner. Collage the leaves and a picture of the event into a Thanksgiving album each year.
  4. Keep a blessings box all year long. Whenever something wonderful happens (the baby sleeps through the night, your son scores the first goal in the soccer game, etc.) write it down and put it in this box. Read and count your blessings every Thanksgiving.
  5. Use a sheet as a tablecloth this Thanksgiving. Give everyone a permanent marker to write a thought, wish or dream. Date and sign each message. Bring the tablecloth out for every family gathering.
  6. Gather the family and discuss your Family Motto. This could be one word that you stand for like, honesty, integrity, loving, etc. Or you could use a standard proverb such as “Anything worth doing is worth doing well,” or “Never judge another person till you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Hang on a suitable wall where everyone can have a daily reminder.
  7. Write yourself or a family member a letter every year at Thanksgiving. Keep the letters and bring them out again in five years to read.
  8. Write your children letters every year on their birthdays. Save them in a beautiful box. Present the letters to them at a special time (graduation, 21st birthday, wedding, etc)
  9. Write a specific assignment on back of each person’s place card this Thanksgiving. Examples could be: carve the turkey, clear the plates, organize the coffee, fold the napkins, take beverage orders, etc. This makes everyone feel a part of the celebration.
  10. Start a new Friday night dinner tradition. Tell each other ‘the best thing that happened to me this week was…” You can also use this as part of your weekly phone call to the grandparents.

Download and Listen

Categories: Uncategorized

Good Quotes for Accessibility Evangelism

November 23, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Karen reminds us to keep these quotes in mind as we work tirelessly to retain and enhance our access to the world around us.

Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.


The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.


Every fool knows you can’t touch the stars, but it doesn’t stop a wise man from trying.

-Harry Anderson

Wise sayings often fall on barren ground; but a kind word is never thrown away.

-Sir Arthur Helps

Categories: Uncategorized

Visual Verification: Potential New Audio CAPTCHA Solution

November 23, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Some in the technology industry justify the ongoing inaccessibility of their visual verification schemes due to the claimed “expense” of implementing solutions such as audio CAPTCHA. Let’s evaluate a potential solution that could be built entirely on open source or otherwise easily available technologies at a sufficiently low cost to insist upon its implementation.

This solution relies on the presentation of the standard visual CAPTCHA along with a link to an audio playback of the characters to be entered. Though such implementations have been successfully put in place, this option should be appealing due to its overall simplicity and low cost.

  1. Manually record, using the human voice, an MP3 file corresponding to each possible character in the underlying CAPTCHA string.
  2. For each test, generate the standard image along with a M3U Winamp style playlist file pointing to all the MP3’s making up the string.
  3. Present the user with both the conventional graphic along with a link to the M3U file.
  4. The sighted user will complete the visual verification while the blind user will click the link to hear the audio in their media player.

This solution seems to enjoy the following benefits:

  1. Overall low CPU utilization. If pictures can be combined into a CAPTCHA, it won’t take much more to combine individual audio files into a M3U playlist version of the test.
  2. No text to speech software needed on the server.
  3. No complicated streaming solution needed on the server. It is open source, easily available and already implemented in most if not all web server software.

We hope this further helps the technology industry to make CAPTCHA, visual verification and word verification schemes more accessible and further reduces the justification for its continued use in ways that lock out the blind and visually impaired from participation in more and more of the Internet.

Categories: Uncategorized

Friends in Tech Gets Accessibility Right!

November 23, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Check out the new Accessibility for people with disabilities topic on the Friends in Tech feedback forum. Thanks, Friends in Tech, for getting this right! Please keep up the great work.

Thanks, FIT podcasters, for NOT implementing visual verification, accessible or otherwise, to your forum registration process! It was very nice to meet
some of you in person at the expo on Saturday afternoon before TWiT. Please keep everything as accessible as possible so that blind guys like myself will continue to be able to participate. I’ll be very interested in the results of my poll question, too. Thanks again; FIT is great!

Categories: Uncategorized

Visual Verification: Barrs the Blind from Submitting New Stories!

November 22, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Digg is an experiment in the collection and dissemination of information where the users, not an editorial staff, get to decide what is news worthy. Sadly, if you’re blind, you don’t get to help make those decisions due to an inaccessible visual verification test that must be passed not only at account creation but also on each submission attempt. Please read the letter we at the journal submitted and contact Digg to ask for equal access by the blind and visually impaired to all the benefits this service has to offer.

Dear Digg Staff,

Thank you for establishing a Digg account for me in leu of your currently
inaccessible visual verification scheme. Unfortunately, the issue is not
over. I just discovered that visual verification is used when submitting new stories to the site. I endured visual verification during account creation. Surely, if someone is a spammer it is a simple matter of shutting off their account? Please, either remove the visual verification during the submission process or make it accessible. I anticipate a positive, affirmative response in the very near future.

All the best,

Darrell Shandrow

Categories: Uncategorized


November 21, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Greetings Blind Access Journal readers.

First, let me thank Darrell for allowing me to blog here on his site.

I have my own blog at where I spend my time posting about political issues from a conservative-libertarian point of view. I pretty much cover everything.

However, as Darrell noted in his recent podcast I will focus on the public policy and political issues around accessibility on this blog with some cross posting to my own blog.

I am currently a senior political science major at Sul Ross State University located in Alpine, Texas.

I should also note here that I am a member of the Youth Advisory Committee for the National Council on Disability, and at no time will I be speaking for or on behalf of NCD.

You can visit my blog for more details on me and to subscribe to my rss feed.

My first posting here will probably not be for a few days and you can expect the postings to be somewhat lengthy since I tend to research my topic in great detail before publishing, but I’ll try to keep them somewhat pithy.

Also, Darrell mentioned a nice little project he is working on due to be released in the next few weeks. I am helping him on this and until further notice all the details are NDA, but if you are part of the media, yes that means you MSM and even some of you podcasters, send me an e-mail and I think Darrell and I might be able to slide you in the door ahead of the rest of the world, but you have to bring your own canes and guide dogs.

Should you have any questions you can contact me via my blogs contact page.

Categories: Uncategorized