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Accessibility Concerns on NATO.INT Web Site

March 31, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I wrote and sent the following letter to NATO after visiting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) web site and finding it to be less than fully accessible. I will keep everyone updated on any results that may be achieved.

March 31, 2007 

Dear NATO IT Staff, 

I am writing as a blind technology accessibility evangelist concerning the NATO.INT web site to ask you to address a couple of areas where the site is currently inaccessible.  First, much of the Flash content appears to contain buttons that cannot be selected using a screen reader.  Second, there are many images that do not include descriptive alt text tags. 

As a major international organization and actor in geopolitics and world affairs, representing 26 nations including the United States of America, I believe there is a duty for NATO to make its materials accessible to as many citizens of its 26 member nations as possible, including those of us whom happen to be blind and visually impaired.  Please work with us constructively to improve the accessibility of the NATO.INT web site and all other electronic materials delivered by NATO.  I look forward to hearing from an appropriate NATO representative in the near future. 


Darrell Shandrow

Accessibility Evangelist


Categories: accessibility

The Taste of Eye Drops

March 30, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
For those of you who have to take lots of eye drops, how do they taste?  That’s right.  You’re not crazy.  I asked how they taste.  After my first surgery, I was taking one eye drop every two hours and two others four times a day.  That has only relaxed slightly; I am now down to the one drop every two waking hours plus two taken three times a day.  Unfortunately, after awhile, it is possible to taste these eye drops soon after placing them in the eye.  Some taste sour, others taste salty.  The eye is part of the sinus system, so it stands to reason that some of the fluid from the eye drops drains down into the throat, similar to how the eyes, nose and throat can be affected by a sinus infection.  Yeah.  I know.  Thanks for sharing, right?  But, well, I just had nothing better than to write this post while listening to the second anniversary of our engagement special on the Desert Skies tonight.  Thanks!  <grin> <smile>
Categories: Uncategorized

Is Friday Becoming Pizza Night?

March 30, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Well, it is another Friday night.  Karen and I are listening to another Desert Skies show on ACB Radio Interactive.  And, well, guess what?  We have a pizza in the oven!  We either cook a frozen pizza, pizza bites or order pizza on most Friday nights.  Jeff usually does the same, as well, so, if he takes too much time getting to all your requests and dedications for the show, you know the reason.  Actually, if you have listened to The Desert Skies for any length of time at all, you probably already know about this pizza night thing.  So, on Friday nights at 7:00 PM Mountain Daylight Time here in the USA (2:00 on an early Saturday morning Universal time) don’t miss The Desert Skies on ACB Radio Interactive for a great time, and, just maybe, you, too, will join the Friday pizza night tradition!
Categories: Uncategorized

Help Digg Fully Implement Audio CAPTCHA

March 30, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I am working with Kurt, one of the software engineers over at, on the implementation of their audio CAPTCHA. Unfortunately, there appear to be some scenarios where the audio is never played when the link is clicked. Please visit Digg’s registration page, click the link to listen to the CAPTCHA and send me an e-mail with your results. Please let me know whether or not you heard the audio, give some constructive feedback on the quality and provide the following technical information:

  • Browser and version number
  • Operating system
  • Screen reader

Digg’s audio CAPTCHA is almost complete. There are some minor problems right now, but I am now confident that they care about the issue and will work with us constructively to get the technical challenges ironed out, making the registration process work not only for the sighted, but also for those of us whom happen to be blind or visually impaired. We thank the folks at Digg for taking care of this serious access issue.

Best Buy Acquires Speakeasy

March 27, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Dear Speakeasy Members,
Today is an historic and exciting day for Speakeasy.
I am pleased to announce that Speakeasy has been acquired by Best Buy, an
innovative and growing Fortune 100 company and the top consumer electronics
retailer in North America. This is a significant milestone for our company
as our new relationship will help us realize our goals of becoming the No. 1
provider of voice and data solutions to small businesses. It is important to
note that though Speakeasy will now be a wholly owned subsidiary of Best
Buy, we will continue to operate as a standalone, independent operating
division with headquarters in Seattle.
Speakeasy will be an important part of the Best Buy For Business service
that delivers simple, reliable, and affordable technology solutions to small
businesses. Speakeasy's array of broadband voice, data and managed services
offerings will be the focal point of the Best Buy For Business
communications solutions.
This agreement is a major step forward for our company. While our business
remains strong, our relationship with Best Buy provides us with additional
resources and brand recognition, while opening new sales channels which will
dramatically accelerate our growth.
Best Buy, like Speakeasy, is known for its high level of customer service.
Our reputation as a trusted provider of voice and data services with stellar
customer service will not change. Our values are similar too — Best Buy
shares our customer passion, respect for individuals, and drive to do the
right thing while achieving results.
All aspects of your service will continue to be managed by Speakeasy and the
excellent service and support you expect will continue uninterrupted.
Best Regards,
Bruce Chatterley
President & CEO, Speakeasy, Inc.

What are Best Buy and Speakeasy announcing today?
Best Buy has agreed to acquire Speakeasy, a privately-held voice and data
solutions company based in Seattle, WA. Speakeasy will be aligned under the
Best Buy For Business (BBFB) unit, enhancing Best Buy's technology portfolio
and ability to help small businesses improve their productivity and cut
Why is Best Buy purchasing Speakeasy?
Speakeasy is a highly regarded voice and data services provider with
national coverage whose values align well with those of Best Buy. Best Buy
is seeking to accelerate the growth of Best Buy For Business (BBFB) by
providing core communications solutions for small businesses. Speakeasy's
array of products offer a simple, understandable value proposition to small
business owners, and gives BBFB the opportunity to build and maintain a
regular, recurring relationship with customers.
Who is Best Buy? Where are they located?
Best Buy Co., Inc (NYSE: BBY) is one of the nation?s leading retailers of
technology and entertainment products and services. Their mission is to give
customers great experiences – whether they are shopping for consumer
electronics, home-office products, entertainment software and appliances, or
using those products and related-services in their homes or offices.
Best Buy's corporate campus is located in Richfield, Minnesota and it
operates over 1,150 stores across the U.S., Canada, and China.
Why would a retailer buy a technology company?
One of Speakeasy's core product offerings is Voice over IP (VoIP), which is
becoming a popular choice for small businesses who seek efficient and
cost-effective telecommunications services. Best Buy For Business' mission
is to deliver simple, reliable, and affordable technology solutions to small
businesses. A product offering such as VoIP, which has immediate compelling
appeal to most SBs based on cost savings and simplicity, is an attractive
value proposition that allows Best Buy to round out its solutions menu for
small businesses.
What is Best Buy for Business?
Best Buy for Business is an operating unit within Best Buy, which has the
mission to deliver simple, reliable and affordable technology solutions to
small businesses – a segment of the enterprise population which Best Buy
feels has been traditionally underserved by providers. BBFB is meeting the
technology needs of this underserved population, providing solutions through
its retail store locations direct sales channels, and via the web at
Why did Best Buy create Best Buy For Business (BBFB)?
Best Buy started BBFB out of its customer centricity work, recognizing that
while small business owners were shopping its retail stores as a general
consumer, small businesses have different needs and deserve to be treated
differently. For example, a small business may need business-grade
technology such as a server or an IBM ThinkPad, and may require different
pricing and payment options.
Will the Speakeasy brand be integrated into BBFB?
In the short term, the Speakeasy brand will remain unchanged. Speakeasy has
earned its reputation in the market as an excellent provider of
business-grade VoIP and data services, as well as its high-touch customer
What are details of the Best Buy and Speakeasy agreement?
Best Buy has agreed to acquire Speakeasy, a privately-held voice and data
solutions company based in Seattle, WA. Speakeasy will be aligned under the
Best Buy For Business unit. Speakeasy enhances the communications portfolio
of Best Buy For Business with its voice and data services.
It is important to note that though Speakeasy will now be a wholly-owned
subsidiary of Best Buy, we will continue to operate independently and the
excellent service and support you expect will continue uninterrupted.
How will this change affect my service?
There will be no change or interruption to your existing service or level of
customer support. All aspects of your service will continue to be managed by
What is the benefit of this agreement?
The immediate advantages for Speakeasy and our customers is that we're
backed by an innovative and growing Fortune 100 company who shares our
values and reputation for quality and customer service.
Best Buy For Business and Speakeasy will be able to provide more services
and products to help grow your business and meet your needs. Best Buy For
Business provides reliable and affordable technology solutions and the
addition of Speakeasy will only help enhance this mission.
How will Speakeasy be managed?
Speakeasy will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Best Buy and will be aligned
under the Best Buy for Business unit.
Speakeasy will continue to operate independently and our corporate offices,
management, employees and customer operations will remain in Seattle.
Speakeasy's partner sales and support team will not change.
©2007 Speakeasy 1201 Western Ave. Seattle, WA 98101 1-800-556-5829

Categories: Uncategorized

Coming up on Main Menu and Main Menu Live for the week of March 28

March 26, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

This week, we present two hours of Main Menu Live. Join Jeff Bishop, Darrell Shandrow, Randy Knapp, Don Barrett and possibly additional guests as we talk about the announcements, exhibits, presentations and other happenings at the just-concluded CSUN conference all from a blindness perspective. So, do join us on ACB Radio Mainstream at between 01:00 and 03:00 Universal Time, Wednesday, March 28, that’s Tuesday the 27th starting at 6:00 PM Pacific, 9:00 Eastern. We will take your comments and questions about CSUN or any other blindness technology related topic live on the show by telephone or MSN Windows Live Messenger.

All the best,

Darrell Shandrow


Main Menu Production Team

Categories: Uncategorized

Unexplained loss of JAWS functionality and strange keyboard locked scenarios.

March 25, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone,
For quite some time, at least since running JAWS 8.0, I have been experiencing a very strange situation.  If I walk away and leave my system idle for a few minutes, there is no speech output when I return to continue working.  The following problems are observed:
  1. There is absolutely no JAWS functionality.  The computer is silent and has become an inaccessible paperweight.
  2. Starting Narrator results in constantly studdering speech.
  3. Key presses do not work at all as expected.  For instance, pressing the Windows key to open the Start menu causes it to quickly appear and disappear.
  4. Forcibly shutting down and restarting the computer is the only way to regain control.
  5. I have experienced this issue on at least two different systems. 
  6. It has been happening on JAWS 8.0, but also in previous versions, such as 6.2 and 7.1, but at a much lesser frequency in those older versions.
  7. The issue is not observed if other screen readers, such as NVDA, System Access or Window-Eyes are running when I walk away from the computer.  In all such cases, the computer remains accessible and completely usable as expected upon my return.
Has anyone else experienced an issue similar to this one?  If so, let’s see if we can put together a much more detailed accounting of this problem so we can get the Freedom Scientific programmers enough useful information to get it fixed in an upcoming version of JAWS.  If this is not an isolated issue, then I would classify it as a critical flaw that needs to receive a high priority.
Categories: Uncategorized

Blank Virtual Buffer Issues Persist in JAWS 8.0 Build 1171

March 24, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Those of you who are hoping that the blank virtual PC cursor issues will be resolved in the upcoming release of JAWS 8.00.1171 are in for a big disappointment. I’ve been running this new build for a couple of days now, and have experienced the issues in both Internet Explorer 7.0 and Outlook Express thus far. Come on, FS programmers, please, please, find a way to fix these issues!

Categories: JAWS

McAfee Researcher Recommends Removal of Important Windows Accessibility Component to Resolve Potential Vulnerability

March 24, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In this article entitled Windows Vista Vulnerable to StickyKeys Backdoor on the McAfee Avert Labs Blog, researcher Vinoo Thomas indicates that a good solution to a potential, though very unlikely, Windows Vista vulnerability is to remove a file critical to the operation of the sticky keys accessibility feature. Unfortunately, Mr. Thomas completely fails to mention that taking such an action may serve to severely limit, or even curtail, use of the computer by a person with a physical disability who may rely on that feature. An IT professional who makes this change may end up making it practically impossible for that disabled person to perform the duties of their job! Even worse, after 21 responses to the article, nobody else bothered to mention this concern. Despite all that we accessibility evangelists do to raise awareness of the needs of technology users with disabilities, it is obvious that ignorance continues to run rampant in the technology industry at large.

Categories: accessibility

Windows 2000 Internet Explorer Issues Addressed, JAWS 8.0 Build 1166 Auto Update Explained

March 22, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Freedom Scientific has addressed specific issues with tabbing, forms mode and Adobe Flash in Internet Explorer running under Windows 2000 in an upcoming JAWS 8.0 build to be released in the very near future. Customers experiencing these concerns may contact Freedom Scientific’s technical support department to receive a patch that addresses these issues now.

The JAWS 8.0 Build 1166 released on March 21 as an automatic update was unintended. Customers who have received and installed this update may completely uninstall JAWS and reinstall the currently released JAWS 8.0 Build 1163, or contact Freedom Scientific’s technical support department for an update that may be applied without need of reinstallation.

Categories: JAWS