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Coming Up on Main Menu for the Week of January 30

January 27, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone,
This week, we bring you a special one hour Main Menu Live.  Get answers to your blindness technology questions from our panel of experts.  Caroline Congdon, Don Barrett and Rick Harmon will be joining us for this live show.
Here is how to participate in the show:
The number to call into the show is 866-400-5333.
You may email your questions to:
You may also interact with the show via MSN (Windows Live) Messenger. The MSN Messenger ID to add is:
Would you like to interact with a group of Main Menu listeners about the topics heard on Main Menu and Main Menu Live? You can do this by joining the Main
Menu Friends email list. The address to subscribe is: 
Come join an already lively group of users. 
Would you like to subscribe to podcast feeds for Main Menu and Main Menu Live? The RSS feeds to add to your podcatching application are: 
Main Menu -
Main Menu Live - 
Main Menu can be heard on Tuesday evenings at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific, and at 1 universal (GMT) on Wednesday mornings on the ACB Radio Main Stream channel. 
Follow this link to listen to the show: 
Jeff Bishop and Darrell Shandrow
The Main Menu Production Team
Categories: Uncategorized

Visual Verification: OpenDNS Advocates Use of Audio CAPTCHA and Offers to Help Webmasters Implement the Technology

January 25, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Allison reports the latest entry on the OpenDNS Blog advocating use of audio CAPTCHA to make services available to everyone, including the blind and visually impaired, and offering to provide webmasters with assistance in the implementation of the technology. We appreciate not only the audio CAPTCHA on OpenDNS, but also their active advocacy on our behalf.

Visual Verification: OpenDNS Adds Audio CAPTCHA, Tears Down "No Blind People Allowed" Sign

January 23, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

John Roberts, a product Vice President of OpenDNS, reports that the organization has now implemented an audio CAPTCHA to make its protected services accessible to blind and visually impaired users. We tested the CacheCheck and Adult Site Checker, finding the audio CAPTCHA to be both easy to use and reliable. We thank OpenDNS for providing its services to the entire Internet user community in an accessible form and implementing a reasonable accomodation to its CAPTCHAs so that everyone, including the blind and visually impaired, may fully participate.

Blind computer users struck by a very unusual Trojan attack

January 22, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We have just received a disturbing report from Vanja Svajcer on the SophosLabs security blog indicating that a recently distributed “unofficial” build of Freedom Scientific’s JAWS 9.0 screen reader making the rounds on various blindness related mailing lists contains dangerous code that disables the use of JAWS and most other screen readers. In his article, Blind computer users struck by a very unusual Trojan attack, Vanja describes a scenario in which a blind user’s computer may essentially be reduced to something about as useful as a very large paperweight, at least until a sighted person can come along to help clean up the mess with appropriate anti-virus software. We should all keep two critical lessons in mind when considering whether or not to download and install software onto our computers:

  • Is the software being offered legal? “Cracked” or otherwise illegal copies of software may contain Trojan Horse code or other malware that may cause damage to your computer’s operating system, applications or data. Not only is the download and use of illegal software unethical, it may actually be detrimental to your digital life.
  • Is the software being delivered by a credible source? In addition to the advertising of a “cracked” copy of JAWS 9.0, it is also believed that the malware mentioned in Vanja’s article may have been distributed under the guys of an “unofficial” JAWS build provided to a customer by Freedom Scientific’s technical support team in order to solve specific issues. Those issues were never clearly specified. The software was being provided by a third party, not directly by Freedom Scientific. The lesson here is that we should check with the company developing the software before downloading and installing any updates. In the case of shareware, free software or open source software, we should take care to download from a reputable source, such as, FileForum or SourceForge.

Our computers and, even more so our data, are too important to place at unnecessary risk. Let us all take care to protect our valuable digital resources.

Categories: JAWS, open source, security

I Have a Dream, Too…

January 21, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

On this day commemorating Martin Luther King’s birthday, I thought I would try my hand at penning an I Have a Dream speech of my own. I will recite this speech for the first time on the Desert Cafe show coming up at 22:00 UTC on ACB Radio Interactive today.

I have a dream that…

  • We will be considered first as fully living and breathing human beings and citizens of our nations of birth, afforded the same rights and obligations as all others irrespective of our disability.
  • We will understand our own value to society, and will learn to take the initiative, becoming more assertive as a blind community so as to stand up for our rights to accessibility and equal participation.
  • We will ask for and insist not on hand outs but only on the hand ups we require in order to be productive and self-supporting.
  • All blind and visually impaired people will do their best to take their own initiative, volunteering and working to improve their own lives rather than unproductively sitting at home collecting government checks and other public assistance benefits.

I have a dream that…

  • We will be granted the opportunity to rise or fall, succeed or fail based on our aptitude, the quality of our character and the merits of our actions, rather than negative assumptions and stereotypes or the inaccessibility of a piece of technology.
  • The Internet will represent the same opportunities to learn, grow and participate for us as it already does for sighted people all over the world.
  • Segregation and “no blind people allowed” signs such as those presented by inaccessible, visual only CAPTCHAs and other visual multifactor authentication systems will be torn down and replaced with inclusive solutions that deliver security and accessibility for all, regardless of sensory ability.
  • Our ability to enjoy our lives, learn and work will be dictated by our own characteristics, rather than by the actions of others, inaccessibility of technology or misconceptions surrounding our presumed inabilities.
  • Agencies, assistive technology companies, consumer groups and nonprofit organizations in the blindness field will work always for the best interests of blind people, avoiding, at all costs, any and all undue influences that may interfere with that goal.
  • Blind and visually impaired people world wide will stand up and advocate for the accessibility of technology and transportation alternatives we must have in order to succeed and survive!

We can make this dream come true only with constant, collective action on the part of members of the connected online blind community and those friends and relatives who care about us. I implore all of you who hear or read this speech to please do everything you can to make a difference by expanding and participating in all positive efforts to evangelize accessibility!

Categories: accessibility

HumanWare Victor Reader Stream News from Gerry Chevalier, Product Manager

January 21, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

This is an announcement posted publicly to describe all the incredible
enhancements in store for those of us who own the Victor Reader Stream.
Karen and I have one of these excellent devices, and if you don't yet have a
portable accessible electronic book reader, we would strongly recommend
Victor Reader Stream!

Dear Victor Reader Stream Customer:

I wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2008. The first couple of weeks
of 2008 have seen our R&D engineers hard at work continuing to add exciting
new features to the Stream in pursuit of our goal of responding to your
feedback to help us make the Stream the best DAISY, NISO and MP3 player in
the market place.

This email will summarize recent Stream activities, provide news from RFB&D,
and give a sneak preview of the next software release version 1.2 expected
in just a few weeks.

Many of you will recall we closed for the Christmas break releasing the
Stream Companion software and offering a very comprehensive audio tutorial
for the Stream. Both the Stream Companion and tutorial are now part of the
CD that is shipping with the Stream and both are also available for free
download from the Stream product page for existing customers. Please visit
And look under the documentation and software sub headings to take advantage
of these Stream resources.

However, 2007 was by no means the end of the Stream project. We continue to
be busy in these early weeks of 2008. Already by mid January we are pleased
to provide support for several new languages. Version 1.1.15 of the Stream
is now available for download in Dutch, French, German, and Swedish. These
versions have both the Victor messages and Vocalizer text-to-speech
localized to those languages. We will soon add Danish, Norwegian and

We are aware of the interest in the U.S. for a male Vocalizer voice. This
voice named Tom, has been delivered from Nuance and will be made available
as an alternate version 1.1.15 download as soon as Nuance makes some
adjustments we have requested. That work is in progress now. Also, on order
from Nuance is a male voice for U.K. English named Daniel. In the next few
days we will put samples of these Vocalizer voices and languages on the
Stream page. We will announce that on the News Wire.

Also for our U.S. customers we are pleased to advise that RFB&D has
concluded their preparations to provide the UAK (User Authorization Key)
required to play their AudioPlus books on the Stream. We are preparing
information and instructions on the UAK process and will post it to the News
Wire in the next day or two.

We are very excited that the next release version 1.2 of the Stream software
is ready to enter our quality assurance review which is the last stage
before a software release expected in early February. This will be another
free upgrade to our customers. Full details will be provided on this News
Wire once the Q/A process is finished but as a sneak preview here are some
of the version 1.2 features you can look forward to:
– support for NIMAS text books which is great news for our students who use
the Stream in the classroom
– a Stream built-in SD card format utility
– increased loudness of the Stream's built-in speaker
– significantly faster data transfer when the Stream is connected to the
computer with the USB cable
– more control of the audio for music which will make listening to music
even more fun
– a Go To Time feature to move to specific locations in unstructured audio
books such as podcasts or recorded lectures/meetings

All of that and more is expected in version 1.2 in early February.

Already we have some popular requests to enhance the Stream Companion
software just released December 21. We will continue to work on extensions
to the Stream Companion and will announce those when available.

There is much to say about the Stream but you, the customer, are the most
important factor in its success. HumanWare appreciates your support of the
Stream. The excitement about the Stream and its use for school, work, and
leisure continues to grow. Stay tuned for future news on this exciting

Best wishes,
Gerry Chevalier
Victor Reader Product Manager

Categories: Uncategorized

Coming Up on the Desert Cafe for Monday, January 21 at 22:00 UTC

January 20, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone,
Don’t miss another Desert Cafe coming up at 22:00 UTC (2:00 PM Pacific, 3:00 PM Mountain, 4:00 PM Central or 5:00 PM Eastern time) on Monday, January 21!  For most of you, that’s tomorrow afternoon!  Karen’s sister and brother-in-law came down for a short visit, and we’ll be talking about that as well as possibly playing some audio footage from our trip to the Desert Museum in Tucson.  Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so we’ll be playing a speech of his during the show.  We’ll also be dedicating a portion of the broadcast to Cousin Phil’s family after his untimely passing away.  If any of you would like to have your comments, dedications or requests played live during the show, you are cordially invited to dial 206-350-2621 to record a message.
All of this and your favorite music will be aired on ACB Radio Interactive.  Simply visit to listen to the show!  See you all there!
Best regards,
Darrell and Karen Shandrow
Categories: Uncategorized

How Do We Effectively Educate the Public and Combat False Assumptions About Accessibility?

January 19, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I just finished reading Independent Street : Is Your Web Site Blind-Friendly? How to Avoid a Lawsuit by Wendy Bounds. While Wendy provided a good overview of the issues surrounding the law and the need for web site accessibility, I found many of the comments to be rather shocking! How do we effectively carry out the monumental task of educating the public at large and those who could become part of the accessible solution of the future? How can we show the world that accessibility is a good idea and that, in most cases, becoming accessible doesn’t have to represent a huge expense? Just as most of us recognize the inherent human rights of other populations, such as African-Americans and women, we must recognize that accessibility is a right and a necessity in order for those of us with disabilities to be participating, productive members of society. I have just posted my own comment to this article and ask that each and every one of you who read Blind Access Journal please do likewise. It may also be helpful to check out Mike Calvo’s excellent response to the article and many of its associated comments. We must all do our part to get out the good word about accessibility.

Coming up on Main Menu for the week of January 16

January 14, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone,
This week, on a two hour Main Menu, Dean Martineau explains the use of the laptop keyboard layout and provides some useful keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows Vista.  Darrell Shandrow presents part 1 of a demonstration of the ID Mate OMNI accessible bar code scanner from Envision America.
Would you like to interact with a group of Main Menu listeners about the topics heard on Main Menu and Main Menu Live? You can do this by joining the Main Menu Friends email list. The address to subscribe is:
Come join an already lively group of users.
Would you like to subscribe to podcast feeds for Main Menu and Main Menu Live? The RSS feeds to add to your podcatching application are:
Main Menu -
Main Menu Live -
Main Menu can be heard on Tuesday evenings at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific, and at 1 universal (GMT) on Wednesday mornings on the ACB Radio Main Stream channel.
Follow this link to listen to the show:
Jeff Bishop and Darrell Shandrow
The Main Menu Production Team
Categories: Uncategorized

Newsgator Asked to Make FeedDemon Stand-Alone RSS Reader Accessible

January 13, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Now that Newsgator has freely opened virtually all its software and web-based RSS aggregation services to everyone, a number of us decided to check out the new offerings for their accessibility to the blind and visually impaired. While we found that the Newsgator Online web-based RSS reader (the company’s answer to Bloglines) is wonderfully accessible and the Newsgator Inbox application remains available to us, it seems FeedDemon continues to lie just outside our reach. The potential for accessibility of this stand-alone RSS reader for Windows is clear to see; we all just need to come out in numbers asking Newsgator to make a few modifications which would result in the program’s usability with our assistive technology.

We are asking all blind and visually impaired people who avail themselves of one or more Newsgator services to utilize the Customer Feedback option in their accounts, send e-mail to Newsgator’s technical support team and, if it is possible to work around the inaccessible CAPTCHA, post a supportive note on this thread on the Newsgator Forum. As we are aware right now, two blind people have written to Newsgator asking for this accessibility. It is quite likely going to take a great deal more communication in order to make FeedDemon accessibility happen. I urge all of you to compose and send your notes to Newsgator as soon as possible.

January 13, 2008

Dear FeedDemon Developer Team,

I am writing to ask that Newsgator make the FeedDemon RSS reader application accessible to the assistive technologies on which blind and visually impaired people rely. FeedDemon is already widely recognized as the best desktop RSS reading client for the sighted; please make it so for the blind and visually impaired, too. We would like to be able to avail ourselves of all that FeedDemon has to offer, right alongside our sighted peers. We’re already using Newsgator Inbox, Newsgator Online and possibly other services; please add the demon to the list of those we are able to access.

I believe making FeedDemon more accessible would be rather inexpensive, and it would certainly serve to further increase its reach in the technology industry. For instance, educational institutions and government agencies now use blogs, podcasts and other RSS content on an increasingly frequent basis. Were FeedDemon made accessible, it could be used as the RSS reader of choice by these agencies, as it would be Section 508 compliant.

I have tried FeedDemon on for size, despite numerous reports of its inaccessibility. I believe there are a small number of changes that would move us in the right direction:

  1. Make the program’s pull down menu bar keyboard accessible.
  2. Enable the use of arrow key and tab keyboard navigation in the keyboard shortcuts and all FeedDemon options.
  3. Create a quick, keyboard accessible way to move between the list of feeds and the newspaper view for a particular feed.

I and many others in the blind community stand ready, willing and able to assist your developers in the task of making the application more accessible. Your confirmation and willingness to help is anticipated, and I thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,

Darrell Shandrow

Accessibility Evangelist

Categories: accessibility