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Visual Verification: LiveJournal Makes the Switch to ReCAPTCHA

March 27, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

As of today, LiveJournal has switched to ReCAPTCHA to protect their registration process. This visual verification system protects against spammers, allows access for the blind and visually impaired and helps with the optical character recognition of books. ReCAPTCHA provides a turnkey form of protection for web site operators who feel they can’t or don’t want to roll out their own accessible CAPTCHA solution, so we feel there is no excuse for any web site that continues not to offer at least an audio equivalent to meet our accessibility needs.

Visual Verification: LiveJournal Audio CAPTCHA Still Exists, Instructions Not Being Displayed

March 25, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We have received the following update from LiveJournal:

Some users are currently unable to see the instructions for the audio CAPTCHA option. This option still exists and can be used by typing the word “audio” in the CAPTCHA box (without quotation marks). We are currently investigating the issue that is preventing the instructions from displaying.

An answer to the original support request has also been provided, including a bit more detail:

Thank you for your report. Please be assured that it is in no way LiveJournal’s intention to keep blind people from using their journals or creating new journals. The audio CAPTCHA system is still there, but the text indicating it isn’t displayed in an accessible manner. You should still be able to access the audio captcha by typing the word “audio” (without the quotes) in the text box where you would otherwise type the CAPTCHA text.

LiveJournal developers have been alerted to the accessibility problem and will investigate it and correct it as soon as practical. For more information, you may want to watch the lj_releases community, as corrections of known problems are announced there when they become available.

I apologize for the inconvenience.

The continued operation of the audio CAPTCHA has been confirmed. We are glad to hear that this accomodation does, in fact, still exist and are anticipating the restoration of the instructions covering its use. We thank the LiveJournal folks for their prompt attention to this important matter.

Visual Verification: LiveJournal Removes Audio CAPTCHA, Puts Up "No Blind People Allowed" Sign.

March 25, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We have just learned from a number of blind and visually impaired LiveJournal users that their audio CAPTCHA has been removed. We are now asked to “prove you’re human” without an accessible alternative. As with other situations where there is a lack of reasonable accomodations for CAPTCHA, this represents nothing less than a “no blind people allowed” sign. We find it doubly disturbing in this case, given that an accomodation in place for several years has now been taken away from us.

A support request has just been filed with LiveJournal asking for an ETA on the re-implementation of the audio CAPTCHA. All blind and visually impaired people, and those sighted people who care about what happens to us, are urged to add their comments and requests to this ticket asking for the restoration of the audio CAPTCHA as soon as possible. We further implore LiveJournal to publicly explain their actions, apologize to the blind community for its oversight and provide details on how it will move forward to ensure the accessibility of the service in the future.

Coming up on Main Menu for the week of March 26 – Dueling Operating Systems

March 23, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone, 
This week on a two hour Main Menu, we bring you a prerecorded presentation from the 2008 CSUN conference entitled Dueling Operating Systems, where blind users are given tasks to accomplish on Linux, the Macintosh OS and Windows using a screen reader of their choice.  The outcomes of the tasks are judged.
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 can be heard on Tuesday evenings at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 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

Dial-A-Ride: Donna – "My job is not worth satisfying you"…

March 23, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
March 23, 2008
Dear Christine:
Copies of this electronic correspondence have been shared with Karen Shandrow (my wife and the passenger about which the call in question was made), Gary Bretz (RPTA), Karl Stephens (City of Tempe ADA Coordinator) and the readers of the Blind Access Journal.
I called your reservations center at approximately 10:30 this morning, March 23.  After a couple of disconnected attempts, Donna picked up the line.  Karen had just found out that they wanted people to leave a half hour earlier today for Easter.  The purpose of my call was to find out what options may be available to have her picked up at 5:00 instead of 5:30 given the situation at hand.
Donna placed me on hold, came back and indicated there were no options for making this change.  In accordance with past dealings with Donna (she’s relatively new and her attitude and competency are definitely on the low end of the scale), I asked to speak with the dispatcher.  Failing that, I asked to speak with Donna’s supervisor.  In both instances, Donna said she was unwilling to connect me with dispatch.  When asking for a person who was in direct supervision of her activities today, she cold transferred me to the customer advocate’s voice mail.  I called Donna back.  She indicated that there were only two reservationists and one dispatcher in the office today.  I asked Donna who was dispatching today and, after some hesitancy, she indicated it was Alecia.  Since there was obviously nobody in charge of her today, I asked once again to communicate with dispatch, since that’s apparently the closest resource on hand to a manager.  Donna refused once again by making the following statement:
“My job is not worth satisfying you”…
After this, I put the phone system to resourceful use by directly reaching Alecia.  Alecia indicated to me that, in fact, she had not told Donna there were no options at all.  Instead, she said she’d had trouble changing things with Pony Express in the past, that sometimes it resulted in no pickup at all and that she’d told Donna to schedule Karen for a 5:00 demand pickup on a regular Dial-A-Ride van.  Of course, this makes sense, and it makes sense that the new reservation would be a demand trip in accordance with RPTA policies, but, no, Donna couldn’t be bothered to execute this part of her job at all.
There are four points below, each of which I expect to receive a clear answer:
1. Why is there no direct supervision of staff on evenings and weekends?
2. What is going to be done about the statement: “My job is not worth satisfying you”?
3. What are the consequences for a reservationist’s lying about the available options from dispatch and failing to complete the job?
4. Why would it be acceptable to cold transfer a customer to someone else, claiming it is a manager when it is just the customer advocate who is obviously off duty?
I anticipate an appropriate written response to this letter on the part of someone in a management capacity at RPTA and/or Veolia Transportation no later than the end of business on Wednesday, March 26.  A telephone call is always welcome as well, so long as it is properly accompanied by the requested written response.  The activities of Veolia’s employees are clearly at issue this time.  A statement like “my job is not worth satisfying you” clearly speaks to an employee attitude that negatively impacts the quality of service Dial-A-Ride provides to its customers and, ultimately, to the taxpayers of the cities within its coverage area.
Best regards and happy Easter,
Darrell Shandrow – Accessibility Evangelist
Categories: Uncategorized

7-Eleven, Inc.’s Upgrade of Point of Sale Equipment Praised by Blind Community

March 22, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Tactile Devices Will Protect Financial Privacy
Washington, D.C. (March 18, 2008) – Several organizations representing the blind community today commended 7Eleven, Inc. for installing tactile point of sale (POS) devices that will protect the privacy and security of 7-Eleven shoppers with visual impairments.  These new devices include tactile keys arranged like a standard telephone keypad, and enable 7-Eleven® store shoppers who have difficulty reading information on a touch-screen to privately and independently enter their PIN and other confidential information.
7-Eleven has installed the new devices at more than 2,000 stores in the U.S.  Over the next 18 months, all flat-screen devices in 7-Eleven’s 5,500 U.S. stores will be replaced with the tactile units.
Today’s announcement is the result of collaboration between 7-Eleven and blindness organizations including the American Council of the Blind (ACB), the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and the California Council of the Blind (CCB).
Speaking for the organizations, ACB President Mitch Pomerantz praised 7Eleven, saying, “Blind customers across the country will benefit from 7-Eleven’s decision to replace technology that cannot be used by customers who cannot see information on a flatscreen.”
Pomerantz added, “7-Eleven has set an example for other retailers by recognizing that persons with visual impairments should not have to disclose confidential information when purchasing products and services.”
7-Eleven is also ensuring that the ATMs and Vcom machines in its stores nationwide are accessible as well.  ATMs and Vcoms in 7-Eleven stores will contain a “talking ATM” function, allowing independent use by blind customers.
About 7-Eleven, Inc.
7-Eleven, Inc. is the premier name and largest chain in the convenience retailing industry. Based in Dallas, Texas, 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses some 7,500 7-Eleven® stores in North America.  Globally, 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses more than 33,700 stores in 17 countries.  During 2007, 7-Eleven stores worldwide generated total sales of more than $46.6 billion.  Find out more online at
About the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the California Council of the Blind (CCB)
The American Council of the Blind is a national consumer-based advocacy organization working on behalf of blind and visually impaired Americans throughout the country, with members organized through seventy state and special interest affiliates.   The California Council of the Blind is the California affiliate of the ACB, and is a statewide membership organization, with 40 local chapters and statewide special interest associations.  The ACB and CCB are dedicated to improving the quality of life, equality of opportunity and independence of all people who have visual impairments.  Their members and affiliated organizations have a long history of commitment to the advancement of policies and programs which will enhance independence for people who are blind and visually impaired.  More information about the ACB and CCB can be found by visiting and
About the American Foundation for the Blind
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB’s priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. AFB is also proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the over forty years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. For more information, visit us online at
For 7-Eleven
Margaret Chabris
Tel. 972-828-7285; <
For AFB and ACB:
Adrianna Montague-Gray
American Foundation for the Blind
Tel. (212) 502-7675; <
Melanie Brunson
American Council of the Blind
Tel. (202) 467.5081; <

Lainey Feingold
Law Office of Lainey Feingold
(510) 548.5062
Categories: Uncategorized

Stream News Wire – New Multi-Lingual Releases

March 19, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Dear Victor Reader Stream Customer:

New Stream software version 1.2 multi-lingual TTS (Text-to-Speech) releases
are now available for download at:

These multi-lingual versions are available in: Danish, French, German,
Norwegian, and Swedish. Each multi-lingual version has its recorded prompts
and messages in the local language. As well, each multi-lingual version has
two Vocalizer TTS languages: the local language and the default English
female Samantha. You can move from one TTS language to the other by pressing
and holding key 7 on the Stream. Samples of each TTS Language are available
to listen to following the documentation list for each language.

If you have a Stream version 1.0 or 1.1 and you wish to upgrade to the new
version 1.2 with the multi-lingual TTS then follow these steps to upgrade:
– download the appropriate zip file for your language
– Unzip the single UPG upgrade file. You do not require special unzip
software with Windows XP or Vista.
– Copy the UPG file to the root of your Stream SD card
– Insert the card into the Stream, connect the Stream to the power mains ,
and turn it on.
– The Stream will recognize the special UPG file and initiate the upgrade
process. Audio messages will inform you of the start and end of the update

Complete installation instructions and the list of new features for version
1.2 are available in the What's New document in the English documentation
list on the same support page.

The version 1.2 User Guide is only available at this time in English.
Multi-lingual User Guides will be made available with the next release of

If you want to hear a sample of any of the multi language TTS voices there
is a link to listen to each sample following the documentation for each

Thank you.
The HumanWare Support Team

Categories: Uncategorized

Stream News Wire – English Tom TTS Voice

March 19, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Dear Victor Reader Stream Customer:

The alternative Stream software with the English U.S. male (Tom) TTS voice
is now available for download at:

This English alternative version 1.2 software has a male TTS voice (Tom) and
can be downloaded to replace the default software with the female Samantha
voice currently shipped on all English Streams. The Tom voice is an
alternative download zip file that contains a single version 1.2 UPG upgrade
file that you install on the Stream. If you wish to change back to Samantha
female TTS voice you can download and re-install the alternative UPG from
the same page. The functionality of the software is the same for both
downloads. Only the TTS voice differs. The complete list of new features for
version 1.2 and the installation instructions can be found in the What's New
document in the documentation list that follows the software links. After
this documentation list there are links to samples of both the Samantha and
Tom TTS voices that you can listen to.

We are currently working on a third English version 1.2 with the UK male
voice named Daniel which we expect to release soon. Again, this will be a
single UPG file with the single UK Daniel TTS voice. The link to listen to
the sample Daniel voice is on the page now.

To summarize the Stream software Installation:
– download the zip file with your choice of Samantha or Tom TTS voice
– Unzip the single UPG upgrade file. You do not require special unzip
software with Windows XP or Vista.
– Copy the UPG file to the root of your Stream SD card
– Insert the card into the Stream, connect the Stream to AC power, and turn
it on.
– The Stream will recognize the special UPG file and initiate the upgrade
process. Audio messages will inform you of the start and end of the update

Thank you.
The HumanWare Support Team

Categories: Uncategorized


March 19, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

It looks like Jamal Mazrui has an interesting new initiative going for blind
computer programmers. See his public announcement below:

As you know, the web page of has not been updated for
years after I began focusing on software projects. I knew the site needed
a redesign, but wanted to work on Windows GUI development, so left it there
as a community service for whoever still found it useful, and instead posted
direct links to program or documentation files that I added to the site.
Inthane, Jeff Bishop, and others gathered some of these links on pages of
their sites in order to ease finding them — collaboration I appreciate.

Last year, I agreed to take over a community project, begun by Chris
Hofstader, to develop a C# tutorial for JAWS users. I expanded the scope to
any .NET language and any screen reader, naming the project Nonvisual
Development with .NET. List members suggested a wiki as a vehicle for
collaborating on the tutorial, and for months, Pratik Patel and I have been
investigating how best to do this.

Recently, I concluded that the content management system (CMS) called
Drupal, available at
has the optimal balance of power and friendliness among free, open source
choices of a CMS at this time. I decided to try to achieve multiple
objectives in a Drupal-based site that provides a complete directory of
programs and documentation I have posted, and promotes collaboration on
developing nonvisually with various languages and tools. With
encouragement from Jim Homme, webmaster of, I am now
introducing a site called Nonvisual Development, located at

The site is under construction, and your collaboration is sought to help
make it as valuable a community resource as possible. So far, its design is
by me, but its coding is by a blind developer, Chetan Bakhru, whose
services I have hired and would recommend to anyone interested in working
with PHP, Drupal, or other web technologies. Chetan is the webmaster of

At present, the content of is primarily either mine
or links I have collected. I intend to build ways for other developers to
add content and collaborate. We are working within the
capabilities and constraints of Drupal 6.1 and the Zen theme. Feedback,
suggestions, and other contributions can help move this project forward.


Categories: Uncategorized