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Finding Balance: Easter in the Time of the Coronavirus

April 12, 2020 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In this approximately 24-minute podcast, Allison, Allyssa, Arabella and Darrell Hilliker celebrate Easter in the time of the Coronavirus while putting together the Alex Active Monkey Kids Toddler Balance Board.

Download: Finding Balance: Easter in the Time of the Coronavirus

Please tell us how you and your family are handling social distancing, feeding yourselves and generally getting along, especially from a blind perspective, in the time of the Coronavirus. Please send an audio recording or a written message to darrell (at) blindaccessjournal (dot) com or tell us about it on our social media channels.

AccessiLife Consulting, Blind Access Journal, and the Hilliker family, must frequently rely on sighted assistance in order to get important, inaccessible tasks done. In most cases, we have chosen Aira as our visual interpreter. If you are ready to become an Aira Explorer, and you feel it in your heart to pass along a small gift to the journal or our family, we ask that you use our referral link. Your first month of Aira service will be free of charge, we will receive a discount on our bill and we will thank you for supporting the important work we do here at Blind Access Journal.

We love hearing from our listeners! Please feel free to talk with us in the comments. What do you like? How could we make the show better? What topics would you like us to cover on future shows?

If you use Twitter, let’s get connected! Please follow Allison (@AlliTalk) and Darrell (@darrell).

Categories: podcast, Uncategorized

Exploring the World with Aira: A Candid Discussion with Suman Kanuganti

July 13, 2017 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In this approximately 50-minute informal podcast, Allison, Allyssa and Darrell Hilliker talk with Aira CEO Suman Kanuganti at the 2017 National Federation of the Blind Convention about this promising, new disruptive service that aims to give blind people “instant access to information” through the use of augmented reality and wearable technology.

We love hearing from our listeners! Please feel free to talk with us in the comments. What do you like? How could we make the show better? What topics would you like us to cover on future shows?

If you use Twitter, let’s get connected! Please follow Allison (@AlliTalk) and Darrell (@darrell).

Categories: Uncategorized

Who Will Be Your Eyeballs Today? Exploring Remote Sighted Assistance with Be My Eyes for iOS

January 15, 2015 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In this approximately 23-minute podcast, Allison Hilliker and Darrell Shandrow demonstrate the new Be My Eyes app developed to help blind people remotely acquire the sighted help they need to perform many daily visual tasks.


We love hearing from our listeners! Please feel free to talk with us in the comments. What do you like? How could we make the show better? What topics would you like us to cover on future shows?

If you use Twitter, let’s get connected! Please follow Allison (@AlliTalk) and Darrell (@darrell).

Categories: Uncategorized

ATIA: Making Friends with Eye-Pal Scanning and Reading Products

February 18, 2013 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In this approximately 14-minute podcast from the 2013 Assistive Technology Industry Association conference in Orlando, Allison Hilliker talks with Leon Reznik, president of ABiSee, about his company’s Eye-Pal line of scanning and reading solutions for blind and low-vision people.

If you use Twitter, let’s get connected! Please follow Allison (@AlliTalk) and Darrell (@darrell).

Categories: Uncategorized

Join Us for a Special Q&A Session with Fleksy

July 19, 2012 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

You’ve got burning questions? We’ve got the answers!

Join us on Monday, July 23 at 6:15 p.m. Pacific, 9:15 p.m. Eastern time in the Out-Of-Sight Presents room on Out-Of-Sight as we host a special Q&A session with the developers of the hot new Fleksy typing app for iOS devices.

You can even ask your question before the live presentation! Please visit Fleksy’s Happy Typing website to ask the Fleksy team anything. We will ask the pre-submitted questions first, then we will move to live audience participation.

Please register as soon as possible for a free Out-Of-Sight membership so you can participate and contact us before the event if you would like assistance.

Categories: Uncategorized

Freedom Scientific Acquires Blind Access Journal

April 1, 2011 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In a move that is sure to surprise the blindness assistive technology industry, Freedom Scientific has just announced that it has purchased the popular accessibility evangelism website for $100,000 from its publisher, Darrell Shandrow.

Freedom Scientific representatives said this move puts the company on a par with other assistive technology companies like Serotek that also have recognized media outlets in the blind community.

“We’re excited to have Blind Access Journal on board with us,” said Jonathan Mosen, Freedom Scientific’s vice president of hardware development. “We know Darrell will put his passion for accessibility evangelism into his new role as our director of public relations, where he will be an excellent advocate for the use of our products as a means to make accessibility happen.”

“It was a very hard sell! After intensive negotiations concerning the content that will be permitted on the site, I must say I am honored to become part of the company in the industry with the largest screen-reader market share,” said the journal’s publisher, Darrell Shandrow. “I know that only JAWS can truly provide the level of accessibility we as blind people need now and well into the future.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Apple Mum on VoiceOver Accessibility of Mac App Store and OS X Lion for Blind Customers

October 20, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said nothing in his Wednesday Back to the Mac event about continued VoiceOver accessibility of a new Mac App Store and OS X Lion operating system for the company’s blind customers.

The new Mac App Store will offer iTunes-style one-click purchasing and installation of apps for the Macintosh computer operating system. Developers will be able to start submitting apps in November and the store’s grand opening is scheduled for Jan. 20.

A member of Apple’s accessibility team declined to comment on the status of VoiceOver accessibility in the Mac App Store.

“Since the Mac App Store is not available to the public and all features have not been announced, we can not comment on it any further,” said an unnamed member of Apple’s accessibility team.

Apple also has no comment on continued integration of the VoiceOver screen reader on the company’s new OS X Lion operating system slated for a summer 2011 release.

“As Steve said in today’s keynote, the features discussed were a ‘Sneak Peek’ into just a few of the new features being added to Mac OS X,” the unidentified accessibility team member said. “As I am sure you already know, Apple can not comment on pre-release software. Not all features are complete, and any part of it may still change.”

Blind computer science student and registered Apple iOS developer Kevin Chao said he’s not surprised at Apple’s silence on accessibility plans.

“I don’t really blame them,” Chao said. “If they say something now, they can be held accountable. Usually, they don’t talk.”

“By listening to our customers and applying thoughtful solutions to previously unsolvable problems, Apple continues to set a high standard for accessibility,” states Apple’s accessibility website. “Inventions such as braille mirroring, which enables deaf and blind kids to work together on the same computer at the same time; the world’s first screen reader that can be controlled using gestures; and captioning of downloadable digital movies are perfect examples of Apple innovation.”

It is anticipated that Apple will continue these accessibility commitments and innovations into its next operating system and far beyond.

Categories: Uncategorized

Recording the World Using Voice Memos on the iPhone

October 20, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Kevin Chao demonstrates recording and trimming audio on the iPhone using the built-in Voice Memos app. Voice Memos is a handy utility for tasks ranging from basic voice-note taking to recording a demonstration of another iPhone app or feature right on the device without the need to use any additional equipment.

Download, Play or Pause – Recording the World Using Voice Memos on the iPhone

Wouxun Dual-Band Amateur Radio Handheld Transceiver Shows Promise for Blind Hams

October 18, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Jarrod Jicha demonstrates and provides basic instructions in the use of the Chinese Wouxun dual-band amateur radio handheld transceiver. This partially-accessible radio provides a level of limited voice output that surpasses anything currently available in other radios.

Buddy Brannan has written a mini-manual describing battery installation, orientation and programming of the Wouxun radio from a blind user’s perspective. We thank Buddy and the Courage Center Handiham System for making this information available to the blind community.

After listening to Jarrod’s demo, I am uncertain how I feel about this rig. On one hand, it represents a step forward in the accessibility of handheld amateur radio equipment. Alinco, Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu, the prominent manufacturers of amateur radio transceivers, do not include voice output in their handheld radios. On the other hand, in many respects, it provides little more accessibility than we have with radios that don’t include voice output. As I listened to the demo, I was struck by how voice output was provided in areas where we could learn to navigate without it, while important tasks like reading the frequency and selecting from menus remained silent. This radio reminds me of cell phones such as the LG enV3 or my wife’s Motorola I350 NexTel radio that don’t go far enough in providing fully-accessible voice output of all functions. One wonders about the level of thoughtful research and testing that didn’t go into the development of electronics featuring limited accessibility. The radio’s accessible battery indicator is a very nice touch. There are some concerning reports that the Wouxun radios aren’t as durable as those from the leading manufacturers, so be careful not to drop this rig. Despite the potential downfalls, I am excited about the availability of a radio that gives blind hams one more usable choice in a field that is sadly too limited.

Additional information:

Download, Play or Pause – Wouxun Dual-Band Amateur Radio Handheld Transceiver Shows Promise for Blind Hams

Categories: Uncategorized

Blio Developer Says Instability Caused Launch of E-reading Software Without Accessibility

September 29, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Tuesday’s highly-anticipated launch of new e-book reading software took off without accessibility for blind readers.

Developed by K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc., a joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation of the Blind, Blio was promoted as a cross-platform, accessible, visually appealing way to read books.

Instead of a new way to read books, blind users found a note buried in the website’s downloads page stating: “An accessible version of Blio will be available for download in October.”

James Gashel, vice president of business development with K-NFB Reading Technology, said Blio was launched without accessibility because adding it made the software too unstable for public release.

“Obviously, I want Blio to be accessible on the first day. There’s no question about that,” said Gashel, who serves on the board of the National Federation of the Blind. “We pressed toward having the same level of accessibility, but it doesn’t make sense to invest effort in making software that doesn’t run right accessible at the time of launch.”

Blind readers, who said they were looking forward to an additional way to get more books in an accessible format, immediately began expressing their disappointment by way of the Twitter social network.

Blind computer science student Kevin Chao said Blio crashed after ten minutes even without the accessibility features.

“I brought up the table of contents in the Getting Started book, tabbed around and Blio crashed,” Chao said.

“Blio has failed on a number of counts,” Chao said. “It’s not fully accessible, it’s too late and it seems not to have garnered any traction in the mainstream.”

Chao, who describes himself as a tech enthusiast who pushes the limits by testing products for accessibility, assessed Blio’s launch performance.

He said Blio is missing basic interface and navigation features found in software that has been made accessible to screen readers for the blind.

“There is no menu interface, just a lot of buttons and other controls,” Chao said. “Pressing the tab, shift-tab and arrow keys produce unreliable results. There also appear to be no hotkeys to activate any buttons or navigate to various fields or controls within the application.”

He said Blio’s book reading features are also not accessible.

“Using JAWS, I could read the first line of a book. I could listen to a book using ‘read aloud’, but there is no way of navigating,” Chao said. “I can read the Getting Started guide when hitting ENTER on the ‘read aloud’ option, but I can’t control voice features like rate and pitch.”

Gashel said accessibility is a Blio feature that will improve as the software evolves.

“I would look at Blio as rolling out, and so not all of the features of Blio that are supposed to work for everybody are working on the first day,” said Gashel. “What we’re focused on is whether or not Blio will be accessible. It will be. There’s no retreat or backing up.”

Another disappointed blind book enthusiast asked what would happen if key features for sighted readers were left out of the product.

“I wonder how this would go over?” asked Richard Wells, a blind Baptist pastor who also does quality-assurance testing for an assistive technology company that provides screen-reading software for the blind. “New book reader just released. The visual display should work some time next month.”

Categories: Uncategorized