Friday, December 22

Exciting news from NFB Newsline

Greetings. Here’s an exciting announcement regarding accessing TV listings on Newsline. Incidentally, the NFB is using the same TV listing service that I’ve just switched to, for whatever that’s worth. Anyway, the system is very easy to use and is customizable to offer information on specific channels. In addition, you can move forward and back through the time slots, in the usual sentence navigation way on Newsline. You can navigate as far as a full day or more later than the time you started with. Also, if you’re traveling and don’t want to change your home TV channel setup, then you can use a temporary setup, which is very cool. I’ll still look up listings on the computer, but perhaps not as much when I start using this method more and more. Enjoy.

Breakthrough Technology Provides TV Listings to the Blind

Wonderful new Technology!
Free, On-Demand Service Available to Millions

Baltimore, Maryland (December 20, 2006): The National Federation of the Blind has partnered with Tribune Media Services to add television listings to NFB-NEWSLINE®, the nation's largest on-demand news service for the blind. Beginning today, blind and visually impaired Americans will have independent access to their local TV listings, all in one place, only a telephone call away.

Eric Duffy, a Columbus, Ohio native and blind parent of two children, said: "It is so important to find quality television programming for young children. Now I can choose appropriate TV shows for my children, just like any other sighted parent."

Garrick Scott, of Atlanta, Georgia, hosts a weekly sports talk show. "Watching sports is a huge part of my life, and this new capability makes it infinitely easier to find what I want to watch," Scott said.

By simply entering the zip code, source of TV reception, and time zone, blind users will have quick and easy access to their local TV listings. The listings are interactive, as the user can navigate and choose between date, time, and/or channel listings. After a user enters the local zip code, he or she is presented with a list of cable and satellite providers in the area. The user can also indicate the use of a television antenna.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind said: "The sheer volume of information that blind persons will now have access to is astonishing. Finally, blind television viewers can find out what's on any channel, at any time, and within seconds. "

Over 50,000 NFB-NEWSLINE® subscribers already enjoy the free electronic newspaper service which carries 242 newspapers and magazines to 41 states and the District of Columbia. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and AARP The Magazine are among the many national and local newspapers offered. Subscribers have access twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, through a local or toll-free telephone number.

NFB-NEWSLINE® uses the Zap2it television listings, a product of Tribune Media Services and the leading source of entertainment listings in the country.

Individuals who are unable to read print due to a physical disability are eligible for this free service. To register or to request more information, call the National Federation of the Blind at (866) 504-7300, or visit them online at

Monday, December 18

Follow up on yesterday's review

Greetings. Another cool thing jumped to mind today about AVG Internet Security. I don't know if this is true for all of the AVG line of products, since I haven't used anything other than the Net security package, but it wouldn't surprise me. After updating itself with new virus or spyware definitions, AVG will do an automatic scan of the computer to make sure its not infected or afflicted by any of the new viruses or spyware. This is something that I'm pretty sure Norton never did, at least not in the regular home consumer edition. That helps me sleep better at night, to think that my security software is double checking the computer after updating itself. As a coworker of mine often says, "Wonderful!"

Sunday, December 17

Review of firewall and security software

Greetings again. Here’s a very raw and very brief review that I sent a friend on firewall and security software. I finally had had enough with Norton, and several weeks ago decided to try out some other software that I had heard of. Granted, this overview might not meet the qualities and standards for CNET or a computer magazine, but here it is anyway. Who knows, this might help someone else in the same circumstance. I’ll place links to the various software packages at the end. Enjoy.

Sure thing. Here are some additional thoughts based on what I've seen over the past few days. I've installed and uninstalled several different programs to see how well they would work and how I liked them. Granted, I didn't use the program for very long, since I was curious how the others looked and stacked up, but here's some initial impressions, along with my choice.

F-Secure. Having only read the review and with no other prior experience, I didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. I was able to get much of the information about the product's security controls, such as virus protection, firewall status, antispam status, etc. On the down side, much of the information was in list views. This was good since it was accessible to me. What I couldn't figure out was how to get in and make changes to preferences or settings for doing different things, like handling viruses, setting firewall levels, and so forth. For what it does, it looked like a great product, but the inability to change the preferences or settings lost a few points in my book.

Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare. Out of the programs I tested, this was by far the cheapest. If obtained from Microsoft it is $49.95, if obtained from Costco, it is $32.99, or through January 1, there's an additional $20 discount. Going into my evaluations, I figured that this might be the one I would go for since it was good on the pocketbook. As with F-Secure, OneCare was very accessible. It tended to use web page like environments, where you could tab between various links for different things, like antivirus, firewall, computer maintenance, and so forth. The settings were accessible in a dialog box, which was better than F-Secure, from my limited testing. Over all, I really liked this product, and if I was not looking for something with spam filtering, then OneCare might very well have been the one I would have gone with. However, since I can get around 150 or 200, or more, spam emails a day, I was really looking for something to filter those messages, or at least identify them. A friend told me that there very well might be a spam filter in OneCare somewhere (she initially got me interested in it since she uses it), however she didn't know where it was or how it could be accessed. There are times you can find some nifty features in products, software, or websites if you only dig around a little. Anyway, if not for the lack of spam filtering, I would have gone with OneCare. It also has a sweet of computer maintenance features to it, that will clean up, defrag, and otherwise maintain your hard drive about once a month. Though this isn't a must have for me, it was definitely cool to see in a product.

AVG Internet Security. This was the last program I tried. The interface is very accessible, presenting most things in a dialog box format but it also has a menu bar. The installation and initial configuration were very accessible too, keeping the same dialog box approach. AVG has everything I'm looking for, including virus protection, a firewall, regular system scans for viruses and updating itself automatically, and spam filtering. It also can detect and remove spyware in addition to viruses. I found this last nugget particularly interesting. I'll still run Add-Aware or Spybot regularly to keep my computer covered and free of spyware, but its interesting to see that included in a product. All of this is very accessible. There's a spot in AVG, called the control center I believe, where everything is presented in a list, and if you hit the applications key on an item, it brings up a context sensitive menu with specific options relating to that item. I'm only a couple of days into the trial for AVG, but it looks like it wins the battle of the security software. AVG is the most expensive among the programs I tried, priced at about $70, but then again, so was Norton's Net Security. And besides, one could argue that you get what you pay for.

I should say again that I'm probably not the best reviewer of software there is, and I probably didn't evaluate long enough to make me credible. However, I was concerned with accessibility and making sure the packages had what I was looking for. The one thing that Norton's Antispam had that I absolutely loved was that it put an item in the applications menu called Norton Antispam. If there was ever a message that was identified as spam and wasn't, or vise versa, I could go into that Antispam item on the application key, and correct Norton's mistake. None of these products had anything like this. However, after creating some specific filters from the AVG identification of messages that were spam or had a virus, all of my spam and virus messages go into their own folder now. This was a major thing for me in my search, since its disheartening to open your Inbox after a day or two of not checking it, and to know that 85% of the messages in the inbox itself are spam. I'd rather all those messages go into a separate folder.

Addition: Incidentally, I'm still using AVG's Internet Security since I first wrote this review, and I still love it as much as when I wrote the review. I was poking around in its Control Center this morning, and found that it had isolated over 400 viruses in its Virus Vault, and several pieces of spyware in a similar storage area. I never looked to see how many viruses Norton had isolated, mainly because it was too daunting and complicated. The fact that AVG is still working just as hard during a trial as if I had already bought the program is a great sign. Before I leave for the Christmas break, I'm going to go ahead and get that package.

Finally, all of the products I checked out have trial periods. For AVG and F-Secure, its 30 days, but for Windows Live OneCare, its 90 days. Incidentally, Microsoft has decided to put AVG's free antivirus solution in the upcoming Windows Vista release, if that tells you anything.

Here are links to the software mentioned in this review:

Windows Live OneCare
AVG Internet Security


Greetings. I’ve been in a reflective mood this weekend, so as a result, this will be a reflective post. This will probably be my big annual look back post for 2006, so sit back and enjoy.

Its been quite a year. A lot has happened this year. Before I go over some of the highlights, or as I call them “snap shots,” for 2006 let’s rewind a little.

On November 1, 2005, the board of directors at the United Cerebral Palsy Association in Dallas, decided to close the agency that I was working at, and within a matter of a few days, everyone was laid off and in essence, locked out. On November 14 of 2005, I traveled to Austin for my big interview and demonstration for the technology instructor position. On December 15, I was given an offer which I gratefully accepted, and all of a sudden, I was employed again!

Now, for this year: in early January, my parents and I drove down to Austin to go apartment hunting. On January 20, we moved all of my stuff into my new apartment. And, on February 1, I started my new job at the state training center as a tech instructor.

I’ve thought about those dates often in the past month or so, thinking what happened on this or that day at certain times or where I was, and considering what I’m doing now. The new job of course, is perhaps the biggest highlight of this past year, and the one that most of the other highlights are tied to in some form or another.

Some other snap shots include the following, in no particular order: my time in immersion, or blindfold training; going tubing on the San Marcus river with other students and staff; the Louis Braille birthday party we had last February and hearing the center’s director do a Braille rap; the 2006 NFB convention in Dallas; observing and in the latter part of May, even co-teaching classes with another instructor; getting my own keyboarding class back in late March or early April; getting my first Windows class in August, and continuing to teach Windows until now; and more. I remember going to my first few meetings with a student, their counselor, and other staff, and how nervous I was the first few times when it came time to give my report. I’m better now, sort of, but I still get nervous from time to time, especially when I have to take someone out of a class. I hate denying anyone the opportunity to learn technology. I remember all the talks I’ve had with staff in the tech department about different topics, some relating to technology and students and some not so much. I remember the times I called some staff after hours, especially early on, when I wanted to ask them something or was worried about a particular situation. I remember back in April, when I went over to Geoff’s apartment to use his elliptical, and ended up talking with him for another couple of hours after the 15 minutes of doing exercises.

I remember going to pay my own taxes in April, and having the tax preparation person tell me when I was leaving, “See you next year.”

Though its not a pleasant thing to think about, considering how things ended, I remember Tony, my former guide dog. I enjoyed having Tony here with me from when we moved down to September 1 when he died. I remember when I was moving into the apartment, Tony was going around to the various parts of the place, checking things out, laying down in different spots, and then getting up to move on to another spot to try. My Mother reported at one point that Tony was in the closet and you could see only his head sticking out. I remember how Tony always greeted me when I came home from work. I always left the TV on for him, though he never did tell me what he learned from watching or listening to the different shows. He learned a lot though, since he watched Biography and the Texas Cable News channels. I remember getting Kathi to take care of Tony when I was in Dallas. I remember taking him over to her house, and letting him explore her backyard, which he did about 3 different times before he was satisfied. And, though its sad to think about, I remember that day—the day that Tony left me. Even over three months removed, I can still see how everything seemed to fit together that day, so that I was never alone for very long. Whether I was on the bus coming home, with Jack when we raced to the vet and later went to lunch, sitting in my apartment with my music going in the background, or talking with some people on the phone about what had happened. One of the hardest things I had to do that day was tell my Mom what had happened when Jack and I were at lunch. Up until then I was feeling okay about things. I knew what happened of course, but to have to put it into words for someone else is something totally different. I also remember Jack asking me how I felt, and then saying, “Never mind,” when he saw the look on my face. And, along with those things, I remember my parents coming down for the weekend to be with me. That really helped. I still think of Tony often, and even have been dreaming about him once or twice a month or more, but that first weekend with my parents here really helped me get a lot of that emotion out.

I remember going home for Thanksgiving and how much of a rest and recharging event that was. I had not thought a lot about vacations up until that point. After those few days where I could sleep in and relax, well, suddenly vacations don’t look so bad. Perhaps I’ll even take one next year at some point.

I remember going to the graduations for students that I had taught before and feeling proud of what they had accomplished. As it happens, there’s another graduation this Wednesday where at least seven out of the 12 or so graduates were my students at one time or another. This is the first time that I’ve had such a connection with that many students in a graduation ceremony before. It will be good to see them achieve their final goal of graduating. However, it will also be sad to see them leave, but such is the routine of the rehabilitation system: a constantly revolving door of people coming and going. I have thought a lot in the last few months of what I will have to say in about 5 years of watching this revolving door, and remembering the students, the struggles, the high points, and so forth.

I’m sure that there are things I’m missing from 2006, but those are the things that come immediately to mind. Its truly been an interesting year. There’s one more connection with this year that is truly remarkable: 20 years ago, I lost my sight. True, the loss of a sense may not be remarkable in itself, but what would my parents, friends, teachers, and least of all, me, say if someone had told anyone of them that I would be teaching computers at a state training center and where I’d be now, if they were told this back in the fall of 1986? I can’t speak for all the others, but my response would probably be something like, “What???”

So, cheers for a great 2006 and an even better 2007. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours. Everyone stay safe, make resolutions that you might keep, and we’ll see you in January, where who knows what will happen.

Sunday, November 26

Getting ready for Vista

Greetings. Here's an informative article from Kim Komando, in her November 11 weekly newsletter, on Getting ready for Windows Vista. And, for the more technically minded, Windows Vista 8-part review by Paul Thurrott. I initially saw this article linked from The Ranger Station blog. Its very long but very informative. I especially found the various comparison tables helpful in part 2. Enjoy.

A must read for anyone with a home network

Greetings. After reading this article I only hope the computer and software security companies are working on a solution. I also advise anyone who doesn't have any sort of security software for their home networks, to get them. Also make sure you lock down your wireless networks. On those notes, enjoy You're Not Alone from the New York Times.

Thursday, November 23

Possible pitfalls of online shopping

Greetings. I'm a huge fan of shopping online, as those who even glance at the types of posts I have here will figure out. However, the article Missing From Internet: Avid Shoppers’ Sharp Elbows points out, getting that great deal for added convenience may not be all its cracked up to be. Especially if you're looking at a highly popular item, such as a new gaming system, and wanting to get it before anyone else. This is one time when I might brave the trip to the store, if I were inclined to get a limited item like this. It also raises the question of what online retailers will do if these "limited time offers" continue. Online shoppers beware.

Wednesday, November 22

Cool cell phone tools

Greetings. Here's an article on some cool, and mostly free, cell phone tools, from the new York Times' Technology section: Free Services to Inspire Your Cellphone. Enjoy.

Thanksgiving message

Greetings. On this eve of Thanksgiving, I’d like to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. May we be thankful at all times of the year and not just on the forth Thursday in November. Also, may we avoid political correct speech, and actually say, “Happy Thanksgiving,” as opposed to the generic and bland, “Happy Holidays.” I understand why people may not say Merry Christmas, since they don’t want to offend anyone. However, on Thanksgiving, the only one that gets offended is the turkey. And finally, go Cowboys and Hook ‘em Horns!

Saturday, November 18

Tips for shopping this Holiday season

Greetings. Since the big Holiday shopping season is about to begin, if it hasn't already, here's an article from the New York Times on How to Find Those Gifts in a Flash. Specifically, the articles suggests many sites to check prices and availability from, or even the ability to check from your cell phone through a phone number or text messaging. Enjoy, and happy shopping.

Thursday, November 16

What's New in JAWS posted

Greetings. JAWS 8.0 is out, and Freedom Scientific has now posted the What's New in JAWS 8 document. This lists all the new and improved features, along with fixes for several programs. I expect that they will be shipping out all the JAWS 8 program CD's and Real Speak CD's out very soon, if they haven't already. I'm trying to wait till my JAWS package comes, so I can install the synthesizer voices, DAISY materials, and the new version all at once, rather than downloading JAWS now. Note that the new Real Speak voices won't be made available on the FS site, simply because they're too big. Also, I'm guessing that there are probably some licensing or copyright issues which prevent them from making them available online, but I don't know that for sure. Remember that you can get the new version either by downloading it, or obtaining it through the new "Check for updates" option from the JAWS Help menu. In any case, enjoy.

Sunday, November 12

Announcement about Marlaina program

Greetings. Here's interesting information about tonight's Marlaina program on ACB Radio Mainstream. This announcement was sent out via email last week, thus the refernce about next week. Enjoy.

Hello friends.

Because I think next week's Marlaina program, heard November 12 in NorthAmerica and 13 elsewhere, is so exciting I want you to have plenty of noticeso you can plan to join us.

My guest next week will be Jim Kutsch, President of The Seeing Eye. Jim isa guide dog handler, and is working with his sixth guide, Anthony.

Jim joined The Seeing Eye staff in September, 2006. As President, he isresponsible for the professional leadership of The Seeing Eye.

Jim has a very rich career history. Prior to his current position he wasvice president of strategic technology with Convergys. Beginning in 1979 healso served in various positions in the technology field with AT&T UniversalCard Services and AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Jim received his Ph.D in Computer Science from the University of Illinois in1976 and was Assistant Professor of Computer Science at West VirginiaUniversity until 1979. He is currently serving as Vice President of theNational Industries for the Blind's Board of Directors as well as being amember of Freedom Scientific's Product Advisory Board.

I believe we will all benefit from spending time with Jim, and learning howhe developed his education and career at a time in society when adaptivetechnology was scarce and mostly a dream in the minds of a few brilliantpeople.

All this and more is up for grabs on the next Marlaina, heard on ACB RadioMainstream.
It all starts on Sunday night at 8 PM Eastern, 5 Pacific, which is Mondaymorning at 1 Universal. The program will replay for 24 hours, and ofcourse, is available via podcast from the ACB Radio replay page. As always,we'll take your calls at our toll-free number, 866 666 7926.

Please save this message and click the link below on Sunday at 8 PM Eastern,5 Pacific or Monday at 1 Universal to listen. I can't wait to spend timewith you there! Feel free to distribute this message to others whom youthink may be interested.

As always, thank you so much for your continued support of my ACB Radiowork!
Marlaina LiebergTo listen to the show, just click this link

Saturday, November 11

HumanWare press release and thoughts

Greetings. Below is an announcement from humanWare about a new dictionary and thesaurus that they're making available for the BrailleNote family. While I'm pleased to see that they're expanding into other areas of education, I'm reminded of a conversation that I had with a HumanWare representative last year regarding the BrailleNote and possible add-ons that they could do for it. You can read the conversation with him in the archives, on the 7/19/05 entry. Anyway, the representative made clear that they couldn't support a piece of software without knowing that it would work. It appears that they've either turned around on that point, or have adapted the thesaurus and dictionary to work with their closed OS. I'm inclined to thik the latter, since the representative constantly mentioned this issue of what they would do if someone couldn't do something in an off the shelf program that they promised the customer would be able to do. It was an interesting debate. One more thing: in looking at the price that they're charging for this package, it makes me wonder if I could go out and buy a third party dictionary/thesaurus on Compact Flash card, or put them on a USB flash drive, for a fraction of that price, to use on my PAC Mate. I might even be able to find ones that are free. Anyway. here's what the pres release has to say. As always, enjoy, and please pardon any formatting errors.

For Immediate Release
Christchurch, New Zealand
November 7, 2006

HumanWare releases Concise Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus for BrailleNote

Both children and adults who use HumanWare's industry-leading BrailleNote
family of products now have the option of the world's most popular
dictionary and thesaurus at their fingertips.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary on BrailleNote gives the meaning of a word,
speaks it aloud with correct pronunciation, and much more. It includes the
word's full definition of entries with additional advanced search features.

The Concise Oxford Thesaurus provides convenient lookup of synonyms and
antonyms. The Dictionary and Thesaurus combination is available in either
US English or UK English.

KeySoft is the software which powers all models of BrailleNote. From any
KeySoft application, whether you are in the KeyWeb Internet Browser, the
Book Reader or Word Processor, the Dictionary and Thesaurus are easily
accessed by one easy key stroke.

"Customers are very excited about the product," said Dominic Gagliano,
HumanWare's Vice President of Sales for Blindness in the US. "We've
received particularly positive feedback from educational and rehabilitation

customers. This release demonstrates our continued momentum in developing
software for our products for all segments of our market."

The Concise Oxford Dictionary is based on the largest language research
program in the world. Its up-to-date entries are backed by the unrivalled
new words research of Oxford University Press.

Running on the BrailleNote family of products, the Concise Oxford
Dictionary and Concise Oxford Thesaurus can be accessed by QWERTY keyboard
or Braille input, and read and heard by both Braille and auditory output.

The entire contents of the Concise Oxford Dictionary are automatically
integrated and expand the functionality of the KeySoft Spell Checker, from
which the user can easily reference the Dictionary.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary and Concise Oxford Thesaurus are available
today. They run on the latest version of HumanWare's industry-leading
software for the blind, KeySoft 7.2 Build 47, on BrailleNote mPower,
VoiceNote mPower or BrailleNote PK, as well as other BrailleNote Classic
models. The price is $195. To order, call 800-722-3393.

What's New for JAWS 8?

Greetings. The What's New for JAWS 8 has now been posted to the JAWS Headquarters at the Freedom Scientific website. Note that this is an MP3 file where the new features of JAWS are demonstrated. The file is about 90 minutes in length and about 60 megabytes in size. As was noted in the Main Menu interview last month, they said that the What's New would go out about a week or two before the new version was released. In other words, its not long now. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 9

Exciting announcement from Book Share

Greetings. I received the following email in my Inbox and thought it worth sharing. Enjoy, and my humble apologies for any formatting errors.

Dear loyal and patient volunteers,

The press announcement below was sent out for release this
morning.  Many of you have done a tremendous amount of work in
building, a library of accessible books that reflect
your interests.   Congratulations on your achievement.

Thanks from everyone at Benetech.


Thousands of Volunteers Select and Scan Bestsellers For the World's Largest
Accessible Online Library

Palo Alto, Calif., November 8, 2006 - announced this
week that its network of volunteers has succeeded in scanning
30,000 books creating the world's largest accessible online
library. Thousands of volunteers, including educators
and librarians, select their favorite books and legally convert
these texts to digital formats that can be used by people with
print disabilities such as dyslexia and visual impairment.

The entire online library can be downloaded to
Braille printers, portable Braille devices and software that reads
aloud in a synthesized human voice. Among the titles are
bestsellers including Criss Cross, the 2006 Newbery Medal winner
for children's literature. Information about the latest titles can
be found at

"There are thousands of people who couldn't read this literature
without something like, it opens up a whole new world
to them," says volunteer Matthew Devcich, 16, of
Chantilly, Virginia. "You are helping people across the nation and
it's a great way to learn today's technology."

Devcich, who has a visual disability, created an Eagle Scout
leadership service project that organized 21 mostly teenage
volunteers to scan and proofread 24 books. Devcich listens to the ebooks which allow him to reduce eye strain while he
reads the text online in an enlarged font. "It helps me read a
great deal faster," says Devcich.

The subscription-based digital library is the first
literacy program developed by Benetech, a nonprofit based in Palo
Alto, California. "It's people like Matthew who have made 30,000
books available at today," said Janice Carter,
Director of Benetech's Literacy Programs. "Thanks to the ongoing
support of the volunteer community, we continue to
add about 100 new books each week."

The Benetech literacy team will present their library of accessible
books and periodicals at the annual conference of The International
Dyslexia Association conference held at the Indiana Convention
Center in Indianapolis, Indiana from November 8-11.

Wednesday, November 8

New JAWS Update Available

Greetings. Freedom Scientific released the next JAWS 7.1 update today. Among other things, this update gives reliable access to Internet Explorer 7, as well as fixing a few notable bugs. JAWS 8.0 is still coming later this month, from the blogs and reports I'm hearing. I think this was simply a move to allow people to upgrade to the new IE 7 with no JAWS difficulties. Before, you could use 7.1 with IE 7, but were not able to use combo boxes. This new update solves that problem. Looks like I've got a new project this weekend that's just jumped to the top of my list: update Internet Explorer, and becoming familiar with the new look and feel. I'm particularly looking forward to the tabbed browsing feature. Incidentally, if you would like to know the new keyboard shortcuts or hotkeys for IE 7, you can find a link for them on my website, or if they're not there, then try the Computers Page of my site.

Also, in the updates category, I've learned that I'm now eligible to upgrade my Blogger account to the new look and feel of blogs on Blogger. For the reader, this means keywords on all my posts. That might be an ongoing project for me, but it might very well start this weekend as well. The layout and content of the blog will stay the same, so they say, so no worries there. Until later.

Monday, November 6

Accessible voting for all

Greetings. Since tomorrow is election day, I thought this was an appropriate post to make. If you're blind or vision impaired, and the voting place you visit does not have an accessible voting machine for you to use, then please report it to the NFB either tomorrow or Wednesday.

Blind Americans to Cast First Secret Ballot

National Federation of the Blind to Monitor Compliance

BALTIMORE, MD, October 24, 2006: The National
Federation of the Blind announced today that it
has created a hotline for blind and visually impaired voters
to report any difficulties in casting their
ballots both secretly and independently in the
upcoming election. The purpose of the hotline will be to monitor
compliance with the provisions of the Help
America Vote Act (HAVA) relating to nonvisual
access to the voting process for the blind.

James Gashel, Executive Director for Strategic
Initiatives at the National Federation of the
Blind, said: "This election is historic because it is the
first general election since the implementation
date for the accessibility provisions of the Help
America Vote Act. I was able to vote independently and
completely in private for the first time in the
Maryland primary election last month and look
forward to doing it again in November, when many blind voters
across the nation will cast a secret ballot for
the first time in their lives. The ability to
cast a secret ballot is not only thrilling for us as blind
voters, it protects our democracy by ensuring
that nobody exercises undue influence over us or
engages in outright fraud while pretending to help us vote.
A secret vote is just as important for blind
voters as it is for every other American."

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National
Federation of the Blind, said: "The National
Federation of the Blind led the effort to make it possible for
the blind to vote independently and in secret,
like all other Americans. We have been working
to help jurisdictions to comply with that statute by providing
educational and training materials through our
National Center for Nonvisual Election
Technology. Having worked so hard to achieve full and equal participation
by the blind in the voting process, it is our
duty to ensure that no blind American is denied
the right to cast a secret ballot, and we will take any action
that is necessary and appropriate to carry out that obligation."

The National Federation of the Blind HAVA
National Compliance Hotline will be available at
1-877-632-1940 from 7:00 AM-10:00 PM EST on Election Day (Tuesday,
November 7) and from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM on
Wednesday, November 8. Callers will be asked
where they are voting and whether they have been able to cast their
ballot with accessible equipment. The National
Federation of the Blind will analyze the data
collected and conduct any appropriate follow-up, including
assisting voters with actionable grievances in
filing complaints with the United States Department of Justice.

Passed in 2002, the Help America Vote Act was
intended to help states replace outdated voting
equipment such as the punch card machines that caused problems
during the 2000 presidential election. The law
mandates that every polling place in the nation
must have at least one voting station accessible to the
blind. As of January 1, 2006, jurisdictions
should be complying by using electronic voting
terminals, special ballot-marking devices, or vote-by-phone
systems. All of these methods use audio prompts
to read the ballot to a blind voter and allow the
voter to make ballot choices using a keypad. This technology
allows the blind to vote without the assistance
of a sighted poll worker. "Since many
jurisdictions will be using new voting equipment that is accessible
to the blind for the first time," Dr. Maurer
explained, "we feel that it is essential to
collect data on whether that equipment has been implemented and
works properly."

The National Federation of the Blind was
instrumental in advocating for the nonvisual
access language contained in the HAVA and received a grant under
that statute to ensure its implementation. The
National Center for Nonvisual Election Technology
(NCNET) was established by the Federation to carry out
the terms of the grant. The NCNET has developed
an on-line curriculum and a DVD to help make
election officials aware of the needs of blind voters and
to help jurisdictions select appropriate
equipment to provide nonvisual access to the blind at the polling place.

For more information about the National
Federation of the Blind and its work on access to
elections, visit

Web accessibility and online courses

Greetings. There's an informative and thought provoking editorial in today's New York Times that discusses whether or not web accessibility applies to online college courses and the systems they use. This is a follow up to the suit that the National Federation of the Blind brought against Target for their site not being accessible. However, it could carry over to online only areas, such as stores that only operate online (like Amazon), or online college distance learning systems, like Web CT or Black Board. Read the article Do the Rights of the Disabled Extend to the Blind on the Web? You can also find an informative post on the Voice of the Nation's Blind blog, on the 11/6/06 entry, from the NFB. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 22

Guardian Article about David Blunkett

Blunkett was a minister in Tony Blair's government, and talks about
the difficulties of being a blind politician in a sighted world. Now here's a perspective we don't often get, that of the blind politician. After reading this article, I couldn't help feeling impressed by how this blind man used different techniques to deal with day to day things.

Sometimes in politics, there are none so blind as those who can see
In this final diary extract, David Blunkett talks about the issues
arising from blindness - such as well-meaning, but patronising,
Friday October 13, 2006

It was some months [after my birth] before it was recognised that
there might be something wrong with my eyes. Once it was clear that I
could see only a tiny bit (normally referred to as "light and dark"),
efforts to trace the cause were under way. It was only my mother's
tenacity that prevented [doctors] from what now would probably be
described as a medical fetish - namely to remove the eyes of the
child in order to avoid further damage. There was no tumour, and it
was a one-in-several-million chance which led to the failure of my
optic nerve to develop.
I have rarely done interviews about the way I work and the challenge
of overcoming blindness. But it seems appropriate to offer a better
understanding of what it has been like to deal with avalanches of
paper, to have all print material read on to tape and to be on top of
the material in a way that would never allow people to be able to
say: "If only he could see, he would have understood that better."
When I first entered parliament I struggled to get additional
equipment (for brailling) and additional staffing hours for reading,
and will never forget a remark made to me by one colleague who became
a very senior cabinet minister when we came to power in 1997: "It's
all right for you with the extra resources you get. No wonder you can
churn out the press releases." My reply was fairly succinct: "I'll
swap with you any time."
When I first entered the House of Commons in 1987 I came across many
who were patronising, even if they meant well. Of course I was very
sensitive about people being indulgent to me, and my pigheadedness,
my inherent independence and sometimes my unintentional rudeness soon
put paid to any do-gooding. I didn't want to be promoted out of
sympathy, though it was never easy to pull off the feat of being seen
to be effortlessly on top of things. Sometimes I have thought of
nothing else but how I was going to get through the masses of tapes
that arrived in the box each weekend or the nightly tapes that had to
be done either that evening or at least first thing in the morning.
In these early years of government the sheer volume of work left no
time for "gallivanting around in London", as my mother would have
called it. I was at that time very much what the press saw (and
wanted me always to be): the dedicated, workaholic, almost obsessive,
dour northerner.
Feeding and grooming a guide dog, and of course making sure that it
is exercised and has a chance to do what the Guide Dogs for the Blind
Association call its "spend", are all-important. So each morning my
dog and I would set off walking. We would have a decent walk and the
car would collect us. We would then run the dog properly (often but
not always in New Palace Yard at the House of Commons) before going
into the office.
Each morning I would, however, have had a phone call from the press
office. They were lovely young - forgive me if I call them that -
people who volunteered to do a rota for what increasingly over the
years became an extremely grumpy man. The more difficult the coverage
we received, the grumpier and more bad-tempered I became.
Every minute of every travelling hour had to be spent working. It was
the only way. I kept a braille machine of my own on my desk so that I
could make notes. Contrary to common assumption, I didn't always rely
on my memory, although I did try to develop it, much in the way that
one develops a muscle, to ensure that with particular aspects of the
job it was possible to achieve better recall than would normally be
the case.
The same is true of my hearing and my ability to be able to sense
what is going on around me. I am still learning, and I still
sometimes get it wrong. When I am chairing a meeting I often ask
people to indicate to me when they want to speak with a quiet word or
cough, or make some other sound to show that they would like to come
in on the discussion.
And I also have to be careful not to blunder in. This is a particular
issue for blind people. Speaking at the wrong moment, intervening
just when someone else has their hand up and is about to be called,
or failing to recognise a visual indication (which often can be
discernible body language) that this is not the moment to speak out,
is something that has been difficult, to say the least.
Honesty is a mixed blessing. Saying what you think, you cannot see
the thunder in the faces around you. It does lead to honest, plain
speaking, but it also undoubtedly sometimes makes you a pain in the
Using tape machines which allowed me to speed up the sound has
helped, but even with recordings half as fast again as the normal
reading speed, it is still substantially slower than anyone who is a
reasonable speed-reader of print. Speaking in the House was never a
problem, though it was certainly challenging when I first came into
parliament, when I thought I knew it all. I had already been on the
public stage and had substantial media exposure, but the House of
Commons was different from anything else I had ever experienced. In
the space of a few sentences the atmosphere can change from positive,
uplifting support to resentful animosity.
In many ways, not being able to see required me to be much more alert
and alive to what was going on around me, as well as knowing when
people wanted to intervene and being ready to sit down and allow them
to raise a question or make a point. It is possible to work out where
someone is most likely to be sitting. It is possible to know from
their voice who they are. Question time, which for departmental
questions is once a month and lasts for an hour, I always found easy.
After all, the secretary of state has the last word.
But I found delivering written - what are known as "oral" -
statements very difficult. They are oral in the sense that they are
delivered to the House, but they are written and have to be read
verbatim. And here is the rub: I am not a good reader. Very few
people appreciate just what a nightmare it is in such circumstances
to use braille, where there are no capital letters as there are in
print, no highlighting, no underlining and, given that braille is so
bulky, masses of paper. Even a short statement requires a large
number of sheets. Delivering a statement to the Commons was my worst
If I had my time again, I would do two things. First, I would look
after my fingers a great deal better, because the skin was burnt from
cooking and toughened by manual chores, resulting in clumsiness. I
would also have made sure that they were cared for, using whatever
ointments or creams were necessary (even if that did make me a big
girl's blouse). Second, I would have practised braille over and over
again. I do regret that now, because it was certainly an achilles
heel noticeable not simply in my awkward and sometimes stumbling
delivery of the statement (in contrast to answering questions, where
I was easy, confident and articulate) but in my whole body language -
the tension, the hunched shoulders, the unrelaxed facial muscles,
which came from what inside was frankly downright fear.
January 2000

Frank [Dobson] patronised me about not being able to see. If there is
anything that absolutely gets my goat, it is other people pretending
to be nice while being deeply offensive. Give me someone who is
clearly just deeply offensive any day and I can deal with them, but
save me from paternalism. Frank will never know - or perhaps he will
- just how offensive his introduction of me as "my blind friend" was.
He went on: "What a remarkable achievement it is for someone who
can't see to have made the progress that my friend has made" -
perhaps the kind of remark that some well-meaning but ill-informed
distant acquaintance may make, but not a fellow cabinet minister of
two and a half years' standing. I could at that moment have walked
out of the room and finished Frank's campaign there and then, but I
managed to get a grip of myself, and, as so often, I let it go.

July 2000

One of the problems of not being able to see is drinking orange juice
when there is a wasp in it. This happened to me. I had it in my mouth
and was about to chew it when something told me to spit it out. I did
so, but it stung me and my mouth, face, arms and hands all started to
swell. It was one of those frightening experiences when you think:
"There's no one around, what do I do?" Living on my own is sometimes
quite frightening.

February 2001

Once, when I was leader of Sheffield city council, the Queen and the
Duke of Edinburgh came to Sheffield for an official visit and I was
hosting lunch. It was one of those very pleasant occasions when it
was possible to sit next to Her Majesty and have a genuine
conversation, but (and I know she will forgive me for recalling it)
it was strange when twice she asked me if I would like my meat
cutting up - strange not because it was not a kind and thoughtful
question, but because of the comment she made when I politely
declined: "You know, I often do it for the corgis." Well, well, well.

April 2001

I hate buffets for obvious reasons.

Perhaps my hatred of buffets merits a little more explanation. In
order to get the true picture, close your eyes and imagine you are in
a very noisy room, with everyone standing about with glasses in their
hands, normally at an angle just right for tipping over if you happen
to bang an elbow. People are milling about and someone (you've no
idea who) approaches you and begins to talk - and talk ... You are
desperately trying to avoid being rude because, God knows, you might
need help in the future ... So you try just to pop in, show your
face, hope that someone really interesting will "take pity on you",
and eat what you can. It has to be said here that this is usually a
plate of food collected for you by someone else and which
understandably reflects their taste in food but not necessarily yours.

David Blunkett praises civil servants for reading out documents and
transferring others to braille. But he expresses frustration with the
civil service as a whole

October 2001

[Leak of email sent by Jo Moore, special adviser to Stephen Byers, to
Department of Transport press office on September 11 saying it would
be a "very good day" to "bury" bad news]

The world has gone crackers, and the cause célèbre of the week has
been the débâcle over Jo Moore, which is going on and on. Steve was
intending to sack Jo Moore, but by early afternoon it had all changed
and apparently it was because, quite rightly, Tony had perceived that
this was a try-on by the civil service. It was felt that they were
the ones who had received the email and leaked it, and no matter how
appalling the email, the declaration of war by the civil service and
their ability to leak emails and thereby bring down special advisers
had to be countered. Unfortunately life is not as simple as that.
Tony's interpretation of the situation is right, but Steve's initial
decision to sack Jo Moore for the content of the email was also right
because this story has run and run and run.

In dictating this I had no idea just how catastrophic it was going to
be for Steve Byers. I think those advising really did mean well, and
it was a difficult situation to call. There is no doubt that Jo Moore
paid the price, but what price.

January 2002

I'm having a real problem with correspondence concerning Keith
Bennett, who was killed by Ian Brady [convicted, with Myra Hindley,
for the Moors Murders in the 1960s]. His brother Alan had written and
it had taken two months for the letter to come through to me. I
replied to him personally, and now find that Mrs Johnson, Keith
Bennett's mum, had written on November 15 and her letter has just
floated round until Christmas, with no one taking responsibility for
it. I've written a robust letter to John Gieve about this as I feel
it was just grossly incompetent and insensitive. How they could
possibly have missed that this was a significant and sensitive letter
I can't imagine, bearing in mind that the letter began: "Dear Mr
Blunkett, My son Keith was murdered by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. My
life ended then ..."

February 2002

Steve Byers is in the mire because he's got rid of Jo Moore [who had
wanted to stand down in October] and Martin Sixsmith [director of
communications] and Sixsmith is saying that he never agreed to go.
Everyone eulogises about our free, independent, apolitical civil
service. They are apolitical all right - an island within an island,
a government within a government. They have clearly declared war on
special advisers and on some ministers, and they are determined to
pull Steve Byers down.

We talked about special advisers at cabinet. Steve said his bit and
John Reid said one or two sensible things about the dangers, but the
discussion wasn't going anywhere so I just launched in. I know
Richard Wilson will not forgive me for this but it's too bad -
because apparently he went grey and looked daggers at me.

I said: "Well, I think if we're going to have legislation that
protects the civil service from the government, could we build into
it protection for the government from the civil service?

"We have a situation in my department where virtually anything of any
importance is leaked. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate is
a complete shambles. The only reason we got a police reform white
paper and the reform of immigration, nationality and asylum was
because the two respective advisers worked extremely closely with me
on them ... The civil service are very lucky that we can't sack them,
that no one can sack them" - with the implication that they damn well
would be sacked if I had my way, and they would be. At the end of all
this diatribe Tony said: "Well, I think Richard Wilson's got the
message. You really love the civil service, David. You've got a lot
of time for them and you believe they're doing a first-class job" -
and everybody just doubled up.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Monday, October 16

Another proclaimation

Greetings. I know, another proclaimation. This one is the last one for awhile. I received this at work. This one is from the Governor. Enjoy.

Proclamation by the Governor of the State of Texas

Texas is a state that fosters progress and prosperity, a state where
economic development and job creation are prioritized and pursued as we
look toward the future. Due to a highly skilled workforce, Texas is
recognized as one of the best states in the union to do business. Now
and in the future, it is especially important that the approximately
four million Texans with disabilities continue to be vital in both the
public and private sectors.

During the last fiscal year, as a result of assistance from the Texas
Workforce Commission, 3,870 people who self-identified as having a
disability were successful in their search for employment. During the
same period, the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative
Services (DARS) assisted 14,277 Texans with disabilities in gaining
employment. DARS also enhanced services to students with disabilities
through increased availability of transition counselors to facilitate
transition from school to employment. DARS has also taken a leadership
role in promoting information accessibility in health and human service

Texas colleges recognize that developmental classes are critical to the
success of many students with disabilities, and more students with
disabilities are attending college than ever before. Additionally, state
agencies in Texas have partnered with college and university engineering
departments on new inventions to assist people with disabilities.

Highlighting the achievements of Texans, a University of North Texas
student and artist, John Bramblitt, is featured on the 2006 Texas poster
for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). John's
talent for creating emotion through his use of color and texture in his
paintings is evident. He successfully challenges people's conceptions of
blindness, ultimately finding that painting gives him a meaningful
opportunity to connect to others. His art and determination reflect and
reinforce this year's NDEAM theme: "American's with Disabilities: Ready
for the Global Workforce."

Another success, this year the Texas School for the Blind and Visually
Impaired and the Texas School for the Deaf are celebrating their 150th
anniversary of excellence in education to Texas students with sensory
disabilities. In addition to academics, students at both schools have
opportunities for career exploration, internships, job placement and
actual experience in the job market.

Also of note, Texas applauds all who provided such valiant service
during last year's hurricane season. Continuing to prioritize this
issue, statewide emergency response plans have strengthened evacuation
provisions, including those related to individuals with disabilities. In
Texas, today, a statewide registry allows people who need assistance
evacuating to sign up for such assistance.

To highlight the importance of equal employment opportunities for
Americans with disabilities, and to recognize the many achievements of
individuals dedicated to this cause, October has been designated as
National Disability Employment Awareness Month. At this time, therefore,
I encourage all Texans to recognize the employment potential of Texans
with disabilities. Together, we can continue to make a difference for
the future success of Texas.

Therefore, I, Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, do hereby proclaim October
2006, Disability Employment Awareness Month in Texas, and urge the
appropriate recognition whereof.

In official recognition whereof, I hereby affix my signature this the
27th day of September, 2006.

RICK PERRY(Signature)
Governor of Texas

Sunday, October 15

White Cane Day Activities

The following post was started on October 11, and compiled over the next few days.

Greetings. Today is a significant day in Austin, for its White Cane Day. This day is usually celebrated on October 15, but today was the city-wide celebration. I must say right off that, even in my years of living in Dallas, nothing like what happened today ever happened in Dallas, or somehow I never heard of it. Indeed, one person said that its probably the largest celebration and gathering of blind people for the celebration in the state, perhaps in the country.

For me, it began when I boarded the route 5 bus at around 7:45 this morning, told the driver I wanted to go to “Eleventh and Congress,” and took my seat. About 5 or 7 minutes later, we picked up another passenger who was also going to that same spot. At about 8:00, we stopped in front of Criss Cole, and picked up a few more passengers who were going there to. I should mention that by “a few more,” I mean like at least 10 or 15, perhaps more, blind and sighted people with blindfolds and canes. I didn’t mention anything to the driver about these people, who were my colleagues and some were my students, getting on at any point. Thus, I think he was caught off guard a little, since after the first five or six people got on, he said, “You just let me know when you’re ready and we’ll go.” Someone said ok, and people kept boarding and getting themselves situated. Someone finally said, “Ready,” and we were off.

We got to Eleventh and Congress at about 8:30, and as we got off the bus, we slowly made our way over to the gathering area. For some perspective on this celebration, blind people from all in and around Austin were participating, including the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), Criss Cole, the Austin Lighthouse, and other groups and individuals. So to say that there was a lot of people would probably be a little bit understated.

We were all gathering to march down Congress from Eleventh to Second streets, and then go West and make our way to City Hall. By the way, the State Capitol is at 11th and Congress. I had my Talks enabled cell phone with me and took the liberty of taking, or attempting to take, a few pictures. I did this throughout the day and in all, got about 14 shots. Though I don’t know how many are actually good ones or ones to keep. I’ll go through them later with someone and see, and hopefully be able to put some up on my website. Anyway, with the help of a mobility instructor I know real well, I was able to get a great shot of the Capitol.

So here we all are, milling around and talking with one another, saying hello to new people and greeting old friends. As it happened, I ended up seeing a former teacher I had both at Criss Cole and TSBVI. That was cool.

Shortly after 9, we started forming in different groups to get ready to march. Then, at about 9:15, someone gave the signal and we all started off. The deal was for the kids at the School for the Blind to lead the march, and everyone else would fall in behind. We were told that we could march on either side of Congress. So picture a mass of blind and sighted people, many with canes and blindfolds, all moving down both sides of a street. There was a television news chopper that flew overhead at the start of the march, and there were other media people all over the place, interviewing, taking pictures, and the like. Many people were wearing blue shirts that had been custom made for the event, that had the state capitol on them and said, “White Cane Day 2006,” across the front. There were other phrases on the front and back. On the back top of the shirt, near the shoulders, there was a phrase in Braille that said, “How’s my driving?” I’m sure that there were other pictures on the shirts, but I don’t remember what those were.

At around 10:15, we reached City hall. Some people stood in groups chatting and others found their way to some bleachers and other seating areas. I was off to find my way to the bleachers. I asked directions of a couple of people and thought I was going the right way. The last person I asked directions from, told me to go left. So I did, more or less, and found myself climbing a raised area. The bleachers were atop some concrete, so I thought that this was where I was. However, soon after I was on this platform, someone came to my side and asked me if I was looking for something or someone in particular. When I told them that I was looking for the bleachers, they directed me there. Before we left the platform though, I asked them where we were, and they said, “Oh, you’re on the stage.” That would have been a little awkward if the program were to start and I was standing there, kind of looking like I knew what I was doing, but not really knowing where to go.

I eventually found a spot and claimed it. After a few minutes, someone got on the microphone and welcomed everyone, which caused one of many cheers to go up from the audience. One of the people that welcomed the crowd was Elmo, from Sesame Street. I wondered afterward if Elmo had his own cane. I attempted to take several pictures of Elmo and the people on the stage. We’ll have to see how those came out, or if I even got anything.

After several people were introduced and thanked and the supporting organizations of the event were allowed to each say few words, the proclamation from the mayor was read. During all this, the crowd cheered at appropriate places, and whenever everyone felt like it.

After all these things, we all were instructed how to get to Republic Square Park, which is where they were going to have a celebration and picnic. I again took several pictures at the park, including a “tug of competition,” as someone called it, between TSBVI and Criss Cole. One of the students at Criss Cole was able to get several restaurants to participate in the picnic, including two barbeque places. That was some good food. There was also a band that cranked up at around 11 and played until one. The notable thing about this band, Blue Mist, is that all of the members are blind. They sounded good, but if I had any say in it, then I might have liked to have the tables and chairs placed a little further from the stage so the music wasn’t blaring into my face. However, they were good. Apparently, Blue Mist is the only band where all the members are blind in the Austin area.

I left with several students and another staff member at around 2, but didn’t make it back till a little before 4. All in all, it was a cool day, and one of the things that makes me appreciate my job. After all, how often can you march to City Hall, stuff your face with barbeque and sausage, and basically have a good time, and still get paid for it?

White Cane Safety Day Proclaimation

Olegario D. Cantos VII, Esq.
Associate Director for Domestic Policy
The White House
- - - - - - - - - -
Just a few hours ago, the President signed a proclamation, declaring
October 15, 2006, as White Cane Safety Day. I therefore wanted to send
the text to you right away. Please distribute this widely.
Commemoration of this occasion enables communities all around the
country to focus attention on the abilities, independence, and spirit of
blind and visually impaired Americans. Since (as you have recently
seen) October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month,
the appropriate related themes tie in quite well.
If you would like to receive a framable copy of the Proclamation which
is worthy of prominent display (featuring the Seal of the President in
gold and the signature of the President), please fax requests to (202)
456-2806. (Note that such requests are not processed through my
- - - - - - -

Our Nation believes in the promise of all our citizens, and we must work
to ensure that the opportunities of America are more accessible to every
person. Many Americans who are blind or visually impaired use white
canes to enable them to enjoy greater mobility, engage in productive
work, and participate fully in all aspects of life. On White Cane
Safety Day, we celebrate the many achievements of Americans who are
blind or visually impaired, and we recognize the white cane as an
important symbol of their determination and independence.
My Administration remains committed to removing barriers that confront
Americans with disabilities. Since we launched the New Freedom
Initiative 5 years ago, we have worked to improve access to community
life, expand educational opportunities, strengthen training and
employment services, and promote the development of technology for
people with disabilities. We are building on the progress of the
Americans with Disabilities Act and working to make America a place
where all citizens have the opportunity to realize their full potential.
The Congress, by joint resolution (Public Law 88-628) approved on
October 6, 1964, as amended, has designated October 15 of each year as
"White Cane Safety Day."
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of
America, do hereby proclaim October 15, 2006, as White Cane Safety Day.
I call upon public officials, business leaders, educators, librarians,
and all the people of the United States to join as we work to ensure
that the benefits and privileges of life in our great Nation are
available to Americans who are blind or visually impaired, and to
observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twelfth day of
October, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the
Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and
- - - - - - - - - -
Olegario D. Cantos VII, Esq.
Associate Director for Domestic Policy
The White House
Washington, DC 20502

Thursday, October 12

Highlights of JAWS 8.0

Greetings. As noted on The Ranger Station, here are a few things to look forward to in the upcoming release of JAWS 8.0. In case you want to hear a program previewing the new version, you can find the appropriate link on The Ranger Station entry dated 10/11/06.

* The new “What’s New In JAWS will feature both Eric and Jonathan Mozen. It’s going to be released as a MP3 on the FS site and it’s about 90 minutes long.
This will also be included on the CD in DAISY format.
* JAWS 8 will be downloadable off the web, however, this version will not contain the new Realspeak synthesizers. As a result of JAWS now being able to
use Realspeak it will be shipped on CD to all current SMA holders.
* The version of Realspeak shipped is over 700 MB and it comes on it’s own CD. The JAWS bi fold package will contain the Realspeak CD on one side and the
JFW program disc on the other. Nothing was said about the ILM disc though.
* Public Beta releases, like those with 7.1, will return after the release of 8.0.
* JAWS will now use the Automatic Update feature more often. The plan is to update JAWS every 6 weeks.
* 8.0 no longer supports older versions of Windows. Windows 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, XP Media Center Edition and Windows Server 2003 are supported.
* The older versions of JAWS will still be available on the web but not supported by Freedom Scientific. The archives go all the way back to version 2.0
by the way.
* Eric has stated that a version of JAWS will be available on the day and date of Vista’s release. His comments seemed to be directed at the January 30th
retail versions rather than the upcoming Enterprise release.
* 8.0 will work with Office 2007, however, that program is still in Beta and better support will arrive in future updates.
* Realspeak is being adopted to give JAWS better international language support.
Bi Fold package with Realspeak CD on one side and JFW program disc on the other.
* The Realspeak English territory release will contain 3 American, 2 British, 2 Australian, 1 Castilian Spanish and 1 Latin American Spanish voice.
* Other languages will be sold regionally such as Italian and German.
* The new Realspeak voices can be used with the new Say All feature. This will allow you to navigate with Eloquence and switch on the fly to Realspeak
for document reading.
* 8.0 will support IE 7.
* Some keystrokes have changed to avoid conflicts with IE 7 but nothing that as not already been seen with Firefox support
* Virtual Buffer and Document Server loading of dynamic HTML and other content has been improved from 7.1. You can actually read pages with tickers in
real time .. and this is said to be amazing with a Braille display.
* Skim Reading will now recognize attributes and colors when searching through text
* The Startup Wizard will allow you to customize JAWS when you first launch the program after a new install. This is added from Magic and it allows you
to set your preferences without you having to sort through many of the menus in the Configuration Manager.
* The JAWS Find Dialog now has a History list of the last 20 items searched
* Application Management from Magic makes the leap into JAWS. You can go into this tool and turn off JAWS scripts in say Firefox to see if the program
is the problem or is the application specific scripts are an issue. Great for trouble shooting your computer.
* Lots of Office 2003 improvements in Excel and Outlook.
* Web Resources has now been added to the Help menu. This will take you to the JAWS HQ and other places where you can find up to date information on JAWS.
The search engine now used by Freedom Scientific for web based searches of their site is now Google based.

Though no release date has been made public, since the new JAWS will work with IE 7, and since IE 7 should be out by the end of the month, I'm thinking that that might be when 8.0 comes out, or somewhere around that time. Also, the What's New MP3 mentioned and appropriate documentation should be on the FS site about a week or two in advance of the official release. All in all, it looks like a great release. I know I'll be checking the FS site quite often between now and the end of the month.

Wednesday, October 11

White Cane Day coverage

Greetings. The following news story appeared on the local ABC television affiliate about today's White Cane Day celebration. Read on to find out more and hopefully, watch the video story. I'm in the process of compiling my own account of the various activities that went on today. I hope to have that up by the weekend. I also hope to have pictures available on my website in the next week or so. Enjoy.

KVUE News, Texas USA
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Mayor proclaims today White Cane Day

Hundreds of members of Austin's blind and visually impaired community marched down Congress Avenue Wednesday morning.
Mayor Will Wynn met the marcher's at City Hall to proclaim Wednesday White Cane Day.
All around the country white cane laws are used to help guarantee pedestrian safety, and ensure equal rights protection for the blind and visually impaired.
LINK: KVUE Online Video (Embedded to browser, follows 15 second commercial)

Tuesday, October 3

Friday Night Lights, the TV series

Greetings. I’ve just finished watching the premier of “Friday Night Lights,” on NBC. First impression: this could be big; this could be really big. This is coming from someone who’s read the book a couple of times, seen the movie a few times, and as of a month or two ago, obtained the DVD of the movie. So, to say that I “like” the story might be understating the fact just a little.

For those that don’t know, Friday Night Lights follows the Permian High School panthers football team of Odessa, Texas. The book and movie were pretty close in content. At times where the movie varied from the book, it didn’t take anything away from the book at all. I used to be picky about movies that weren’t exactly like their respective books. Now though, as long as the movie stays more or less true to the over all picture of the book, I don’t mind. In fact, if the movie enhances the book and even, if possible, surpasses it, then all the better. I’m not sure if the Friday Night Lights movie does this with is book, but that’s another topic.

Anyway, getting back to the TV series. If the TV show continues to follow the over all picture of the book, of having plenty of hard hitting football, dialog, and maintaining the themes of the book and movie before it, then I don’t see any reason why we can’t get these United States excited about Texas high school football. True, there are some differences in the TV series from the book and movie before it, such as the name of the town and the names of the coaches, players, and other key people, but the rest of the plot looks to be the same. One difference I noticed right off is that the quarterback of the Panthers was injured and looks to be sidelined for the remainder of the season. In the book and movie, it was their running back. However, the second string QB looked to be pretty good himself, once he took a few snaps that is. I found myself cheering for the panthers to pull the game out and win. There’s a sign of a good show when you are rooting for the “good guys” in the first episode. My hope is that they won’t dip into the diverse issues of high school and lose sight of the intention of the main story line, that of the football team and its season. Time will tell on that front.

For those that missed the premiere of the show, there will be an encore performance tomorrow night on NBC at 7 Central time.

Another interesting side note: the producer for the movie Friday Night Lights, produced this first episode on television. Someone else will do the rest of the season I’m sure, but that’s pretty cool. When watching this pilot episode, I was able to tell the touches of the movie’s producer and where he enhanced the show. There aren’t many shows that I sit down to watch these days, at least not on a regular basis. This one has already been entered into my note taker’s calendar though. Enjoy, and “Let’s go panthers!” Or, as they say in the book and movie, “Mo-jo, mo-jo, mo-jo.”

Monday, September 25

Trade in or trade up, you decide

Greetings. Freedom Scientific has announced a new competitive trade-in program for the PAC Mate that has to be the most competitive yet. If you own a BrailleNote model, of any sort, in good working condition, you can trade it in for a PAC Mate, with or without a Braille display. Read the details of this trade-in program here. Pay special attention to the pricing. Even if you trade in your mPower or PK for a PAC Mate QX400 with 40 cell Braille display, the resulting cost will still be slightly less than a brand new speech only PAC Mate. Prices range from roughly $795 to $2295 for this trade-in program. Don't quote me exactly, but rather read all the details for yourself.

What's almost as notable as the trade-in program to me, is the length of time its being made available for: till the end of the year. I can't think of a better Christmas present for someone than a new PAC Mate. Throw in a new wireless card, a custom carrying case from Executive Products, and some other accessories, and you've got quite a package.

If you've been wondering about how to use your mPower or PK in this constantly changing world of ours, especially when it seems to be falling further and further behind; or, if you have been thinking about getting a PAC Mate but have wondered how you would manage it; or, if you have even been considering whether it really is worth staying in a closed system like HumanWare has; than this trade-in program could be the answer for you. With Jonathan Mosen on the FS crew now, there's no telling what will come of the PAC Mate family of products in the upcoming year. Besides, do you really want to be left behind again?

Sunday, September 24

Marlaina talks about guide dogs

Greetings. The following message regards a show on ACB Radio that Marlaina Lieberg hosts. Tonight's topic is on gide dogs. Read more for the details. I figure that, not only is a dedication for her to her newly retired dog guide, but one for me as well to Tony. After the show runs for 24 hours, it will be replayed next weekend on Sunday, and then go into Marlaina's Shows On Demand section of the ACB Radio site. Enjoy.

Hello friends. This is an announcement I'm sending far and wide and if you
are interested, I encourage you to do the same.

As many of you know, I have officially retired my guide of over 9 years,
Madeline. We've had a wonderful party aboard the Vision of the Seas, Royal
Caribbean's number one member of the voyager class ships, and yesterday we
had a grand party for her here at our home.

On the next Marlaina, we'll take a look at the concept of guide dogs. Our
first guests will be two puppy raisers who will tell us why they got into
this, the requirements and expectations placed on raisers, what it's like to
get and give back that first dog, and more.

We'll follow that up with a visit from a trainer from Guide Dogs for the
Blind, who'll tell us about the training experience, working the dog,
teaching the dog commands like left and right, and a bit about the class

Finally, we'll talk about retirement issues. How does one know when it's
time, how does one prepare for such a transition. We have a guest
tentatively lined up for this segment, but if it doesn't work out, we'll all
discuss the topic together.

It is my hope that this show will honor the concept of the human/dog
relationship, and I dedicate it to madeline, with appreciation for the
partnership we've had. Madeline is guide number seven; I've worked with
guide dogs since 1964; she'll always be very special and very dear to me.

Come join my guests and me, and help make this marlaina a very special show.

While I'm away, Jeff Bishop will be hosting the Marlaina program, and I know
he's got lots lined up for you!

All this and more is up for grabs on the next Marlaina, heard on ACB Radio
It all starts on Sunday night at 9 PM Eastern, 6 Pacific, which is Monday
morning at 1 Universal. The program will replay for 24 hours, and of
course, is available via podcast from the ACB Radio replay page. As always,
we'll take your calls at our toll-free number, 866 666 7926.

Please save this message and click the link below on Sunday at 9 PM Eastern,
6 Pacific or Monday at 1 Universal to listen. I can't wait to spend time
with you there! Feel free to distribute this message to others whom you
think may be interested.

As always, thank you so much for your continued support of my ACB Radio

Marlaina Lieberg

Click here to listen to the show, or visit the ACB Radio Mainstream Channel Page and click on the appropriate link to listen with your media player of choice.

Thursday, September 21

GPS and the blind

Greetings. Here's an article about GPS and the blind from USA Today. It specifically focuses on people who use guide dogs, and who are or may be trained to use GPS with their dogs by the guide dog schools. Interesting.

Tuesday, September 12

Thoughts on "comforting" words

Greetings. Its interesting the kinds of things people say to you after you’ve lost someone close to you, whether it be a friend, family member, person, or animal. Things such as, “I’m sorry for your loss.” The first time I heard this phrase was when my grandmother on my Dad’s side died back in 1995. I had not heard that for someone really, or even somewhat, close to me, and frankly, I didn’t know how to respond. Why were they apologizing to me? When Tony died, I began to understand it though.

Then there are the phrases that really don’t mean much, might even sound cheesy, but are supposed to sound good. Some examples of these are things like, “They’ve crossed the rainbow bridge and are in a better place.” Where is this rainbow bridge? And, is it the rainbow bridge that’s at the end of the alleged pot of gold?

Then there are the phrases that sound good but don’t offer much in the way of comfort, or at least not beneath the surface, such as, “They’re in a better place.” A better place? Ok, I know that Tony’s in Heaven, but how is him being in that better place supposed to make me feel better now when he’s not with me? Granted, picturing him in Heaven brings slight comfort, but here again, not as much when you consider that he died suddenly. If he had had a long drawn out illness and was sick over many months, then perhaps that might bring some comfort. But that wasn’t the case; he died about 80 minutes after I received the call from Geoff that he wasn’t doing so good.

Then there’s the ever popular, “He’s in no more pain.” This brings some degree of comfort, but there’s a certain part of it that still doesn’t seem to acknowledge the loss.

I’m not opposed to acknowledging the loss, but I’d rather do it in an appropriate, and not a cheesy, manner.

I haven’t had occasion to think a lot about these phrases, which is good. However, I have thought about them from time to time over the past week and a half or so. I’ve even told a close friend, something along the lines of, “Don’t even tell me ‘he’s in a better place’, since that doesn’t really offer any comfort to me.” To which my friend said, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell you that. I’ve been through that before, and it sucks.” Those words acknowledged the issue, but didn’t try to sugar coat it to make it sound good. He couldn’t have said it any better.

Saturday, September 9

Songs and Links

Gretings. This semed like a fitting post after my letter to Tony.

Those who know me well, know that I love Petra, the long time Christian rock group. Two of their songs really helped me get through last weekend, and continue to help me. I got the lyrics for these songs from Petra Rocks My World.


There's a step that we all take alone
An appointment we have with the great unknown
Like a vapor this life is just waiting to pass
Like the flowers that fade, like the withering grass
But life seems so long and death so complete
And the grave an impossible potion to cheat
But there's One who has been there and still lives to tell
There is One who has been through both heaven and hell
And the grave will come up empty-handed the day
Jesus will come and steal us away

Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes
And death finally dies

Many still mourn and many still weep
For those that the love who have fallen asleep
But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache
Just one shout from above and they all will awake
And in the reunion of joy we will see
Death will be swallowed in sweet victory

When the last enemy is done from the dust will come a song
Those asleep will be awakened - not a one will be forsakened
He shall wipe away our tears - He will steal away our fears
There will be no sad tomorrow - there will be no pain and sorrow

The next one is called “More Power to ya,” and this one more than the last, has really uplifted me in those quiet moments, like when I’m getting ready for bed. Here’s the song.

You say you've been feeling weaker, weaker by the day
You say you can't make the joy of your salvation stay
But good things come to them that wait
Not to those who hesitate
So hurry up and wait upon the Lord

More power to ya
When you're standing on His word
When you're trusting with your whole heart in the message you have heard
More power to ya
When we're all in one accord
They that wait upon the Lord, they shall renew, they shall renew their strength

Jesus promised His disciples He'd give strength to them
Jesus told them all to tarry in Jerusalem
When they were all in one accord
The power of His Spirit poured
And they began to turn the world around

So be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might
Put on all His armor and fight the good fight
In all of our weakness, He becomes so strong
When He gives us the power and the strength to carry on

There were several times when I played these two songs over and over, especially in the time before my parents arrived last weekend.

For those that are wondering, here’s the link to the Sunrise Exotic Ranch and The Seeing Eye. If you would like to remember Tony, then please donate to one or both of these groups. Thanks.

Tony's Letter

Greetings. The following is dedicated and written to Tony, my former guide dog that just passed away.

Dear Tony,

This is a hard letter for me to write, since you’re not with me anymore. I know you are with God in Heaven though. Which probably means that you’re reading this from somewhere in cyberspace. I don’t know how advanced the technology is in Heaven. I trust that you are doing well regardless. If you get the chance, send word to me of what things look like up there.

Anyway, I wanted to write you this note and to tell you how much I appreciated you an your service as a guide dog. You guided me for 4 years. You were a wonderful guide dog. Even though retirement came earlier for you than for other guide dogs, you still put everything into your work, and later into your play as a retired dog guide.

What can I say to express my appreciation and love for you? How can I summarize the 11 years that we spent together? I’m not sure there is a way. However, hopefully the following paragraphs will scratch that surface to some degree.

I remember when I first arrived at The seeing Eye on May 27, 1995, climbing out of the Lincoln Town car and not really knowing what to expect. Everyone was so friendly when I walked through the Seeing Eye’s front door for the first time. I felt like I had known them all my life, even though we had just met. I then met you the next day, a Sunday. I remember that you were a little sad from being separated from your trainer, Peggy, since you were running back and forth for the door to me. Each time you came back to me though, I had a hug for you. And, eventually, I guess you decided that life was better with me than over by the door. That time was a whirlwind of activity as I tried to understand how to use you properly and all the commands. I’m sure that there were times you must have thought, “Come on, do this, this, this,” as I was struggling. But, as it would happen many times after that, you were patient with me.

Then we came back to Dallas 27 days later, and that presented another set of challenges for you, since you were then getting used to my environment, not the other way around.

We had many a happy time and some sad ones during the working part of your life. Such as, when you peed on the Richland Community College bridge during class changing on a weekday. I feel bad that I didn’t pick up on your signals to me, but I was young. After all, it only happened in the first few months that we were working together. Or, the time I took you to Six Flags Over Texas. I’m sure you were confused by the roller coaster cars moving overhead, thinking that they should be on the ground like other cars. Or, the time we went to Colorado to go skiing. That was a fun trip.

In 1997, we moved from Dallas to Denton so I could transfer to the University of North Texas. Those were fun times as well. I remember getting lost on the first day of classes, thinking that I could find my way on my own and could take a shortcut. My shortcut, or perhaps you’re thinking, somehow got us to Pizza Hut on the edge of campus, instead of to the Student Union building. Looking back, I wonder if you had planned things to happen that way. Or, all those looks you gave to Heather. She was doing her best to guide me while you were trotting along on leash. When thinking of Heather’s guiding, I can’t forget when she accidentally walked me into the back of the stairs. I told her it was ok, even though it wasn’t, and then you must have given her a dirty doggie look, because the next thing I hear from her is, “Shut up.”

Yeah, we had some good times. I don’t have the space to recall all of them. You were there with me in the happy times; in the sad times; when my dad’s mom and grandmother died; when at the Colorado Center when I tried to use my cane and came back from the library feeling down about my abilities, you comforted me. When I got the news that I was able to go to the Colorado Center from my state rehab counselor, you wagged your tail in anticipation, even though you might not have known what all the excitement was about. In 2003, when I graduated from college, I know you were with me there, even though I used my cane to walk across the stage. So many memories.

About a week ago, on September 1, when Geoff, Larry and Jesse came over to move and hook up the new washer and dryer, you went out to greet them, even though you weren’t feeling well. I’m grateful that they were there, since it was Geoff that called me at work to tell me that you weren’t feeling great. On the bus ride home, I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew things weren’t good. I remember calling my dad and telling him of the situation, and then calling Jack, who said that either he or his wife would meet me at the apartment to help take you to the vet. I remember getting home, meeting Jack at the door, throwing my stuff down, and going to the bedroom to check on you. You were lying on the mat you used in the bedroom and obviously weren’t doing real well. It broke my heart that you weren’t able to get up and walk out like you had done so many times before. Jack carried you to the car, put you in your usual spot in the floor below the dashboard, and I got in, and we rushed off to the vet. It was kind of fitting that you were below the dash, since that’s where you always sat when you were guiding.

When I heard from the vet that you were on oxygen, but that you were not in the best shape, I then had to make some decisions. That was one of the hardest times of my life so far. I had to decide if we were going to try to bring you back to some semblance of health, or put you down. After some thought, I decided to put you down. I’m sorry for not asking you at the time what you wanted to do.

I remember going into that room and putting my hands on your rump. You wagged your tail, which I appreciated. You knew I was there. You were glad for my touch. I couldn’t say anything meaningful to you, but you understood and were fine with simply my touch. Jack told me when they gave you the shot and when you stopped breathing. I felt it all though. I know when you stopped. In fact, I remember pleading with you not to fight what was happening when your breath quickened ever so slightly. After you left this world and went into Heaven, Jack and I said our prayers for you. I remember praying a simple prayer to God, saying just, “Thanks for Jack, and thank you for Tony.” That was all I could say, but that’s all I needed to say. We stood there a few minutes. Another hard thing was leaving your body lying there. Thankfully though, one of the nurses offered to take you to her ranch of exotic animals, the Sunrise Exotic Ranch, and burry you there. I gratefully took her offer and thanked her. I plan to come out and see your graveside soon, and to see what animals your lying near.

It was hard for me to leave that room, but I knew that I had to. I got the call from Geoff at about 12:05, and you officially died at 1:25. This brief amount of time would come to mind later when I started dealing with the fact that you were no longer with me. Officially, the doctor said that you had congestive heart failure. I don’t know what all that means, except that you were not doing good when I came home and when Jack and I took you to the vet.

Another hard thing was calling Mom to tell her of your passing a little after 2. I don’t get real emotional, as far as sadness anyway, so recalling for others your passing, and beginning to deal with it over the following 3 days, had me crying and my throat closing from the emotion of things. My parents came down for the weekend, which helped a lot.

Tony, I thank God often that I had someone wit me most of that day, and that there were people here to tell me that you weren’t feeling great. From Geoff and Larry, to Jack, to talking with my parents and friends on the phone; there weren’t many times when I was by myself. Actually, in those quiet times when I wasn’t talking to anyone or with anyone, God was with me, so I’m quite sure that I was never alone that day.

I want you to know that I’m in the process of giving away some of your things, such as your bowls, dog food, medicines, spare leash, and other things. But I’ve decided to give them to people that have or are going to get guide dogs. That’s one thing I’m doing to remember your service. I’ve also called the Seeing Eye to inform them of your death, which they were grateful for. I don’t know that I’m going to get another guide dog. At least not right away. Whether I do or not, I’ve heard it said that people always remember their first dogs, and I’ll definitely always remember and treasure my time with you. No matter if I get several more guide dogs, or some pet dogs, you’ll always have a special place in my heart.

Being at work helps me stay occupied and busy. When I come home though, there have been times when I’ve missed seeing you, or have expected to see you. Such as your normal feeding times, when I enter or leave the apartment, and others. I’ve left your main leash and collar on the inside doorknob to remind myself of you. I always touch them when I leave the apartment. I’m also keeping your mat in the bedroom. I had to clean it since it was still dirty from the day you left. That was hard in a way too. Part of me wanted to keep it just like it was so that I could remember, but then again, my company probably would not have liked that too much. After it was cleaned though, I placed it in its usual spot, right my the desk. I remember being in the efficiency in Dallas and you and I having those disagreements of where the mat should go. That was a small efficiency to begin with. You would move it close to the bed, since you wanted to be near me. After tripping over it several times and you, I would move it to the other side of the room, and you would gradually move it back again. It seems we had the same disagreements over the mat in the bedroom.

I wasn’t the only person that cried over your passing. Aside from me, here’s a brief list of the other people that have cried tears for you, in no particular order: Jack, Mom and Dad, grandmother on my Mom’s side, Janie, and others. Many people have offered their condolences, to numerous to list. Tony, a lot of people miss you down here. However, I know that I’ll see you again, whenever my time is up. You lived a long 13 years, which is great for a lab. So, I’ll see you soon, and I mean really see you, not just through my fingers.