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.