Thursday, October 25

Candidate forum for people with disabilities

Greetings. I received the following announcement in my email Inbox today. The only thing with this forum that disappoints me is that it is in the daytime when the working disabled person is out. I would have liked to see it at night, like other candidate forums such as the ones on TV. However, I suppose I should be glad that "people with disabilities" have a forum at all. It looks like this event is for all people with disabilities. Meaning, I don't know how synpathetic the candidates will be to blindness related issues. If they will allow interaction from the public, then I'd encourage those interested and who can participate in the live event, to send in relevant questions/issues having to do with blindness. Note the day/time on your calendar and pass the word about this great event. Enjoy.

Presidential Candidates' Forum

A National Forum on Equality, Opportunity and Access

Hosted by Granite State Independent Living

Friday November 2, 2007
8:30 am to 4:00 pm EST

Made possible by generous support from
Hands On Video Relay Services, Inc. &

Manchester Community Television

This day-long live event will take place in Manchester, New Hampshire and will feature presidential candidates speaking on disability issues, panel discussions with national disability leaders, and more!

The entire event will be Webcast at
  beginning at 8:30 a.m. EST.

Please invite your consumers and local constituents to view this important, pre-primary event at your local office or another common gathering area with Internet access.

If your organization will host a Webcast viewing, please contact Terri Voth at Granite State Independent Living, (603) 228-9680 or e-mail

The Presidential Candidates' Forum is co-hosted by:
NH Developmental Disabilities Council (NH DDC)
NH Disabilities Rights Center (NH DRC)
NH Institute on Disability (NH IOD)
NH Chapter, National Spinal Cord Injury Association
Greater Boston Chapter, National Spinal Cord Injury Association
People First of New Hamphshire

Sponsored by:
ADA Watch
America (NEPVA)
American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
Easter Seals
Epilepsy Foundation
National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
National Coalition of Mental Health, Consumer/ Survivor Organizations
National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
National Spinal Cord Injury Association
New England Chapter Paralyzed Veterans of
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE)
Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI)
The Arc of the United States
United Cerebral Palsy (UCP)
United Spinal Association
VSA arts

This webcast will include CART translation and an on-camera interpreter.

  for more information.

Thursday, October 18

Another honor

Greetings. I want to share with you an honor that I received recently. Though I wasn’t able to attend the White Cane Day celebration this past Monday, as it turned out, several plaques were given out to various people. I received one of them. The plaque was in recognition and appreciation of the WCD website that I helped obtain, maintain and build. I was told that there were a number of people at the event that learned of it from the site. And these people would not have come if it were not for the site.

The plaque is yellow and it has the designs from the front of this year’s T-shirt on it, the 9 drawings from the kids at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In print and on a Braille overlay, the plaque read:


for: Wayne Merritt

For Your Dedication in the Promotion of Awareness and Independence of Blind Citizens. Your Participation Contributed to the Success of a Memorable Event.

White Cane Day
October 15, 2007

There are cut outs on the back for hanging on a wall or cubicle, which I intend to do. Thanks to those that helped promote the website and to those on the committee. I paid for the domain name out of my own pocket because I wanted to do this for the committee. I wanted to give them a site that they could use this year and hopefully in future years.

Its humbling for me in receiving this honor. I am continuously humbled by being recognized by students and colleagues and a good teacher, and by others for things that I do, such as the White Cane Day involvement. Its this continued humbling that has told me that I’m in the right place right now. I’ve got the “perfect job,” at least for now. As a side note, that makes 2 honors or awards in 5 months, counting the honor back in May of this year at the student graduation. Pretty good for someone who’s a little over a year and a half into a job.

Tuesday, October 16

MySpace and Skype partnership?

And why not? The largest social networking site with the largest voice and video communications network. Get all the details from this New York Times article called MySpace and Skype to Announce Partnership.

Windows XP Service Pack 3

Greetings. Though many people might have Windows Vista by the time that SP3 is expected to come out for Windows XP, which according to Paul Thurrott is at the end of the second quarter of next year, I submit the following for your consideration. Indeed, I plan on getting a new computer at some point in the next few months, but then again, who knows. Note that this will be the last service pack for Windows XP. For those interested, you can read the FAQ for XP SP3. Enjoy.

And it continues

Greetings. Even though White Cane Day is over for this year, I plan on maintaining the site and adding things as I come across them. One of those things, or categories you might say, are news stories about White Cane Day. Though I initially set out to gather stories in my community, after doing a Google search for "white cane day 2007 news," I was presented with many results. I've added some of those, along with others that I've found, to the site. Even if I don't find anything else, check out the list of places that observe this yearly event. And I'm not just talking about cities in the U.S., but worldwide. I never would have thought that this historic day would have reached so far and affect thousands like it has and continues to do.

The site continues to get hits and visitors, which at last count was over 1100! I don't know how long this constant level of hits will continue, but it sure is fun to watch. I'll write later about another interesting thing that has happened to me. Until then.

Monday, October 15

How I spent White Cane Day

Greetings. Well, its finally here: White Cane Day. I don’t have a recap this time like I did last year. I’m sure that the marchers gathered at the Capitol this morning shortly before 9 and marched down Congress and over to City Hall; I’m confident that everyone gathered at City Hall to listen to some short speeches and the proclamation by the Mayor; and I’m sure that after this, everyone walked over to Republic Square Park for plenty of food, fun, and celebration with the different activities, music, and great food providers. However, I don’t have any information because I wasn’t there. I unfortunately obtained some of the allergies/cold sympthems that have been going around. The first signs were when I got congested and my ears started stopping up last Thursday. Its only gotten progressively worse since then, with stuffiness, sneezing, and at times not feeling all that great. I decided to skip the event last night and have been taking it easy today. If anything, I’ve gained another day of rest without the worry of missing classes since the events were today. I’ll hopefully make it tomorrow. Though it will be hard to listen to the stories of what went on today, knowing that I was home sick, I’m sure that the students' stories will be great.

However, here’s a story that I found through the Blind News archives on White Cane Day in Sri Lanka called
White Cane: Identification for the Blind
Which gives a worldly perspective on White Cane Day.

Incidentally, I've been keeping track of the numbers on the White Cane Day site, and earlier today, we passed the 1,000 mark! Who would have thought that the site would get that many hits. On Tuesday of last week, we had 230 hits in one day, which was quite remarkable. I put several expectations on the numbers, telling people that we might hit 400, then 500, then 600. However, when we hit 700, I stopped trying to put a limit on things. We might get more hits tomorrow and for a few days this week, but this is probably the mountain top for this year. Still, 1,000 hits in a little over 2 months; wow. It probably took my personal site about 8 or 9 months before it hit 1,000 and White Cane Day did it in two!

Toward the end of last week, I was asked to put information about the Houston, Texas, celebration of White Cane Day on the site, which I did. I added to that over the weekend so that now there’s a good amount on there regarding the Houston events. The thought crossed my mind earlier today that this WCD site could turn into a gathering place for WCD celebrations and observances around the state or country. That would be cool and something I would not have expected. Then again, I also didn’t expect the numbers to top 1,000. I’m willing to post information about events in other cities, if people only send it to me and I can add the HTML tags to make it “web worthy.”

Someone brought up the idea to me to add an option next year for people to buy the
T-shirts online, like through Paypal or something. That sounds interesting and cool, if I can set it up. Since I basically know HTML, I’d welcome any ideas from folks on how to do this, or what might be involved. I’ve looked at code on other pages that have Paypal buttons, and it doesn’t look that hard, but there’s probably more to it than just putting up the code and making the form. Anyway, that’s for down the road.

Happy White Cane Day to all!

Monday, October 8

White Cane Day Activities

Greetings. For those in the Austin, Texas area, here's information on the activities, marching route, and park celebration that will be taking place next Monday for White Cane Day. Refer to the site for more details. Hope to see some of you there. Enjoy.

2007 White Cane Day Marching Routes and Activities

Everyone will gather in front of the State Capitol at 8:30AM. The Capitol is located at 11th Street and Congress Avenue. Marchers should gather behind the
gate of the Capitol on the Capitol grounds. It is very important that people do not stand in the street. Do not wait on any stairs of the actual Capitol
building as a permit is needed for that.

The march begins promptly at 9:00AM.


Start on the North side of 11th Street at Congress Avenue. March South on either side of Congress. Cross 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd,
2nd and continue to Caesar Chavez (1st Street). Do not cross Caesar Chavez. Turn West (right) and cross Congress (if needed), Colorado, and Lavaca. After
crossing Lavaca, City Hall will be to the North (right). Find a seat if possible. Please reserve seating for children, elderly, and others with physical


The Austin Mayor will read the White Cane Day Proclamation at 10:15 AM. Following the reading of the proclamation, recognition awards will be given to all
major sponsors and organizations. While receiving awards, each sponsor organization will have 1-2 minutes to give a speech. Please keep speeches short.
We expect to finish everything at City Hall before 11:00 AM.


After finishing at City Hall, everyone should walk West (right of stage) to Guadalupe Avenue. Once on Guadalupe, marchers should walk north crossing 2nd
and 3rd Streets. After crossing 3rd Street, marchers need to cross Guadalupe. After crossing Guadalupe, march North (turn right) and cross 4th Street and
you will be at the Southeast corner of Republic Square Park.

The event is scheduled to conclude at approximately 4:00 PM. This event is kid-friendly.

Activities at Park

list of 11 items
• Lots of Music
• Free Food
• 2 Rock Walls
• Moonwalk
• Industrial Art Projects
• Face Paintings
• Clowns
• Small Job Fair
• Cane Exchange
• Fire Truck
• Games
list end

Saturday, October 6

Initial thoughts on JAWS 9 beta

Greetings. Well, I’m sitting here trying out the new JAWS 9.0 beta, and I must say, things are working pretty well. I usually don’t try beta software for the basic rule that its not supported by the company. And, the fact that I’m a wiser computer user. In my younger days, I would have jumped on each beta just to see what’s new and what had changed. Now though, I’m a bit more cautious. Since betas aren’t supported yet by the company and are by nature testing software, there’s no one to help if something does go wrong. Anyway, there were a few things that jumped out at me with this JAWS version. First, the fact that you can now copy text from websites and have the formatting be retained. Granted, this might just be a benefit for sighties as I call them, but after thinking about it, I realize the benefit for bloggers. Now, if there’s a story that I want to post on my blog that has links in it, in theory, I can copy that article and post it on my blog with the formatting intact. Though I’m still playing with this feature, its pretty cool.

Another one that I thought would be great is the improved support for Word, ranging from Word 2002 (XP) to 2007. I have Word XP on my home computer and 2003 at work. Word 2003 with JAWS 9 works great, but then again, there was never any real slow down. However, Word XP on my home machine with JAWS has presented some sluggishness. The sluggishness was there with both JAWS 8 and now with 9. When I first pull up a document JAWS is fine. After spending a few minutes navigating though, it slows down a lot. To the point that I’d rather edit with my Braille display than navigate with JAWS, and for me, that’s kind of saying something since I tend to prefer auditory editing rather than Braille.

Freedom Scientific has been pretty responsive to user feedback thus far, posting a revision two days ago which already addresses some of the user issues. There is a definite pause between when I arrow up in Word or do a say line in JAWS, to when JAWS reads the information or when the Braille display shows it. Granted, this might be due to an older computer, but I don’t think that all of it falls at the 4-year old machine’s fault. While editing this post, I’ve also had issues where, when I press one of the routing keys on my display to route the cursor to that cell, the text goes blank on the display and I’m moved to the bottom of the document. Currently, JAWS seems to be reading things fine and I can navigate fine, but the display is giving me trouble. At any rate, unless something changes, I’m probably going to invest in some System Access software for my next computer, in hopes that it will pick up where JAWS leaves off. This all assumes that the JAWS reading and access will be the same in Vista, which hopefully it will be better than what I’m dealing with now and not the same. Anyway, as I stated before, this is beta software. Those not comfortable with using “test” software should wait for the final release later this year.

One change in Thursday’s revision that I am pleased with is the continued tracking of the System Tray when you click on an item to open there. Previously, when I was ready to stop the transmission of material to my Victor Reader Stream and when to the Safely Remove Hardware item in the System Tray, after choosing the Safely Remove option, JAWS lost focus. I had to try at least 3 times before I was able to stop the processes. Now though, JAWS retains focus and makes the process smoother. Refer to the JAWS 9 beta page on the FS main site, or elsewhere on this blog, for the direct link to the list of changes and to keep up with all changes in this beta cycle. Enjoy, and remember, try at your own risk.

Afterward: I need the spell checker to correct what I miss. If it weren't for that, then I'd compose all of my posts in Blogger itself instead of Word. I really hope the issues in Word are addressed, since it makes me not want to use Word at home, and Word is one of those packages that you need to have available and use from time to time. I have done numerous JAWS screen refreshes and made sure my window was maximized in Word with no positive effect. Is there anyone else who's beta testing JAWS 9 that uses Word XP who is having these same problems? If so, please follow my lead and let FS know so we can fix these issues once and for all.

Wednesday, October 3

Things to consider for that new computer

Greetings. Just because new computers are on my mind tonight, I submit the following, also from The Ranger Station. Ranger wrote a post yesterday on things to consider when upgrading or moving to a new computer with Windows Vista on it, such as hardware, software, AT considerations, video cards, etc. I'm approaching this from the perspective of buying a new machine, but you may be upgrading. Either way, here are some suggestions to guide your thinking. By no means are these the only things to think about; also consider any other specialized software/hardware you have, such as OCR software, scanner requirements, any specific sound cards that are recommend from your screen reader, OCR software, or other company; and so forth. In other words, it is wise to do your research ahead of time and prepare for the new system rather than just walking into a computer store out of the blue and buying the first machine off the shelf. At any rate, here's what Ranger has to say about upgrading/moving to Windows Vista.

Possible change in Target lawsuit and web accessibility

Greetings. The below article addresses the lawsuit that the National Federation of the Blind has brought against Target for its website being inaccessible to the blind and screen reading software. After the article is a link to another article on the topic. Enjoy, and as always, please excuse any formatting errors.

Lawsuit seeks to improve website access by the blind
A judge's ruling in a suit against Target could mean that businesses and government
agencies would have to make their sites compatible with screen-reading software.
By Molly Selvin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
1:52 PM PDT, October 3, 2007

A ruling by a judge in San Francisco could mean that businesses and government agencies
would have to make their websites accessible to the blind, something disability rights
advocates say is vital as the routine transactions of everyday life take place more
and more on the Internet.
U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel granted class-action status Tuesday to a lawsuit
alleging that Target Corp. is in violation of California and federal laws because
its website doesn't work with screen-reading software, essentially making the site
unusable for blind people.
To comply, Target would have to tag product images on its site with word descriptions,
allowing the software to "read" those images aloud.
An earlier version of this article identified John Pare as an executive of the National
Foundation of the Blind. The organization is the National Federation of the Blind.
Many retailers, including Wal-Mart Inc. and, have upgraded their websites
or are in the process of doing so, said John Pare, executive director for strategic
initiatives for the National Federation of the Blind. Most companies have done so
voluntarily, he said, in response to concerns raised by the 50,000-member foundation.
The lawsuit contends that some 10,000 people in California alone use reading software
to access the Internet.
Target, in a statement, said its online business had made "significant enhancements
to improve the experience of our guests who use assistive technologies." The company,
based in Minneapolis, said it would request an immediate review of the judge's ruling.
The ability to access websites is particularly important to the visually impaired,
whose mobility is limited because they can't drive, said Eve Hill, executive director
of the Disability Rights Legal Center at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Judges have applied California's disability accommodations law more broadly than
the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, Hill said; the federal law focuses on
access to physical locations such as stores or banks.

Second article: Lawsuit over web site accessibility for the blind becomes class action.

Great news from Book Share

Greetings. If you are or know a student, you might want to note the following information. The below announcement is taken from the
Book Share website,
which provides books to people with qualifying print disabilities, such as blindness or dyslexia. Software or hardware is needed to read the books since they are in the specialized formats of electronic Braille files and Daisy files. Open Book and Kurzweil 1000 are popular Optical Character Recognition or scanning programs that can read these formats, and hardware devices may include the PAC Mate, Braille Note, Victor Reader hardware/software, and others. This opens up many opportunities for students to learn, since at last count, Book Share had 34,400 books. Membership is $50 annually and a one time $25 setup fee. Read more on the site about how to join. Enjoy.

***Book Share announcement***

We're happy to share incredible news, which will transform On Friday, the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. federal Department of Education made a major five-year award of $32 million to This will further the objectives of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), by supplying high quality textbooks and educational materials to students with special needs.

This funding is to fully support all schools and students with qualifying print disabilities in the United States, K-12 and post-secondary, with access to the entire collection of accessible electronic books and to software for reading those books. As of October 1, 2007, we will cease charging these schools and students anything to join We also expect to add over 100,000 new educational titles in high quality DAISY and Braille formats over the next five years, getting students the terrific quality textbooks they need for academic success!

JAWS 9.0 beta out

Greetings. The below is taken from The Ranger Station blog, which you can find in the Blogs to Watch section of this page.

I am sure it's all over the net by now but .. If you haven't heard elsewhere JFW 9 Public Beta is now ready for download. To get the English ILM 64 MB release click the link below.

JAWS 9.0.348 - October 2007 English ILM Release (64 MB - HTTP download)

Remember to fully read the release notes at this link as well..

Afterward: If you want to hear a preview of what's included in JAWS 9, then download and listen to the September 2007 FS Cast which covers several highlights of the upcoming release. They also talk about who can use the beta, which is more people than in previous times. Enjoy.