Monday, March 31

Pedestrians and quiet cars

Greetings. Below is an important article about quiet cars. This could be a growing problem for the blind or anyone that crosses streets by walking. I recognize that quiet cars means less noise in the environment. However, I also know that if I can't hear a car at an intersection, then that could pose problems for me as a blind pedestrian, or anyone who may not see the hazard, for whatever reason. Perhaps its a jogger enjoying their iPod too much, a mother with several kids, someone pulling or pushing a cart of some sort, etc.

The article references that Guide Dogs for the Blind in California has acquired a hybrid car to use in their training. A coworker recently told me that The Seeing Eye, a similar guide dog school in New Jersey, has also added a quiet car to their training of dogs and students. For those that may not be aware, these are the two largest and most well known, and two of the best, guide dog schools in the U.S. Having them add quiet cars to their training activities will hopefully be the beginning step in preparing the blind, the sighted, and other guide dog schools, in the awareness of quiet cars. Enjoy.

From the Los Angeles Times

Blind pedestrians may not hear hybrid cars
Cars that are quiet while in electric mode may provide
no warning to pedestrians.
By Martin Zimmerman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

March 29, 2008

Are hybrid cars too quiet for their own good?

Jana Littrell certainly thinks so. Littrell, who is
blind, was walking through a bank parking lot in the
East Bay town of Albany a year ago when her foot
was run over by a Toyota Prius backing out of a
parking space. She wasn't injured and the driver
apologized effusively, she recalled. But the
shook her up.

"It has definitely put me more on my guard," said
Littrell, who teaches Braille to newly blind adults.
"But I don't know how much good that's going to do
me if I can't hear the car coming."

Concerns are growing that quiet-running hybrids such
as the Prius pose a hazard to pedestrians, especially
the 1.3 million Americans who are legally blind.
The problem occurs when the cars are running at very
low speeds on electric power, making about as much
noise as a golf cart.

"There's this silent-but-deadly zone where we cannot
hear these cars," said Bryan Bashin, a Sacramento
management consultant. "We're not just worried about
blind people. It's a hazard to pets, joggers, young
children, cyclists, people who have their back turned.
. . ."

Federal traffic safety regulators report that no
deaths or serious injuries have been attributed to
quiet-running hybrids. But an ongoing study at UC
has produced some of the first scientific evidence
that hybrids may pose a hazard to pedestrians,
according to preliminary results to be released today.

Meanwhile, the issue is drawing attention from the
auto industry, state lawmakers and federal regulators.
It even spawned at least one Silicon Valley start-up
that's trying to develop an audible pedestrian warning
system for hybrids.

Bashin, who is sightless, is working with the National
Federation of the Blind to push legislation that could
eventually require installation of "noise
emitting" devices on hybrids and other vehicles that
run at least part of the time on electric power.

That prospect doesn't sit well with some car owners.
The message board at,
a website for hybrid enthusiasts, has seen lively
debates over the issue. In one recent post, a Toyota
Camry hybrid owner wrote that "the world around us
is getting louder and along come hybrids and WHAM!
They get blasted by a group claiming they are too

The debate comes as hybrids are becoming increasingly
common. More than 350,000 were sold in the U.S. last
year, according to marketing information firm
J.D. Power and Associates.

Prius owner Sarah Forth of Silver Lake knows the issue
from both sides.

"I noticed the cars creeping up on me when I was
walking around," Forth recalled. "After I got one, I
put two and two together and realized, 'I'm a road
hazard in this car.' "

The vehicles are powered by a combination of gasoline
and electricity and are prized for their fuel economy.
They're particularly popular in California,
which buys almost half the hybrids sold in the U.S. by
Toyota Motor Corp., the leading hybrid maker.

And coming soon: cars powered only by electricity that
produce very little engine noise at any speed
(although, as with hybrids, air flow and tire noise
would become noticeable above 20 or 25 miles per

Currently, most of the concern is directed at the
top-selling Prius and vehicles such as the Camry that
use similar gasoline-electric engines. The Honda
Civic, the No. 4-selling hybrid in America, is noisier
because it employs a system that almost never switches
into electric-only mode.

The UC Riverside study has found that test subjects
had to be 40% closer to silent-running hybrids than to
cars with traditional gasoline engines before
they could hear them.

"Our preliminary findings could mean that there is an
added danger with hybrid cars, particularly at
intersections and parking lots," said Lawrence
a psychology professor doing the study.

Toyota engineers are looking for a solution, but have
yet to come up with one.

"Vehicle safety and pedestrian safety are at the top
of our list," spokesman Bill Kwong said. "At this
point, we're trying to balance the needs of
people with other sociological concerns such as noise

One problem has been in isolating exactly what sounds
most people associate with an approaching vehicle,
such as the engine revving, the fan belt, tire
noise or other sounds. Artificial warning cues "like
chirping or chimes are not identified by test subjects
as a vehicle at all," the automaker said.

Interim solutions include training guide dogs for the
blind to detect cars by sight as well as sound.
Training schools such as Guide Dogs for the Blind
in San Rafael and Guide Dogs of the Desert near Palm
Springs have added Priuses to their training regimens
partly in response to concerns about hybrid

Longer term, the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration has promised to launch a wide-ranging
investigation into the issue and several states are
considering legislation. A bill soon to be headed to
the governor of Maryland would create a task force to
conduct a study and recommend solutions.

A group of Stanford University students has formed a
company -- Santa Clara-based Enhanced Vehicle
Acoustics -- that is developing an after-market
for Toyota hybrids that goes beyond simply making a
noise to alert nearby pedestrians. For example, by
linking to the vehicle's computer, the system would
be able to direct its sounds to the right or left to
warn pedestrians that the car is about to make a turn.

Bashin and other advocates for the blind are
sympathetic to complaints from hybrid fans. But, he
asked, "what am I supposed to do, stay home?"

Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, March 19

Seeing Eye grants a wish

Greetings. I received the following article and news regarding The Seeing Eye dog guide school in Morristown, New Jersey. Enjoy.

St. Patrick's Day was a very special day here at The Seeing Eye. The newspaper article pasted below tells the story of how a little girl named Maggie Deely
visited our school on Monday, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Any day now, the "M" litter of Seeing Eye pups is due to be born, and one of those
Labrador puppies will be named "Maggie" in honor of our special visitor.

Ailing girl's dream: To provide comfort to others
by Robert E. Williams III, the Newark Star Ledger, Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Maggie Deely raised her arm slightly in the air at the Seeing Eye kennels in Morris Township, as she commanded a black Labrador retriever named Homer to

After the dog followed the 9-year-old's first command, the Centreville, Va., resident pointed her finger to the ground and commanded the dog to lay.

Homer obliged.

"Hey, I think we got a trainer," said specialized dog instructor Kris Sutton to Maggie and her family during their tour of the Seeing Eye in Morris Township,
a nonprofit organization that trains dogs to assist blind people.

Maggie's visit to the facility was part of a trip coordinated by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that coordinates the wishes of children with
life-threatening illnesses.

Maggie arrived at the facility Monday dressed for St. Patrick's Day -- dressed all in green with green Mardi Gras beads around her neck, a crown decorated
with green and silver tinsel on her head, and a green shirt that read, "Everybody loves an Irish girl."

It was shortly before St. Patrick's Day last year when Maggie was diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, an illness causing a brain tumor that affects the pituitary
gland and its functions.

Maggie was treated at Children's Hospital Boston, where pediatric neurosurgeon Michael Scott in April removed a portion of the tumor that was as big as
two thumbs laid side by side.

After the surgery, her doctor used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to monitor the growth of the remaining portion of the tumor. Maggie also meets with
an endocrinologist to manage the impact of the tumor on her pituitary gland, which influences her growth and hormonal development.

Maggie told the foundation about her wish to explore a career working with animals after she observed her third-grade class president with a companion
dog named Mercer, a black Labrador retriever.

"I thought it would be lots of fun, and it was," said Maggie, who wore a Make-A-Wish Foundation button on her shirt.

The foundation has become well-known for arranging high-profile experiences for children. Some wishes involved meeting a celebrity, going to a hard-to-access
sporting event or undergoing an experience related to a child's interest.

Teresa Davenport, a spokeswoman for the Seeing Eye, said visits to the facility as part of a wish are rare.

"Instead of going to Disneyland, she wanted to do this," said her father, Tim Deely, who accompanied his daughter and rest of his family along South Street
during Maggie's training yesterday. "She surprises us all the time."

Maggie and her family -- including her mother Cathy, her sister, 13-year-old Brigid, and brothers Brian, 12, and Kevin, 11 -- took a train from their home
in Virginia on Sunday. They ate lunch at the Seeing Eye and toured the kennels where German shepherds and retrievers played with trainers as the family
looked on.

The family was later escorted by van to the statue of Seeing Eye dog founder Morris Frank and a Seeing Eye dog at the Green across the street from the
Century 21 department store, where they met with trainer Jim Kessler and his dog, Vixen.

After some instruction, Maggie grabbed the reins of the yellow Labrador retriever and worked with Kessler, teaching the dog to signal when it was okay
to move forward.

Maggie may be young, but she's no rookie when it comes to training dogs. This summer, she began training a mixed Labrador puppy named Gillian for Canine
Companions for Independence, a Long Island-based organization that trains dogs to assist people with disabilities.

"I like it because some day it will pay off and she will do a really good job, and make someone happy," said Maggie of her experience training Gillian.

Stream news: Tom voice released

Greetings. I received the following announcement from HumanWare regarding the Tom voice for the Victor Reader Stream. many people, including me, have been anxiously awaiting this voice. Enjoy.

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

This English alternative version 1.2 software has a male TTS voice (Tom) and can be downloaded to replace the default software with the female Samantha
voice currently shipped on all English Streams. The Tom voice is an alternative download zip file that contains a single version 1.2 UPG upgrade file that
you install on the Stream. If you wish to change back to Samantha female TTS voice you can download and re-install the alternative UPG from the same page.
The functionality of the software is the same for both downloads. Only the TTS voice differs. The complete list of new features for version 1.2 and the
installation instructions can be found in the What's New document in the documentation list that follows the software links. After this documentation list
there are links to samples of both the Samantha and Tom TTS voices that you can listen to.
We are currently working on a third English version 1.2 with the UK male voice named Daniel which we expect to release soon. Again, this will be a single
UPG file with the single UK Daniel TTS voice. The link to listen to the sample Daniel voice is on the page now.
To summarize the Stream software Installation:
- download the zip file with your choice of Samantha or Tom TTS voice
- Unzip the single UPG upgrade file. You do not require special unzip software with Windows XP or Vista.
- Copy the UPG file to the root of your Stream SD card
- Insert the card into the Stream, connect the Stream to AC power, and turn it on.
- The Stream will recognize the special UPG file and initiate the upgrade process. Audio messages will inform you of the start and end of the update process.
Thank you.
The HumanWare Support Team

Saturday, March 15

More Capitol Metro news

Greetings. There's more news on the proposed changes over at Capitol Metro according to the Austin American Statesman article called, Cap Metro Plans Meeting on Changes. After the order by the judge last week, it looks like Cap Metro is willing to listen to the people they serve. Its unfortunate that it took a judge to force them to accept public input though. I will continue to post stories on this saga as I come across them.

Apple and accessibility

Greetings. The following news was originally posted on the Gui-Talk email distribution list. Please forgive any formatting errors. In addition to the points discussed below, I read recently where Apple now includes support for refreshable Braille displays in the latest version of the Mac software. They are becoming more of a player in the accessibility world, and I hope the trend continues. Enjoy.

The following exert was taken from the web site

Apple Presents at CSUN Conference

14 March, 2008 @ 4:08 pm by Lioncourt
Apple made its presence felt at the CSUN Technology and Persons with 
Disabilities Conference 2008. On Wednesday, Apple gave two 
presentations to a full room equipped with dozens of 20- and 24-inch 
iMacs at the Los Angeles International Airport Marriott Hotel.

The sessions, presented by Mike Shebanek, Apple’s Senior Product 
Manager for Worldwide Product Marketing, in charge of Mac OS X and 
VoiceOver, focussed on general use of VoiceOver with the Macintosh 
operating system, and use of VoiceOver with the iTunes media 
management and playback software. Mary-Beth James, whose name will 
be familiar to many Voiceover users, was also present to assist 
during the sessions.

Both sessions were geared toward users who were unfamiliar with 
VoiceOver, and were very informative for many of those in 
attendance. Mr. Shebanek stressed Apple’s ongoing commitment to 
accessibility, noting particularly the extensive tools available to 
third-party developers to make their applications accessible with 
VoiceOver, and the positive results of their efforts.

During the afternoon session on iTunes, Mr. Shebanek also mentioned 
that Apple is aware of and working on the features of the iTunes 
store that are still inaccessible. These include the ability to 
purchase albums in their entirety, view one’s account, etc. He 
mentioned that accessibility for Apple’s line of iPod music players 
is also being worked out, and asked those in attendance whether 
APple should continue to release accessibility improvements as they 
become available, or waiting until they are fully realized in 
products. Overwhelmingly, it seemed, the attendees were in favor of 
Apple releasing incremental updates that improve accessibility over 

We here at would like to point out that Apple has 
received criticism from some when they’ve taken the approach of 
incremental accessibility enhancements, and would like to encourage 
those of you who would like to see the improvements as they become 
available to contact Apple Accessibility and let them know. 
Specifically, Mr. Shebanek asked if partial access to iPod menus 
would be something users would like while problems with deeper menu 
levels were being ironed out.

Overall, the number of Mac users seems to have increased at the 
annual conference, and Apple’s presence was felt beyond the 
presentations put on by the company. For example, MacSpeech Dictate 
was being demonstrated, and developers for also 
discussed their efforts to provide accessibility in their open 
source office suite with VoiceOver on the Mac platform.

Apple has once again demonstrated a commitment to accessibility that 
extends far beyond that of rival companies, and we thank them for 
their efforts.

Monday, March 10

VR Stream version 1.2 released!

Greetings. I received the following email notofication from HumanWare regarding version 1.2 for the Stream. Note that when you go through the update process, if you normally use a 16 GB SDHC card, perform the update using a card either 8 GB or less. I found out the hard way that the Stream doesn't currently recognize the larger cards. Nothing happened, aside from my own anxiety before I realized what the issue was. Anyway, enjoy and happy Stream-ing!

Dear Victor Reader Stream Customer:

HumanWare has released the latest Stream software version 1.2.18. This is a free software upgrade that can be downloaded and installed on your Stream.
To download the software visit:

Select the link to download the new software version 1.2.18. On the same page, you will also find a What's New document describing installation procedures
and listing all the features of the new version. Among the new features you will find the following:

- Support of NIMAS text books in United States
- Support of System Access Mobile from Serotek Corporation (
- Go To Time feature for non-structured audio books and recorded audio notes
- Faster data transfer rate when the Stream is connected to the computer with the USB cable
- Increased volume on the built-in speaker
- Bass and treble control for music
- Control over announcement of music folder and file names
- An optional built-in SD formatting utility should your SD card ever require reformatting

Please refer to the What's New document on the Stream page for a complete description of all new features and improvements. An updated FAQ document (frequently
asked questions) can also be found on the web page. It provides answers to frequently asked questions about Audible, battery,, CNIB, NLS,
Recording, RFB&D, SD cards, and Serotek.

With this announcement, version 1.2 is available in English and Norwegian. As other version 1.2 languages become available they will be posted on the same
download page. Currently, the previous version 1.1.15 software is available in Dutch, German, French, and Swedish.

We are also working on a second English U.S. male voice (Tom) and a U.K. male voice (Daniel). These will be posted as alternate version 1.2 software downloads
as soon as possible. We will announce their availability on this News Wire.

The next Stream software release project will start soon and is intended to provide support for WMA and BRF. We are also planning an update to the Stream
Companion software.

HumanWare values your continued support of the Victor Reader Stream. We remain committed to existing and future customers to make the Stream the most powerful,
flexible, and enjoyable product used for listening to books, computer files, and music.

Thank you,
The HumanWare Team

Saturday, March 8

Disturbing changes to Special Transit Service

Greetings. Though I no longer use the Special Transit Service (some call it Para-Transit), or a service designed for those disabled people who cannot, for whatever reason, use regular busses to get around; I can identify with the outrage and annoyance that many in the blind community feel regarding the proposed changes that Capitol Metro is trying to make. Read the article below for more information. What's probably most outragious is that Capitol Metro has tried to sneak these changes by the very community they serve. They say that they have held "public hearings" on this issue, but from what I understand, those hearings were 2 years ago. I saw an email on a list where an invitation was sent out to the various Austin disability groups/organizations to attend a special meeting to discuss these changes, however the 4 main groups in the Austin area, 2 of which are the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind, were not invited. If this was supposed to be a genuine effort to get input from the people they serve, then why weren't these groups invited? Anyway, the Austin American Statesman has an article on this disturbing situation, along with a list of the proposed changes. There will be a local TV news story on this issue on Channel 7, Fox, this Monday night at 9. I normally say enjoy at the end of my summaries, but I'm not sure that this issue can be enjoyed at its current state.

Ruling puts Cap Metro plan to curb taxi service to people with disabilities on hold

Agency cites need to control costs on burgeoning door-to-door service for those unable to use regular bus system.

By Ben Wear
Saturday, March 08, 2008

An attempt by Capital Metro, with minimal notice to riders and no action by the transit agency's board, to severely curtail use of taxis by people with
disabilities starting next week was halted Friday by a Travis County judge.

State District Judge Jeanne Meurer, responding to a complaint by the Texas Civil Rights Project, hit the transit agency with a temporary restraining order,
forcing it to continue letting riders with certain disabilities use cabs for regular trips. A hearing this month will determine whether to extend the order.

However, the agency still intends to make a number of other significant changes in its "special transit services," modifications generally opposed by leaders
on the committee that monitors the agency's policies for what is known in the industry as paratransit.

But it is the proposed taxi cutback has sparked the most consternation among some of the 9,000 people eligible for Capital Metro's door-to-door pickup services.
It also sparked the legal move by the Texas Civil Rights Project, which had argued in a letter Thursday to Capital Metro that the taxi change would violate
the Americans with Disabilities Act. The agency should suspend the taxi voucher shift, the letter said, and hold a public hearing so the disabled community
can weigh in on the subject.

The other half-dozen or so changes will take effect in the coming months and include a 700 percent increase in the penalty for excessive last-minute cancellations
of scheduled rides and a more stringent eligibility screening process.

Agency officials said Capital Metro is spending about 19 percent of its budget to provide 650,000 rides a year, just 2 percent of its overall total ridership,
and that it must control paratransit costs as it deals with an aging baby boom generation likely to increasingly need such services. The 2,000 or so rides
provided each day include 1,100 "subscription" rides, which are lifts to and from jobs, regular doctor appointments or dialysis and other recurring demands.

The agency says it has requests for about 700 more rides each day than it can provide with its fleet of about 100 vans and sedans, using taxis for the overflow.
Requests for rides, agency officials say, increased 9 percent last quarter.

"If we don't make some adjustments, we're not going to be able to keep up with the demand," said Inez Evans, the agency's director of paratransit services.

But some people who use the paratransit services, which are available only to those whose infirmities make it impossible for them to use regular bus service,
say this is just another in a series of efforts by the agency to make budgetary room as the agency builds a $100 million-plus commuter rail line and takes
on $10 million or more in yearly costs to operate it.

"They want to spend money in other areas, and they want to cut somewhere," said Judy Watford, who is blind and chairs the agency's Access Advisory Committee.
"So if they can cut this, they will. ... We're the stepchild, basically."

Capital Metro's use of taxis to supplement its fleet of paratransit vehicles is unusual. The San Antonio and Dallas transit agencies, for instance, do not
use taxis. San Antonio's VIA spends 17.3 percent of its budget on paratransit. Dallas Area Rapid Transit spends about 9 percent on paratransit, but the
comparison is inexact because DART's operating costs include tens of millions of dollars to run the agency's light rail system. Neither Austin or San Antonio
have passenger rail service currently.

Capital Metro covers most of the cost for paratransit taxi rides up to six miles; the customer pays the taxi driver just 60 cents, and the transit agency
pays them on a sliding scale of up to $14.30 for four to six miles. For longer rides, the rider pays the difference.

Capital Metro, like all transit agencies, is required under federal law to provide special services for people with disabilities. The federal government,
so as to offer comparable transit service to everyone, also requires the agency to provide the door-to-door rides — which Watford prefers to call "curb-to-curb"
— for anyone who lives within three-quarters of a mile of one of the agency's regular bus routes.

State law, meanwhile, requires the agency to provide rides to people with qualifying disabilities in the four cities that at one time were in the agency's
service area but pulled out: Cedar Park, Pflugerville, West Lake Hills and Rollingwood.

That amounted to about 12,600 rides last year. Capital Metro had to cover half that $227,000 cost the cities had to cover the other half — but will now
be able to bill the cities for all of it under a 2007 change in state law.

In 2006, the agency estimated it cost $45 for each ride for a West Lake or Rollingwood customer, about three times its maximum taxi cost.

Evans said the agency has had a particular problem with customers who cancel rides late — within one hour of the pickup time — or don't come out to the
agency's van when it comes to get them. She said that late cancellations or no-shows occur on 7 percent to 10 percent of reservations and that the industry
average is 2.9 percent.

Thus, the increase in the penalty for doing so repetitively from $1.20 to $10.

"Our goal is to effectuate change in behavior," Evans said.

Watford and Diane Bomar, the access committee vice chairwoman, say that whatever the goal is, the people most affected were not consulted.

"They're forcing this down our throats," Bomar said.

So how much have Capital Metro's paratransit costs increased in recent years?

Capital Metro says costs rose about 80 percent in six years, from $14.9 million in 2001-02 to $26.9 million in 2006-07. That would be a faster growth rate
than the 66.2 percent increase in the agency's overall operating budget during the same time.

But the actual 2007-08 budget paints a more modest picture. It says the agency will spend $11.8 million on paratransit in the current fiscal year, an increase
of about $6,000 from the previous year. Over two years, the increase is 5.3 percent, as opposed to the 23.9 percent hike in the overall operating budget
during that time.

Why the differing budget numbers?

Agency spokesman Adam Shaivitz said the $26.9 million figure includes costs allocated from other departments that contribute to the paratransit operation,
such as maintenance and administration. The figure includes a $6.6 million "general administration allocation" and about $3.2 million for "purchased transportation"
— that is, taxis.

Hannah Riddering, a taxi driver with seven regular paratransit customers and others who call her from time to time for rides, said all the focus on numbers
is misplaced. She has a seemingly inexhaustible set of stories about indignities visited on people with disabilities using Capital Metro's service, most
involving people left out in inclement weather for hours.

The changes the agency has in mind, Riddering said, could force some people with disabilities to quit their jobs or spend exorbitantly on taxis to approximate
the freedom of movement people with disabilities enjoy.

"Capital Metro says they're looking at numbers, and I don't even think they're realistically looking at that," Riddering said. "But we're out here looking
at people. And disabled people don't need or deserve to have to get up each morning and deal with this."

Proposed 'paratransit' changes

Was to take effect Monday; now on hold

Taxi vouchers:Most people who have been using taxi vouchers on a regular basis for fixed work schedules, regular doctor visits or other recurring needs
would instead use the Capital Metro fleet. Some paratransit customers, however, would still use taxis when the Capital Metro fleet of vans and sedans does
not have capacity to pick them up.

Starting in May

Cancellations/no-shows:Currently, a customer incurs a $1.20 penalty starting with the fifth late cancellation or no-show within a month. This penalty will
increase to $10 starting with the fourth late cancellation or no-show in a month, and those who don't pay this penalty within 30 days could see their paratransit
service suspended.

Advance reservations:Instead of being able to make reservations between eight days in advance and 24 hours in advance, the reservation window will be between
three days and 24 hours.

Call center hours:The call center that takes ride reservations will now be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, with reservations available outside
that slot only via a voice-recognition system that users say often mishandles calls. Before, it was open to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 7 p.m. on weekends.

Pickup 'window':The time frame during which Capital Metro can show up for a ride will go from 15 minutes (after the scheduled pickup time) to 30 minutes
(15 minutes before and after the scheduled pickup time).

Starting in August

Open returns: Riders will have less flexibility on return trips;they'll now have to schedule specific times to be picked up by agency vansfor return trips.

Starting in November

Eligibility: Customers must be recertified as qualified for paratransit services every two years, as is currently the case but will now have to be vetted
in-person by a contractor hired by Capital Metro. Those capable of riding regular buses, but incapable of getting to the stops, will now get paratransit
service only from home (or their destination) to the bus stop. Before, they were getting paratransit rides door-to-door., 445-3698

Or by accessing the article at

More things to put on your Stream

Greetings. To those that have been checking this blog, looking for a new post, my apologies for not writing lately. I suppose that I've just had nothing to say, :) It seems that I'm always thinking about new posts, but then there's that part about actually sitting down to write them.

This post is concerned with more audio content you can put on the Victor Reader Stream. I've recently discovered that some of the blindness related magazines and newsletters I regular read, have been made available in audio form. On the National Federation of the Blind's site, they've begun producing MP3 files for many of their regular publications, such as the Voice of the Diabetic and the Braille Monitor. Each article, starting with the Summer 2007 issue of The Voice and with the February 2007 issue of the Braille Monitor, has a link to listen to the article as an audio (MP3) file. The Voice even gives you the option of downloading the file to your computer. The main reason for doing this is to cut down on mailing costs for sending out the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of copies on tape, in Braille, or in print. Ok, for the record, materials in alternative formats can be sent via Free Matter for the Blind, but I'm sure the NFB would rather, provided the person has access to the Web and knows how to get around, them download/listen to the audio versions of the articles, rather than adding one more item to be mailed out. At any rate, it also gives those who may not be receiving the publication a chance to "sample" and see how they like it. For me though, it allows me to download any part or all of a publication, put it on my Stream, and then listen at my leisure. The advantage of this is that I'm listening to the same professional recording that is made on tape, instead of having JAWS read it to me. This is a great alternative to the tradditional magazines on tape, and I hope other entities switch from tape to digital formats, such as, well, Reader's Digest. As far as I know, the American Printing House is still sending out RD on tape. That magazine is loved by many, including me, and I can't wait until it comes out in a digital form, with appropriate mark-up made so I can jump from one article to the next. The difference between that sort of form and the NFB publications, is that the ones from the NFB are in individual files. In theory, you could choose how much, or how little, of the publication you wanted to hear. Having your entire magazine or publication in a readable DAISY format would mean downloading only 1 file, and being able to navigate from article to article or section within it. At any rate, if you're a fan of the two publications listed above, then welcome to the digital age!

Incidentally, the NFB has also started distributing their monthly Presidential Releases in digital form, as of December 2006, and it wouldn't surprise me to see their other publications offered as downloadable audio files. Enjoy, and happy Stream-ing.