Wednesday, September 30

Another Stream to choose from

Greetings. Since we now have a definite competitive market for playing digital audio books, such as from NLS, RFBD, BookShare and Audible, among others, there is more of a choice for consumers. I read today on the Fred's Head Companion blog of the new
Victir Reader Stream, Library Edition
that has come out. For those that already own a Stream, this new Library Edition apparently is no different from the regular unit. I looked on the HumanWare site this afternoon on the Stream's page and couldn't find any more information, such as price, for this new player. I'm assuming that it costs similar to the regular Stream unit. It sounds like more of a solution for those in education, libraries, or independent living/training centers, but I'm sure that individuals can get one of these units as well. However, I submit that if you already have a stream or another digital book player, then you probably can pass on the Stream Library Edition. Read the link above for more information on what differs this unit from the regular Stream, or for a play on words, the main Stream. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 29

2010 Census cautions

Greetings. Unfortunatley, in the current tehc times, we have to be careful about what we put out on the web or tell/give to other people, especially if that information is your birthdate, SSN, mother's maiden name, or other sensative information. With that said, consider the following note I saw on an email list regarding next year's U.S. census. Please pardon any formatting errors.


Be Cautious About Giving Info to Census Workers With the U.S. Census process beginning, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises people to be cooperative, but cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft. The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is under way as workers have begun verifying the addresses of households across the country. Eventually, more than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the United States and will gather information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race, and other relevant data. The big question is - how do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? BBB offers the following advice:

** If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag, and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions. However, you should never invite anyone you don't know into your home.

** Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census . While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, it will not ask for Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.

Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail, or in person at home. However, they will not contact you by Email, so be on the lookout for Email scams impersonating the Census.

Never click on a link or open any attachments in an Email that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more advice on avoiding identity theft and fraud, visit

Exciting guide dog advocacy announcement

Greetings. I received this information in my email recently and thought it appropriate to post here. Feel free to share as appropriate with others you know that use guide dogs, no matter what school or support/advocacy organization they may belong to. Enjoy.


Please circulate the following message as widely as appropriate!

Dear All,
I am pleased to announce that the National Association of Guide Dog Users, a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind, has been awarded a grant from the NFB's Imagination Fund to develop and implement a nationwide toll-free Education & Advocacy Hotline. This hotline will provide information about the rights of disabled people to be accompanied by service animals under state & federal laws. It is our goal to provide summaries and full texts of each state statute, information about the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Air Carrier Access Act, and the Fair Housing Act, as well as specific guidance to particular industries, such as health care facilities, taxicabs, restaurants, and places of lodging. In addition, trained advocates will be available for personal assistance. Our projection is to begin beta testing in january and have the hotline fully functional by Spring 2010. As this initiative unfolds, messages will be sent to the NAGDU list, so you will be the first to know. If you have any comments or suggestions for specific features of this hotline, please send these comments to me at

If you would like to subscribe to the email list of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, you may do so by going to

click on "Join or drop nfbnet mailing lists", find the link to the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), and complete the subscription information. Once you have subscribed to the list, please send a message introducing yourself. I look forward to being of service to you!

Fraternally yours,
Marion Gwizdala, President
National Association of Guide Dog Users
National Federation of the Blind

Tuesday, September 22

Why I've been offline

Greetings. I'll keep this brief since I don't know how much bandwidth I have. In short, with the new netbook and getting up and running with that, and trying to setup a wireless router which I'm still learning about, and with causing a problemw with my home desktop PC which prevents me from doing anything on that PC; I've been a little occupied lately. My parents are coming down for a visit this weekend, so hopefully I can get my dad to look at my computer and work all those issues out. I am able to jump on someone's unsecured wireless network at home, but that's limited at best. About all it's good for is scanning some email and going to a few websites. Anyway, whenever I get my various computer issues worked out, I'll be putting more things on this blog and on my websites. Incidentally, the total hit count for the White Cane Day site passed 10,000 last week, which is awesome! If I didn't have the netbook, then my wired life would be a lot more dull. Trouble is most of my files, audio, and other content is on the desktop PC that's currently down. Ah well. Long live the netbook and wireless connections. Talk soon: Wayne

Sunday, September 6

History of the Internet

Greetings. I came across this article a few days ago called 40 Glorious Years of the Internet and found it quite interesting. Yes folks, the Internet has really been around for 40 years, unlike the WWW which has been around between 15 and 20 years. Kind of makes you wonder what's coming in the next 20-40 years. Whatever the Web and Net bring, it should be fun. Enjoy.

New initiative to make accessible textbooks for college students

Greetings. I received this information a few days ago and thought it was worth posting here. If this website grows with the number of textbooks, then this could end up being a great resource for colleges and their students. Enjoy.


Textbooks for the Disabled

August 28, 2009

The Association of American Publishers and the University of Georgia this week unveiled an electronic database aimed at making it easier for blind, dyslexic and otherwise impaired college students to get specialized textbooks in time for classes.

The database, called
AccessText is designed to centralize the process by which electronic versions of textbooks are requested by colleges and supplied by publishers. Experts say it will allow disabled students to get their textbooks more efficiently, help colleges save money and avoid lawsuits, and protect publishers' copyrights.

For students whose disabilities prevent them from using traditional texts, the normally straightforward task of acquiring books for their courses can be tedious and frustrating. Federal law requires that colleges and universities provide disabled students equal access to educational materials, but this is often easier said than done. College officials have to track down and contact the publisher of every textbook that each of its disabled students buys and request an electronic copy. If such a copy exists -- the likelihood shrinks the older the book and the smaller the publisher -- college officials still have to convert the file to a format that can be read by whatever reading aid the student uses. If not, the college has to wait, sometimes weeks, to obtain permission to scan the book and create its own electronic version.

Once a college has an electronic copy, converting to a readable format can be another complex process, says Sean Keegan, associate director of assistive technology at Stanford University. Math and science texts often arrive as scanned pages, and cannot always be easily read by the character-recognition software the university uses to turn them into standard electronic files, Keegan says. "That can take a longer amount of time to process that material internally and turn it around and give that to the student efficiently," he says.

Meanwhile, delays in the process can make it impossible for disabled students to prepare for and participate in classes. "Students need to have a book in time so they can do the assigned reading and study for tests and papers," says Gaeir Dietrich, interim director of high-tech training for the California Community Colleges system. "So if the book doesn't come until the term has been in session for three or four weeks, that puts that student very far behind." Some students have sued colleges over such delays, she says.

AccessText aims to mitigate these woes by streamlining the request and delivery process, says Ed McCoyd, executive director for accessibility affairs at AAP.

"There's a lot of transactional friction taking place currently," says McCoyd. "What AccessText is trying to do is take some of that out of the transaction by having parties agree to streamlined rules up front."

Having colleges submit requests using the AccessText portal should eliminate the need for the publishers to require endless paperwork with each request to protect its copyrights, McCoyd says. Under the system, the copyright protection agreements can be handled once, during registration, and the requester's bona fides can be verified by a log-in.

Currently, colleges that get tired of waiting for publishers to process the paperwork and procure an electronic copy of a text sometimes just scan a text themselves to try to satisfy the needs of disabled students in a timely fashion, says Dietrich.

AccessText is also set up to eliminate the need for different colleges to convert the same text to a readable format once it is acquired. Currently "numerous schools could be doing the exact same thing, converting the same text," says Bruce Hildebrand, executive director for higher education at the publishers' association. Under the new system, "if one school has already spent the time and the money to convert a file to a format, they could advise the AccessText network, which could then make the info available that it was still available in that format, and that school could share it with another school" -- thereby sparing those colleges the time and resources it would have used to convert the file themselves, he says.

Eight major publishing houses paid a total of just under $1 million to develop the AccessText network and maintain it through its beta phase, which will end next July. From then on, it will sustain itself by billing member colleges between $375 and $500 annually, depending on size.

Dietrich notes that community colleges might not benefit from the AccessText network as much as other institutions, since "we have a lot more vocational classes and basic-skills classes, and a lot of those books don't come through those big publishers, they come through specialized publishers," she says. "It doesn't solve that part of the problem for us."

The network includes 92 percent of all college textbook publishers and is recruiting even more, according to AAP officials.

Friday, September 4

First netbook experience

Greetings. Thought I'd try to get this post out before it starts thunder storming again. We had a nasty one earlier. For a place like Austin that has been in a long drout, it really thundered and poured earlier, but at least we're getting some. Maybe we'll even catch up to the other parts of the state of Texas.

Anyway, netbooks have gained popularity in the general computing population and among the blind. Mainly because they are smaller and lighter than a laptop but stil sport many of the same things you find on a laptop or desktop PC. I've been looking into this netbook thing for around 6 months or so, studying different models, reading reviews, and considering features. I decided early on not to get one that was deeply discounted, since while that might have been a good deal, it also had the possibility of being cheap, as in not standing up to regular use over time. I also wanted to get one that included a long battery life, had wireless connection options for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and, from what you can tell from reviews anyway, looked to have a good keyboard. Oh, and now with all these different colors of netbooks, I also was hip to find one in blue. I finally found what I was looking for.

A week ago I ordered and today I received the ASUS EEE PC 1000HE, which sports, among other things: Wi-Fi of 802.11B/G/N (which means it can connect to all current Wi-FI standards and will likely keep pace for some time to come); Bluetooth; a normal sized keyboard, though from initial typing, the keys are smaller and some in weird places, but that's something I can adjust to; and the model I chose was a blue color with good looking finish on it. My colleagues at work today said that it was a very nice blue and finish. And the battery life is advertised at 9.5 hours. From the reviews, actual time looks to be around 8 or 9 hours, but still; that's lots better than some of the MSI models I read about that only got 4-6 hours. Though people have told me that even though the battery is 5 hours, it lasts them all day. I say, as long as the price doesn't go too high, the longer battery the better.

The ASUS 1000He is an older ASUS model, coming out in February of this year, but from what I've read it seems to be among the better of the various ASUS models. It also includes an SD slot, several USB ports, a Lan/Ethernet jack, web cam, microphone, and other things I'm probably forgetting. It weighs just over 3 pounds, which is notable since many notetakers weigh between 2-4 pounds and laptops around 6 pounds or more.

I'm still working out the kinks of getting a new computer, but this weekend should be rather fun as that process happens. Now I can understand why wireless web surfing is so much fun. Earlier, before all the storms, I was on an unsecured wireless netbook and going to Google and other websites. I actually signed into Gmail before I remembered that this was an unsecured network, and then I quickly signed out. I even was able to stream, all be it in fragments, a video and a radio station's audio. That brief wireless experience will see me investing in one of the many wireless routers out there. Though I have used my PAC Mate notetaker wirelessly before, it was somewhat limited with pocket versions of Internet Explorer and in the JAWS quick keys that actually work in the IE Mobile application, which by the way aren't nearly as many as on a PC. Now though, I've got full support on the netbook for any JAWS feature I want to use and in full versions of applications such as Internet Explorer.

Though I still have some kinks to work out and essentially a new computer to get used to, I'm more than pleased with my purchase and research, and look forward to many happy hours of mobile computing! Incidentally, if anyone has any resources for getting started with the netbook I have, then please email me through my site and let me know. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 1

Our first year

Greetings. How do you summarize a partnership or a year’s worth of events, emotions and feelings? Today is the first year anniversary. One year ago, I was matched with my current Seeing Eye dog Gucci. It all began when I was sitting in a chair in a lounge in Morristown, waiting for my future match. When my trainer brought her over to me and introduced me to her, she pretty much set the tone by putting her front paws in my lap and without hesitation giving me that first lick on the face. Though I was initially wary and unsure of how things were going to work out, after having not worked a dog for 9 years, Gucci took those fears and that uncertainty away by putting one or both her front paws on my arms, chest, and even shoulders. I clearly remember one of the first nights that I had her, when she put first one then the other of her front paws on my shoulder and held that position for several minutes. When I asked a trainer about this later, he said that she was showing that she was comfortable with me.

Then, all too quickly we were on the plane coming home and I was in tears at one point, having fully realized what I had done in getting her and fully appreciating having her. AS time went on, things were perhaps not as smooth as I might have liked, but we both were adjusting to each other and a new lifestyle, as well as her adjusting to my home and work environment. Countless times I have patted her on the bus, run my fingers through her triangular Shepherd ears, or just stayed calm when she was looking at me for direction. Now we’re a year later and we’ve come up with different games and things we do when at work and at home. She’s attuned to me and I to her. Any uncertainty I had felt in walking with her through the open parking lot of my apartment complex, is now gone as I trust her to make the right turns and guide me safely to and from the complex’s office. Sure, she might get distracted or turn when she’s not supposed to, but I’ve also let my mind wander at different times and not realized what she was trying to tell me or point out to me.

She still walks between two people that are spaced out but having a conversation, which I don’t pick up on until we’re already through, and then I’m apologizing. And she still pauses when coming to a crowd or upon someone with a cane at work, of which there are many people that use canes at work, but I’m glad I got her and that she’s mine.

So thanks Gucci for the memories, the past year, the times of running around the apartment or playing tug with the rope, or just for laying quietly under my desk and having people forget that you were there because you were so quiet. For being there for me when I needed comfort from waking from a bad dream, being nearby when I’m in the shower and just keeping your eyes on me when not on duty, and for being there for me at the many doctor’s appointments that we’ve been to over the past year. And for being there and having fun all the other times. I got worried back in May when I had dropped your leash at the horseback riding place, but that brief instant at which the leash was on the ground, when I called, you turned back to me as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’m here.” For getting me back to our apartment last fall when the taxi had let us off on the other side of the apartment building. That particular event happened just a couple of months after we had returned to Austin and I was so proud of you and impressed with your abilities. Here’s to more years of loyal service, fun times and good companionship!