I've been a bit remiss in responding to some comments. But no more. Today I am taking the time to respond to some of the comments over the last .. um.. few months. Wow that looks worse in print. Okay let's get started.
Computer World Article On AT: Last month I, and many others, posted an article from Computer World on AT and general web access. Here's one comment from that post.
Ron Graham said...
Thanks for that article Ranger. I noticed it in an email alert last week, but the link Google had in the email would not load the page, no matter what I tried.
I think it touches on several issues we blind computer users regularly face and is a at least a good primer for anybody, such as a webmaster or potential employer, not familiar with screen readers. It describes pretty much what screen readers do, but also what they don’t do, as well as suggesting alternative methods for problem areas such as CAPTCHA and giving a site which employs an accessible alternative.
The Blind Access Journal copied this article into text for easy reading. So you may want to keep it around for better reference.
Matt Campbell and I had a long discussion on some of the article's points. And my general feelings are that it is still very difficult to explain AT in mainstream terms but this article did better than most at trying to do so. It didn't touch on everything though and that can be a challenge in and of its self. For instance, explaining Screen Magnifiers and Graphic User Interfaces to a Sighted World without screen shots or other visual aids is a fun brand of torture that I don't recommend to AT nOObs. Especially in the current Office Ribbon and Windows Sidebar environments. The pitfalls of the Java Access Bridge, embedded video controls like those used by Hulu and over the page Macromedia ads are also troublesome. However the most ironic part of it all is most of the people the article is trying to reach more than likely have poor eyesight already. That is, take away their contacts and thick glasses.. If I had a nickel for every time I heard an I.T. Director dream about not using their contacts, glasses or remark about some laser surgery..
The bigger issue is always the comments in these articles. Those well thought out posts from educated individuals scare me more than the rantings and mis-spellings of others. Here is an older article from the Wall Stree Journal that demonstrates it with better effect.
Audio Dramas: Here's a comment from April's Audio Drama post.
Hey Ranger1138, it was great meeting up with you the other day. Had a good time talking to you and learning more about the industry. These audio dramas seem really cool. Have you come across any of these in a podcast or free download format? Take it easy sir.
Some of the links tagged under the Audio Drama label do indeed offer podcasts or free samples. Big Finish has not only a podcast with snippets of upcoming productions, moreover, they have trailers for just released stories as well. And they just put up a neat thing for their downloads. You can listen to part one of a story for a small price and then if you like it you can buy the whole thing. The earlier cost is applied to the overall cost of the download. Since most of the Doctor Who audios are about 2 hours in length you get a good idea for a small price if you want the whole story after hearing part one. If you focus over to the right, or check your links lists, you will see that I added a Big Finish "Pick of the Month". This month's pick introduces the 6th Doctor's Companion that is exclusive to the audio series. And she plays a big part in the Big Finish extended universe as well.
Also, ZBS tends to post an entire audio play in ten minute intervals. They released "The 4th Tower" that way back in October 07.
Trekker Breeze: Back in March I posted a bit more on the upcoming Humanware all in one GPS.
I've just read about the trekker breeze in Access IT, a UK based magazine. It said the breeze will be afordable. Afordable is one of those words which should never be used. I've heard it said that a car is afordable at the cost of thousands, or a can of beans for a few uk pence.
Rumor is, and don't quote me on this at all, that the Breeze is between $500 and $850. We should know more on that as we near Convention season. When you look at the prices of accessible cell phones, add ons to existing note taking devices and over the counter brands of GPS a unit that runs around that price range could be argued by some to be "affordable". Remember that most Assistive Technology is not sold to the individual buyer. It is sold to Governments and that business model has its own symbiotic relationships. So "affordable" is mostly going to be used either loosely or in a comparative way here at TRS. Your mileage and size of pocketbook will always vary.
Zoom Text USB: Going back to February now for this comment.
Too bad I read your review after purchasing ZoomText USB. I chose this product due to its portability. However, the admin right requirement really throw the wrench into its usefulness. As a result, I can't use it at the library or internet cafe.
Anything out there that runs the magnifier program directly from the flash drive? Want to avoid leaving a footprint on the guest computer system.
How about Dolphin Pen or Magic USB?
Well.. At the time of this post both Freedom Scientific's Magic and the Dolphin Pen require a Video Interceptor be installed. You may or may not run into the exact same thing again as far as Admin rights goes. However, barring a full lock down on the system, you could use System Access To Go as an alternative Screen Magnifier to all three. You don't have the same features such as pointer, focus or cursor enhancements but you do have some darn good speech going if you rely on that for screen navigation. Best part is that you can try it at your local cafe for free to see if this will work for you.
October Poll Comment: This came in from a post in November about the October 07 poll results. That poll was on Operating Systems by the way.
I am actually a bit concerned that, at this time, there is absolutely no support by any screen reader for any of the 64-bit versions of Windows. What happens if one's job for some reason requires the ability to run on that platform?
This recently came up in some of my dealings with an AT company. Costcos placed a system on sale for dirt cheap that came pre-loaded with Windows Vista.. 64 bit edition. In a short period of time they took four calls from people who had purchased this system from around the country. And all, naturally, could not run the software due to the OS being 64 bit instead of 32 bit.
Most of the major players in the industry are aware that this is an issue for some of us in I.T. departments, call centers or big business where high level security is manditory. And many of these players have x64 support on their Roadmaps. At the same time we have a large number of newly Blind, older Blind and wounded Veterans all coming into the world of AT. These populations traditionally don't need this level of support in their product of choice. What bothers me is the rubber bands that the Developers face from Blind Professionals needing more high tech application support falling down the list of those Roadmaps because more product is being sold to the growing non technical audience. Development teams will be stressed and stretched to provide support to all.
I don't have a witty or humorous remark to make here because I am very worried about this subject seeing how I fall under my own definition of Blind Professional. All I can say is that I urge you to NICELY! provide feedback or feature requests to the product teams that you use or rely on daily for work. I've found that only a polite well laid out request, with bullet point lists, is one of the only ways to convince the management of these companies to move development cycles in another path not projected on the Roadmap. And remember too that these product releases are sometimes in a 18 month cycle. Which means if you are using 1.0 and you request now the request may not come until 3.0 as 2.0 maybe feature complete. Depending on the company's cycle of development added support can come sooner than a feature request or User Interface change. Oh! I've been doing this too long if I can type that out all at once and not have to spell check it..
The overall point I am trying to make is that you need to be active in how you use your AT products. Saying that one product *sucks* just doesn't help much. If you say, however, that you need support for the next version of Windows or Office on day one though.. And give some credit where credit is due. We did see support, beta or no, for Vista on day one. And some have even started on IE8 in their latest updates. We as Users have to remain polite and vocal in what we need as the next five years will be the most interesting time we have ever seen in Assistive Technology.