Imagine hearing this sales pitch: "You pay the same price for our product as all other customers, but you have access to only 10 percent of its features!" Cell phone manufacturers won't make this pitch to their blind and visually impaired customers, but if they did it would be true.
Some companies have documentation available in alternative formats. Some are testing products with minor modifications. But very little has actually been done to comply with Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which says that companies must make their products accessible to people with disabilities.
In this issue, Janina Sajka, Director, Technology Research and Development at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and Jennifer Sutton, an independent Washington consultant and freelance writer, describe the very small steps that cell phone manufacturers have taken so far to make their products accessible. Their main focus, however, is on what you, as customers, can do. They provide tips on what to ask for when you shop for a cell phone and describe what cell phone owners can do to get more out of the phones they already own. Finally, they take you step-by-step through the process of filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency that oversees communication law. In March, AccessWorld will feature a more in-depth article on what specific cell phone manufacturers and service providers have to offer.
Deborah Kendrick interviews Doug Geoffray of GW Micro, creator of Vocal-Eyes—a DOS screen reader—and Window-Eyes—a screen reader for Windows. Geoffray discusses how he got into the assistive technology field, how he and Dan Weirich started their own company to continue doing the work they had begun doing elsewhere, and how feedback from users has played a major part in making Window-Eyes the excellent product that it is.
Kevin Dusling and Mark Uslan evaluate LunarPlus 4.5, the screen magnifier from Dolphin Computer Access, Ltd. They also compare LunarPlus's features and performance with that of Freedom Scientific's MAGic 8.0 and Ai Squared's ZoomText Xtra 7.06, reviewed in AccessWorld, November 2001. Find out how these three products stack up against one another and which one is right for you.
Joe Lazzaro of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, and author of books on assistive technology, provides a beginner's guide to using Windows. He describes the Windows desktop, the Task bar and the Start menu. The rest of the article covers some basic commands that will get you working in Windows, assuming your screen reader or screen magnifier is also working, of course.
Elaine Gerber, Senior Research Associate in AFB's Policy Research and Program Evaluation Department, examines ways in which people with visual impairments approach and use the web and how these may differ from sighted users' experiences. She analyzes data gathered from usability testing of AFB's new web site and discusses how people who are blind find the information they need. Are you a "scroller" or a "searcher?"
As of January 2002, the price of AccessWorld is $39.95 for large print, cassette, ASCII disk, and braille, and $34.95 for online subscriptions. Since we began publishing AccessWorld in January 2000, the length of an issue has increased from 32 print pages to 48 pages. In 2002, online subscribers will find additional content such as more information on product evaluations, longer versions of articles and a chance to submit comments about and questions on product evaluations. Readers of other formats can add an online subscription for $15. Readers of our large print and online editions have probably already noticed that we have made some design changes meant to make it easier to find information and to make the magazine easier to read. We have redesigned the cover and the table of contents. We will add ratings charts and features charts to the text of many of the product evaluations. In general, you will find more pictures and graphics. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you think of the changes.
Jay Leventhal, Editor in Chief
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