June 21, 2002, marked the one-year anniversary of enactment of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The law mandates that federal agencies must consider accessibility when purchasing software, computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, kiosks, telecommunications devices, or video and multimedia products. Federal web site designers also must create sites that are accessible to disabled users. The $45 billion spent by the government annually for technology products and services should serve as a huge incentive for companies to produce products that are more accessible. The General Services Administration supports a web site, <www.section508.gov>, that provides accessibility standards, as well as a database in which technology companies can provide information about their products.
Consumers may benefit from Section 508 by gaining increased access to government information of all types. And, we may also benefit because as more companies produce more accessible products for purchase by the federal government, those products will also be available to us. Many companies became aware of Section 508 in early 2001, and, since product development cycles often cover 18 to 24 months, we should find additional accessible products on the market throughout the coming year. And, as advocates, we still have a lot of work to do on the road to accessible cell phones, voting machines, kitchen appliances, public kiosks, and, of course, a myriad of web sites.
In this issue, Joe Lazzaro, of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and a freelance author, evaluates the speech-friendliness of Windows XP Professional. He covers basic Windows navigation, the Start Menu, Task Bar, Notification Area, Desktop, and burning CDs. He found that two of the most attractive features of Windows XP, the Remote Desktop utility that allows you to control remote computers over a network or the Internet, and Remote Assistance, which lets another person take control of your computer over a network or the Internet, were not accessible with speech. The bottom line is that there is no compelling reason to buy Windows XP, but it is already difficult to buy a computer without it.
Jim Denham, National Program Associate, Technology, at the American Foundation for the Blind, reviews two braille displays—ALVA's Satellite Traveler and Pulse Data/HumanWare's Braille Star. Several new braille displays have come on the market in recent months offering enhanced access to screen reader and Windows commands without returning your hands to the keyboard, and the ability to upload, store, and edit files. This article explains the new features to consider if you are in the market for a braille display, and reviews two of the newest products.
Dr. James A. Kutsch, Jr., Vice President of Technology for a global leader in outsourced customer service and billing, presents the second of a two-part series on building a home computer network. This time, his lunchtime discussion covers selecting and installing the hardware, and sharing files and peripherals, including printers.
Deborah Kendrick writes about assistive technology available at three schools to people training with new dog guides. She discusses her recent experience at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California, and also describes what is available at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey and Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York. She shows that you don't have to choose between your dog guide and your computer, even while you are in training.
In this issue's Trainer's Corner, Anthony R. Candela, National Program Associate, AFB, discusses the findings of a survey of assistive technology-related services at state and private agencies. He outlines the reasons for the current critical shortage of professionals who are qualified to provide specialized computer skills assessment and training. In response to this problem, the Assistive Technology Specialist Competencies Task Force, consisting of AT specialists and supervisors, university-based teacher trainers, and consumer representatives was formed. Input from trainers and consumers is welcome at <www.lwsb.org>.
Jay Leventhal, Editor in Chief
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